World News

German minister says partial Covid-19 lockdown could last until spring 2021

BERLIN (REUTERS) – Germany’s partial lockdown measures could be extended until early spring if infections are not brought under control, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said in a newspaper interview published on Saturday (Nov 28).

Mr Altmaier told Die Welt it was not possible to give the all-clear while there were incidences of more than 50 infections per 100,000 inhabitants in large parts of Germany.

“We have three to four long winter months ahead of us,” he was quoted as saying.

“It is possible that the restrictions will remain in place in the first months of 2021.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed with leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states on Wednesday to extend and tighten measures against the coronavirus until at least Dec 20.

Germany imposed a “lockdown light” in early November, which closed bars and restaurants but allowed schools and shops to stay open. The measures have stopped the exponential growth of cases but infections have stabilised at a high level.

There were 21,695 new confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Saturday, bringing total cases since the pandemic began to 1,028,089.

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Macron warned: France division to spiral out of control amidst Police brutality outrage

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Emmanuel Macron has been accused of having “tilted to the right” to please voters because of his failure to contain Police amidst repeated claims of brutality against citizens in the past few months. Footage released earlier this week sparked France’s fury after a Paris music producer claimed to have been attacked by Police officers after rushing into his studio to avoid a fine for not wearing a face mask. The release of the video comes as President Macron faces further public backlash across France due to a proposed security law that would forbid people to share or broadcast images of the Police.

France Inter host Pierre Haski said: “We are in a very special moment in France.

“The Government is trying to push for a security law which is raising lots of concerns, lots of opposition.

“And all of a sudden, you have in the same week two incidents of Police violence which are really creating a political problem.

“You have different interpretations, some think President Macron has allowed his minister of interior to give the Police a free hand because he wants to gain votes on the right.”

JUST IN: Iran swears vengeance in promise to RETALIATE after top nuclear scientist assassinated

Mr Haski continued: “I think it might also be a problem of incompetence, that the authorities in charge of controlling the Police, who are commanding the Police, are just incompetent.

“And the Police feel they have a free hand because there’s not the political reigning in that is needed in situations like that. I think that’s a very, very difficult political moment.

“If there’s no solution, it might get worse.”

CCTV video from the music studio purportedly shows at least four members of Paris Police beating the producer Michel Zecler after having followed him into the building after allegedly spotting him outside without a mask on.

READ MORE: Germany financial PANIC: Net borrowing doubles – Covid sends for shockwaves

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Thursday the officers would be sanctioned if the alleged wrongdoing was confirmed.

The four men involved in the investigation were temporarily suspended after the release of the footage and gave their version of the events at a hearing on Friday.

Investigators from the General Inspectorate of the National Police (IGPN)have now opened new proceedings for “violence by persons holding public authority” and “forgery in public writing”.

President Macron reacted to the footage condemning all types of racism and said the claims of police brutality “shame” the whole of France.


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Writing on Twitter, the French President said: “The images we have all seen of Michel Zecler’s assault are unacceptable. They shame us.

“France must never resolve to violence or brutality, wherever they come from. France must never allow hatred or racism to flourish.

“I believe in the exemplary Republic: exemplary police with the French, exemplary French with the police as with all representatives of public authority.”

He added: “Exemplary French people with the police. I will never accept the violence perpetrated against our police and our gendarmes, all those who wear the uniform.

“Exemplary law enforcement agencies. Those who enforce the law must obey the law. I will never accept that the gratuitous violence of a few taints the professionalism of the women and men who courageously ensure our protection on a daily basis.

“I ask the Government to quickly make proposals to me to reaffirm the bond of trust that must naturally exist between the French and those who protect them and to fight more effectively against all forms of discrimination.”

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Plenty to do and discover here, tourism chief tells Singaporeans

SINGAPORE – Covid-19 has stalled most international travel, but there is still plenty to do right here.

