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China sees new coronavirus case spike ahead of WHO research visit

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China is experiencing a new surge in coronavirus cases and has reported its first Covid-related death in months.

It comes as a World Health Organisation (WHO) team is due to arrive in the country to probe the origins of the pandemic.

The latest death raises the toll to 4,635 among 87,844 cases, and China’s relatively low case figures are a testimony to the effectiveness of strict containment, tracing and quarantine measures.

However, the figures have also raised questions about the tight hold the government maintains on all information related to the outbreak.

Global Covid-19 cases and deaths (PA Graphics)

The National Health Commission said Heilongjiang province in the region traditionally known as Manchuria recorded 43 new cases, most of them centred on the city of Suihua outside the provincial capital of Harbin.

The northern province of Hebei just outside Beijing, which has seen China’s most serious recent outbreak, recorded another 81 cases, marking the second straight day the country’s total number of local infections has risen into triple digits.

Another 14 cases were brought from outside the country.

China has put more than 20 million people under varying degrees of lockdown in Hebei, Beijing and other areas in hopes of stemming infections ahead of next month’s Lunar New Year holiday.

The government has cut travel links to and from several cities, urged people to stay put for the holiday, postponed important political gatherings and plans to let schools out a week early to reduce the chances of infection.

On Thursday, a 10-member WHO team was scheduled to arrive in the central city of Wuhan where the virus was first detected in late 2019.

The visit was approved by President Xi Jinping’s government after months of diplomatic wrangling that prompted an unusual public complaint by the head of the WHO.

Scientists suspect the virus that has killed 1.9 million people since late 2019 jumped to humans from bats or other animals, most likely in China’s southwest.

The WHO team includes virus and other experts from the United States, Australia, Germany, Japan, Britain, Russia, the Netherlands, Qatar and Vietnam.

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Statues to be removed in London over links to slavery

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Statues of two British politicians in central London will be removed over their links to the slave trade.

The City of London Corporation voted on Thursday to re-site monuments to William Beckford and Sir John Cass in Guildhall because they accrued wealth through the slave trade and symbolise “a stain on our history”.

This comes days after the UK’s Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said Britain should not try to edit its past, as new legal protections meaning historic statues will be removed only in “the most exceptional circumstances”, came into force on Monday.

Under the new legislation, if a council intends to grant permission to remove a statue and Historic England objects, Mr Jenrick will be notified so he can make the final decision.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick (Yui Mok/PA)

The City Corporation said it will remove and replace the statues in Guildhall, and is considering commissioning a new memorial to the slave trade.

Catherine McGuinness, the City Corporation’s policy chairwoman, said the decision was the result of “months of valuable work” by their Tackling Racism Taskforce, which was set up in June following Black Lives Matter protests in central London.

She said: “The view of members was that removing and re-siting statues linked to slavery is an important milestone in our journey towards a more inclusive and diverse city.”

The death of George Floyd while in the custody of police in Minneapolis sparked protests across the world, with the statue of Edward Colston dumped into Bristol Harbour and a memorial to Sir Winston Churchill vandalised with the words “is a racist”.

The Tackling Racism Taskforce co-chairwoman Caroline Addy said she is “really pleased” the committee voted for the “correct response to a sensitive issue”.

The toppling of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol last year marked a wider discussion on the place for controversial monuments in modern Britain (Ben Birchall/PA)

She said: “The slave trade is a stain on our history and putting those who profited from it literally on a pedestal is something that has no place in a modern, diverse city.”

The statue of William Beckford, a two-time lord mayor of London in the late 1700s who accrued wealth from plantations in Jamaica and held African slaves, will be rehomed and replaced with a new artwork.

Ireland

‘Slave’ statues to be reinstalled outside Shelbour…

Meanwhile, the likeness of Sir John Cass, a 17th and 18th century merchant, British MP and philanthropist who also profited from the slave trade, will be returned to its owner, the Sir John Cass Foundation.

Responding to their planned removal, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “For hundreds of years, public statues and monuments have been erected across the country to celebrate individuals and great moments in British history.

“Any removal should require planning permission and local people given the chance to be properly consulted – that’s why we are changing the law to protect historic monuments to ensure we don’t repeat the errors of previous generations.”

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Iran

Culture min., Cinema Organization head send messages to TISFF

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Culture min., Cinema Organization head send messages to TISFF

Salehi, in his message to TISFF, which was inaugurated in Tehran on Jan 20, said the short film is a quatrain of the world of images and the  Iranians are forerunners in writing couplets in the world and will be the same in producing short films. 

In the meantime, Entezami in his message hailed the organizers of the festival and wished further success for them.

Commenting on holding the festival in an online format, Entezami underscored that good measures have been taken and instead of shutting down and being passive in the face of the Coronavirus phenomenon.

He said the festival organizers have created new opportunities and conditions, including the distancing of different sections of the festival.

Entezami also hoped that a significant part of the works, which in terms of quality and quantity, will be considered more and better than the performance of young filmmakers last year.

Presided by Sadeq Mousavi, some 63 short films will vie in the international section of the event from 19 countries including France, India, US, Spain, Germany, Ghana, China, Czech Republic, Poland, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Bulgaria, Denmark, Russia, South Africa, Belgium, Kazakhstan as well as Iran.

The short films will also stream online for filmgoers during the event, and winners will be announced on January 25.

In this year edition, over 4,986 foreign and 1,700 Iranian short films were submitted to different sections of the festival.

In the meantime, 146 Iranian films are competing in the national sections of the event which include feature, documentary, experimental and animation.

MNA/PR

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