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Five Passengers Did Not Reach Vilnius After Forced Belarus Landing

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Lithuanian officials have on Monday disclosed that five passengers on board a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius that was intercepted by a Belarusian warplane and forced to land in Minsk on Sunday did not reach their final destination.

A spokeswoman for the Lithuanian prime minister said the latest information available from Ryanair suggested 126 passengers had departed the Greek capital and 121 were present on arrival in Lithuania.

Western countries have expressed outrage at the Belarus’ forced diversion of a plane travelling within the European Union in order to arrest a prominent Belarusian activist and journalist Roman Protasevich prompting calls for further sanctions and an international probe.

According to Reuters news agency, earlier comments by Lithuanian officials put the number of passengers at between 123 and 127, plus crew. None of the officials commented on the identity of the passengers who remained in Minsk.

Belarusian authorities arrested the Protasevich, who is wanted in Belarus on “extremism” charges and stands accused of organizing mass riots against the country’s longtime President Alexander Lukashenko, as well as inciting social hatred – allegations he denies.

President Lukashenko and dozens of Belarusian officials are already under EU sanctions including travel bans and asset freezes imposed on response to repression of opponents.

Since winning a disputed election last August, 66-year-old Lukashenko, who has ruled the country since 1994, has cracked down on dissenting voices. Many opposition figures have been arrested while others fled into exile.

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Dozens Dead As Fire Rips Through Coronavirus Hospital In Iraq

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Dozens Dead As Fire Rips Through Coronavirus Hospital In Iraq

At least 60 persons have been killed on Monday after a fire in a coronavirus isolation ward at a hospital in the Iraqi city of Nasiriya.

According to state news agency INA on Tuesday more than 100 were also injured in the fire that broke out at the al-Hussein Teaching Hospital in the southern city.

The blaze was brought under control by civil defence teams but cause of the fire at the al-Hussein hospital is still unclear even though reports suggested it began after an oxygen tank exploded.

A health official with the directorate told AFP news agency the “main reason behind the fire… was the explosion of oxygen tanks”.

Haydar al-Zamili, the local health authority’s spokesperson, said earlier on Tuesday that 52 bodies had been retrieved while 22 persons had been hurt after the fire had “ripped through the COVID isolation ward”.

Iraqi PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered the arrest of the head of the hospital.

State media put the death toll at 64, with nearly 70 others injured.

Since the incident there has been reported clashes between demonstrators and police at the scene, and two police vehicles set ablaze.

Health sources told Reuters news agency the death toll could rise as many patients were still missing.

The new ward, opened just three months ago, contained 70 beds.

The Dhi Qar health directorate said that among those killed were two medical staff members, and the hospital’s security guard.

According to Johns Hopkins University data, Iraq has recorded 1.4 million infections of COVID-19 with more than 17,000 fatalities.

The middle east country has given at least one dose of a vaccine against COVID to just over one million of its roughly 40 million citizens.

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South Korea Puts Seoul Under Tightest COVID Restrictions

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The strictest level four COVID-19 restrictions have gone into effect in greater Seoul, South Korea on Monday.  Prime minister Kim Boo-Kyum said on Friday this is necessary as new COVID-19 cases climbed to a daily record for the second day running.  The new measures will last for two weeks.

The country reported 1,316 new COVID-19 cases as of midnight Thursday, up from Wednesday’s previous record of 1,275 a day. On Thursday a top health official warned the numbers may nearly double by the end of July.

Under the new curbs, people are advised to stay home as much as possible, schools are closed, public meetings are restricted to two persons after 6 p.m. And rallies or other events are banned.

Nightclubs and bars would be shut, while restaurants and cafes would be allowed limited seating and only take-out services after 10 p.m.

Kim also said that during the two-week semi-lockdown, the government will suspend a program introduced earlier this year that allowed mask-free outdoor gatherings for citizens vaccinated with at least one covid-19 shot.

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Possible Earlier COVID-19 Circulation In Italy

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