This was the main message that Mr Keith Tan, chief executive of the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), wanted to send to Singaporeans on Thursday (Nov 26).

Although most Singaporeans may not be able to travel abroad until next year, there is no shortage of things to do with their annual leave.

Speaking to Straits Times travel correspondent Clara Lock, 30, as part of askST @ NLB’s second November session, Mr Tan said: “We have a lot more attractions than most people think we have. The big hits – the zoo, Universal Studios – those are the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much to discover.”

For the past few months, the STB has been working with Enterprise Singapore and the Sentosa Development Corporation on the SingapoRediscovers campaign.

In the process, they had to tailor experiences for the local market. Unlike tourists who save and budget to travel here, Singaporeans rarely look to spend big locally.

Mr Tan said this meant that the STB and its tourism partners have had to “work harder to create packages and bundles that represent good value to Singaporeans”.

They had no lack of domestic attractions to work with. Ms Lock pointed to local tourism businesses that have sprung up during the Covid-19 pandemic, such as Ninja Kayakers and Indie Singapore.

Mr Tan agreed that those were “great examples of innovative young entrepreneurs” and stressed that “STB wants to support such efforts”.

As part of the SingapoRediscovers campaign, all Singaporeans aged 18 and above will receive $100 worth of vouchers next month.

These can be used for staycations, tickets to leisure attractions and local tours. They will be distributed via SingPass in denominations of $10, and will be valid until the end of June next year.

The hope is that Singaporeans will discover hidden gems and unknown history close to home.

Mr Tan recounted how he and his family recently explored Little India, which he had not visited “for almost 20 years, apart from the main road (Serangoon Road)”.

The 46-year-old, who has four children, described how they went on a walking tour and discovered “beautiful artwork and murals”, as well as their “new favourite place to eat naan and butter chicken”.

Given the pandemic, cleanliness and hygiene will remain the primary concern of people venturing outdoors.

As at Oct 30, the STB has given more than 1,300 SG Clean Quality Mark certificates to tourism enterprises. These signal that the establishment in question is committed to upholding good sanitation and hygiene practices.

At the same time, Mr Tan also expressed his belief in the importance of “our national posture, our personal attitudes, our behaviours” in the long term.

“I firmly believe that there’s a lot here in Singapore that makes us quite unique,” he said. “I hope that Singaporeans will take the time to slow down, step out and be proud of this beautiful little country we have.”

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AskST @  NLB is a collaboration between The Straits Times and National Library Board.

Watch the video here.

Those who are keen to look for resources from the National Library Board, can check out ProQuest Central, a database subscribed to by NLB. A myLibraryID is needed to access this database. If you do not have a myLibraryID, you can go to this website and sign up for one using your SingPass or NRIC/FIN. 

What to read

Singapore: A Walking Tour

This book by Gregory Byrne Bracken is available at the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library and at various public and regional libraries.

The Kallang Story: A Sports, Arts And Heritage Trail

This book is available at the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library.

Singapore’s 100 Historic Places

This book is available at the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library.

The next AskST @ NLB session will be on on home-based businesses, and will be streamed on ST’s Facebook page on Friday, Dec 18 at 7pm. 

Listen to food editor Tan Hsueh Yun share her thoughts on this new force to be reckoned with, and what the future holds for them.

Have a question for ST’s food editor, Tan Hsueh Yun, on the topic?
Send it to by Dec 9, 7pm.

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Some households to receive e-vouchers to switch to energy- and water-efficient appliances

SINGAPORE – Households living in one- to three-room Housing Board flats can now get some help buying appliances that are more energy or water efficient, under a new programme launched on Saturday (Nov 28).

Those eligible will receive three e-vouchers totalling $225.

They include a $150 e-voucher to pay for an energy-efficient and climate-friendly refrigerator, a $50 e-voucher to offset the cost of changing their shower fittings to more water-efficient three-tick models, and a $25 e-voucher to buy LED lights.

