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Coronavirus threatens to overwhelm Texas hospitals: Live updates | News

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Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Kate Mayberry in Kuala Lumpur.

  • Officials in Texas are warning that hospitals in the United States state could soon be overwhelmed if coronavirus cases continue to surge.
  • Nearly 11.4 million people around the world have been diagnosed with the coronavirus and 533,343 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 6.2 million have recovered from the disease.

Here are the latest updates:

Monday, July 6

03:00 GMT – The Louvre to reopen on Monday

After four months of closure, the Louvre in the heart of Paris is due to reopen at 9am local time (07:00 GMT).

All visitors are required to book a time slot and wear a mask inside the buildings, while efforts have been made to avoid overcrowding.

The Salle des Etats where the Mona Lisa is displayed and which is usually jam-packed, will have separate entry and exit points.

Translation: One day until we reopen. The Mona Lisa is ready to welcome you once again.

02:20 GMT – Saudi Arabia announces new domestic controls for COVID-19

Saudi Arabia has announced new health protocols for this year’s haj, which will be open only to domestic pilgrims. 

Touching the Kaaba will be banned and a social distancing space of one and a half metres enforced during mass prayers and while circling the Kaaba.

Access to haj sites at Mona, Muzadalifah and Arafat will also be limited to those with haj permits from July 19 until August 2, according to the state news agency.

outside image - blog - Hajj

Strict social distancing will be enforced during this year’s haj when pilgrims circle the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca [File: Saudi Press Agency/Handout via Reuters]

01:45 GMT – Bolivia’s health minister diagnosed with coronavirus

Bolivia’s health minister Eidy Roca has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, the third member of the country’s cabinet to be confirmed with the disease in four days.

Roca is in a stable condition and “strictly complying with the safety protocol that inlcudes isolation, medication and care,”  according to a statement from her office.

00:50 GMT – Victoria/NSW border closure confirmed

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews has confirmed the border with New South Wales (NSW) will be closed at midnight on Tuesday in Australia.

Victoria, which has sealed off a number of Melbourne suburbs and imposed a draconian lockdown on nine public housing blocks, said it had 127 new cases of the coronavirus. It now has 645 active cases.

00:20 GMT – Australia’s New South Wales to close border with Victoria

The Australian state of New South Wales is to close its border with neighbouring Victoria after a surge in locally-transmitted coronavirus cases in Melbourne.

The closure will take effect on Tuesday, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.




Melbourne: Thousands in public housing towers asked to lock down

23:00 GMT – Hospitals in some parts of US pushed to brink

Hospitals in some parts of the United States are in danger of being overwhelmed.

All beds are occupied in parts of Texas – one of the states worst hit by the resurgent virus.

“Our hospitals here in Harris County, Houston and 33 other cities … they’re into surge capacities,” Lina Hidalgo, the county’s chief executive, told ABC television in the US.  Her comments were echoed by Houston mayor Sylvester Turner, who said the system could be “overwhelmed” if the outbreak was not brought under control.

Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin, has also expressed concern that hospitals could soon reach breaking point.

“If we don’t change our trajectory, then I am within two weeks of having our hospitals overrun. And in our ICUs, I could be 10 days away from that,” the mayor told CNN.

Read all the updates from yesterday here.


SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies



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‘Chilling’ crackdown on dissent in Vietnam ahead of key congress | Vietnam News

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As Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party gears up for its most important meeting in years, its leadership has presided over an intensified crackdown on dissent, according to rights groups, activists and data collated by Reuters news agency.

A record number of political prisoners, longer jail terms, and increased harassment of activists in recent years have contributed to the crackdown ahead of this week’s Communist Party congress, a gathering to determine national leadership and policy that takes place once every five years.

The crackdown has left some international human rights groups and legislators questioning whether Vietnam has breached the spirit of trade agreements with Western countries – accords that have helped propel the country to a position of economic strength in Southeast Asia.

“I have been summoned by the police several times since December 9, 2020,” said Nguyen Quang A, a veteran activist in Hanoi, declining to detail the circumstances saying he was subject to an ongoing investigation. He told Reuters Vietnam’s security ministry had in recent weeks rounded up other government critics without saying why, citing his contacts with activists.

