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Poles face long lines, coronavirus limits in presidential vote

WARSAW (Reuters) – Poles stood in long lines to vote on Sunday in a closely-fought presidential election that could reshape Poland’s tense relationship with the European Union and the ruling nationalists’ socially conservative agenda.

The ballot takes place seven weeks later than originally scheduled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, although Poland has had relatively few cases and deaths.

Poland’s electoral commission apologised on Sunday for the restrictions at polling stations to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, which include wearing masks, maintaining social distance and asking voters to bring their own pens.

“The pandemic is independent of electoral commissions, but the introduction of sanitary rigours means the speed at which one can vote is reduced,” Sylwester Marciniak, the head of Poland’s National Electoral Commission, said.

Many Poles abroad seeking a postal ballot said they had not received their voting slips in time to vote.

“It is a shame that as a result of the pandemic…not everyone got their (election) package on time,” Poland’s Ambassador to Britain Arkady Rzegocki tweeted.

Incumbent Andrzej Duda, 48, has vowed to maintain the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party’s economic programmes, which include generous social spending and a pledge to protect family values in the predominantly Catholic country.

“We don’t see the same standard of living as in western Europe and this is what I would like to achieve,” Duda said in the southwestern town of Rybnik on Friday during one of his last campaign stops before the election.

His main challenger, centrist Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, also 48, seeks to provide a progressive alternative and to fight Poland’s isolation in the EU after five years of conflict between the government and Brussels.

As mayor, Trzaskowski has proposed sex education programmes in line with World Health Organization recommendations for schools, a move the PiS criticised as an effort to sexualise children.

CLASH OF VALUES

Since the PiS came to power in 2015, the European Commission, the EU executive, has launched an unprecedented legal action against Warsaw following criticism Poland is subverting democratic norms by politicising its courts.

If Duda fails to secure a second five-year mandate, his successor could hamper the government’s ability to deepen its justice reforms by vetoing laws or refusing to nominate judges picked by PiS allies.

This would likely fuel tensions within the PiS’ fragile parliamentary coalition and could force Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s government to rule as a minority cabinet. An early national election can’t be ruled out.

Polling stations close at 9.00 p.m. (1900 GMT), when exit polls will be published. If no candidate wins more than 50% of the votes, the two with the biggest share will compete in a second round on July 12.

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Poland voters face long lines, coronavirus limits in presidential ballot

WARSAW (REUTERS) – Poles stood in long lines to vote on Sunday (June 28) in a closely-fought presidential election that could reshape Poland’s tense relationship with the European Union and the ruling nationalists’ socially conservative agenda.

The ballot takes place seven weeks later than originally scheduled because of the Covid-19 pandemic, although Poland has had relatively few cases and deaths.

Poland’s electoral commission apologised on Sunday for the restrictions at polling stations to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which include wearing masks, maintaining social distance and asking voters to bring their own pens.

“The pandemic is independent of electoral commissions, but the introduction of sanitary rigours means the speed at which one can vote is reduced,” said Mr Sylwester Marciniak, the head of Poland’s National Electoral Commission.

Many Poles abroad seeking a postal ballot said they had not received their voting slips in time to vote.

“It is a shame that as a result of the pandemic… not everyone got their (election) package on time,” Poland’s Ambassador to Britain Arkady Rzegocki tweeted.

Incumbent Andrzej Duda, 48, has vowed to maintain the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party’s economic programmes, which include generous social spending and a pledge to protect family values in the predominantly Catholic country.

“We don’t see the same standard of living as in western Europe and this is what I would like to achieve,” Duda said in the south-western town of Rybnik on Friday during one of his last campaign stops before the election.

His main challenger, centrist Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, also 48, seeks to provide a progressive alternative and to fight Poland’s isolation in the EU after five years of conflict between the government and Brussels.

As mayor, Mr Trzaskowski has proposed sex education programmes in line with World Health Organisation recommendations for schools, a move the PiS criticised as an effort to sexualise children.

Since the PiS came to power in 2015, the European Commission, the EU executive, has launched an unprecedented legal action against Warsaw following criticism Poland is subverting democratic norms by politicising its courts.

