(Joyce) #1



outh Korea reported 583
new coronavirus cases yes-
terday, the highest since
March, as it grapples with a third
wave of infections that appears to
be worsening despite tough new
social distancing measures.
The government reimposed
strict distancing rules on Seoul
and surrounding regions this
week, only a month after they
had been eased following a sec-
ond wave of infections.
Some experts say the govern-
ment moved too early to relax
those rules, as the daily tally ex-
ceeds 500 for the fi rst time since
March 6, with young people at
the centre of the surge. “The
easing was done because of eco-
nomic concerns and growing fa-
tigue but it was premature and
sowed the seeds of people’s com-
placency,” said Kim Woo-joo, a
professor of infectious diseases
at Korea University Guro Hospi-
tal in Seoul.
South Korea’s fi rst wave erupt-
ed in late February from meetings
of a religious sect but the latest
cases are more dispersed around
the capital, Seoul, making them
harder to trace and contain. Of
the latest cases, 553 were locally
transmitted and almost 73%
of those were from the greater
Seoul area, the highest ever for
the region, according to the Ko-
rea Disease Control and Preven-

tion Agency (KDCA). The daily
tally could hover between 400
and 600 until early December
if people fail to stick to stricter
distancing, said Lee Sang-won, a
senior KDCA offi cial.
The armed forces ordered a
10-day ban on leave after a se-
ries of outbreaks at military fa-
cilities. Other clusters have been
traced to a sauna, a high school,
an aerobic academy, churches, a
children’s cafe and a get-togeth-

er among friends. “Covid-19 has
arrived right beside you and your
family,” Health Minister Park Ne-
ung-hoo told a televised meeting
of health offi cials. “The spread of
infections among young genera-
tions is extraordinary.”
Infections among young peo-
ple, many of whom show no
symptoms, prompted the gov-
ernment to urge students to
stop attending cram schools and
private lessons ahead of col-

lege entrance exams on Dec. 3.
Education Minister Yoo Eun-
hae pleaded with citizens to halt
all unessential outside activity
for at least a week so that some
490,000 students can take the
exam safely.
“We’re fi ghting a full-fl edged
third wave,” the KDCA’s Lee told
a briefi ng. “Sources of infections
have been diversifi ed, and more
active, young people are at the
centre of the spread, which re-

quires greater control eff orts.”
Health offi cials did not re-
spond directly to criticism that
the government had been too
quick to ease restrictions follow-
ing the previous spike in infec-
tions in August.
They have expressed regret
about the economic impact of
the latest measures, coming just
after Asia’s fourth-largest econ-
omy returned to growth in the
third quarter.

Asked about some calls from
experts for more curbs, Lee said
time was needed for the rules
to kick in but additional action
would be taken “without hesita-
tion” when necessary.
South Korean markets held
their nerve as the central bank
kept its policy rate steady and
marginally raised its growth out-
look for this year and next. South
Korea’s total infections stand at
32,318, with 515 deaths.


8 Friday, November 27, 2020

Ethiopia to launch ‘fi nal phase’ of off ensive in Tigray region, says PM

Addis Ababa


he Ethiopian military will
begin the “fi nal phase” of
an off ensive in the rebel-
lious northern Tigray region,
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said
yesterday, hours after an ultima-
tum for Tigray forces to surren-
der expired.
The government gave the Ti-
gray People’s Liberation Front
(TPLF) 72 hours on Sunday to
lay down their arms or face an
assault on Mekelle, the regional
capital of 500,000 people.
Rights groups raised concerns
for civilians caught up in military

operations in which thousands
are already believed to have died
since fi ghting began on Nov. 4.
Reuters was not immediately able
to reach the TPLF for comment.
Claims by all sides have been im-
possible to verify because phone
and Internet connections to the
region are down and access to the
area is tightly controlled.
“The 72-hour period granted
to the criminal TPLF clique to
surrender peacefully is now over
and our law enforcement cam-
paign has reached its fi nal stage,”
Abiy tweeted, adding that civil-
ians would be spared and thou-
sands of fi ghters had already
surrendered. The TPLF has de-
nied its fi ghters are surrendering.

Abiy’s offi ce said authorities had
begun distributing aid in areas
under the control of the federal
government in the Tigray region.
Four camps for displaced persons
were being established.
A statement added: “This hu-
manitarian assistance will now be
further reinforced with the open-
ing of a humanitarian access route
to be managed under the auspices
of the Ministry of Peace.”
Nearly 43,000 Ethiopian ref-
ugees have fled over the border
to Sudan, though the flow has
dropped from many thousands
per day to several hundred in
the past few days, according to
data from the UN refugee agen-
cy analysed by Reuters.

