Covid test for travellers from China could have been avoided, says MP

Steve Brine said the restriction on people arriving from China to England was only required because Beijing was not ‘upfront’ about its data

The requirement for travellers from China to England to provide a negative Covid test before departure could have been avoided if Beijing was “upfront” about its data, the chair of the Commons health committee has said.

Rishi Sunak announced a major U-turn on Friday by imposing checks on travellers from China from 5 January, after criticism from a growing number of Conservative MPs over his “dithering”.

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The world in 2023: what our writers say you should watch out for

From Ukraine developments and China’s Covid surge to renewable energy and hope for the Amazon

A near-inevitable global recession sparked by a lengthening war in Europe’s frozen east; an energy crisis coupled with soaring inflation; Covid-19 finally running rampant in China – predictions for 2023 are grim. Still, there are reasons to be hopeful. That same energy crisis has spurred an unprecedented demand for renewables, which are expected to boom, while in Brazil, a new president has sworn to protect the Amazon. Repressive regimes, meanwhile, will be nervously looking at Iran, where hardline clerics are locked in a struggle with a formidable pro-democracy uprising that threatens to overwhelm them next year.

Guardian correspondents across the globe have provided their take on what to watch out for in 2023:

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WHO urges Covid data ‘transparency’ as China prepares to open borders

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says WHO officials stressed to Beijing the importance of sharing data ahead of easing of travel restrictions on 8 January

The World Health Organisation again urged China’s health officials to regularly share specific, real-time information on the country’s Covid surge, as the UK joined other countries in bringing in travel restrictions, citing a lack of data as the reason.

WHO Covid experts met Chinese officials on Friday and “again stressed the importance of transparency and regular sharing of data to formulate accurate risk assessments and to inform effective response”, said the WHO chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

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North Korea fires three ballistic missiles in latest tests

Launches come five days after country reportedly flew drones into South Korea’s airspace

North Korea fired three ballistic missiles towards the sea east of the Korean Peninsula on Saturday, the South Korean military said.

The launches were the latest in an unprecedented number of missile tests conducted by North Korea this year, as Pyongyang presses on with weapons development amid speculation it could test a nuclear weapon for a seventh time.

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Rishi Sunak to impose Covid tests on travellers from China in U-turn

Department of Health confirms that from 5 January anyone travelling to England will be asked to take a pre-departure Covid-19 test

Rishi Sunak has performed a major U-turn by imposing Covid checks on travellers from China from 5 January, after criticism from a growing number of Conservative MPs over his “dithering”.

After a series of seemingly mixed messages about whether the UK would follow the lead of Spain, Italy, Israel, the US and India in screening arrivals, the prime minister backed the move to bring the UK into line with its allies in a change of policy on Friday.

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Chinese navy jet flies within 10ft of US air force plane over South China Sea

US aircraft forced to take evasive maneuvers during latest incident over contested shipping, fishing and gas field-rich region

A Chinese military plane came within 10ft (three meters) of a US air force aircraft over the contested South China Sea last week and forced it to take evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision in international airspace, the US military said.

The close encounter followed what the US called a recent trend of increasingly dangerous behavior by Chinese military aircraft.

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China: another Covid wave expected in rural areas after lunar new year

Many city workers heading home for holiday in late January are likely to take disease with them

China is preparing for another wave of Covid to hit its more vulnerable countryside in early 2023, as the current wave of infections overwhelms hospitals and intensive care units in many cities.

The lunar new year, China’s most important holiday, falls in late January. It offers a chance of reunion after years of separation under the harsh internal travel restrictions and lockdowns of the previous zero-Covid policy.

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China bridles as EU states prepare to scale up Covid monitoring

Spain joins Italy in requiring arrivals to show a negative result as Chinese state media calls move ‘discriminatory’

European countries are preparing to scale up the monitoring of potential new coronavirus variants from China, as Spain becomes the second EU state to bring back mandatory testing at airports in response to Beijing’s rapid rollback of anti-infection measures.

Spain on Friday followed Italy’s lead by requiring arrivals from China to show a negative test result, though unlike Rome it makes exceptions for those who can prove they are fully vaccinated.

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Putin invites Xi to Moscow as Russia pursues alliance with China

Analysts say Chinese leader has leverage as Russian counterpart ‘has no one else to turn to’ amid Ukraine war

Vladimir Putin invited his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on Friday to make a state visit to Russia next spring, as Moscow seeks to deepen its ties with China amid growing international isolation over the war in Ukraine.

Speaking to Xi via a videoconference, Putin said Russia’s ties with China are the “best in history”, expressing his wish to extend military collaboration and inviting Xi to visit Moscow.

