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Sudan: Protests over price hikes continue for fifth day | Sudan News

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Protests in parts of Sudan continued for the fifth consecutive day on Sunday, as doctors prepared to strike over the rising cost of bread and fuel.  

At least 10 people have been killed since the demonstrations began on Wednesday after the government hiked the price of a loaf of bread from one Sudanese pound to three (about $0.02 to $0.06). 

Protesters are calling for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to step down. 

On Sunday, residents in Um Rawaba, 200km southwest of the capital Khartoum, told AFP news agency that some 600 people gathered in the market chanting, “the people want the fall of the regime”.

Protesters burnt tyres and branches in the streets and attempted to storm a government building before being rebuffed by security officials, witnesses said. 

In Atabara, 300km northeast of the capital, riot police and plain-clothed operatives deployed tear gas against hundreds of protesters, a witness said. 

There was a tense calm in the streets of Khartoum on Sunday as schools and universities were shuttered by a nation-wide government suspension, and riot police equipped with batons and tear gas guarded buildings. 

“We were asked to leave this morning,” said a university student from northern Khartoum.  

Sudanese queued outside bakeries in the city, where vendors were refusing to sell more than 20 loaves of bread per person.

“I have a big family and this bread is not enough for three daily meals,” a local resident told AFP. 

A bakery worker said a security guard standing nearby was not allowing the shop to sell any more.  

Doctors strike

Doctors are also set to go on strike on Monday in the first of a series of work stoppages, announced by an umbrella coalition of professional unions. 

In a statement, the coalition said the doctors will continue to deal with emergencies during the strike, which begins Monday and aims to “paralyse” the government and deny it much-needed revenues. The coalition also called on citizens to continue their street protests.

There have also been calls by a number of independent trade and professional unions for a general strike on Wednesday.

Participants in the protests have so far numbered in the hundreds or low thousands in each location, but their continuation for nearly a week despite the use of force by police suggests the level of popular discontent over al-Bashir’s rule is at a dangerously high level.





A wave of unrest has rocked Sudan since Wednesday after the government hiked the price of a loaf of bread from one Sudanese pound to three [Al Jazeera]

Sudan’s official news agency SUNA reported on Sunday that authorities had arrested a “cell of saboteurs” that planned “acts of vandalism in the capital”.

The official outlet said the “cell” includes members opposition groups, but did not elaborate.

Sadiq Youssef from the opposition coalition, National Consensus Forces alliance, had said earlier that 14 members of his group, including its president Farouk Abu Issa, were arrested as they left a meeting.

A group bringing together representatives of different professions called in a statement Sunday for a series of strikes over the price rise, starting with hospitals from Monday. 

Economic struggles

Anger has been rising across Sudan over the rising costs of bread and fuel and other economic hardships, including skyrocketing inflation and limits on bank withdrawals.

The country’s economy has struggled to recover from the loss of three-quarters of its oil output – its main source of foreign currency – since South Sudan seceded in 2011, keeping most of the oilfields.

The country’s economic woes have been exacerbated in the past few years, even as the United States lifted its 20-year-old trade sanctions on Sudan in October 2017.

The US has kept Sudan on its list of state sponsors of terrorism, which prevents Khartoum from accessing much-needed financial aid from institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank.

Bread prices have more than tripled since the start of this year after a government decision to stop state-funded imports of wheat.

Officials had hoped the move would create competition between private companies importing wheat, and therefore, act as a check on price rises.

But a number of bakeries stopped production, citing a lack of flour. This forced the government to increase flour subsidies by 40 percent in November.





At least 10 people have been killed since the demonstrations began on Wednesday [El tayeb Siddig/Sudan]

Meanwhile, the value of the Sudanese pound has slumped by 85 percent against the US dollar this year, while inflation soared to nearly 70 percent in September.

In October, Sudan sharply devalued its currency from 29 pounds to the dollar to 47.5 after a body of banks and money changers set the country’s exchange rate.

The move led to further price increases and a liquidity crunch, while the gap between the official and black market rates has continued to widen.

The economic crisis is one of the biggest tests faced by al-Bashir, who took power in a coup in 1989. 

In recent months, he has dissolved the government, named a new central bank governor and brought in a package of reforms, but the moves have done little to improve the situation.

Meanwhile, Qatar has offered its support to al-Bashir, according to Sudan’s state news agency. 

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani spoke to Bashir on the phone on Saturday and pledged Qatar’s “readiness to provide all that is needed to help Sudan get through this crisis”, the Sudanese state news agency reported. 

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Ottawa transit commission hopes to prioritize COVID-19 vaccines for OC Transpo workers

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Ottawa’s transit commission is pushing local and provincial health officials to recognize the role OC Transpo operators have played in keeping the city running during the COVID-19 pandemic, hoping to bump train and bus drivers in the vaccination queue amid a recent surge in coronavirus infections affecting transit workers.

More than 100 OC Transpo staff across the entire organization have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to an update at Wednesday morning’s transit commission meeting.

Of those cases, 26 employees are currently recovering from the disease in self-isolation.

OC Transpo has seen a recent jump in COVID-19 cases, with Ottawa city council receiving reports of eight operators testing positive for the virus over a recent eight-day period.