Details of the Climate-Friendly Households Programme were announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat at the launch of the annual Clean and Green Singapore movement on Saturday morning. The programme was first floated earlier this year.

Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, said: “I am happy to share that starting today, eligible households will be able to apply online for their e-vouchers. I hope this $25 million Climate-Friendly Household Package will encourage households to take action to reduce their energy and water consumption.

“By doing so, they will also be saving money,” he added.

When households switch from a one-tick to a three-tick refrigerator model, for instance, they could reap annual savings of about $50 over the 10-year lifespan of the appliance.

The National Environment Agency also estimates that if all the more than 300,000 eligible households make the switch, the collective reduction in carbon emissions is equivalent to taking 31,000 cars off the road, and the water savings amount to 400 million gallons of water annually.

The vouchers will expire on Dec 31, 2023. More information on how to apply for them can be found at this website. 

During Saturday’s event held at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College East, Mr Heng also highlighted how environmental sustainability has been a focus for Singapore since its early years.

But the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of clean and green efforts in keeping public health threats under control.

“Keeping Singapore clean has taken on greater significance, as personal hygiene and public cleanliness are key lines of defence against the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said, and urged people here to continue practising habits to keep shared spaces clean, such as returning trays at hawker centres and disposing of used tissues properly.

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But Singapore is also “redoubling” its efforts to build a greener, more sustainable future, he said, citing plans to green buildings, turn trash into treasure by extracting value from every dreg of waste, and transform Singapore into a City in Nature – where there is more green infused into the grey cityscape.

“Our efforts to create a greener and more sustainable future will not only improve our living environment, it will help to grow our economy, generate more business and create good green jobs,” Mr Heng said.

For instance, the shift towards more recycling, reusing, repairing, and re-manufacturing of products will create new economic possibilities, said Mr Heng.

Raising environmental sanitation and waste management standards, as well as upskilling workers, will allow people to access higher value-added jobs, he added.

Singapore has done well in its environmental sustainability journey over the past 30 years, he said. But there are still pressing challenges ahead, such as climate change and public health threats.

“By working in close partnership, we can achieve even more. This is the spirit of Singapore Together. Let us work towards building a cleaner, greener and more sustainable future for ourselves and our children in the years to come,” he said.

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Recount in Wisconsin county demanded by Trump increases Biden's margin

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) – A recount in Wisconsin’s largest county demanded by Republican President Donald Trump’s election campaign ended on Friday (Nov 27) with Democratic President-elect Joe Biden gaining votes.

After the recount in Milwaukee County, Mr Biden had a net gain of 132 votes, out of nearly 460,000 cast. Overall, Mr Biden gained 257 votes to Mr Trump’s 125.

Mr Trump’s campaign had demanded recounts in two of Wisconsin’s most populous and Democratic-leaning counties, after losing Wisconsin to Mr Biden by over 20,000 votes.

The two recounts will cost the Trump campaign US$3 million (S$4 million). Dane County is expected to finish its recount on Sunday.

Overall, Mr Biden won the Nov 3 US presidential election with 306 Electoral College votes – many more than the 270 needed for victory – to Mr Trump’s 232. Mr Biden also leads by more than six million in the popular vote tally.

After the recount ended, Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson said: “The recount demonstrates what we already know: that elections in Milwaukee County are fair, transparent, accurate and secure.”

The Trump campaign is still expected to mount a legal challenge to the overall result in Wisconsin, but time is running out. The state is due to certify its presidential result on Tuesday.

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World War 3 fears surge as Russia threatens to retaliate after US forces ‘violate’ waters

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The Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the passage of the USS John S McCain destroyer into Russia’s waters in the Peter the Great Gulf. In their statement, the ministry stated that it sees the US’s move as an open provocation aimed at violating peace and order in the waters.

It also said Russia reserves the right to retaliate against the incident.

The ministry added that any attempts by Washington to undermine Russia’s sovereignty in the water area are unacceptable.

