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Coronavirus: Move on from Covid lockdown row, Varadkar urges

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Tánaiste (Irish Deputy Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar has said the Irish government and public health officials need to move on from a row about Covid-19 restrictions.

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On Sunday, the cabinet rejected a recommendation that the whole country should move to level 5 of its Living with Covid-19 plan.

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The measures would have been similar to the spring lockdown.

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Instead, ministers put the whole state on level 3.

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This means people are asked not to leave their county except for essential reasons and are encouraged to work from home wherever possible.

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One coronavirus-related death was recorded in the Republic on Thursday bringing the death toll to 1,817.

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A further 506 new cases of Covid-19 were also reported.

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On Monday, Mr Varadkar described the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) recommendation, which would have allowed schools and crèches to remain open as “a bolt out of the blue.”

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In the Dáil (lower house of parliament) on Thursday afternoon he said he was first informed of the recommendation on Sunday evening and in writing at 20:30 local time just 30 minutes before Irish broadcaster RTÉ reported what NPHET was proposing.

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It should not be about the government versus NPHET, Mr Varadkar told the Dáil, adding: “This is Ireland versus the virus.”

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Hospital capacity

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The tánaiste repeated his criticism that moving to level 5 had “not been thought through” including the implications of the Northern Ireland dimension in the shared goal of reducing the spread of the virus.

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Questioned by Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty, Mr Varadkar denied there was a lack of hospital capacity.

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The tánaiste said the government had added 800 hospital beds – 150 of which were being used by Covid-19 patients – and there were now an additional 60 ICU beds since the spring lockdown, bringing the total to 225, with 25 being used by Covid patients.

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He said the country would be able to cope if there was a surge in coronavirus cases and was in a better position to do so than some other countries whose health services “get a better press”.

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NPHET officials met on Thursday to discuss their concerns about the spread of Covid-19 in the Republic of Ireland.

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It said it remains deeply concerned about the rising levels, however did not recommend tightening restrictions.

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Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said the situation had deteriorated further since Sunday.

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Georgia Urged to Guarantee Journalists’ Safety After Attacks on TV Crews

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Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling on Georgian authorities to guarantee the safety of journalists covering the parliamentary election campaign in the country after TV crews were attacked during clashes between pro-government and pro-opposition activists.

“We call on the leaders of the two parties to condemn these attacks and we urge the authorities to conduct an exhaustive and transparent investigation in order to identify those responsible,” the Paris-based watchdog said in a statement  on October 1, warning that the environment for journalists has “worsened” in the run-up to the October 31 vote.

RSF said at least five journalists covering the campaign were physically attacked in the southern town of Marneuli on September 29 during clashes between members of the ruling Georgian Dream party and the opposition United National Movement.

Jeyhun Muhamedali, one of four journalists with the opposition TV channel Mtavari Arkhi, was hospitalized with a head injury sustained during the violence, in which a camera and microphone were damaged, according to the group.

A camera operator with Georgia’s public broadcaster GPB was also attacked and his camera smashed.

Georgian police have launched an investigation into the violence and into the obstruction of journalists’ work.

“The state has an obligation to guarantee journalists’ safety. With four weeks to go to a high-stakes election, impunity for those responsible for violence must be combatted,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.

The South Caucasus country is ranked 60th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

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Georgia Urged to Guarantee Journalists’ Safety After Attacks on TV Crews

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Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling on Georgian authorities to guarantee the safety of journalists covering the parliamentary election campaign in the country after TV crews were attacked during clashes between pro-government and pro-opposition activists.

“We call on the leaders of the two parties to condemn these attacks and we urge the authorities to conduct an exhaustive and transparent investigation in order to identify those responsible,” the Paris-based watchdog said in a statement  on October 1, warning that the environment for journalists has “worsened” in the run-up to the October 31 vote.

RSF said at least five journalists covering the campaign were physically attacked in the southern town of Marneuli on September 29 during clashes between members of the ruling Georgian Dream party and the opposition United National Movement.

Jeyhun Muhamedali, one of four journalists with the opposition TV channel Mtavari Arkhi, was hospitalized with a head injury sustained during the violence, in which a camera and microphone were damaged, according to the group.

A camera operator with Georgia’s public broadcaster GPB was also attacked and his camera smashed.

Georgian police have launched an investigation into the violence and into the obstruction of journalists’ work.

“The state has an obligation to guarantee journalists’ safety. With four weeks to go to a high-stakes election, impunity for those responsible for violence must be combatted,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.

The South Caucasus country is ranked 60th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

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France ready to airlift wounded journalists out of disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region

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President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday that France is ready to airlift two journalists out of Nagorno Karabakh after they were badly wounded in fighting in the disputed region.

