Growing anti-China sentiment has resulted in large-scale protests in Hong Kong since 2014. Although pro-democracy activists have cancelled the annual large-scale protest, smaller scale gatherings are still possible to mark the day.
The recent political turmoil has resulted in opposition protests in Belarus including the capital, Minsk. While parades are likely to be held to mark the occasion, opposition parties might also use the day to voice their grievances against the government.
The day is observed annually to commemorate population issues around the world. The global population has been growing at a pace at 1.1 per cent every year.
The festival is aimed at marking the annual pilgrimage made by Muslims to the holy city of Mecca. Congregational prayers are held in Muslim-majority countries, and they often proceed peacefully. Despite this, security is also likely to be heightened in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq during this period due to threat of militant attacks.
Anti-government protests have been held almost daily in Colombia since early May. With the significance of the event, opposition supporters are likely to hold protests and even strike action in key urban centres such as Bogota, Medellin and Cali among others on the day.
However, many Japanese citizens oppose holding the Olympics on the grounds that the event will become a Covid-19 super-spreader event. The Games will be held shortly after a third state of emergency was lifted in several prefectures amid a resurgence of Covid-19 cases that threatened to collapse the healthcare services. While the country remains closed to foreign visitors, the government will allow at least 40,000 people into the country as part of various sports contingents, raising concerns that new variants of the virus spreading elsewhere.
To ensure that the risk of new outbreaks is minimised, the government will be maintaining some soft domestic travel restrictions in cities hosting participating teams by limiting gatherings and ensuring the Games proceed in a safe bubble. Businesses are expected to close earlier and capacity limits at popular venues will be significantly capped. The sale of alcohol will also be restricted to certain periods of the day. Until the end of the Games, the government will be regularly reviewing the measures and may impose new directives depending on the latest epidemiological situation.
In any case, authorities will continue to strongly advise strict social distancing and face mask usage be maintained nationwide. During the Olympics itself, measures will be taken to reduce physical interactions and crowds in and around stadiums. Such restrictions can already be seen in host cities during training sessions, where contact between athletes and the local population is kept to a bare minimum. Capacity limits at competition venues will also be capped to a maximum of 10,000 local spectators as long as it does not exceed 50 per cent of the venue’s capacity to prevent overcrowding.
Apart of Covid-19, intense heatwaves of over 40 degrees Celsius are also forecast to hit Japan during the Games. Previous heatwaves lead to dozens of heatstroke-related fatalities and strained medical services even before the pandemic struck. With body temperatures expected to be abnormally high due to face mask usage, the risk of heatstroke is elevated. Keeping hydrated and minimising activities outside or in poorly ventilated areas will be important during this period.
As this year’s Olympic Games is set to be held under sombre conditions, experts have warned that the risk of Covid-19 will remain despite new restrictions. Ultimately, it is everyone’s responsibility to take safety precautions. Getting vaccinated, practising personal social distancing measures and proper hygiene care have proven effective in combating the virus in the long run. Bearing in mind the tandem threat of the virus and heatwave, it is vital everyone takes measures that reduce the expected pressure on Japan’s medical services, especially in host cities. For now, seems like it is all systems go for the Games even if the stands were to remain largely empty.
Source: Nikkei Asia, CNN, Kyodo News, The Guardian, Japan Times, Reuters, Foreign Policy
Incendiary balloons launched from Gaza and retaliatory Israeli missile strikes overnight on 15 June underscore just how fragile the current ceasefire is. The surprise ousting of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after over 12 years in power, has added a new caveat to an already complicated situation. What this will mean for the ever-contentious settlement question remains to be seen but considering the wildly divergent ideologies of the newly formed coalition, a comprehensive and overarching peace agreement seems unlikely.
The struggle over territory and control lies at the heart of this conflict. The two previous Intifadas have underscored the generational longevity of this dispute, but despite this, the most recent flare up of violence follows a similar pattern. Hamas launched rockets into Israeli territory and Israel retaliated disproportionately. The recent violence was sparked by clashes at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a holy site revered by both Muslims and Jews. Hamas issued an ultimatum to Israel to withdraw its security forces from the Mosque, which Israel ignored, resulting in Hamas firing a rocket towards Jerusalem for the first time in years. Israel then retaliated and the conflict escalated into the fiercest hostilities between the groups since 2004. During the 11-day period, Safeture published 45 events related to airstrikes and missile strikes in the Gaza strip and surrounding areas, as well as over 20 events related to civil unrest in the form of protests, demonstrations and clashes.
Israel has claimed to have killed dozens of senior Hamas operatives and destroyed critical military targets, but the bombardments also hit basic infrastructure such as sewage systems, water pipes and power grids. Despite this, analysts often comment on the cyclical nature of the conflict and liken Israel’s response to that of cutting the grass. While airstrikes may target military leaders and infrastructure, setting them back a couple of years, capabilities will be restored, and Hamas will grow back. Even if their rocket making capabilities are hit, the rockets themselves are usually rudimentary and cheap to make, and with two long-time sponsors in the form of Syria and Iran, the cycle of violence will continue.