The statement came after Russia’s Defence Ministry said that a US Navy destroyer had entered Russian territorial waters by two kilometres in the Sea of Japan.

The incident took place on Tuesday in the area of water bordered by Japan, Russia and the Koreas.

The Russian Pacific Fleet’s anti-submarine ship Admiral Vinogradov issued a warning to the US vessel reportedly causing it to sail into neutral waters.

In response to Russia, the US Seventh Fleet said the USS John McCain had not been “expelled” from any country.

The US military claimed the destroyer was carrying out an operation to ensure freedom of navigation.

They also said the US had not agreed that Peter the Great Bay was a “historical harbour” under international law.

The US military claimed the Soviet Union declared that the area become part of the Russian territorial waters in 1984.

The Russian Defence Ministry said it used its international communications to warn the US vessel about “the possibility of using ramming to get the intruder out of the territorial waters”.

A spokesman for the US Navy’s 7th Fleet said in a statement: “The Russian Federation’s statement about this mission is false.

“USS John S. McCain was not ‘expelled’ from any nation’s territory.

“McCain conducted this FONOP in accordance with international law and continued to conduct normal operations in international waters.”

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He added that the US would never “bow” in intimidation or be coerced by Russia.

The spokesman added: “The operation reflects our commitment to uphold freedom of navigation and lawful uses of the sea as a principle, and the United States will never bow in intimidation or be coerced into accepting illegitimate maritime claims, such as those made by the Russian Federation.

“Russia has continued the U.S.S.R. claim.

“By conducting this operation, the United States demonstrated that these waters are not Russia’s territorial sea and that the United States does not acquiesce in Russia’s claim that Peter the Great is a “historic bay” under international law.”

Last year, the Admiral Vinogradov was also involved in a near-collision with a US vessel in the East China Sea.

Both the US and Russia have blamed each other for the incident.

The two countries often accuse each other of conducting military operations at sea and in the air.

Relations between the US and Russia remain tense.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has still not congratulated US President-elect Joe Biden on his election victory.

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Scammers fool Britons with investment firm clones, says trade body

FILE PHOTO: A bank employee counts pound notes at Kasikornbank in Bangkok, Thailand, October 12, 2010. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang

LONDON (Reuters) – More than 200 British retail investors have lost nearly 10 million pounds ($13.4 million) in total to sophisticated investment scams since a government lockdown in March to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, a trade body said on Saturday.

Fraudsters cloned genuine investment management firms’ websites and documentation, and advertised fake products on sham price comparison websites and on social media, the Investment Association said.

Greater financial uncertainty and more time spent online have likely contributed to the increase in scams, industry sources say.

Losses amounted to 9.4 million pounds ($12.56 million) between March and mid-October, the IA said, based on information it got from member firms which had been cloned.

“In a year clouded in uncertainty, organised criminals have sought opportunity in misfortune by attempting to con investors out of their hard-earned savings,” Chris Cummings, chief executive of the Investment Association said.

The investment management industry was working closely with police and regulators to stop the scams, he added.

Britain’s Action Fraud warned earlier this month that total reported losses from all types of investment fraud came to 657 million pounds between September 2019 and September 2020, a rise of 28% from a year ago. Reports spiked between May and September, following Britain’s first national lockdown, the national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre added.

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Morning Briefing: Top stories from The Straits Times on Nov 28

Good morning! Here are our top stories to kick-start your Saturday, Nov 28.

More Covid-19 cases may emerge from Seoul Garden family dinner but a major cluster unlikely: Experts

The group of 12 occupied three tables and there was mingling.


S’pore has no need to rely on one Covid-19 vaccine with several promising candidates in the race

With at least three drugs seeking emergency use authorisation, S’pore need not bank on a specific candidate.


Some employers in Singapore planning to scrap staff bonuses this year

These firms have been making losses this year due to delayed projects or sharp drop in daily takings.


