Rise in Covid cases slows manufacturing in China to weakest in two years

Output is contracting as Beijing’s tough pandemic measures force some factories to shut down

Output from China’s manufacturing sector slowed to its weakest in almost two years in January as the country’s tough anti-Covid measures forced factories into temporary shutdowns.

A monthly snapshot of industry in the world’s second biggest economy showed production being hard hit by Beijing’s zero-tolerance approach to the pandemic.

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Myanmar’s junta struggles to prevent protests planned for coup anniversary

Junta warns public not to take part in planned ‘silent strike’ and arrests business owners who vowed to close on 1 February

Myanmar’s military junta has threatened sedition and terrorism charges against anyone who shuts their business, claps or bang pots on Tuesday, as it tries to stamp out any protests planned to mark the one-year anniversary of the coup.

The military, which ousted the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on 1 February 2021, continues to face defiant opposition including peaceful protests and an armed resistance.

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New Zealand defends strict Covid quarantine after pregnant journalist ‘had to turn to Taliban’ for help

Charlotte Bellis, a journalist, says she was forced to return to Afghanistan after her application was met with ‘clauses and technicalities and confusion’

The New Zealand government has defended its strict quarantine system known as MIQ after a pregnant New Zealand journalist said she had to turn to the Taliban for help after her requests to get back to her own country were rejected.

Charlotte Bellis discovered she was pregnant a short time after gaining international attention in 2021 for questioning Taliban leaders about their treatment of women and girls. She is due to give birth in May.

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Omicron: what do we know about ‘stealth’ subvariant BA.2?

Omicron’s ‘close cousin’ has mutations that could alter how it behaves and has begun to surpass Covid’s most common variety in parts of Europe and Asia

The highly transmissible Omicron variant of the Sars-CoV-2 virus – the most common form of which is known as BA.1 – now accounts for nearly all of the coronavirus infections globally.

Though Covid cases have already peaked in some countries, scientists are now tracking a rise in cases caused by a close cousin of Omicron known as BA.2, which is starting to outcompete BA.1 in parts of Europe and Asia. The following is what we know so far about the new subvariant.

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Covid news: UK health secretary says mandatory vaccination for NHS workers ‘no longer proportionate’ – as it happened

This blog is now closed

Sajid Javid says says mandatory jabs were ‘right policy at the time’ but announces review

The New Zealand government has defended its strict quarantine system known as MIQ after a pregnant New Zealand journalist said she had to turn to the Taliban for help after her requests to get back to her own country were rejected.

Charlotte Bellis discovered she was pregnant a short time after gaining international attention in 2021 for questioning Taliban leaders about their treatment of women and girls. She is due to give birth in May.

I understand she wanted to return on a specific date and that officials reached out to her for more information shortly after looking at her application. The emergency allocation criteria includes a requirement to travel to New Zealand within the next 14 days. Ms Bellis indicated she did not intend to travel until the end of February and has been encouraged by MIQ to consider moving her plans forward.”

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North Korea releases images it claims were taken from space during missile test

Pictures appear to capture the missile rising from its launcher and a shot looking back down on Earth

North Korea has released images it claims show the test-firing this weekend of its biggest missile for several years, as it attempts to use launches of weapons capable of reaching US territories to pressure the Biden administration into restarting nuclear talks.

The state-run KCNA news agency said on Monday the country had launched an intermediate-range Hwasong-12 missile capable of reaching the US Pacific territory of Guam. The missile was the most powerful the regime has tested since late 2017.

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Afghanistan: more than 100 believed killed despite Taliban amnesty offer, says UN

Extrajudicial killings allegedly carried out despite Taliban assurances of safety for those linked to previous leadership or foreign forces

The United Nations says it has received “credible allegations” that more than 100 members of the ousted Afghan government, its security forces and those who worked with international troops have been killed since the Taliban took over on 15 August.

Secretary general Antonio Guterres said in a report that “more than two thirds” of the deaths were alleged to have resulted from extrajudicial killings by the Taliban or its affiliates, despite the Taliban’s announcement of “general amnesties” for those affiliated with the former government and US-led coalition forces.

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Beijing seals off several communities over two cases of Covid-19

As the Winter Olympics nears, the Chinese capital has locked down some neighbourhoods and is setting up 19 testing points

Beijing officials have sealed off several residential communities north of the city centre after two cases of Covid-19 were found as the Chinese capital prepares to host the Winter Olympics opening ceremony on Friday.

Another 34 cases were confirmed among athletes and others who have come for the Games, the organising committee said. In all, 211 people have tested positive among more than 8,000 who had arrived by the end of Saturday. They include a Swedish cross-country skier and a snowboarder from Slovenia.

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Reader call-out: how are you coping with the rising cost of living in New Zealand?

We want to hear from readers in Aotearoa about how rising inflation is affecting them and how they are dealing with it

Inflation in Aotearoa has hit a three-decade high, and New Zealand households are facing an increase in food, petrol and housing costs. It’s showing no sign of slowing – inflation hit 5.9% at the end of 2021, and ANZ, New Zealand’s biggest bank, expects it to continue rising in 2022.

We’d like to hear from readers in New Zealand about whether you’ve noticed increasing prices, and how you’re managing financially in this climate: have certain essentials become unaffordable recently? What are they? Are rising prices affecting the way you shop, or your cooking and budgeting? Where have you noticed changes the most? Are you pushing for more pay from your employer, or trying other strategies to cope with the pressure of rising living costs? What are your concerns for the year ahead?

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Foreign journalists in China subject to rising intimidation, survey finds

Report says heightened dangers have prompted at least six to leave and many others to develop emergency exit plans

The Chinese government is finding new ways to intimidate foreign journalists, their Chinese colleagues and their sources, and harassment has reached such a high level that at least six have left the country, according to a key report.

The methods include online trolling, physical assaults, hacking and visa denials, as well as what appears to be official encouragement of lawsuits or threats of legal action against journalists, “typically filed by sources long after they have explicitly agreed to be interviewed”.

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