New Zealand is finalising a long-awaited travel bubble with neighbouring Australia and will reveal next month when trans-Tasman trips can resume, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday. Speaking almost exactly a year after New Zealand closed its borders as Covid-19 swept across the globe, Ardern acknowledged many Kiwis were impatient for quarantine-free travel to and from Australia. But she said the government would exercise the cautious approach that has seen New Zealand largely contain the virus, with just 26 deaths in a population of five million.
Hong Kong democracy activists set to return from China
Eight Hong Kong democracy activists detained in China last year for illegally crossing the border were due back in the city on Monday after completing jail terms, in a case that drew international attention and concern over their treatment. They were among 12 activists whose boat was intercepted at sea by mainland authorities in August 2020 allegedly en route to the democratic island of Taiwan. All had faced charges in Hong Kong over the pro-democracy protest movement and are expected to be taken directly into custody on their return. Among the eight is Andy Li, arrested under a sweeping national security law Beijing imposed on the Asian financial hub in June 2020 that critics say is aimed at crushing dissent. In December, a Chinese court sentenced 10 of the 12 to between seven months and three years in jail. Defendants Tang Kai-yin and Quinn Moon, who were sentenced to three and two years, respectively, remain in Shenzhen.
Canadian goes on trial in China
A second Canadian citizen held for more than two years on spying charges in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of a senior executive of the telecoms giant Huawei went on trial in Beijing on Monday. The trial Monday of analyst and former diplomat Michael Kovrig in Beijing follows an initial hearing in the case of entrepreneur Michael Spavor in the northeastern city of Dandong on Friday. Canadian diplomats have been refused access to trials and been told hearings would be held behind closed doors because of alleged national security concerns. Diplomats and journalists have showed up nonetheless to seek information and show support. Outside Beijing’s No. 2 Intermediate Court, Jim Nickel, the Canadian Embassy’s deputy chief of mission, told journalists he had been told the trial had begun, but was barred from entry in what he said was a violation of China’s international and bilateral treaty obligations.
Russia launches satellites for 38 countries
A Russian Soyuz rocket blasted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday carrying 38 foreign satellites after takeoff was twice postponed due to technical issues, Russian space agency Roscosmos said. Video published by Roscosmos showed the Soyuz blaster launching at 0607 GMT. The rocket will place in orbit 38 satellites from more than a dozen countries, including South Korea, Japan, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Italy and Brazil. Among them is the Challenge-1, the first satellite made completely in Tunisia, which was created by the Telnet telecommunications group. The launch was twice postponed from Saturday after a surge in voltage was detected. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian space sector has lagged behind international competitors, plagued by corruption scandals and technological stagnation.
Merkel pushes for extending lockdown
Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed keeping German lockdown restrictions in force for another four weeks after Covid-19 cases rose beyond a level that may prompt government action to avoid health-care overload. The plan would extend and slightly tighten existing curbs through April 18, according to a chancellery draft seen by Bloomberg. Merkel and regional government leaders will discuss the proposals on Monday during talks on how to proceed with the lockdown amid an upward curve of infections in Europe’s biggest economy. With much of Europe headed for its Easter holiday break at the end of March, the draft suggests mandatory quarantines and covid tests for travelers returning to Germany, while indicating that officials haven’t agreed on that measure yet. For hard-hit areas in Germany, other possible curbs where a final decision is pending include nightly curfews until 5 a.m. and closures of schools and child care if teachers and pupils can’t get tested twice a week.
Can India reach net zero by 2050?
Top Indian officials are discussing whether to set a goal of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, yet little analytical work has been done on just what the country will have to do to meet that target. In February, the International Energy Agency found it’s possible for India to zero out its emissions by the mid-2060s. The conclusion was based on the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario. Meeting the Paris Agreement’s more ambitious 1.5°C goal requires reaching net-zero carbon dioxide emissions globally by mid-century. A new analysis from Vaibhav Chaturvedi, a fellow at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, says that if India were able to deploy carbon capture and storage, which involves trapping emissions from polluting industries and burying them underground, it would only marginally ease the deployment of clean technologies needed by 2050. In that case, fossil fuels could be 31% of the energy mix, but renewables would still have to reach 70%.
Curated by Sohini Sen. Have something to share with us? Write to us at [email protected] or tweet to @shohinisen