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Protests and blockades greet new Italy Covid rules

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Protesters massed at some of Italy’s major ports Friday as thousands took to the streets against the introduction of one of the world’s toughest Covid pass regimes.

More than 6,500 people demonstrated at the northeastern port of Trieste, according to local government estimates, although regional president Massimiliano Fedriga insisted that “the port is working”.

Delays were reported at the northwestern port of Genoa, where about 300 people blocked an entrance, while pockets of protests broke out across Italy ahead of bigger demonstrations called for later in the day.

The government is braced for widespread disruption by Italians angry at the extension of the coronavirus “Green Pass” to all workers, after a demonstration last weekend sparked violent clashes in Rome.

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From Friday, all workers must show a Green Pass offering proof of vaccination, recent recovery from Covid-19 or a negative test — or face being declared absent without pay.

More than 85 percent of Italians over the age of 12 have received at least one jab, thus automatically qualifying for the pass.

Among those who have not been vaccinated, a minority say they either oppose the idea or are fearful. Some foreigners have also reported difficulties getting the jab, including undocumented workers.

But up to three million workers are estimated to be unvaccinated — and most will only be able to work if they pay for their own tests either every 48 or 72 hours, depending on the type.

Ivano Russo, director general of trade group Confetra, told AFP that out of a total of 900,000 truck drivers, couriers and warehouse staff employed by members of his lobby, “25 to 30 percent” do not have Covid certificates.

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Dock workers in Trieste have threatened to go on strike indefinitely, despite being offered free Covid tests.

“Citizens not puppets” and “No Green Pass, No Discrimination” read some of the placards in the crowd gathered Friday.

In Genoa, the small blockade was peaceful early Friday, according to an AFP journalist, although some truck drivers reported delays.

“Today it’s really hard to unload,” Marco, a 50-year-old driver, told the ANSA news agency.

“I have to unload, I have to be able to work. I took the vaccine to get the Green Pass because I have to work.”

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– Downloading passes –

Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government says the pass will help prevent further lockdowns in Italy, one of the European countries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Business lobby Confindustria has been among the staunchest backers of the measure, which follows a similar initiative adopted in Greece last month, saying it would “create workplaces that are as safe as possible”.

Introduced in August, initially for museums and indoor dining, it has also had the effect of boosting vaccinations, and rates of infection currently remain low.

The eurozone’s third largest economy is expected to record almost six percent growth this year after a devastating Covid-induced recession.

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Ahead of the extension of the Green Pass to workplaces, more than 560,000 certificates were downloaded on Wednesday and around 860,000 Thursday, according to government data.

However, there are concerns there is not enough capacity for everyone who is not vaccinated to have regular Covid tests, raising the prospect of mass absenteeism from work.

Anyone caught in the workplace without a Green Pass risks fines ranging from 600 to 1,500 euros ($700 to 1700).

And those who fail to turn up for work because they don’t have one face suspension on no pay — but cannot be fired.

Meanwhile, employers can be fined 400 to 1,000 euros for not checking if their staff comply with the rules.

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Trade unions initially called for compulsory vaccinations to avoid discrimination between those who were and were not jabbed.

They are now pushing for free tests, saying staff should not have to pay to go to work, although ministers so far seem unlikely to agree.

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Germany’s Free Democrats back coalition agreement

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December 5, 2021

BERLIN (Reuters) – Members of Germany’s pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) voted on Sunday by a large majority to back a coalition agreement with the Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens, paving the way for the three-way alliance to form a new government next week.

The coalition, the first at federal level between the environmentalist Greens, the FDP and Olaf Scholz’s centre-left SPD, will end 16 years of conservative governments led by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The SPD approved the agreement on Saturday and the Greens are due to announce the outcome of a member survey on the deal on Monday. The three parties hope the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, will vote Scholz in as chancellor on Wednesday.

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The “traffic light” alliance, named after the parties’respective colours, will usher in a new era of relations with Europe, and plans to speed up digitalisation of the continent’sbiggest economy and put a focus on fighting climate change.

(Reporting by Alexander Ratz; Writing by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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Gambian President Barrow on course for resounding election win

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December 5, 2021

By Bate Felix

BANJUL (Reuters) – Gambia’s incumbent president, Adama Barrow, was on course for a resounding election win on Sunday, partial results indicated, that could help to draw a line under recent political turmoil.

Saturday’s vote was the first in 27 years without disgraced former president Yahya Jammeh, who lives in exile in Equatorial Guinea after refusing to accept defeat to Barrow in 2016.

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Jammeh, whose 22-year rule over the tiny nation of 2.5 million people was characterised by killings and torture of political opponents, had tried to persuade supporters to vote for an opposition coalition in telephoned speeches that were relayed to campaign rallies.

But his lingering influence was not enough to dent Barrow’s showing. The president, who only needs to win more votes than the second-placed candidate, won 36 of the first 41 constituencies announced, taking 315,547 votes.

His nearest rival, political veteran Ousainou Darboe, had 133,177 votes, with four other candidates far behind.

Only 12 constituencies remained to be announced.

The election was seen as a test of Gambia’s democratic progress and its ability to leave the Jammeh era behind.

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Barrow’s first term was marked by the coronavirus pandemic, which damaged an economy that relies heavily on tourism, as well as exports of peanuts and fish.

(Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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S.Africans protest against Shell oil exploration in pristine coastal area

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December 5, 2021

By Siyabonga Sishi

PORT EDWARD, South Africa (Reuters) – South Africans took to their beaches on Sunday to protest against plans by Royal Dutch Shell to do seimsic oil exploration they say will threaten marine wildlife such as whales, dolphins, seals and penguins on a pristine coastal stretch.

A South African court on Friday struck down https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/shell-wins-court-case-start-seismic-surveys-offshore-south-africa-2021-12-03 an application brought by environmentalists to stop the oil major exploring in the eastern seaboard’s Wild Coast, rejecting as unproven their argument that it would cause “irreparable harm” to the marine environment, especially migrating hump-back whales.

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The Wild Coast is home of some of the country’s most undisturbed wildlife refuges, and it’s stunning coastal wildernesses are also a major tourist draw.

At least 1,000 demonstrators gathered on a beach near Port Edward, a Reuters TV correspondent saw.

“It’s just absolutely horrendous that they are even considering this. Look around you?” said demonstrator Kas Wilson, indicating an unspoilt stretch of beach. “It’s unacceptable and … we will stop it.”

Shell officials were not immediately available for comment, but the company said on Friday that its planned exploration has regulatory approval, and it will significantly contribute to South Africa’s energy security if resources are found.

But local people fear the seismic blasting conducted over 6,000 square kilometres will kill or scare away the fish they depend on to live.

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“I don’t want them to operate here because if they do we won’t be able to catch fish,” said 62-year-old free dive fisherwoman Toloza Mzobe, after pulling a wild lobster from the ground. “What are we going to eat?”

Environmentalists are urging Shell and other oil companies to stop prospecting for oil, arguing that the world has no chance of reaching net zero carbon by 2050 if existing oil deposits are burned, let alone if new ones are found.

Earlier this year, a Dutch court ordered Shell to reduce its planet warming carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 from 2019 levels, a decision it plans to appeal.

South Africa’s environment ministry referred Reuters to a statement late last month that “the Minister responsible for environmental affairs is … not mandated to consider the application or to make a decision on the authorisation of the seismic survey.”

(Writing by Tim Cocks;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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