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Anger as Pakistan court frees rapist after he agrees deal to marry his victim

Dawlat Khan had received a life sentence for the rape of a young deaf woman but a council of elders intervened to offer a compromise

A court in Pakistan has caused outrage after it freed a convicted rapist when he agreed to marry his victim.

Dawlat Khan, 25, had been sentenced to life imprisonment in May by the district court of Buner, in north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, for the rape of a young deaf woman.

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Vladimir Putin expects Xi Jinping to make state visit in spring – video

The Russian president has said he expects his Chinese counterpart to make a state visit to Russia next spring, in what would be a public show of solidarity from Beijing amid Russia's flailing military campaign in Ukraine.

In introductory remarks from a video conference between the two leaders, broadcast on state television on 30 December, Putin said: 'We are expecting you, dear Mr Chairman, dear friend, we are expecting you next spring on a state visit to Moscow.'

Putin said the visit would 'demonstrate to the world the closeness of Russian-Chinese relations'


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Wrestling tigers and hurling motorcycles: how SS Rajamouli’s RRR cast a spell over the world

The Indian director was as surprised as anyone that his astonishingly larger than life, logic-defying action film has found a huge global audience. So is Hollywood on the horizon?

Looking at the box-office numbers when RRR first opened in the US in March, director SS Rajamouli couldn’t believe the film was really breaking through to non-Indian audiences. “We thought, OK, this might be [American] friends who the Indians had dragged along to see the movie,” he says. “But as the numbers started increasing, and appreciation started coming from celebrities, critics, influencers, gamers, from people of repute, I think it gradually dawned on us that this had the capacity to become much bigger than any other Indian film that has gone before.”

Everything about RRR – the story of two freedom fighters in British-ruled 1920s India – is larger than life. Not just because of the box-office numbers (it is currently the third-highest grossing film ever in India; Rajamouli’s 2017 action film Baahubali 2 is the highest), the budget (at $69m, India’s most expensive film ever) or the length of the shoot (320 days over three years, with Covid interruptions), but also the epic tenor of the movie’s action. Men wrestle tigers and hurl motorcycles, entire armies are single-handedly subdued, the dance scenes are supercharged. Stylised, CGI-heavy, logic-defying, yet ingeniously choreographed and meticulously composed, it feels like something fresh and invigorating, especially compared to Hollywood’s samey output.

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In Kolkata’s ancient festivals, I saw a very modern mix of myth and politics | Amit Chaudhuri

A brightly lit Kali Puja marquee was made to look like an identity card for the goddess – complete with a heavenly address

This photo of a pandal or marquee was taken on my phone from the car window as we passed through Dover Terrace in south Kolkata, India. Dover Terrace is a middle- and upper-middle-class area, but just over here there’s a slum. So the Kali Puja festivities, which this marquee was at the centre of, were primarily participated in by working-class people who anyway treat parts of the road as their drawing room, so that cars need to negotiate this brief, congested stretch regardless of whether it’s hosting festivities.

The main festival in West Bengal is not Kali Puja but Durga Puja, which takes place in late September or early October. It celebrates the mother goddess Durga’s advent with her children into the world for a week, after which she returns to Kailash (the peak in the Himalayas where she lives with her husband, Shiva). She’s visiting her father’s house, and then, like all married women, must return to the house she shares with her husband. The festival’s other mythic narrative has to do with Durga vanquishing a demon, Mahishasura, who threatens to destroy the world; Durga, 10-armed, and bearing weapons, rides a lion and tramples the demon underfoot. The festival is a mix of triumphal adoration (Durga’s victorious slaying of the demon) and, increasingly, as it draws to a close, a sense of valediction (the daughter must, again, leave the house she grew up in).

Amit Chaudhuri is the author of eight novels, including Sojourn; his nonfiction works include Finding the Raga

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Indian leather companies accused of enabling Russia’s war effort

Soldiers’ boots are made from imported Indian leather as country’s trade with Russia soars by 400%

Indian companies have been accused of enabling Russia’s war effort after exporting leather to Russian companies that make boots for its military in the months since the invasion of Ukraine.

Russia and India have longstanding ties and Narendra Modi’s government has not joined western countries in openly criticising Moscow over the war nor stopped Indian companies trading with Russia.

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Myanmar court jails Aung San Suu Kyi for extra seven years in final closed trial

Nobel laureate found guilty of corruption as rights groups say array of charges fabricated to keep her detained

In the last of a long list of closed trials that have spanned over a year, a military-controlled court in Myanmar has sentenced ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to an additional seven years of prison time.

She was found guilty on five charges of corruption pertaining to the misuse of state funds for the purchase and lease of a helicopter.

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