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Le Monde had earlier confirmed to AFP that a reporter and photographer working for the French daily had been injured in a bombing by Azerbaijan forces.

"Two French reporters were hurt at Martuni in the Artsakh region during the Azeri bombardment," the Armenian foreign ministry tweeted.

Two Armenian journalists were also hit in the shelling, according to Armenian authorities.

Armenia's ambassador to France told AFP that both French journalists "were badly injured and are now being operated on in the town's hospital.

"They were near the town hall when the area was bombarded," Hasmik Tolmajian added.

Macron told reporters in Brussels that a "medical aircraft was ready to go as we talk. We are doing everything to stabilise the wounded before they are evacuated."

The French leader said he was sending his "support to families of the wounded and all of the journalists at Le Monde."

Several journalists, including a team from AFP, were interviewing residents in Martuni and assessing damage from previous shelling when the bombing started. No one in the AFP team was hurt.

Regis Gente of RFI/France 24 said they were looking at a damaged house when a rocket hit, adding that the attack lasted about a minute.

Heavy fighting has been raging for four days after the long-running conflict over the region between Armenia and Azerbaijan reignited.

TheRead More – Source

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france24

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France ready to airlift wounded journalists out of disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region

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President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday that France is ready to airlift two journalists out of Nagorno Karabakh after they were badly wounded in fighting in the disputed region.

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Le Monde had earlier confirmed to AFP that a reporter and photographer working for the French daily had been injured in a bombing by Azerbaijan forces.

"Two French reporters were hurt at Martuni in the Artsakh region during the Azeri bombardment," the Armenian foreign ministry tweeted.

Two Armenian journalists were also hit in the shelling, according to Armenian authorities.

Armenia's ambassador to France told AFP that both French journalists "were badly injured and are now being operated on in the town's hospital.

"They were near the town hall when the area was bombarded," Hasmik Tolmajian added.

Macron told reporters in Brussels that a "medical aircraft was ready to go as we talk. We are doing everything to stabilise the wounded before they are evacuated."

The French leader said he was sending his "support to families of the wounded and all of the journalists at Le Monde."

Several journalists, including a team from AFP, were interviewing residents in Martuni and assessing damage from previous shelling when the bombing started. No one in the AFP team was hurt.

Regis Gente of RFI/France 24 said they were looking at a damaged house when a rocket hit, adding that the attack lasted about a minute.

Heavy fighting has been raging for four days after the long-running conflict over the region between Armenia and Azerbaijan reignited.

TheRead More – Source

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france24

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EU leaders approve sanctions on Belarus officials after Cyprus drops veto threat

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European Union leaders agreed early Friday to impose sanctions on dozens of senior officials in Belarus accused of falsifying presidential election results and leading a crackdown on peaceful protesters, after unblocking a veto against the move by one of the EU’s smallest member countries.

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In an embarrassing standoff, Cyprus had insisted that its EU partners take action against Turkey for its energy exploration work in disputed waters off the Mediterranean island nation’s coast before it would agree to the Belarus sanctions.

But after several hours of talks into the night, the leaders agreed on a strong statement of support for Cyprus, as well as for Greece, and a stern warning to Turkey that it could face punitive measures if it continues the undersea drilling work.

“We have decided today to implement the sanctions," European Council President Charles Michel told reporters after chairing the summit in Brussels. “It’s very important to do what we decided a few weeks ago,” and to send a signal that “we are credible.”

Michel said that a special written procedure would be launched on Friday to impose sanctions on about 40 Belarus officials.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko "is not on the current list. But we will follow the developments," Michel said. The leader once dubbed Europe’s last dictator could be added to the list at a later date, should he refuse to enter into talks with the opposition, EU diplomats have said.

Rejection of Belarus' official election results

The political row has tarnished the EU’s image. It is also unusual in that all 27 EU member countries, including Cyprus, reject the result of the Aug. 9 election that returned Lukashenko to power for a sixth term. They all want a new election and agree that sanctions should be slapped on several officials.

Ahead of the summit, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said “it is bad that we cannot make it work.”

Throughout Thursday evening, the leaders debated what approach to take in the EU’s increasingly tense ties with Turkey over its drilling in the Mediterranean Sea, its roles in the conflicts in Libya and Syria, and as a sometimes troublesome source of migrants trying to reach Europe.

In a summit statement, they agreed that if Turkey continues to react positively in talks with Cyprus and Greece the bloc will “launch a positive political EU-Turkey agenda” with trade and customs incentives, and they held out the prospect of more money and benefits for continued cooperation on migrant flows.

If not, the leaders warned, “the EU will use all the instruments and the options at its disposal,” to “defend its interests and those of its Member States.”