If Mr Duda fails to secure a second five-year mandate, his successor could hamper the government’s ability to deepen its justice reforms by vetoing laws or refusing to nominate judges picked by PiS allies.

This would likely fuel tensions within the PiS’ fragile parliamentary coalition and could force Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s government to rule as a minority Cabinet. An early national election cannot be ruled out.

Polling stations close at 9pm (3am Monday, Singapore time), when exit polls will be published. If no candidate wins more than 50 per cent of the votes, the two with the biggest share will compete in a second round on July 12.

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Football: Disputed penalty sparks Lazio's comeback win over Fiorentina to keep up chase of Juventus

ROME (REUTERS) – Serie A’s leading scorer Ciro Immobile converted a contentious second-half penalty to set second-placed Lazio on the way to a 2-1 comeback win over Fiorentina that kept them four points behind leaders Juventus on Saturday (June 27).

Franck Ribery stunned the hosts with a solo goal in the 25th minute and Lazio were struggling to get back into the game until Felipe Caicedo went down under a challenge from goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski and Immobile converted his 28th goal of the season in the 67th minute.

Luis Alberto grabbed the winner with seven minutes left to leave Lazio with 65 points, with Juve on 69, and keep the title race well and truly alive with 10 matches each to play.

Lazio, who saw a 21-match unbeaten run end at Atalanta on Wednesday, were caught out when 37-year-old Ribery collected the ball on the left, slipped between two defenders, glided past a third and fired a shot past custodian Thomas Strakosha.

The visitors nearly added another after half-time, as Gaetano Castrovilli saw a curling shot turned away by Strakosha and Rachid Ghezzal’s chip hit the crossbar.

Despite more possession, Lazio were making little headway against Fiorentina’s purple wall of defenders but they got a break when Caicedo intercepted a cross on his chest, then went down under a challenge from Dragowski.

Although replays suggested that the Ecuadorean fell before any contact was made, the referee pointed to the spot, there was no Video Assistant Referee review and Immobile sent Dragowski the wrong way.

They got another break seven minutes from time when the ball bounced into Luis Alberto’s path and he fired a low shot past Dragowski.

Fiorentina’s frustration got the better of them, as Dusan Vlahovic was sent off after VAR officials caught him elbowing Gil Patric.

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Football: Argentina's '86 World Cup-winning coach Bilardo in hospital after positive coronavirus test

BUENOS AIRES (AFP) – Argentina’s 1986 World Cup-winning coach Carlos Bilardo has been admitted to hospital after testing positive for the coronavirus but without displaying any symptoms, according to local media reports on Saturday (June 27).

His family said that he is being treated at the Argentine Diagnostic Institute in the capital.

His health is said to be good, according to his relatives.

The 82-year-old suffers from a brain disorder and lives in a nursing home where 10 other occupants have tested positive for Covid-19.

He received support from Estudiantes La Plata, his former club where he played and managed.

“We are in this match with you Carlos!” the side posted on Twitter on Friday.

Bilardo was admitted to intensive care in July 2019 with Hakim-Adams syndrome.

He managed the national side from 1982 to 1990, winning the World Cup in Mexico with Diego Maradona and then guiding the defending champions to the 1990 final in Italy, where they lost to West Germany. He is also a doctor.

Argentina has recorded almost 1,200 deaths and over 55,000 cases of coronavirus.

President Alberto Fernandez announced on Friday a toughening of lockdown measures in the capital Buenos Aires and its surrounding area with cases on the rise.

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U.S. sanctions, coronavirus make for Iran's toughest year, Rouhani says

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday that his country is experiencing its toughest year because of U.S. sanctions coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The coronavirus crisis has exacerbated economic problems that worsened after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018 from Iran’s nuclear deal with major powers and reimposed sanctions. On Monday, Iran’s rial currency fell to its lowest ever level against the U.S. dollar.

“It’s been the most difficult year due to the enemy’s economic pressure and the pandemic,” Rouhani said in a televised speech. 

“The economic pressure that began in 2018 has increased … and today it is the toughest pressure on our dear country.”