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Iran vows ‘revenge’ after prominent nuclear scientist Fakhrizadeh’s assassination

He died in hospital after armed assassins gunned him down in his car.


In new blow to Trump, US court rejects Pennsylvania election case

Despite the ruling, Trump’s campaign plans to appeal to the US Supreme Court.


Malaysia yet to finalise plans for KL-S’pore high-speed rail, says minister

A news report claimed Malaysia was considering changes so that the line ends in Johor Baru and not Singapore.


Jumbo Group to acquire Kok Kee Wanton Noodle for $2.1m

It will take a 75% stake in the 35-year-old wonton noodle stall. 


HDT S’pore Taxi exits business, about 90 drivers let go

The electric taxi operator said it had been “wrestling with the slowing growth” since the start of the year.


HK woman duped in online love scam roots out fake profiles with S’pore singer Dick Lee’s photos

Lee has been approached by women who told him they had fallen victim to similar scams.


Who is responsible for fraudulent transactions, customer or bank?

Can the Singapore police help you to recover funds transferred to an overseas bank?


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World News

Nations firm up on strategies for Covid-19 vaccination

The hotly anticipated Covid-19 vaccines are almost here. Now for the issue of how to dispense them to the masses.

Across the globe, governments are gearing up to roll out nationwide inoculation campaigns, as the development of a handful of experimental vaccines inches closer to the finish line. They are set to face a host of challenges and make many judgment calls in their vaccination strategies.

With several vaccines having proven effective in large clinical trials, regulators may grant approval for their use in the coming weeks, and distribution is set to start immediately afterwards.

“We need to be able to make a lot of vaccine for the world quickly… (so) diversity is going to be good here,” said Professor Sarah Gilbert, a leader of the team working on Britain’s Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine, in an Associated Press report earlier this week.

Who goes first, and why?

With most of the vaccine front runners involving Western developers, Asian nations are expected to initially receive less of the precious commodity and at later stages than their American and European counterparts.

Richer and more powerful countries, as well as those that helped in testing or producing the vaccines, may also gain access to them sooner.

Upon receiving the vaccines, governments will have to get them into their citizens’ arms as soon as possible to bring a swift end to the pandemic. Pertinent issues include who among the populace will be entitled to a spot at the front of the queue. Priorities will differ from country to country.

Malaysia, for one, has said it will focus on inoculating only adults, as the experimental vaccines have yet to be tested on children under the age of 12. The United States-Germany team working on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has only just begun testing on teenagers.

Indonesia intends to cover two-thirds of its people aged 18 to 59 who are deemed fit and without pre-existing health conditions, as most of the vaccine trials have excluded people outside this age bracket. Healthcare and emergency service workers will get the shots before everyone else. The elderly can get vaccinated on a voluntary basis.

Japan, meanwhile, plans to grant its elderly priority over those with chronic diseases, as research shows older people face significantly higher risks of contracting severe Covid-19. The country has the world’s largest elderly population, with nearly 29 per cent – more than one in every four people – aged 65 or older.

India is likely to give its healthcare and front-line workers topmost priority as “they are at maximum risk of exposure to the virus”, a senior health ministry official said this week.

The strategy makes sense as it is paramount for India – with the world’s second-highest number of Covid-19 cases after the United States – to keep its healthcare system up and running to deal with its flood of infections.

Malaysia and India are looking into offering free vaccinations, and Japan has already confirmed it will do so for all its residents. Indonesia is covering vaccinations for 30 per cent of those in its target vaccination group, while the others have to pay for their own shots.

Speed is not a key concern for all, though. South Korea is in no hurry to ink deals despite having been offered more than 30 million doses of vaccines by pharmaceutical firms.

“What’s important is to choose the safest and most effective vaccine and to acquire them at an acceptable and reasonable price,” Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said last Sunday.

South Korean drugmakers such as SK Bioscience and Celltrion are also developing their own Covid-19 vaccines.

