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Phuket Gazette World News: Dutch rally on royal ascension; Egyptian students in mass poisoning; Putin under fire; Virgin Galactic test launch

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Phuket Gazette World News: Dutch rally on royal ascension; Egyptian students in mass poisoning; Putin under fire; Virgin Galactic test launch | Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Dutch party on streets as royals prepare for handover
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Willem-Alexander will become the first King of the Netherlands in more than 120 years when Queen Beatrix passes the crown to her eldest son on Tuesday morning.

“He’s ready, in every way,” Queen Beatrix said of her 46-year-old son, a water management specialist who is expected to bring a less formal touch to the monarchy, as she bid farewell to the nation in a subdued televised address on Monday night.

April 30, or Queen’s day, is always a day for partying in the Netherlands, although many Dutch took Monday off work and started celebrating in earnest from Monday evening with street bands and music.

But this year the city of Amsterdam is putting on a special show to celebrate the investiture of Willem-Alexander and the abdication of Beatrix, 75, who wants to retire after 33 years in the job.

The royals are broadly popular, with 78 percent of Dutch in favour of the monarchy up from 74 percent a year ago, according to an Ipsos poll.

But they have been stripped of their political influence, and no longer appoint the mediator who conducts exploratory talks when forming government coalitions.

Amsterdam is already awash with orange, the royal colour. Houses are covered in bunting and flags, shop windows are stuffed with orange cakes, sweets, clothes and flowers and many partygoers are decked out in the royal colours.

Nearly a million people are expected to join the street party with dancing to bands and DJs, helping create a carnival atmosphere. As always, there will be people on the pavements at dawn setting up traditional makeshift bric-a-brac stalls.

Britain’s Prince Charles and Japan’s Crown Princess Masako, who is making her first foreign trip since falling ill a decade ago, will be among 2,000 visitors at the official ceremony.

“There will be tears on Tuesday,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, paying tribute to “this formidable lady who has ruled this country for over 30 years”.

On Tuesday morning at 10:00 a.m. (9:00 a.m. British time) Beatrix will sign her abdication, whereupon Willem-Alexander immediately becomes king and his wife Maxima, a popular former investment banker from Argentina, becomes queen.

All three will appear on the palace balcony to wave and address the crowds in Dam Square.

They will then head from the palace to the 600-year-old Nieuwe Kerk, or New Church, next door where the king will swear an oath to uphold the Dutch constitution before lawmakers.

The Dutch monarch is never crowned, since, in the absence of a state church, there is no cleric available to carry out the coronation. But there is a crown, which will sit on a table next to him throughout the ceremony, along with other regalia that constitute the crown jewels.

Willem-Alexander will wear a royal mantle that has been used for investitures since 1815, although it has been repaired and altered at least twice over the past century, for the investitures of his mother and grandmother.

The celebration will continue through the evening with a water pageant along the Ij, Amsterdam’s historic waterfront.

Egyptian students protest mass food poisoning at university
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Hundreds of students from Egypt’s top Islamic university protested on Monday to demand investigation and punishment of those responsible for a second mass food poisoning on campus this month.

Ninety Al-Azhar University students were hospitalized on Monday after eating at a campus cafeteria, the health ministry said. Earlier this month, some 460 Al-Azhar University students were hospitalised following a mass food poisoning on campus.

Students said the incident on Monday was a sign of neglect by officials at Al-Azhar, a thousand-year-old mosque and university in Cairo that draws students from across the Sunni world.

An initial investigation of the first food poisoning incident by the toxicology unit of Ain Shams hospital in Cairo blamed contaminated food.

“Those of you who are silent about this, why are you silent?” the students chanted on Monday. They blocked a road in front of university in the Cairo neighbourhood of Nasr City.

Protests on issues ranging from national politics to local grievances have become more common in Egypt since the overthrow two years ago of autocratic president Hosni Mubarak.

Ibrahim El-Hodhod, the deputy-president for educational and student affairs at Al-Azhar, said a committee had been formed to investigate the incident, state news agency MENA reported. El-Hodhod visited the hospitalised students on Monday, MENA said.

An emergency meeting by the university’s management would be held on Tuesday to look into the case, MENA said.

Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil visited the hospitalized students on Monday and ordered the interior ministry to immediately investigate the mass food poisoning, according to a statement from his office on Monday evening.

Russian law on NGOs comes under fire at U.N. rights forum
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Russia’s new law on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) came under fire at the United Nations on Monday from Western critics led by the United States calling for it to be rescinded.

Western powers and rights groups view the restrictive legislation and inspections as being aimed at intimidating activists and silencing criticism of President Vladimir Putin.

But the Kremlin says that law requiring NGOs with funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents” is needed to ensure transparency and the justice minister defended it during a debate on Russia’s record at the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The Geneva forum examines the policies and practices of all U.N. member states every four years. The open debate and its non-binding recommendations are designed to train a spotlight on abuses and pressure governments to make democratic reforms.

“We’re concerned by laws which restrict civil society, including human rights activists, which have been used to justify the wave of unannounced inspections of civil society organisations,” U.S. Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe said.

Washington recommended “the removal of legislation that restricts civil society from receiving international funding and (that Russian authorities) cease unannounced inspections aimed at intimidating civil society organisations”, she said.

Arbitrary arrests and “prosecutions of peaceful protesters and opposition leaders” were also of concern, she added.

Britain and Germany were among countries to speak out at the law on NGOs that engage in political activity, which came into force in November, but stopped short of demanding its removal.

“We are concerned by recent developments in Russia, particularly legislative steps taken to control civil society, restrict political opposition and marginalise minority groups,” British diplomat Robert Last said in a speech.

Russian’s main independent election watchdog and thousands of other non-governmental groups face fines or closure, the justice ministry said earlier this month.

A Moscow court handed a 300,000-rouble (6,128 pounds) fine last week to Golos

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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World

India sees record Covid-19 infections, oxygen shortages

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India sees record Covid-19 infections, oxygen shortages | Thaiger
PHOTO: India's Covid-19 infections spread while oxygen supplies dwindle.

India is experiencing record infections and deaths due to Covid-19 and is now running dangerously low on oxygen supplies. The countries second wave of the virus includes a dangerous virus variant that is spreading quickly and has infected 3.5 million people just this month. In the last 24 hours, 295,000 new infections occurred with just over 2,000 deaths. Prime minister Narendra Modi said that India was in for a big fight and that the second wave of Covid-19 came like a storm.

India had done relatively well during the first wave of the coronavirus for a country dense with 1.3 billion inhabitants. In the last few weeks though people have let their guard down with millions attending religious festivals cricket matches huge weddings, and political rallies around the country. This coinciding with delays and even stopping of production for Covid-19 vaccines and medication along with a lack of oxygen being generated in India is leading to new levels of crisis.

With oxygen supplies dwindling throughout India, relatives of Covid-19 patients are buying black-market oxygen supplies for hyper-inflated prices. Some hospitals are said to be down to their last few hours of oxygen supplies. The health minister of New Delhi is pleading with the government to focus on the oxygen supply chain in India before it devolves into a serious crisis.

Mumbai is the centre of this most recent surge and oxygen shortages there are no better. One doctor said in the event of an oxygen shortage they would usually just relocate patients to another hospital, but now no hospital has the needed surplus. The prime minister said that the government, federal and local, along with private enterprise are working to increase oxygen supplies in India.

New Delhi is in the middle of a week-long lockdown and several other Indian States are facing shut down this weekend. Several countries are cancelling flights or moving India to advisory lists, urging their citizens not to travel there. The United Kingdom and the United States have both flagged India as unsafe to travel, while New Zealand and Hong Kong have completely banned flights.

Vaccination has been hit or miss in India, with early criticism for exporting jobs produced there while so few had been administered locally. Now India has stopped exporting AstraZeneca vaccines, and more than 130 million jabs have been given though supplies have still been limited. Data is expected in the next few weeks about the effect of the Indian Covid-19 variant. As of now, India is second to only the US in total cases with 15.6 million infections and over 180,000 deaths.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thailand launches Covid-19 vaccine passport for international travel

Maya Taylor

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Thailand launches Covid-19 vaccine passport for international travel | Thaiger
PHOTO: Marco Verch / Flickr

The Thai government has confirmed it is adopting a vaccine passport scheme, to provide vaccinated residents with proof of Covid-19 inoculation. The vaccine passport will be an official document which can be used by vaccinated people travelling abroad. Details of the scheme have now been published in the Royal Gazette, making it official.

