Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on Friday set June 6, 2021, as a date for the early elections, which is part of his government’s political program.
“I announce that June 6, 2021, will be the date for the early parliamentary elections and we will do our best to give success to this elections by protecting it and provide its needs,” al-Kadhimi said in a televised speech.
“I ask the parliament to send the electoral law to the presidency for approval, and that the electoral commission to enjoy full independence, in addition to that the elections to be held under international observers,” al-Kadhimi said.
Al-Kadhimi’s comments came after he held a meeting on Thursday with the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), during which he confirmed that the government “is proceeding with the early elections, which is one of the main goals of the government program.”
Late last year, the Iraqi parliament passed most of the elections draft, but differences remained on a few articles due to political row among the political blocs.
On May 6, al-Kadhimi was sworn in as the new prime minister in Iraq, following the approval of the parliament on most of his cabinet members.
Canada’s economy up 4.5 percent in May
Canada’s gross domestic product grew 4.5 percent in May because businesses reopened after unprecedented economic lockdowns due to the COVID-19 spread in March and April, according to Statistics Canada on Friday.
May saw rebounds across multiple industries with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, including retail trade that registered a 16.4 percent surge to mark its largest monthly increase since 1961.
May’s gains offset some of the March and April declines, economic activity remained 15 percent below February’s pre-pandemic level.
In May, 17 of 20 industrial sectors posted increases.
Both goods-producing industries rose 8 percent while the services-producing sector was up 3.4 percent.
Preliminary information indicates an approximate 5 percent increase in GDP for June and an approximate 12 percent decline in real GDP in the second quarter of 2020.
Owing to their preliminary nature, these estimates will be revised on Aug. 28 with the release of the official GDP for June and the second quarter.
Spain reports post-lockdown record number of coronavirus cases
Spain‘s Ministry of Health reported on Friday 1,525 new coronavirus cases, the biggest spike since the lockdown was lifted in June.
It was the first day since the end of the State of Alarm, which ended on June 21, when the total number of cases surpassed 1,500. It was also the third day in a row that Spain diagnosed over 1,000 infections, resembling figures from the beginning of the lockdown.
The cases reported on Friday were concentrated in four regions — Aragon (511), Madrid (372), the Basque country (158) and Andalusia (107). Catalonia registered 64 infections in the last 24 hours.
The ministry said that another ten people had died in the last seven days.
As of Friday, the number of coronavirus cases totaled 288,522 since the beginning of the pandemic.
At a summit with regional leaders on Friday, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called the health crisis “an economic and social emergency.”
Sanchez insisted that Spain must focus on economic recovery after it registered an “unprecedented” collapse in its second-quarter gross domestic product (GDP). According to the National Statistics Institute, GDP sank by 18.5 percent quarter-on-quarter in the second quarter of 2020.
“Very tough months await us, but we are going to get out of this,” Sanchez said.
Israel tests AI wastewater-based system to detect COVID-19 outbreaks
Israel has successfully conducted an artificial intelligence (AI) pilot project to locate coronavirus outbreaks by testing sewer water, the Hebrew-language daily newspaper Israel Hayom reported on Friday.
According to the report, the project was carried out in the southern city of Ashkelon, by Kando, an Israeli company of smart wastewater management solutions, along with the Israel Institute of Technology (Technion) and Ben Gurion University.
The researchers used Kando’s technology, which can identify the outbreaks’ location and intensity, providing the data needed to develop and deploy effective responses.
This technology includes an array of sensors, along with advanced algorithms, AI, Internet of Things (IoT) and advanced data modeling methods.
Thus, after placing the sensors in sewage pits throughout Ashkelon, the researchers were able to locate remnants of the coronavirus.
The results indicated an ability to identify early outbreaks at neighborhoods and even at specific streets, by detecting high concentrations of the virus.
Kando CEO Ari Goldfarb told the newspaper that “monitoring sewage water is like conducting a blood test for a whole city.”
Cyprus re-introduces measures to stop coronavirus spread
Cyprus re-introduced tough measures to contain a new surge of the coronavirus infections, including wearing masks in all indoor public places, Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou announced on Friday.
After the meeting chaired by President Nicos Anastasiades, which approved the measures, Ioannou told a press conference that the additional restrictions were considered necessary to check a fresh outbreak of COVID-19 cases centered in the southern city of Limassol.
The minister said that those who failed to observed the rules liable to a fine of 300 euros.
President Anastasiades warned that failure in respecting the measures will lead to stricter ones with serious financial repercussions.
Cyprus came out of a 10-week lockdown at the beginning of June, with the government spending about 10 percent of the gross domestic product to support businesses and workers.
“I call on everyone to respect what our people with sacrifices have achieved, to responsibly observe the decisions of the government… as well as the excellent scientific team that advises the government,” Anastasiades said in a written statement.
The epidemiological team reported nearly 40 new cases in the last four days, with many of them detected in random sampling of people among the community. About half of the new cases were detected in Limassol.
The health minister said social gatherings of more than 10 people will not be allowed in Limassol, adding the maximum number of customers in restaurants, cafes and bars has been cut by half to 75 indoors and 150 outdoors. The measure will be in place for the next three weeks.
According to Ioannou, the daily random coronavirus tests at airports will be increased from 600 to 1,000, mainly focusing on Cypriots returning from holidays. “As it emerged that the biggest percentage of cases concerns locals with a travel history,” explained the minister.
He criticized the irresponsible behaviors by some people, saying “the lifting of many restrictions has led to many ignoring the personal protection regulation and social distancing while people who should have been self-isolating did not do so.”
Ioannou said the authorities will also intensify checks in businesses, restaurants and other premises “with explicit instructions for zero tolerance”.
The Transport, Communications and Works Ministry also announced that in addition to the mask wearing requirement, buses in Limassol will run at half of their capacity.
The restrictions were announced as the authorities are bracing for arrivals of people as of Saturday from Britain.
Britain, the biggest tourism market for Cyprus and also a country with a large Cypriot community, has been categorized in travel Group B countries, meaning that travelers have to present a certificate for a negative coronavirus test.