Iran has seen a sharp increase in coronavirus infections and deaths since restrictions to stem the spread of the pandemic were gradually lifted from mid-April. The death toll has recently topped 100 a day for the first time in two months.

Some 2,489 new cases were recorded in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 222,669, Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state television. She said 144 people had died, bringing the total to 10,508.

Rouhani said wearing of masks will become mandatory for two weeks starting next Sunday in “gathering places” that are deemed “red spots”.

Senior officials have regularly warned that restrictions will be reimposed if health regulations such as social distancing to stem the surge in infections are not observed.

Iran launched a campaign on Saturday to motivate a reluctant public to use face masks.

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Spate of launches in Tokyo amid bullish sentiment on consumer spending

TOKYO – The Japanese capital witnessed a spate of new launches this month as developers and retailers seek to capitalise on the penchant for spending as the city eases its way out of the shutdown from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Among these are at least two new malls, one in the Harajuku youth hub and another in the up-and-coming Toranomon business district, one new tourist attraction that is an ode to Japan’s rich manga history, and even a new metro station.

Elsewhere, tourist attractions like the Tokyo Disney Resort and Mori Art Museum are set to reopen their doors to visitors next month .

But this is notwithstanding a recent, slight resurgence in cases. The bustling metropolis of 14 million recorded 60 cases on Sunday (June 28) in what was the highest daily figure since a national state of emergency was lifted on May 25.

There were a total of 334 cases in the week ending Sunday (June 22-28), with clusters identified in nightlife outlets in Shinjuku, a maid cafe in Akihabara and a human resources company.

Still, developers remain bullish that consumers will be keen to open their wallets after household spending fell a record 11.1 per cent in April from a year earlier in the seventh straight month of decline.

But data from credit card companies indicated a slight recovery late last month, after the emergency decree was lifted, and businesses expect the trend will continue, albeit with Covid-19 safeguards, as people shake off their cabin fever from stay-home requests.

Uniqlo, owned by Fast Retailing, launched two outlets this month, including its brand new flagship store at the Marronnier Gate Ginza 2 mall, a mere 10-minute walk from its other 12-storey Ginza outlet.

Launched on June 19, the 5,000 sq m store at the Ginza mall makes it the brand’s largest outlet in Japan.


A wall of vintage manga comics and magazines at the newly opened Tokiwa-so manga museum. ST PHOTO: WALTER SIM

“Due to Covid-19, the entire city of Tokyo, including Ginza, lost its vitality. I hope the opening of this store would symbolise the revival of this dynamism,” Fast Retailing chairman Tadashi Yanai said, adding that the brand will continue to be at the forefront of changing consumption trends due to the pandemic.

On the same day, Uniqlo launched a new series of face masks made from fabric used in its Airism line of inner wear – the patented material wicks moisture away and dries quickly, thus producing a cooling effect – immediately drawing long queues of people.

Uniqlo also has a new store in the With Harajuku shopping complex, which opened on June 5 in the youth district. The 12-storey mall, which has an adjacent residential block of 53 units overlooking the park surrounding the sacred Meiji Shrine, also includes a co-working space, an event hall and the first Ikea furniture store in the heart of Tokyo.

In Toranomon, real estate developer Mori opened the 36-storey Toranomon Hills Business Tower on June 11, with an adjacent mall with 82 shops and restaurants, including branches of some of Tokyo’s most highly-rated eateries like Elezo House, a referral-only restaurant in Shibuya.


The Tokiwa-so manga museum. ST PHOTO: WALTER SIM

The building has a dedicated subway station, Toranomon Hills, the first new station on the Hibiya metro line since its launch in 1964.

Meanwhile, a new tourist attraction paying tribute to famous manga creators like Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy) and Fujiko Fujio (Doraemon) opened on June 27 after a three-month delay due to the coronavirus.

The legendary artists lived in a wooden apartment building known as Tokiwa-so, near the Ikebukuro district, but this was demolished in 1982. A replica building has been built on the same site, with rooms furnished as they were to give manga fans a taste of how the artists lived.

Due to Covid-19, the museum will not accept walk-ins and visitors must first reserve their preferred time-slot online.

