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Health

New Zealand records highest single day spike in COVID-19 infections   

Health authorities announced 94 new cases, exceeding the previous daily record of 89 set in April last year during the first wave of COVID-19 infections.  

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New Zealand records highest single day spike in COVID-19 infections   
GNN Media: Representational Photo

Wellington: New Zealand Tuesday (October 19) recorded its highest number of daily COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic as a Delta-variant outbreak that dashed the nation's "Covid Zero" hopes showed no signs of easing.

Health authorities announced 94 new cases, exceeding the previous daily record of 89 set in April last year during the first wave of COVID-19 infections.  

While case numbers remain low by most international standards, they have been steadily growing since the highly transmissible Delta variant was first found in New Zealand in mid-August.

The outbreak, centred on Auckland, has forced Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to drop her core policy goal of eliminating the virus in favour of ramping up vaccination efforts.

The New Zealand leader is set to unveil a new strategy on Friday that will allow for greater freedoms once vaccination targets have been reached.

About two-thirds of the eligible population have now been fully inoculated.

"We know that vaccinations are already making a significant difference to the outbreak in Auckland, but so too are people following the rules," Ardern told reporters.

Before the arrival of Delta, New Zealand won widespread praise for its hardline approach, which involved strict lockdowns, rigorous contact tracing and tight border restrictions.

COURTESY: AP

Mehak Javed

Mehak Javed is immensely creative and an enthusiastic journalist, contributing in the publication of timely and accurate news. She is a skilled writer along proven history of achievement in the field with several years of professional experience. Mehak is working with GNN since 2020.

World

Ukraine dispute: US, Russia agree to continue talks despite no breakthrough in FMs meeting

Russia doesn't want Ukraine to be part of NATO

Published by Faisal Ali Ghumman

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Ukraine dispute: US, Russia agree to continue talks despite no breakthrough in FMs meeting

GENEVA: The top US and Russian diplomats made no major breakthrough at talks on Ukraine on Friday but agreed to keep talking to try to resolve a crisis that has stoked fears of a military conflict.

After the talks in Geneva, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned of a "swift, severe" response if Russia invades Ukraine after massing troops near its border and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was still waiting for a written response to demands for security guarantees.

But both said they were open to further dialogue, and Blinken saw grounds to hope that mutual security concerns could be addressed.

"Based on the conversations we've had -- the extensive conversations -- over the past week and today here in Geneva I think there are grounds for and a means to address some of the mutual concerns that we have about security," Blinken said.

He described the talks as "frank and substantive" and told reporters that Russia now faced a choice.

 "It can choose the path of diplomacy that can lead to peace and security, or the path that will lead only to conflict, severe consequences and international condemnation," Blinken said, adding that diplomacy would be preferable.

"We've been clear - if any Russian military forces move across Ukraine's border, that's a renewed invasion. It will be met with swift, severe and a united response from the United States and our partners and allies."

Lavrov said the ball was in Washington's court.

Describing the meeting as open and useful, he said Moscow would understand whether talks were on the right track once it had received a written response to its sweeping security demands from the United States.

"I can't tell you if we're on the right track or the wrong track. We'll understand this when we receive the American response on paper to all the points in our proposal," Lavrov said.

Russia's demands include a halt to NATO's eastward expansion and a pledge that Ukraine will never be allowed to join the Western military alliance.

Blinken said he expected to share with Russia "our concerns and ideas in more detail and in writing next week" and said he and Lavrov had "agreed to further discussions after that".

Russia and the United States could hold another meeting next month to discuss Moscow's demands for security guarantees, Russia's RIA news agency quoted a source in the Russian delegation as saying.

'LET'S NOT GET AHEAD OF OURSELVES'

Lavrov said Russia had worries of its own, "not about invented threats, but real facts that no one hides - pumping Ukraine with weapons, sending hundreds of western military instructors".

Asked about the possibility of a summit between President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden, Lavrov was circumspect.

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves, President Putin is always ready for contacts with President Biden, it's clear these contacts need to be seriously prepared," he said.

Washington’s hopes of building a united front of opposition to Moscow were complicated by U.S. President Joe Biden's comments at a news conference on Wednesday in which he suggested that allies might be divided on how to respond to a "minor incursion" by Russia into Ukraine.

Before Friday's meeting, Blinken swung through Europe to try to shore up U.S. allies' commitments to hit Russia with economic sanctions if it goes ahead with an invasion of Ukraine.

In Kyiv on Wednesday, Blinken assured Ukraine of U.S. support. Blinken, before meeting German, French and British officials in Berlin on Thursday, said Russian President Vladimir Putin could order an invasion imminently.

Blinken’s deputy, Wendy Sherman, and Lavrov’s deputy, Sergei Ryabkov, also met in Geneva last week, without a breakthrough.

SOURCE: REUTERS

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Regional

School sealed in Bani Gala after reported coronavirus cases

Not only the students but some teachers too had tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting the authorities to seal the school

Published by Faisal Waqas

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School sealed in Bani Gala after reported coronavirus cases

Islamabad: Another school in Islamabad’s Bani Gala area was sealed on Friday after reported cases of the coronavirus.

According to reports, not only the students but some teachers too had tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting the authorities to seal the school.

It is pertinent to mention here that 17 educational institutions have been sealed in Islamabad ever since their reopening following drop in the cases of the pandemic.

A day ealriler, following to spike in coroanviurs cases, two more educational institutions had been sealed following the detection of Covid-19 cases in the Islamabad.

According to the reports, overall 20 cases had been reported in a private university’s Islamabad campus and three Corona cases in a private school’s Soan Garden branch.

In a letter to the deputy commissioner, the district health officer (DHO) Islamabad issued directives to seal the two educational institutions.

Directions have been issued to seal the educational institution till further orders besides initiating a contact tracing and testing.

On the other hand, the National Command and Operations Center (NCOC) has decided to close educational institutions with COVID-19 high positivity for one week.

According to the reports, COVID testing in education institutes was carried out in major Omicron hit cities to ascertain disease spread among students and ensure accurate disease mapping.

Data suggests a strong correlation between vaccination levels and infection rate in various cities. In this regard, the NCOC decided that aggressive testing in education institutes will be conducted for next two weeks especially in high disease prevalence cities. 

Following to the COVID-19 cases, education institutions or specific classes with high positivity will be closed for one week. “Provincial Administration in consultation with District Health, Education Authorities and School Administrations to set a threshold of cases for deciding such closures,” it added.  

The NCOC further decided that the federating units to carry out special vaccination drives in schools to ensure 100 per cent vaccination of students over 12 years of age.

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Crime

Two killed, 3 injured in firing cum traffic accident on Lahore's Baidian Road

Robbers fired at van that collided with a motorcycle

Published by Faisal Ali Ghumman

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Two killed, 3 injured in firing cum traffic accident on Lahore's Baidian Road

Lahore: Two people were killed and three others were injured as a van driver hit a motorcycle after getting fired by robbers on Baidian Road on Friday, police and rescuers said.

The deceased were borther and sister. Police inquiries showed that some robbers first opened fire on a moving van, leaving three including the driver injured.

The van driver panicked and hit a motorcycle. The deceased have been identified as Shahid and Shama. 

The injured have been identified as Abid, Waleed and Usman.

The vicitms told police that robbers riding a bike were chasing their van.  Police shifted the bodies for autopsies and launched investigation.

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