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Sudan: Calls grow for Omar al-Bashir to step down | Sudan News

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Sudan‘s President Omar al-Bashir is facing growing calls to step down following deadly protests over a dire economic crisis in the East African country.

Twenty-two Sudanese opposition political parties and groups demanded on Tuesday that Bashir transfer power to a “sovereign council” and a transitional government that would set a “suitable” date for democratic elections.

The groups, calling themselves the National Front for Change, include some Islamist factions that were once allied with Bashir, who seized power in a 1989 military coup, as well as breakaway groups from large traditional parties.

“This government does not have the ability to overcome the economic crisis because the economic crisis is basically a political crisis,” Mubarak Elfadel, Chairman of the Umma Party, told reporters at a press conference in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum.

“The government needs to end its rule and step down. We need to form a provisional council and a transitional government that will run this new stage and prepare us for new elections.”

The groups said they will submit a memorandum with their demands to the president on Wednesday. They warned that failure to transition to a new political system would have “dire consequences” for Sudan.

The move came as a second party, Sudan Reform Now, announced it was withdrawing from the coalition government. 






WATCH: Sudanese parliament approves 2019 budget amid protests (2:28)

It joins the Umma Party, which announced its withdrawal from the cabinet on Thursday, citing its support for the protesters and the government’s failure to implement recommendations that were outlined in the national dialogue that preceded the government’s formation.

‘At crossroads’

Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Khartoum, said the decision by Sudan Reform Now would likely weaken Bashir’s government.

“Many opposition groups have come out to say they believe the protesters have legitimate reasons, but it is not clear yet if other parties will also follow in the footsteps of Sudan Reform Now and withdraw from the national coalition government.”  

She added: “Now Sudan is at a cross roads – people protesting and calling for Bashir to step down and opposition parties backing them, but the president and the ruling party remain defiant and determined to hold on to power.”

The group of opposition parties said the proposed transitional government would introduce freedoms, democracy and halt the ongoing strife in the western regions of Kordofan and Darfur, and the Blue Nile region south of the capital, Khartoum.

There was no immediate reaction from the government to the memorandum.

At least 19 people have been killed and hundreds wounded in protests that erupted in cities including the capital Khartoum on December 19, after a government decision to hike the price of bread. The protests quickly developed into anti-government rallies demanding Bashir’s resignation.

Human rights group Amnesty International has put the death toll at 37.

Earlier on Tuesday, Bashir ordered authorities to set up a committee to investigate violence during the anti-government protests.

In an address to the nation on Monday, he sought to defuse the anger sweeping the country, promising better days ahead and pledging more “transparency, effectiveness and justice in all our national institutions”. 

“Our country is going through pressing economic conditions that have hurt a large segment of society,” he said. “We appreciate this suffering, feel its impact and we thank our people for their beautiful patience.”

The 2019 budget would maintain state subsidies on many commodities, raise wages, refrain from introducing new taxes and do more for the poorest. He did not elaborate.

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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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