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Melbourne’s bad day

Officials call for additional restrictions in Australia’s second-largest city because of COVID-19

A man wearing a face mask crosses a street in Melbourne, Australia, on Monday. Associated Press/Photo by James Ross/AAP Image

Melbourne’s bad day

AUSTRALIA: Melbourne is under a state of emergency with business closures added to a nighttime curfew, as the country’s second-largest city tries to restrain the spread of the coronavirus. Overnight Saturday, 13 people died of COVID-19.

“Do it all,” implored World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus concerning safeguards, as cases worldwide on Monday topped 18 million. “The pandemic has already changed the way we live our lives,” Ghebreyesus said earlier. “We’re asking everyone to treat the decisions about where they go, what they do, and who they meet with as life-and-death decisions—because they are.”

VIETNAM: Danang officials plan to test the city’s entire population of 1.1 million for the coronavirus to halt its spread.

KYRGYZSTAN: Volunteer crews are battling a resurgence of cases of the coronavirus, turning cars into ambulances and restaurants into clinics, delivering oxygen to the homebound, and working all-nighters. “We are weather-beaten folks, and we’ve seen some grief in our days,” said one.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Dubai International Airport is the first to use COVID-19 sniffing dogs, and the results are fast. Watch how they do it.

MAURITANIA: Authorities arrested and tortured anti-slavery activist Maryam Bint Al-Sheikh for speaking out against slavery in the African nation—a practice abolished only in 1981 and criminalized as of 2007. About 20 percent of the population still lives as slaves, and slave owners can legally pass them on as property from father to son. Yet Mauritania won a seat on this year’s UN Human Rights Council. A small victory though this month: Three former slave masters are facing sentencing.

RWANDA: In February, officials found native Rwandan gospel singer Kizito Mihigo dead in his jail cell four days after they had detained him under claims of being a traitor. Mihigo, once favored by the government and President Paul Kagami, released a song challenging the nation’s official narrative of the 1994 genocide. Kagami has developed a pattern of silencing anyone with dissenting or opposing views, as evidenced in 2017 by his order to shut down 700 churches under accusations of failure to comply with building and safety regulations. Only a year later, the UN Human Rights Council reported that the government forced 8,000 churches and religious organizations to close.

SYRIA: President Bashir al-Assad said the government—with backing from Russia—will build a replica of Hagia Sophia, the ancient Istanbul cathedral converted from a museum to a mosque last month in Turkey. The project, in the predominantly Greek Orthodox city of Suqaylabiyah, comes as Syrian forces with Russian support are battling Turkey in Idlib just north of the site.

Aid groups that work with churches are denouncing new U.S. and European Union sanctions against Syria, saying the restrictions on banking and foreign groups are hindering aid to civilians trying to rebuild their lives inside the country (and the U.S. State Department’s reduced refugee resettlement policy for countries like Syria aims at encouraging the displaced to remain in the country).

IRAQ: Six years ago, ISIS killed, captured, and forcibly expelled Yazidis from their homeland near Sinjar, then attacked the mostly Christian population living in Nineveh Plain.

UNITED STATES: The capsule carrying NASA astronauts Robert L. Behnken and Douglas G. Hurley splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast on Sunday after a nearly 64-day voyage.

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Mindy Belz

Mindy wrote WORLD Magazine’s first cover story in 1986 and went on to serve as international editor, editor, and senior editor. She has covered wars in Syria, Afghanistan, Africa, and the Balkans, and she recounts some of her experiences in They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run From ISIS With Persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Mindy resides with her husband, Nat, in Asheville, N.C.



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