“It is now Turkey that has to prove that it wants to go the constructive road with us, and this is the offer tonight. But we are very clear that in the opposite case we have all necessary tools at our disposal,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

Macron: 'Solidarity is non-negotiable'

French President Emmanuel Macron was staunch in his support for his European partners, saying that “solidarity is non-negotiable” when it comes to Cyprus, but also to Greece in its long-running dispute with Turkey.

“When a European Union member state is attacked, threatened, when its territorial waters are not respected, it’s the dutRead More – Source

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france24

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EU launches legal action against UK for breaching Brexit deal and international law

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The announcement comes after weeks of controversy since Boris Johnson's government revealed its plans to put in place legislation that would override a specific part of the Withdrawal Agreement called the Northern Ireland Protocol.Speaking in Brussels, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the EU Commission, said that the EU had invited the UK to "remove the problematic parts of their draft internal market bill by the end of September." She said that the draft bill is "by its very nature a breach of the obligation of good faith laid down in the Withdrawal Agreement," adding that "it will be in full contradiction" of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The protocol was agreed in order to eliminate the need for border checks between the only land border shared by the EU and UK on the island of Ireland. Both sides fear that checks could lead to a hard border and the return of sectarian violence that Ireland and Northern Ireland hoped were a distant memory. Since the UK government has not pulled this legislation, the Commission has written a letter of formal notice to the UK government, the first step in an infringement procedure — something the EU commonly uses when parties breach agreements with the union. "The letter invites the UK government to send its observations within a month and besides this the Commission will continue to work hard towards full and timely implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement. We stand by our commitments," von der Leyen concluded. The move, though dramatic, was expected in London. The government had previously admitted that its Internal Market Bill would breach the treaty and break international law in a "very specific and limited way." The government claims that the bill is a safety net to ensure seamless trade between the four nations of the United Kingdom in the event of a no deal Brexit at the end of this year and hopes it won't have to use the legislation. The backdrop to all of this is that trade talks between London and Brussels are entering their final phase. The last formal round of talks are talking place right now and an EU summit will take place on October 15, where negotiators hope a deal will be on the table for EU leaders to approve. Both sides say a deal is in sight, but are struggling to reach an agreement on some key issues, most notably around the UK's ability to use state aid in order to prop up BritRead More – Source

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Belarus and the EU: Europe mulls next steps after disputed election

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One of the pressing foreign policy issues facing the EU today involves one of its direct neighbours: Belarus. Belarusians are still protesting the disputed re-election of Alexander Lukashenko back in August – and reports of human rights violations by Belarusian authorities continue too. Major opposition figures are cRead More – Source

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france24

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Nagorno-Karabakh: Volunteers give blood as casualties mount

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As fighting rages in Nagorno-Karabakh and casualties increase, civilians in Armenia have been rushing to help those on the front lines by donating their blood.

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"Since our boys are protecting our homeland on the front lines, we are trying to help as much as we can in the rear," teacher Marine Khachatryan told AFP as she gave blood in a clinic in the Armenian capital Yerevan.

"At the moment we are not needed on the front lines. There is a war and we are trying to provide as much as needed. We are always ready to support our army, our soldiers. We will win."

Fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in Nagorno-Karabakh is now in its sixth day.

Both countries have declared martial law and mobilised their male populations amid the threat of all-out war, and patriotic fervour is high.

But for those unable to fight, donating blood that could be used to treat wounded soldiers is another way to answer the call to arms.

"We are ready to help in any way. Now we need to donate blood so we help with blood, and if it continues like this, we will definitely win," said donor Mesrop Barsegyan.

"It is very important to unite for each victory, both the front and the rear are important," added another donor, Gayane Sargsyan.

On Friday, the offRead More – Source

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france24

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Nagorno-Karabakh: Volunteers give blood as casualties mount

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As fighting rages in Nagorno-Karabakh and casualties increase, civilians in Armenia have been rushing to help those on the front lines by donating their blood.

Advertising Read more

"Since our boys are protecting our homeland on the front lines, we are trying to help as much as we can in the rear," teacher Marine Khachatryan told AFP as she gave blood in a clinic in the Armenian capital Yerevan.

"At the moment we are not needed on the front lines. There is a war and we are trying to provide as much as needed. We are always ready to support our army, our soldiers. We will win."

Fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in Nagorno-Karabakh is now in its sixth day.

Both countries have declared martial law and mobilised their male populations amid the threat of all-out war, and patriotic fervour is high.

But for those unable to fight, donating blood that could be used to treat wounded soldiers is another way to answer the call to arms.

"We are ready to help in any way. Now we need to donate blood so we help with blood, and if it continues like this, we will definitely win," said donor Mesrop Barsegyan.

"It is very important to unite for each victory, both the front and the rear are important," added another donor, Gayane Sargsyan.

On Friday, the offRead More – Source

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