Mr Yukio Takano, mayor of Toshima ward, where the museum is located, told a news conference that he hopes the museum will inspire a new generation of manga creators.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said at the launch: “Its launch may have been disrupted by the coronavirus but is indisputable that Tokiwa-so has played a huge role in the birth of Japanese manga.

“The new museum is a valuable asset to spread the charm of Japanese manga, and I hope it will become a much-treasured building in Japan and the world.”

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Kate health fears: Duchess ‘bad royal model’ for greeting sick children without mask

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The Duchess of Cambridge donned a floral midi-dress and wedges for her visit to The Nook, near Norwich, where she showed no fear of getting her hands dirty as she helped to spruce up the hospice’s garden. Kate, a well-known lover of the great outdoors, was pictured chatting to a six-year-old Sonny Pope-Saunders, who is living with a rare type of brain tumour, during the visit to mark Children’s Hospice Week.

Many fans questioned why the mother-of-three chose not to follow the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines and wear a face covering as she mingled with hospice residents.

One person said: “Where is her mask? She’s supposed to be a role model.”

A second woman said Kate, 38, was sending out the wrong message by snubbing advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to cover her face when out and about.

She tweeted: “I adore Kate but the messaging here is all wrong.

“They should all be wearing masks and keeping better distance, especially at a children’s hospice! Even if the staff said it was ‘ok’ not to.”

And a third wrote: “I don’t like that she is not wearing a mask.

“The UK was hit hard by COVID and it still hasn’t learned. Masks should be mandatory.”

Yet another disappointed follower said: “This is so wrong she’s near sick kids and not wearing a mask.”

Another person said they did not believe the royal was setting a great example to Britons by choosing to go sans mask in public “especially near a hospice”.

But other royal fans rushed to Kate’s defence, claiming the duchess was carrying out the engagement safely and kept a reasonable distance from members of the public.

One person pointed out that “if the medical professionals felt like she needed to be wearing a mask, she would be”.

A second said: “Masks are not required in the UK unless on public transport.”

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Another person tweeted: “Masks are not mandatory if you feel the need to wear one no one stopping you.”

Under Government guidelines, people are not required to wear masks while out and about unless they use public transport.

On the Government’s website, the advice says: “You must wear a face-covering at all times on public transport or when attending a hospital as a visitor or outpatient.

“Hospitals will be able to provide a face covering in emergencies.”

Guidance from both WHO and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend cloth masks for the general public.

Richard Palmer, Daily Express royal reporter, said royal aides had carried out a risk assessment before the duchess undertook the engagement.

He said: “For those asking about masks, I understand there are risk assessments being done before these sort of engagements and protocols to be followed in line with UK Government advice.

“Face masks were required inside the hospice but not outside in the garden.”

Kate, who is the patron of the East Anglia Children’s Hospices, spent her visit planting lavender, sunflowers and strawberries.

During Thursday’s visit, she was pictured helping another lady to place a plant in a big pot, scooping compost into the container with her bare hands.

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Illegal raves shut down across London as hundreds ignore lockdown

Police took action to disperse crowds causing ‘significant disruptions’ at two unlicensed music events in south London on Saturday night.

Metropolitan Police said in a statement dispersal zones had been applied in response to events in Clapham Common and Tooting Bec Common.

The zones allow uniformed officers extra powers to order people to leave the area and not return.

The events continue a sequence of unlawful gatherings in London over the past four nights.

Seven people were arrested and two weapons seized by police at illegal gatherings over Friday night and Saturday morning.

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The arrests include two people in Newham who were carrying a firearm and a ‘Rambo-style’ knife respectively, the Met said.



Five people were arrested at another music event in Third Avenue, West Kilburn, including two for attacking police officers. The Met said two officers were injured but did not require hospital treatment.

It comes after Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick vowed to shut down events flouting health regulations.

Officers were called to Newham at 4.50pm on Friday after receiving reports from concerned residents about a sound system being set up in Hoskins Close by a large group of people.

Three more people were arrested in Third Avenue on suspicion of violent disorder, a breach of Covid health regulations and racially aggravated public disorder offences targeting officers.