“There’s no reason to bear the risk and rush to pre-order vaccines when you can maintain a (comparatively) low number of cases,” Dr Chul-woo Rhee, a research scientist at the International Vaccine Institute in Seoul, was quoted as saying in a Wall Street Journal report last week. “South Korea is not in an urgent situation like the US or Europe.”

A delicate balance

A recent US study has suggested that prioritising vaccinating seniors aged above 60 would have the biggest impact in lowering Covid-19 deaths, while vaccinating young adults first would have a greater impact on lowering transmission rates. In that light, most countries’ vaccination strategies appear aimed first and foremost at preventing deaths.

In Europe, Britain is taking a largely age-based approach, with elderly care home residents and people aged over 80 on top of its list. Staff in care homes and healthcare settings are also prioritised to minimise the risk of transmitting the disease to their charges. Getting inoculated will cost £25 (S$45) for a two-dose regimen.

France’s inoculation guidelines include prioritising its five million workers in high-risk jobs, such as shop employees and transport workers with frequent public contact. This came after public consultation to ensure enough people would choose to get vaccinated.

Over in the US, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has proposed a five-phase plan with healthcare workers and first responders on top of the list, followed by people with high-risk underlying conditions and older adults in densely populated settings.

Experimental shots

In the meantime, large numbers of people in Russia and China have already received experimental vaccine shots.

Russia has administered its Sputnik V vaccine to at least tens of thousands of volunteers outside clinical trials, including medical workers and school teachers.

However, geography teacher Leonid Perlov, 60, told the Washington Post that he declined a vaccination offer as “it has not passed all of the necessary stages of testing”.

“The biology teachers are (also) not in a hurry to get vaccinated,” Mr Perlov noted of the response among his peers.

“They’re more cautious. But the history teachers are the ones ready to volunteer.”

In China, about a million people have been inoculated with a vaccine from Sinopharm – one of the country’s front runners – despite the state company having yet to show solid late-stage clinical data of its efficacy. Two doses will cost under 1,000 yuan (S$200).

“Among construction personnel, diplomats and overseas students who have travelled to more than 150 countries in the world, there has not been a single case of infection after inoculation,” Sinopharm said this month.

Attitudes towards vaccines

Chinese citizens have among the world’s highest Covid-19 vaccine acceptance rates, according to an Ipsos survey conducted jointly with the World Economic Forum, which polled more than 18,000 adults from 15 countries last month.

Some 85 per cent of Chinese respondents said they would definitely get inoculated when a Covid-19 vaccine is available.

The poll also showed Indians were the most willing to do so, at 87 per cent, with South Koreans in the third spot at 83 per cent. The French were the most resistant to the idea, at 54 per cent.

Those who said they did not want to receive a coronavirus vaccine were chiefly concerned about side effects – with respondents in Japan and China among those most worried – or that the clinical trials had been too rushed.

To be sure, vaccine makers will need a lot more data on how well their treatments perform in different age and ethnic groups and among people with health conditions, before regulators can give them the nod for public use.

For now, no country has announced plans to make Covid-19 vaccination mandatory.

Some governments have already ruled this out, including France, Britain and Japan, though they emphasised that their citizens would be strongly encouraged to get the shots.

“Mandatory vaccination is rarely justified,” said Dr Vageesh Jain from the University College London Institute for Global Health. “The successful roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines will require time, communication and trust.”

Other health experts have argued the case for compulsory inoculation for some groups as it could significantly lower the risk of seriously harming or even killing others.

Several airlines and employers are considering ways to implement mandatory vaccination policies.

“The less burdensome it is for an individual to do something that prevents harm to others, and the greater the harm prevented, the stronger the ethical reason for mandating it,” said Dr Alberto Giubilini from The Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and author of the book, The Ethics Of Vaccination.

Immunologists agree that countries would have to inoculate around 60 per cent to 70 per cent of their populations to achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus. Exactly how to do so will be a key challenge for governments around the world in the year to come.

