Top Asian News 3:33 a.m. GMT
LONDON (AP) — After Dr. Ifeanyi Nsofor and his wife received two doses of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine in Nigeria, they assumed they would be free to travel this summer to a European destination of their choice. They were wrong. The couple — and millions of other people vaccinated through a U.N.-backed effort — could find themselves barred from entering many European and other countries because those nations don’t recognize the Indian-made version of the vaccine for travel. Although AstraZeneca vaccine produced in Europe has been authorized by the continent’s drug regulatory agency, the same shot manufactured in India hasn’t been given the green light.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia shut down a mass vaccination center in its worst-hit state Tuesday after more than 200 medical staff and volunteers tested positive for the coronavirus. The closure was the first of a vaccination center and came as the country’s new confirmed infections breached five figures Tuesday, hitting a record 11,079. Science Minister Khairy Jamaluddin stressed that swift government action had contained the cluster at the Ideal Convention Center in central Selangor state. Khairy, who is in charge of the national immunization program, said he ordered the testing of all 453 workers at the center after two volunteers were confirmed to have the virus.
BEKASI, Indonesia (AP) — They motorcycle riders weave through the jammed vehicles, honking their horns as they flank ambulances trying to find their way through the traffic-choked streets of Indonesia’s capital region. The two-wheeled volunteers provide a key service in the sprawling metropolis, one in more need than ever as ambulances struggle to serve all those in need because of a surge in coronavirus infections and deaths. The volunteers usually get a call from ambulance drivers asking them to stand by in case an escort is needed. If it is, up to four riders will head out to guide the ambulance through the congested roads and other obstacles of the Jakarta area.
CAMP ISTIQLAL, Afghanistan (AP) — Sakina, who is 11, maybe 12, walked with her family for 10 days after the Taliban seized her village in northern Afghanistan and burned down the local school. They are now among around 50 families living in a makeshift camp on a rocky patch of land on the edge of the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif. They roast in plastic tents under scorching heat that reaches 44 degrees Celsius (110 degrees Fahrenheit) at midday. There are no trees, and the only bathroom for the entire camp is a tattered tent pitched over a foul-smelling hole. As the Taliban surge through northern Afghanistan — a traditional stronghold of U.S.-allied warlords and an area dominated by the country’s ethnic minorities — thousands of families like Sakina’s are fleeing their homes, fearful of living under the insurgents’ rule.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A high powered Afghan government delegation, which will include the head of the country’s reconciliation council, is to meet the Taliban in Doha to jump-start a long-stalled peace process, two Afghan officials said Tuesday. The two officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said the Taliban were expected to bring their senior leaders to the table when the two sides meet, possibly on Friday. The Taliban maintain a political office in the Qatar capital of Doha. The latest attempt to revitalize peace talks comes as the U.S. all but winds up its “forever war” in Afghanistan.
BEIJING (AP) — The death toll in the collapse of a hotel in eastern China was raised to 17 Wednesday as authorities ended the search and rescue mission. The city of Suzhou said on its social media feed that 23 people had been pulled from from the rubble of the Siji Kaiyuan Hotel, which collapsed on Monday afternoon. One of those freed was uninjured and five others were sent to a hospital for treatment. Rescuers used cranes, ladders, metal cutters and search dogs to look for survivors. Most of those killed were hotel guests. More than 600 people including earthquake rescue teams and 120 vehicles were mobilized for the operation.
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — A series of more than 20 earthquakes struck the east coast of Taiwan on Wednesday morning, causing some damage. The Central Weather Bureau reported 22 quakes over two hours starting at 6:52 a.m. The first was the largest with a magnitude of 5.2 and struck at a relatively shallow depth of 5.9 kilometers (3.7 miles). The others ranged from magnitude 3.0 to 5.0. A photo posted on the Taiwan Apple Daily news website showed the remains of a second floor wall above a storefront that had fallen to the street and crumbled. The earthquakes were in Hualien County around the midpoint of the island’s east coast.
HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong’s leader said Tuesday that remaining elected district councilors will still need to take an oath pledging allegiance to the city despite the resignation of dozens of their peers who are refusing to do so. Some 170 district councilors, most of them supporters of the semiautonomous Chinese territory’s beleaguered pro-democracy movement have resigned in the past week rather than take the oath, according to a tally by a local news site. The resignations follow media reports that councilors may have to repay their wages if they are later disqualified from office. The government has not confirmed or denied those reports.
BOHITIYAWA, Sri Lanka (AP) — Getting online school lessons for residents of a remote Sri Lankan village requires a trek through dense bushes sometimes visited by leopards and elephants. The teachers and about 45 schoolchildren in Bohitiwaya then climb more than 3 kilometers (2 miles) to the top of a rock to find an internet signal. Information technology teacher Nimali Anuruddhika uses the signal to upload lessons for her students who haven’t been able to go to school because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The students who also live in the village make the same climb to download online lessons sent to them by their teachers.
KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — A veteran politician was appointed Nepal’s prime minister for the fifth time on Tuesday, a day after the Supreme Court reinstated the House of Representatives and upheld his claim to be the new leader. President Bidhya Devi Bhandari’s office said Sher Bahadur Deuba, who leads the Nepali Congress party, was appointed the new prime minister. Deuba will lead the Himalayan nation as it struggles with political divisions and the coronavirus. The court on Monday ordered that Khadga Prasad Oli, who had been running a caretaker government until planned elections, be replaced by Deuba. It also ordered the reinstatement of the House of Representatives, which was dissolved by Oli in May, and said the lawmakers must meet within seven days.