“They [the police] summon them and find reasons to convict them under those very fuzzy articles of criminal law. It completely violates the law but they use it very regularly,” said Quang A. “I’ve told them they can’t shut me up.”

Vietnam’s foreign ministry, which handles inquiries from foreign media, did not respond to Reuters’s request for comment on activist detentions.

‘Anti-state’

Despite reforms and increasing openness to social change, the Communist Party of Vietnam, led by 76-year-old Nguyen Phu Trong, tolerates little criticism and controls domestic media tightly.

Vietnam drew international condemnation this month when it sentenced three freelance journalists known for criticism of the government to between 11 and 15 years in prison, finding them guilty of spreading anti-state propaganda.

Journalists Pham Chi Dung, right, Le Huu Minh Tuan, centre, and Nguyen Tuong Thuy, left, stand between police during their trial at a court in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam January 5, 2021 [VNA/Handout via Reuters]

The country’s constitution says it protects “freedom of opinion and speech, freedom of the press, access to information, to assemble, form associations and hold demonstrations”.

In reality, public criticism of the party is not tolerated, and groups which promote democratisation are targeted by the authorities in a battle playing out online on platforms like Facebook, Vietnam’s premier platform for both e-commerce and dissent.

A Reuters tally based on state media reports found 280 people were arrested for “anti-state” activities over the five years since the last party congress: 260 were convicted, many being sentenced to more than 10 years in jail. In the five years leading up to the 2016 congress, there were 68 arrests and 58 convictions.

‘Force 47’

Last year, Amnesty International said it had recorded the most “prisoners of conscience” in Vietnam since it began publishing figures in 1996 – 170, close to double the 97 recorded in 2018. Of the 170, some 70 were arrested for online activism, Amnesty said.

In late 2017, Vietnam unveiled a 10,000-strong military cyber-unit, Force 47, to counter what it said were “wrong” views on the internet. According to rights groups, the unit also recruits volunteers online to target dissidents and activists.

Reuters reviewed dozens of posts across multiple Facebook groups and pages from December and January that claimed links with Force 47. Many attacked prominent activists, including Quang A, accused by one group of creating anti-state propaganda.

A woman wearing a traditional conical hat walks past a poster for the upcoming 13th national congress of Vietnam Communist Party on a street in Hanoi, Vietnam, January 18, 2021 [Kham/Reuters]

Some group moderators were dressed in military uniform in their profile photos while others ran pages for official local branches of Communist Party organisations.

Last November, Vietnam threatened to shut Facebook down if it did not toughen rules on local political content on the platform.

Facebook’s local servers were taken offline by the government earlier last year until it agreed to significantly increase policing of “anti-state” posts by local users, a request with which Facebook previously said it complied.

A Facebook spokesman said the company faced “additional pressure” from Vietnam to restrict content last year.

‘Driver’s seat’

For some, the crackdown has a connection with fluctuations in global trade ties with Vietnam.

“During the [former US President Barack] Obama administration, pressure on rights connected with TPP [trade] negotiations helped the cause of human rights activists and political dissidents,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

“The early visit of Prime Minister [Nguyen Xuan] Phuc in 2017 to the Trump White House saw human rights completely dropped from the agenda,” he said.

Robertson said trade tensions with China have also left Vietnam “in the driver’s seat” as US and European Union companies look for alternative supply chains, helping the Vietnamese economy thrive.

“The EU had an important opportunity to make real changes through the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement,” said Robertson, referring to a pact that has been a boon for Vietnam. Instead, he said, the EU “fell short, settling for vague promises … instead of substantive changes”.

EU officials did not immediately respond to Reuters’s request for comment.

After the jailing of the three journalists earlier this month, the United Nations human rights office said: “Coming just weeks ahead [of the party congress], the convictions and long sentences are not only a blatant suppression of independent journalism but also a clear attempt to create a chilling effect among those willing to criticise the government.”

The United States described the sentences as the “latest in a troubling and accelerating trend of arrests and convictions of Vietnamese citizens exercising rights enshrined in Vietnam’s constitution”.



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