Transit commissioner Sarah Wright-Gilbert attempted to find out how many of the total cases are traced to workplace transmission, but OC Transpo boss John Manconi said he’s been advised by medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches that he can’t share that information for privacy reasons.

Transit operators are listed in the second priority group of essential workers as part of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine sequencing plans, but several commissioners speaking Wednesday wanted to get the city’s bus and train drivers bumped higher in the order.

Councillors Riley Brockington and Glen Gower both put forward motions looking to get front-line OC Transpo employees prioritization in vaccine sequencing, but others pointed out that the much-debated public health topic of who gets the vaccine and when is well beyond the scope of the transit commission.

“We are not in a position in transit commission to be decreeing, or making an edict, about what group of essential workers is more at risk than others and should be prioritized. That should be left up to public health experts,” Wright-Gilbert said.

Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli, who also chairs the Ottawa Board of Health, reflected on the board’s four-plus-hour meeting on Monday evening, during which vaccine sequencing and prioritizing essential workers dominated the conversation.

“Vaccine sequencing is obviously a very difficult maze to get through,” he said.

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COVID-19: Ottawa police announce end of 24-7 presence at Ontario-Quebec border

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Less than two days after the Ontario government’s latest COVID-19 restrictions came into effect, calling for non-essential traffic to be stopped at the province’s borders with Quebec and Manitoba, the Ottawa Police Service has announced it is stopping its 24-hour checkpoints.

According to a statement issued by the service Tuesday evening, the around-the-clock border checkpoints were set to end as of 8 p.m. on Tuesday in favour of rotating checkpoints across the city throughout the day until Ontario’s temporary regulations end.

“Since the onset of the border operations, the OPS has been working closely with Ottawa Public Health (OPH) along with local stakeholders and interprovincial stakeholders (the City of Ottawa, the City of Gatineau, the Ontario Provincial Police etc.) to assess any local public health, traffic and safety impacts. The assessment resulted in today’s operational changes,” the statement said.

“The operational changes announced today are designed to better ensure the health and safety of all, to minimize delays and/or hazards for travellers and to ensure essential workers can get to their places of employment on time.”

The statement also said the police service, while working to comply with the provincial order, was focused on education and enforcement actions that “support improved public health outcomes and respect the concerns of our most marginalized and racialized communities”

Officers said they will be conducting daily assessments on border crossings and that there could be further changes.

In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said that the border closures are ultimately subject to the discretion of local police enforcing the regulations.

“Local police services are best positioned to determine the operational deployments necessary to ensure the continued safety of their communities,” the spokesperson said, noting that the order’s regulations still apply to individuals entering the province.

The temporary order restricts Quebec residents from entering Ontario. If prompted, individuals must stop when directed by an enforcement officials and provide their reason for entering the province.

The main exemptions to the restrictions include if the person’s main home is in the province, if they work in Ontario, if they’re transporting goods, if they’re exercising Indigenous or treaty rights, if they need health care or if there’s a basis on compassionate grounds.

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COVID-19 vaccines in Ottawa: Nearly half of all residents in their 60s have at least one dose

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Public Health’s latest COVID-19 vaccination update shows that nearly half of all residents 60 to 69 years old have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, a figure that has all but doubled in the past week.

OPH’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard shows 58,000 residents 60 to 69 have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, accounting for 49.3 per cent of that age group’s population in Ottawa. Last Wednesday, OPH reported 30,000 residents 60 to 69 had had at least one dose, which was 25.4 per cent.

As age demographics get younger, the population grows larger and the coverage by percentage may appear to grow more slowly, even if clinics are vaccinating greater numbers of people. For example, the latest figures show that 83 per cent of people aged 70 to 79 have had at least one dose. By raw population that’s 60,000 people, only slightly higher than half of all people in their 60s.

Vaccinations are open through the Ontario portal to anyone 60 and older and, this week, the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for administration at pharmacies and primary care clinics to anyone in Ontario 40 and older.

OPH reported a new shipment this week of 25,740 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. To date, Ottawa has received 305,130 doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the provincial government.

The number of eligible residents (i.e. 16 and older) with at least one dose of a vaccine is now up to 28 per cent.

Tuesday was Ottawa’s second-busiest day for vaccinations overall, with the OPH reporting 9,729 shots administered. Last Friday saw 9,887 shots administered in a single day.

QUICK STATS

  • Ottawa residents with at least one dose: 248,668
  • Ottawa residents with two doses: 26,722
  • Percent of eligible population (residents 16 and older) with at least one dose: 28 per cent
  • Percent of eligible population (residents 16 and older) with two doses: 3 per cent
  • Percent of total population with at least one dose: 24 per cent
  • Percent of total population with two doses: 3 per cent

VACCINATION COVERAGE BY AGE FOR OTTAWA RESIDENTS WITH AT LEAST ONE DOSE

  • 10-19: 1.6 per cent (1,804 people)
  • 20-29: 8.3 per cent (13,452 people)
  • 30-39: 9.5 per cent (14,999 people)
  • 40-49: 12.9 per cent (17,350 people)
  • 50-59: 28.8 per cent (40,320 people)
  • 60-69: 49.3 per cent (58,627 people)
  • 70-79: 82.9 per cent (62,808 people)
  • 80-89: 87.5 per cent (29,358 people)
  • 90+: 89.2 per cent (7,893 people)
  • Unknown age: 2,057 people 

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