The Bangkok Post reports that the Royal Gazette has also published the format of the vaccine passport, which has been approved by Opas Karnkawinpong from the Department of Disease Control. The cover contains text in English and Thai, which bears the department’s name and that of the Public Health Ministry. It carries the national emblem of Thailand, the garuda, and the wording, “Covid-19 Certificate of Vaccination”.

The vaccine passport also contains the owner’s name, as well as his or her national identification or passport number, and confirmation that the holder is vaccinated against Covid-19. It’s understood that only vaccines approved by Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration or by the World Health Organisation, will be recognised in the vaccine passport scheme.

In order to be valid, the vaccine passport must be signed by an approved disease control official. The Royal Gazette has published an order from the Department of Disease Control authorising 6 such officials to sign the document.

Each vaccine passport is for individual use only. Parents of children under the age of 7 will be required to sign their document for them, while people who cannot write will be required to provide a fingerprint.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Tourism

World’s most travel-friendly passport list – 2021

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World’s most travel-friendly passport list – 2021 | Thaiger
FILE PHOTO: Japan tops the list of most travel-friendly passports.

The Henley Passport Index, which rates which passports are the most travel-friendly, has just released the list for 2021, with Japan once again at the top of the list.

But the Index noted that this year’s international travel freedom comparison is mostly theoretical as the current Covid-19 situation continues to limit most international travel.

With a Japanese passport, travellers can enter 193 countries without a visa or with a visa-on-arrival. On the other end of the list, an Afghanistan passport can only get into 26 countries. The gap of 167 countries is the widest gap since the Henley Passport Index began tracking this data 15 years ago in 2006.

Singapore kept its second-place this year standing with just one less destination than Japan, followed by Germany and South Korea tied for 3rd place with 191 destinations. The rest of the top 10 are mainly European countries, with the exception of New Zealand and the US as part of the 5-way tie for 7th place with 187 destinations, and Australia and Canada tied for 9th place with 185 destinations.

The US and UK passports took a tumble, once tied for the most travel-friendly passport back in 2014, now losing ground slipping to 7th place. On the other hand, United Arab Emirates strengthened diplomatic ties worldwide and jumped 50 spots this year from 65th all the way to 15th. Over the decade, the climb is even more dramatic, with the Emirates exploding from 67 destinations 10 years ago up 107 destinations to 174 this year. China did well also, climbing 22 places since 2011, up to number 68 on the list.

Thailand’s passport is tied with Saudi Arabia at 66th with 79 destinations available without an advance visa.

The full list of most travel-friendly passports…
1. Japan (193 destinations)
2. Singapore (192)
3. Germany, South Korea (191)
4. Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain (190)
5. Austria, Denmark (189)
6. France, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden (188)
7. Belgium, New Zealand, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States (187)
8. Czech Republic, Greece, Malta, Norway (186)
9. Australia, Canada (185)
10. Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia (183)

Henley and Partners predict that the spread in passport access will mirror Covid-19 affected travel. Rich and mobile regions like the US, UK, EU and UAE are getting access to vaccination, hastening their ability to travel, while poorer and developing economies are experiencing a much slower vaccine roll-out.

Experts from Syracuse University, the University of Pittsburgh, and the Migration Policy Centre predict this trend will continue with potentially devastating long-term effects.

Countries that can afford and facilitate vaccination for their citizens quickly will be able to welcome travellers in for tourism and business and be able to travel more themselves. Conversely, countries that can’t afford the storage and distribution of vaccines will be less able to travel or welcome tourism income, widening a global wealth gap.

Remote working and the digital nomad lifestyle has been booming in recent years and with Covid-19 forcing businesses to adapt to telecommuting, the post-pandemic world will see more remote working, and countries falling behind with vaccinations will suffer the long-term loss in tourism dollars too.

SOURCE: CNN

World's most travel-friendly passport list - 2021 | News by Thaiger

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