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Iran scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, linked to nuclear programme, killed

An Iranian scientist named by Israel as the leader of the Islamic Republic’s disbanded military nuclear programme was killed Friday in an ambush on the outskirts of Tehran, authorities said.

Iran’s foreign minister alleged the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh bore “serious indications” of an Israeli role, but did not elaborate.

Israel, long suspected of killing several Iranian nuclear scientists a decade ago, declined to immediately comment. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once told the public to “remember that name” when talking about Fakhrizadeh.

The killing risks further raising tensions across the Mideast, nearly a year after Iran and the US stood on the brink of war when an American drone strike killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad. It comes just as US President-elect Joe Biden stands poised to be inaugurated in January and will likely complicate his efforts to return America to a pact aimed at ensuring Iran does not have enough highly enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon.

That deal, which saw Iran limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions, has entirely unravelled after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord in 2018.

Trump himself retweeted a posting from Israeli journalist Yossi Melman, an expert on the Israeli Mossad intelligence service, about the killing. Melman’s tweet called the killing a “major psychological and professional blow for Iran”.

Details about the slaying remained slim in the hours after the attack, which happened in Absard, a village just east of the capital that is a retreat for the Iranian elite. Iranian state television said an old truck with explosives hidden under a load of wood blew up near a sedan carrying Fakhrizadeh.

As Fakhrizadeh’s sedan stopped, at least five gunmen emerged and raked the car with rapid fire, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency said.

Fakhrizadeh died at a hospital after doctors and paramedics couldn’t revive him. Others wounded included Fakhrizadeh’s bodyguards. Photos and video shared online showed a Nissan sedan with bullet holes in the windshield and blood pooled on the road.

While no one claimed responsibility for the attack, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif pointed the finger at Israel, calling the killing an act of “state terror”.

“Terrorists murdered an eminent Iranian scientist today. This cowardice — with serious indications of Israeli role — shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.

Hossein Dehghan, an adviser to Iran’s supreme leader and a presidential candidate in Iran’s 2021 election, also blamed Israel — and issued a warning.

“In the last days of their gambling ally’s political life, the Zionists seek to intensify and increase pressure on Iran to wage a full-blown war,” Dehghan wrote, appearing to refer to Trump’s last days in office. “We will descend like lightning on the killers of this oppressed martyr and we will make them regret their actions!”

The attack comes just days before the 10-year anniversary of the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari that Tehran also blamed on Israel. That and other targeted killings happened at the time that the so-called Stuxnet virus, believed to be an Israeli and American creation, destroyed Iranian centrifuges.

The area around Absard, which has a view of with a view of Mount Damavand, the country’s highest peak, is filled with vacation villas. Roads on Friday, part of the Iranian weekend, were emptier than normal due to a lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic, offering his attackers a chance to strike with fewer people around.

Fakhrizadeh led Iran’s so-called Amad programme that Israel and the West have alleged was a military operation looking at the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon. Tehran long has maintained its nuclear programme is only for civilian purposes.

The International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran “carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device” in a “structured programme” through the end of 2003. That was the Amad programme, which included work on the carefully timed high explosives needed to detonate a nuclear bomb.

Iran also “conducted computer modelling of a nuclear explosive device” before 2005 and between 2005 and 2009, the IAEA has said. The agency said, however, that those calculations were “incomplete and fragmented”.

IAEA inspectors now monitor Iranian nuclear sites as part of the now-unravelling nuclear deal with world powers. Experts believe Iran has enough low-enriched uranium to make at least two nuclear weapons if it chose to pursue the bomb.

In 2018, Netanyahu gave a presentation in which he unveiled what he described as material stolen by Israel from an Iranian nuclear archive.

“A key part of the plan was to form new organizations to continue the work,” Netanyahu alleged. “This is how Dr Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, head of Project Amad, put it. Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh.”

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