Ethiopian refugees arriving in
Sudan have told aid workers that
other Ethiopians fl eeing fi ghting
have been prevented from cross-
ing, two humanitarian sources
told Reuters.
It was not immediately clear
who in Ethiopia was blocking
the refugees from crossing, one
of the sources said. “As far as we
know, the border remains open,”
the UN humanitarian co-ordina-
tor in Ethiopia, Catherine Sozi,
told Reuters.
Abiy has said refugees are wel-
come to return. An aid worker
at the border crossing point of
Hamdayet, in Sudan, said they
witnessed Ethiopian soldiers on
Wednesday “screaming” at ref-

ugees that it was safe to return
home. Abiy, who won the Nobel
peace prize last year for ending
a long-running stand-off with
Eritrea, called on the people of
Mekelle to “disarm, stay at home
and stay away from military tar-
gets”. “Our National Defence
Forces have carefully devised
a strategy to bring the TPLF
criminal clique to justice with-
out harming innocent civilians,
heritage sites, places of worship,
development institutions and
property,” he added.
A diplomatic source said the
TPLF “have mobilised lots of
people in Mekelle. They are
digging trenches and everyone
has an AK47.”

Tigrayan forces have large
stocks of military hardware and
number up to 250,000 men, ex-
perts say. African peace envoys
sent to Ethiopia were expected to
meet Abiy on Friday, two diplo-
matic sources said.
The conflict pits Ethiopia’s
federal government against the
TPLF, which dominated the
country until Abiy took power
two years ago. Abiy accuses
Tigrayan leaders of starting
hostilities by attacking federal
The rebels say his government
has marginalised Tigrayans, who
make up about 6% of Ethiopia’s
population. Thousands of people
are already thought to have died

and there has been widespread
destruction from aerial bom-
bardment and ground fi ghting
since the war began. TPLF rock-
ets have hit the capital of neigh-
bouring Eritrea. Daniel Bekele,
head of the state-appointed
Ethiopian Human Rights Com-
mission, said “extreme caution
to avoid civilian harm is of even
greater importance, now, at this
stage of the confl ict”.
On Wednesday, Human Rights
Watch said both sides must avoid
putting civilians in danger. The
government’s warning did not
absolve it of the duty to pro-
tect civilians when conducting
military operations in Mekelle,
it said.

South Korea reports biggest

Covid-19 spike since March

„ Most new infections in greater Seoul

area; New restrictions fail to bring

numbers down; Critics say restrictions

were eased too soon

Dumplings are displayed outside a restaurant in a market in Seoul.
The government reimposed strict distancing rules on Seoul and
surrounding regions this week as it battles a surge in virus cases.

Shoppers walk through a market in Seoul yesterday. South Korea reported its highest daily number of
coronavirus cases since March on November 26, with a surge of new infections sparking fears of a major
third wave.

South Korea, China agree on

early Xi visit, N Korea talks



outh Korea and China
agreed yesterday to prepare
for a visit to South Korea by
Chinese President Xi Jinping and
to co-operate on stalled talks on
North Korea’s nuclear programme
and on tackling the novel corona-
China’s top diplomat, Wang
Yi, arrived in the South Korean
capital late on Wednesday, after
a two-day visit to Japan, as Asian
governments prepare for change
under a new US administration.
“Both sides agreed to actively
communicate so that the Cov-
id-19 situation stabilises and
conditions are created for Presi-
dent Xi’s visit,” the South Korean
foreign ministry said in a state-
ment after Wang held talks with

South Korea’s foreign minister,
Kang Kyung-wha.
China and US ally South Korea
have traditionally been suspi-
cious of each other but in recent
years they have found common
ground in economic co-operation
and a shared concern about North
Korea’s rush to develop nuclear
weapons. Xi was expected to visit
South Korea early this year but the
coronavirus epidemic put plans
on hold.
Wang said his visit was to high-
light the importance of eff orts by
the “strategic partners” to work to
promote peace and stability.
“The Covid-19 crisis could
not defeat the citizens of our
two countries,” Wang, speak-
ing through an interpreter, said
as his meeting with Kang began.
“Bilateral ties are showing their
strength and ever more vigour.”
South Korea’s President Moon

Jae-in met Wang separately and
they discussed peace on the pe-
ninsula, Moon’s offi ce said.
US President Donald Trump
raised hopes for progress in
pressing North Korea to give up
its weapons programmes in ex-
change for the lifting of sanc-
tions but talks with North Ko-
rean leader Kim Jong-un stalled.
Kang raised the issue of the in-
coming US administration in her
talks with Wang, who expressed
“hopes” for its North Korea pol-
icy, a South Korean offi cial who
declined to be identifi ed told re-
porters. Wang reiterated China’s
opposition to a US missile defence
system installed in South Korea in
2017, the offi cial said.
South Korea and the United
States say the system is designed
to counter North Korean missile
threats but China fears it under-
cuts its security interests.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (right) shaking hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during
their meeting at the presidential house in Seoul yesterday.


embattled PM

survives crucial

budget test

Malaysia’s embattled prime
minister survived a crucial
test yesterday when MPs
voted in favour of his budget