Tensions remain high and Jewish-Arab intercommunal violence both precipitated and followed the latest conflict. A controversial flag march by far-right Jewish groups through Jerusalem triggered the most recent exchanges that saw both sides break the ceasefire. While military confrontations are expected to continue, a parallel political battle will also likely be waged. Israel’s new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is expected to be tested and will have to prove his strength as a leader to his far-right backers. He has previously taken a tough stance against any form of Hamas aggression and with tensions on razors edge, any form of provocation could result in a resurgence of violence.
Americans are looking forward to a ‘summer of freedom’ on the 4th of July after a year-long battle of the Covid-19 pandemic despite the likelihood of falling short of its goal to vaccinate 70 percent of its population.
President Joe Biden’s administration has expressed a growing certainty that the date will serve as a breakthrough for a new recovery phase even with the current pace of vaccination rate. All 50 states beat the 1 May deadline for vaccination qualification and in June 2021, the cases rates and deaths drop to more than 90 percent since the first days of the outbreak. Air travels have peaked, with schools, businesses and restaurants rapidly reopening which signal significant progress. With the swift removal of most restrictions in multiple states, many are expecting that life can return to some normalcy as what has been pitched by Biden during his first address to the nation back in March 2021. The optimism has driven Biden to host the largest event at the White House in Washington D.C., gathering around 1,000 guests to celebrate independence from the virus. He has encouraged other states to have their own celebrations with health and safety protocols in place. In New York City, the renowned Macy’s fireworks display will go live on the East River to mark the occasion with plans to separate verified fully vaccinated and unvaccinated spectators to view at specific points. Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Philadelphia are also among the earliest cities which are geared up to welcome spectators to honour this symbolic date.
Safeture analysis by: Ezza Omar
A severe drought affecting the states of California, Oregon and the rest of West Coast of the United States has raised alarms on the impact of the wildfire season.
Representatives of firefighters and other emergency authorities claim this year’s season could be more aggressive than previous years due to dry conditions, abnormal pre-season fires and the location of residential buildings close to forests in risk. Contingency plans have been put in place to mitigate the impacts of wildfires. Preventive measures, such as prescribed burns to remove unwanted vegetation, have also been conducted. However, there is a major risk of fires affecting residential areas in upcoming months. Authorities encouraged citizens to be precautious, reform properties and prepare evacuation plans. Companies operating close to forests are also advised to remove low vegetation around facilities and establish shutdown or evacuation plans. Travel disruptions should be anticipated in the event of wildfires in the West Coast throughout July and September.
Safeture analysis by: Federico Caprari
On 23 May, an unprecedented commercial flight diversion incident caught the attention of the European communities as well as the worldwide airline industry.
Ryanair’s flight FR4978 from Athens to Vilnius, traveling through the Belarusian airspace was escorted by a MiG-29 fighter jet to make an emergency landing in Minsk. Citing security concerns, the Belarussian authorities said the forced landing was made to allow the arrest of dissident opposition activist, Raman Pratasevich and his companion, Sofia Sapega. The incident immediately caused outrage among the European Union (EU) with leaders labelling the incident a state-sponsored air piracy. The incident came also came at a time when Belarus continued to be snubbed over last year’s anti-government protests. Subsequently, EU leaders unanimously agreed to impose additional sanctions against individuals and businesses that were involved in the incident. The country’s airlines were banned from flying over the territory of 27-nation bloc. Similarly, EU has also issued a directive that bars EU aircraft from flying over Belarus. The move has affected more than 3,300 weekly flights, as Belarusian airspace is one of the key routes to Eastern Europe. Furthermore, the aviation piracy incident, which may have contravened the 1944 Chicago Convention, could also potentially plunge the country’s economy into a further abyss should the EU and the world communities impose further sanctions against the country’s financial sector and important industries such as oil and potash. In short, the air hijacking incident has not just raised safety concerns when traveling through the rogue nation but also induced a negative impact to the aviation sector particularly within Europe.
Safeture analysis by: Farith Ariffin
Mali has suffered its second coup d’etat in less than a year. The first, in August 2020, overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. The second, in May 2021, ousted President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane.
Colonel Assimi Goita, vice-president from August 2020 and May 2021, and president since the second coup, was behind both changes in Mali command. Goita is now responsible for running the country until elections in February 2022, under heavy scrutiny of the international community. Neither the August 2020 nor the May 2021 regime changes pleased Mali’s partners. Both France and the United States threatened with sanctions. President Emmanuel Macron halted joint military operations in the territory. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) suspended the country of its participation in the organization. Two issues seem to be common ground for all powers acting on the turmoil in the country: Will Mali be able to keep the fight against armed groups such as the Al-Qaeda and IS while struggling with political stability? And will there actually be an election in February 2022? None of these questions have easy answers. If President Goita’s actions are any indication of what is ahead for the future in Mali; he recently appointed a civilian, Choguel Kokalla Maiga, as Prime Minister and compromised not to run for office in 2022, both as requested by ECOWAS. Whatever the outcome is, increase in fighting in areas with armed groups presence is expected. As is political instability until at least, the 2022 presidential elections.
Safeture analysis by: Deborah Sheps