Two other people were arrested at the same event for attacks on police – one for throwing a bar stool at an officer, who was uninjured, and the other for racially abusing an officer.

Commander Bas Javid, of the Met’s frontline policing team, said: ‘All of the events which took place last night were illegal and in breach of the Covid regulations. We had officers out across the capital working hard to disperse them.

‘The vast majority of people who attended engaged with officers and moved away from the locations without issue. However, again, a number refused to leave and became violent. We have made it very clear this type of behaviour will not be tolerated and there are a number of post-event investigations now under way.’

He added: ‘Our officers have done a very good job in some very difficult circumstances. I applaud the way they have been able to tackle some difficult situations. The seizure of two lethal weapons overnight further emphasises why the dispersal of these events is crucial to protecting our communities.’

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Vulnerable seniors begin receiving TraceTogether tokens from Sunday

SINGAPORE – Vulnerable seniors, such as those living on their own or have poor family support and do not own or use digital devices, began receiving TraceTogether tokens from Sunday (June 28).

Volunteers and staff with the Silver Generation Office will be distributing the devices to until Tuesday and will also show the seniors how to take care of the devices.

The Bluetooth-enabled dongles are an alternative to the TraceTogether smartphone app, and the SNDGO in a statement on Sunday said vulnerable seniors have been given priority in the distribution exercise.

“TraceTogether tokens will extend the protection provided by digital contact tracing tools to as many people in Singapore as possible, including those who may not own or prefer not to use a mobile phone,” said SNDGO.

The tokens are for the use of the recipient only, and each comes with a unique QR code.

Similar to the TraceTogether phone app, the tokens work by exchanging Bluetooth signals with other nearby tokens or phones running the TraceTogether app.

When a TraceTogether user is confirmed to have the virus, contact tracers from the Ministry of Health (MOH) will contact the user to facilitate the download of data from the device.

Contact tracers then use this data to determine and contact the patient’s close contacts.

“This will enable appropriate precautions to be taken to keep the user and their loved ones safe,” said SNDGO.

The token only captures proximity data based on Bluetooth signals, and holds data in an encrypted format for no more than 25 days, added SNDGO.

The encrypted data cannot be remotely extracted as the device does not have any internet connectivity, said the agency. The tokens also cannot capture geolocation data as it has no GPS.

The portable devices have a battery life of about six to nine months, and does not need to be charged.

In its statement, SNDGO said that more people need to come on board the TraceTogether programme so that it can be used effectively and improve the time efficiency and accuracy of contact tracing.

To date, only about 2.1 million people have downloaded the application voluntarily, but this is not enough, said SNDGO.

“It is only with sufficient usage and the relevant data that these digital tools can work effectively,” said SNDGO, adding that effective contact tracing is critical as Singapore gradually resumes its business and social activities.

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Boris Johnson vows heavy spending on economy, rejects austerity

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed the UK will spend large sums on hospitals, schools and roads to jump-start the economy as it emerges from the coronavirus lockdown that has plunged the country into what may be the worst recession in three centuries.

In an interview in the Daily Mail, Johnson rejected a return to the austerity policies that followed the 2008 financial crisis and said the country will “build our way back” from the crisis through “shovel-ready” projects.

“The lesson is to act fast and we’re going to make sure that we have plans to help people whose old jobs are not there any more to get the opportunities they need,” Johnson said. “We are absolutely not going back to the austerity of 10 years ago.”

Johnson is expected to unveil the spending plans in a major speech on Tuesday (June 30), while Chancellor Rishi Sunak is leading a new infrastructure task force to identify and speed up projects. The government pledge comes at a critical moment after the UK economy shrank a record 20.4 per cent in April, effectively wiping out almost 18 years of growth in two months.

The crisis has sparked an intense internal debate among Tories who for decades have stood for the free market, fiscal prudence and libertarianism, and are now on course to spend billions of pounds to rescue the economy.

In a separate interview with the Mirror newspaper, Johnson said children must return to school in September, raising the prospect that parents could be fined if they don’t comply. The prime minister criticised teachers opposed to returning, saying they must “take their responsibilities seriously,” according to the paper.

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