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Germany stops offering free COVID-19 tests

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As Vaccinations were generally freely available to citizens in Germany, free COVID-19 testing will no longer be offered as of Monday.

Individuals who cannot be vaccinated and for whom there is no general recommendation for vaccination, continue to receive free rapid antigen testing, according to the government.

Minister of Health Jens Spahn defended the move saying that free COVID-19 testing, for example, would still be available for children under 12.

“Fairness to the taxpayer makes it necessary to abolish free test for citizens,’’ he told the Funke Mediengruppe on Sunday.

The Robert Koch Institute for disease control and prevention (RKI) on Monday registered 3,111 positive COVID-19 tests within 24 hours.

The incidence rate of new infections per 100,000 people climbed to a two-week high at 66.5.

To date, almost 54.27 million people in Germany have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, bringing the country’s vaccination rate to 65.3 per cent, according to the RKI

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Conviction of U.S. journalist, symbolic of media repression in Myanmar – UN rights chief

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The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, says conviction and harsh sentencing of American journalist, Danny Fenster, is symbolic of media repression in Myanmar.

Bachelet said on Friday that conviction of Fenster is emblematic of a wider plight of journalists in the country who have faced constant repression, in the wake of a military coup in February.

Fenster, 37, is the managing editor of an independent magazine called Frontier Myanmar.

On Friday, he was sentenced to 11 years in jail by a military court in Yangon, the country’s largest city, for violating visa laws, unlawful association with an illegal group, and sowing dissent against the military.

Bachelet urged authorities in Myanmar to immediately release all journalists who have been jailed for practicing their profession.

“Journalists have been under attack since February 1, with the military leadership clearly attempting to suppress their attempts to report on the serious human rights violations being perpetrated across Myanmar as well as the extent of opposition to the regime.

“Myanmar has quickly reverted to an environment of information control, censorship and propaganda seen under military regimes in the past,” Bachelet said.

Since the military takeover, at least 126 journalists, media officials or publishers have been detained in Myanmar, the UN rights chief said.

Forty-seven are still in detention, 20 of whom have been charged with crimes related to their work as journalists.

She added that nine media outlets have had their licences revoked, while 20 others have had to suspend operations. Dozens of journalists are reportedly in hiding due to outstanding arrest warrants.

The sentencing of Fenster followed what Bachelet described as “a closed door, unfair trial”. The managing editor still faces a second trial with charges of high treason and violations of the country’s counter-terrorism law.

In deploring the persecution of journalists, Bachelet said that attacks against them further increase the vulnerability of huge sections of society who rely on accurate and independent information.

“With the crackdowns on journalists, internet shutdowns, restrictions on free access to online and other data sources, people are being deprived life-saving information,” she added.

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Israeli government wins budget vote, avoiding new elections

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Israeli government wins budget vote, avoiding new elections

The Israeli parliament has voted to approve the government’s proposed budget, avoiding the need for fresh elections.

The Israeli parliament, the Knesset, passed the 2021 state budget into law with 61 votes in favour out of 120 members of parliament.

This gives Israel a new budget for the first time since March 2018, the Jerusalem post newspaper reported online.

The budget being approved was a crucial step for the governing coalition under Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to remain in place.

“A holiday for the state of Israel and fresh elections would have been required had the budget not passed,” Bennett tweeted.

Last year, the government under long-time prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to agree on a budget and the Knesset was dissolved shortly before the end of the year.

Elections were then called in March, establishing the current government.

Following the vote on the 2021 budget, the Knesset then began voting on the 2022 budget.

Bennett’s cabinet was sworn in in mid-June, ending a fractious time in Israel politics, with four elections in two years.

[Biden mourns 700,000 Americans lost to COVID-19]

However, Bennett’s government coalition only has a wafer-thin majority in parliament.

It is supported by a total of eight parties from the right to the left – including an Arab party for the first time.

Bennett has called on the coalition partners to stick together so as not to endanger their parliamentary majority.

Jonathan Rynhold, professor of politics at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, says Bennett’s government is strengthened for the time being.

Rynhold said he assumed that the government will stay together as long as opposition leader Netanyahu remains a threat to the coalition.

Since the last budget was passed in March 2018 for 2019 , Israel has been governed on the basis of the previous year’s budget.

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Britain seeks urgent session of top UN rights body on Sudan

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Britain seeks urgent session of top UN rights body on Sudan

Britain said it had requested that the UN Human Rights Council convene an emergency session on Sudan following last week’s military coup.

The request was sent to the president of the 47-member Geneva forum on behalf of 18 member states, more than the one-third required to convene a special session.

It was backed by 30 countries with observer status, including the United States.

“The actions of the Sudanese military are a betrayal of the revolution, the transition & the hopes of the Sudanese people,” Simon Manley, Britain’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said in a tweet.

Last week, Sudan’s military took power in a coup, detaining civilian officials and politicians, and promising to establish a new government of technocrats.

The coup has been met with opposition and street demonstrations over the last week.

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