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Top Asian News 2:34 a.m. GMT

July 19, 2021 GMT

Zero risk? Virus cases test Olympic organizers’ assurances

TOKYO (AP) — Two South African soccer players became the first athletes inside the Olympic Village to test positive for COVID-19, and other cases connected to the Tokyo Games were also confirmed Sunday, highlighting the herculean task organizers face to keep the virus contained while the world’s biggest sports event plays out. The positive tests came as some of the 11,000 athletes and thousands more team officials expected from across the globe began arriving, having traveled through a pandemic to get to Tokyo. They’ll all now live in close quarters in the Olympic Village on Tokyo Bay over the next three weeks.

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AP PHOTOS: Olympic guests get view of Tokyo -- from the bus

As the bus rumbles along a Tokyo thruway, passengers steal a fleeting glance at the Olympic rings floating on a barge in the bay. Colorful shop signs that dot the Kabukicho entertainment district pass by in a blur. The Tokyo Tower glows, if only briefly. The pandemic-delayed 2020 Summer Olympics are days away from starting and thousands of athletes, officials and media are descending on a Tokyo under a state of emergency because of surging COVID-19 cases. For many of the visitors under strict protective protocols, the only way to get a glimpse of this unique capital city is from a vehicle, whisking the sporting guests from athlete village or hotel to venue.

Vaccine inequity: Inside the cutthroat race to secure doses

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PARIS (AP) — No one disputes that the world is unfair. But no one expected a vaccine gap between the global rich and poor that was this bad, this far into the pandemic. Inequity is everywhere: Inoculations go begging in the United States while Haiti, a short plane ride away, received its first delivery July 15 after months of promises — 500,000 doses for a population over 11 million. Canada has procured more than 10 doses for every resident; Sierra Leone’s vaccination rate just cracked 1% on June 20. It’s like a famine in which “the richest guys grab the baker,” said Strive Masiyiwa, the African Union’s envoy for vaccine acquisition.

Taliban say they want Afghan deal, even as they battle on

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The leader of the Taliban said Sunday that his movement is committed to a political settlement to end decades of war in Afghanistan, even as the insurgents battle in dozens of districts across to country to gain territory. The statement by Maulawi Hibatullah Akhunzada came as Taliban leaders were meeting with a high-level Afghan government delegation in the Gulf state of Qatar to jump-start stalled peace talks. The Kabul delegation includes the No. 2 in the government, Abdullah Abdullah, head of Afghanistan’s national reconciliation council. The talks resumed Saturday, ahead of the four-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which in many parts of the world is expected to start Tuesday.

UNESCO chides Australia over Great Barrier Reef proposal

BEIJING (AP) — The Chinese host of this year’s meeting of the U.N. World Heritage Committee has defended the body’s proposal to label the Great Barrier Reef as “in danger” against Australian government suspicion that China influenced the finding for political reasons. The committee, which is meeting both virtually and in the Chinese city of Fuzhou for the next two weeks, will consider the draft decision on Friday. “Australia, as a member state of the World Heritage Committee, should ... attach importance to the opinions of the advisory bodies and earnestly fulfill the duty of World Heritage protection instead of making groundless accusations against other states,” said Tian Xuejun, the Chinese vice minister of education and the president of this year’s session, on Sunday.

Australia to deport commentator Hopkins for quarantine boast

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Far-right British commentator Katie Hopkins will be deported from Australia after she boasted on social media that she planned to breach the country’s quarantine rules, an official said on Monday. Hopkins traveled to Australia to appear in a reality television program and was in a 14-day mandatory hotel quarantine in Sydney before filming was to start. Her flight to Australia created outrage after the government last week halved the number of Australian citizens and permanent residents allowed to return home each week to 3,000 to try to reduce the risk of COVID-19 leaking from hotel quarantine. More than 34,000 Australians who want to come home remain stranded overseas.

Thai police use tear gas against anti-government protesters

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — Thai police used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons Sunday to disperse hundreds of anti-government protesters who held a rally in Bangkok despite coronavirus restrictions banning gatherings of more than five people. The demonstrators were demanding Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government step down, insisting the budget of the monarchy and the military be cut during the pandemic, and calling for the importing mRNA coronavirus vaccines that have yet to be brought to Thailand on a large scale to fight a growing surge of the virus. The rally came as Thailand recorded its largest single-day jump in virus infections — nearly 11,400 — and as fresh restrictions were announced such as the shut down of most domestic flights.

Nepal’s new PM gets confidence vote in parliament

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Nepal’s new prime minister got the support of more than half the members of the House of Representatives, which would allow him to continue in power until general elections scheduled for next year. Sher Bahadur Deuba got 165 votes in his favor while 83 members of parliament’s lower house voted against him Sunday, Speaker Agni Sapkota announced. This is Deuba’s fifth time as prime minister of the Himalayan nation, which is currently struggling with political divisions and the coronavirus. The leader of the Nepali Congress party — the country’s oldest political party — was appointed Tuesday after the Supreme Court reinstated the House of Representatives and upheld his claim to be the new leader.

Landslides kill 20 after monsoon rains in India’s Mumbai

NEW DELHI (AP) — At least 20 people have been killed in landslides triggered by heavy monsoon rains in the Indian city of Mumbai, officials said Sunday. India’s National Disaster Response Force said 17 people were killed and two others were injured after a wall collapsed on several slum houses in the Mahul area of the city early Sunday. The injured were recovering in a hospital. In a separate incident, three people were killed in Mumbai’s Vikhroli neighborhood after half a dozen huts located at the base of a hillock collapsed on top of each other late Saturday night. Dozens of rescuers were clearing the debris in search of at least 15 other people who were likely trapped under the rubble.

Vietnam puts southern region in lockdown as surge grows

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam put its entire southern region in a two-week lockdown starting midnight Sunday, as confirmed COVID-19 cases exceeded 3,000 for the third day in a row. The lockdown order includes the Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh City metropolis, the country’s financial and economic hub with over 35 million people — nearly a third of Vietnam’s population. Officials say they have to act as the number of infections reached nearly 50,000 since the outbreak reemerged at the end of April after several months of no cases being recorded. Most of the 225 COVID-19 dead — 190 of them — have occurred since April.