  • a much-needed boost for his
    crisis-wracked, nine-month-
    old government. Muhyiddin
    Yassin’s administration would
    almost certainly have collapsed,
    prompting general elections,
    if lawmakers failed to back the
    budget in parliament.
    He took power without a vote
    when a ruling coalition headed
    by Mahathir Mohamad fell apart
    amid bitter infighting, but his
    government has been accused of
    lacking legitimacy and is highly
    unstable. The 2021 spending
    plan – which focuses on fighting
    the coronavirus pandemic –
    was passed by voice vote, so it
    was not clear how many of the
    country’s 222 MPs backed it. At
    322.5bn ringgit ($79bn), it is the
    country’s biggest-ever budget.
    While Muhyiddin’s government
    has only a wafer-thin majority in
    parliament, lawmakers are keen to
    avoid forcing a general election as
    the country battles Covid-19. “MPs
    had to be sensitive to the needs of
    the people,” Wan Junaidi Tuanku
    Jaafar, minister of entrepreneur
    development and cooperatives,
    told AFP after the vote. By
    supporting the budget, lawmakers
    showed they are focused on
    “addressing the coronavirus
    pandemic and spurring rapid
    economic recovery”, he added.
    There will be further votes on the
    budget, but yesterday’s was seen
    as the most important. The result
    is a boost for Muhyiddin, whose
    government appeared on the
    brink of collapse last month when
    the king rejected his request to
    declare a state of emergency and
    suspend parliament.

New Zealand PM Ardern set

to declare climate emergency



ew Zealand Prime Minis-
ter Jacinda Ardern’s gov-
ernment is to declare a
climate emergency in a symbolic
step to increase pressure for ac-
tion to combat global warming.
The government will put for-
ward a motion to declare the
emergency next Wednesday, the
government said as parliament
reconvened after a general elec-
tion won by Ardern’s party.
“We’ve always considered cli-
mate change to be a huge threat to
our region, and it is something we
must take immediate action on,”
Ardern said, according to state
broadcaster TVNZ. “Unfortu-
nately, we were unable to progress
a motion around a climate emer-
gency in parliament in the last
term, but now we’re able to.”
Ardern returned to power last
month delivering the biggest
election victory for her centre-
left Labour Party in half a cen-
tury as voters rewarded her for

a decisive response to the novel
coronavirus. The resounding win
allows Ardern’s party to govern
alone although she has joined
forces with the Green Party for
the next three-year term.
The newly elected members
of parliament were sworn in on
Tuesday and resumed work on
Wednesday in New Zealand’s
most diverse parliament ever. It
has a large number of women. In
her last term, Ardern’s govern-
ment passed a Zero Carbon Bill,

which sets the framework for
net zero emissions by 2050, with
cross-party support in parlia-
If a climate emergency is
passed, New Zealand would join
countries like Canada, France
and Britain that have taken the
same course to focus eff orts on
tackling climate change. Last
week, Japanese lawmakers de-
clared a climate emergency and
committed to a fi rm timetable for
net-zero emissions.

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern.

New Zealand volcano toll increases as anniversary nears

New Zealand police raised the
off icial death toll from last year’s
White Island volcanic eruption to
22 yesterday, adding a German
national who succumbed to his
injuries in July.
Police said Horst Westenfelder,
64, died on July 2 from medical
complications arising from
injuries sustained during the

eruption. There were 47 people,
mainly Australian tourists, on the
island – also known as Whakaari

  • in December 2019, when a
    column of burning ash and steam
    blasted from a volcanic vent. In
    a statement released by police,
    Westenfelder’s wife Angelika
    paid tribute to her husband’s

“It is unbelievable, how many
months my joyful, sensible and
strong husband Horsti was
fighting for his life, and I am
thankful to everyone who was
thinking of us and helping us
during that very hard time,” she
“He lost this battle and started
his last journey in July.”

Mayor of Harare

arrested over graft


The new mayor of Zimbabwe’s
capital Harare has been arrested
for alleged corruption, his
lawyer said yesterday, as the
top opposition figure’s party
slammed the case as politically
motivated. Jacob Mafume – a
prominent member of the
main opposition Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC)
Alliance – is accused of corruptly
parcelling out residential plots of
land, including to his sister, when
he was a city councillor in 2010.
He was arrested late Wednesday
and is set to remain in custody
until a first court appearance
expected today, Mafume’s lawyer
Tonderai Bhatasara said.
Mafume “is facing criminal abuse
of off ice charges relating to
allocation of stands,” Bhatasara
told AFP. “The police are yet to
establish some facts and issues
relating to the matter.”
Mafume’s MDC party said the
arrest was a “flimsy political case”
and that the charges against
him were “unclear”. “His real
off ence was winning the mayoral
vote,” the MDC tweeted hours
after the arrest. Mafume was
elected in September. “They
want to remove him & replace
him with a ZANU-PF proxy,” the
MDC tweeted, referring the ruling
party. Harare has been governed
by opposition figures for more
than a decade. ZANU-PF often
accuses MDC-led councils of
corruption and incompetence.
In 2004, the government
suspended the first opposition
mayor Elias Mudzuri and
replaced his council with a
commission appointed by a local
ZANU-PF minister. Mafume’s
predecessor Herbert Gomba was
arrested for alleged land scams
in July and was also charged with
criminal abuse of off ice. Gomba
was released on bail in August
and barred from resuming his
mayoral functions.
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