Sunday 18 April 2021
News ID: 88922
Publish Date: 07 April 2021 - 21:30
BEIJING (Reuters) -- China’s President Xi Jinping on Wednesday told German Chancellor Angela Merkel Sino-EU relations were facing "various challenges” and he hoped the 27-nation bloc could "independently” make correct judgments, Chinese state media reported. In a phone call with Merkel, who has led Germany, the EU’s biggest economy, since 2005, Xi said the EU and China should "respect each other” and "eliminate interference,” according to a readout from the official Xinhua news agency, without naming the source of such interference. The EU last month imposed its first significant sanctions against Chinese officials since 1989 over alleged human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang region. Beijing, which denies the allegations, quickly hit back by blacklisting some EU lawmakers and entities. EU allies the United States, Britain and Canada also sanctioned Chinese officials over Xinjiang, and the row is threatening to derail an EU-China investment pact agreed in late 2020 after years of negotiations.

BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday threw her weight behind a "short, uniform lockdown” as the country grapples with a high level of coronavirus cases fueled by the spread of a more contagious variant first detected in Britain. German state governors, who are responsible for imposing and lifting virus restrictions, have taken differing approaches lately. Some have continued to back limited reopening steps while others advocate a stricter shutdown. Armin Laschet, a governor who also leads Merkel’s conservative party, called this week for a vaguely defined 2-3 week "bridge lockdown” to control infections while Germany steps up a so-far slow vaccination campaign. Laschet also called for a meeting between Merkel and governors to coordinate restrictions to be moved up from next Monday, but hit resistance from his colleagues. Merkel spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said Wednesday there is "no majority” for that.

PRAGUE (AP) — Czech Prime Minster Andrej Babis fired his health minister on Wednesday, the third health minister who has been ousted during the pandemic in one of Europe’s hardest-hit countries. Jan Blatny was replaced by Petr Arenberger, the director of Prague’s University Hospital Vinohrady, who was sworn in by President Milos Zeman. The move opens the way for a possible use of Russian and Chinese vaccines, which have not been approved by the European Union’s drug regulator. Babis repeatedly criticized Blatny over his handling of the pandemic, including imposing strict conditions for the use of experimental drugs to treat COVID-19 patients. Blatny was also under fire from Zeman, an ally of Babis who is known for his pro-Russian and pro-Chinese views. Zeman asked the prime minister last month to replace Blatny over his refusal to allow the use of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine because it has not been approved by the European Medicines Agency.

NEW YORK (AP) — A tourist from Kansas was hit in the shoulder by a stray bullet near New York’s Times Square early Wednesday, police said. The 44-year-old man was shot shortly after 2 a.m. near West 38th Street and Eighth Avenue, a police spokesperson said. Police do not believe he was the intended target, the spokesperson said. The man was taken to Bellevue Hospital and is stable, police said. The Daily News reports that the victim told police he attended Tuesday’s Mets-Phillies game in Philadelphia and then took a train or bus back to New York. The man was headed to his hotel when shots were fired, police said.

SEOUL (Reuters) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s party suffered a crushing defeat in a special election for key mayoral posts amid a spate of political scandals and policy blunders, exit polls showed on Thursday. Tens of millions of South Koreans voted on Wednesday to elect chiefs of the country’s two largest cities, the capital Seoul and the port of Busan, among 21 local offices up for grabs. The election was a key barometer for potential political shifts by Moon’s progressive Democratic party with less than a year left before the next presidential election. Moon and his party have seen their approval ratings sink to record lows in recent months amid skyrocketing home prices, deepening inequality, sex abuse scandals and souring relations with North Korea. In Seoul, main opposition People Power contender Oh Se-hoon secured 59% among 8.4 million voters, exit polls by three major broadcasters showed, while Democratic candidate Park Young-sun garnered 37.7%.

MILAN (Reuters) -- Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been in hospital since Tuesday afternoon for check-ups, two sources from his Forza Italia party said on Wednesday. One of the sources said the 84-year-old media tycoon went to the San Raffaele hospital in Milan for follow-up tests after contracting the new coronavirus in September last year. This is the second time in just a few weeks that Berlusconi finds himself in hospital, after another routine check-up at the end of March. Forza Italia said then that he had been admitted for clinical monitoring and adjustment to an ongoing therapy. Berlusconi, who underwent major heart surgery in 2016 and has also survived prostate cancer, was admitted to hospital in January this year as well because of heart problems.

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