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FLIGHTS SUSPENDED: Travel bubble paused with Australia’s most populous state

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New Zealand has put quarantine free travel with Australia’s most populous state on hold.

This comes as the Australian state of New South Wales puts in covid-19 restrictions for greater Sydney as the state records another coronavirus case today.

A man in his 50s from Sydney’s eastern suburbs – as well as his wife – have tested positive for COVID-19.

Genomic sequencing has linked the man to a returned traveller from the US.

It’s unclear how transmission occurred. Health authorities are trying to track down the “missing link” between the pair.

New Zealand’s coronavirus response minister says the decision was weighed up carefully.

The travel bubble between New South Wales and New Zealand will be paused while the latest cases in the state are investigated.

“I have made the decision to pause flight from New South Wales for a period of 48 hours,” New Zealand’s coronavirus response minister Chris Hipkins says.

“We will keep that under constant review during that time, obviously to more information during that time they gives us more confidence we get is that restriction earlier, we reserve the ability to do that, if over the period of time further information come to like them is ready to extend that and we have the ability to do that as well.”

“I do acknowledge that this is going to cause disruption for people who were travelling in the next 48 hours from New South Wales to New Zealand,” he says.

“We indicated when we opened up the trans-Tasman travel bubble (that we) will continue to be cautious.”

People who have arrived in NZ from NSW will be contacted and tested.

The NZ health authorities will contact 6000 people via email.

It will come into effect at 11:59pm tonight.

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Ukraine expects Russian offensive this month

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Ukraine expects a possible major Russian offensive this month, but Kyiv has the reserves to hold back Moscow’s forces even though the latest Western military supplies will not all arrive in time

 
Russia could launch the new attack for ‘symbolic’ reasons around the first anniversary of its invasion, but its resources are not ready from a military point of view, Defence minister Oleksii Reznikov told a news conference.

“Despite everything, we expect a possible Russian offensive in February. This is only from the point of view of symbolism; it’s not logical from a military view. Because not all of their resources are ready. But they’re doing it anyway,” he said.

Russian forces have been making incremental advances in the east as Moscow tries to capture the embattled city of Bakhmut and revive its faltering invasion after a string of battlefield setbacks in the second half of last year.

Reznikov said the offensive would likely be launched in the east – where Russia is trying to capture all the heavily-industrialised Donbas region – or the south where it wants to widen its land corridor to the occupied peninsula of Crimea.

He estimated that Russia had 12,000 troops in Belarusian military bases, a number that would not be enough to launch a significant attack from Belarus into Ukraine’s north, reopening a new front.

The United States and other Western governments have pledged billions of dollars in new military assistance including tanks and infantry fighting vehicles to help Ukraine withstand a new attack as well as to help Kyiv launch a counteroffensive.

“Not all of the Western weaponry will arrive in time. But we are ready. We have created our resources and reserves, which we are able to deploy and with which we are able to hold back the attack,” Reznikov said.

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China describes spy balloon saga as ‘overreaction’

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China has strongly opposed the U.S. approach to the suspected spy balloon that was shot down – describing it as an overreaction

 
They also once again explained that this was a civilian airship that was simply monitoring the weather and was blown astray into US airspace.

These are claims that Washington have disputed.

It has been interesting to watch China’s reaction throughout this affair.

On Friday, when they first admitted that this balloon belonged to them, Beijing were apologetic and said they regretted how it had ended up in US territory.

It was an uncharacteristic approach from China who are usually more aggressive in these statements.

But as time passed, Beijing’s tone changed and they started to accuse U.S. politicians and the media of using this incident as a way of attacking China.

This affair has now renewed tensions between these two global superpowers, with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken cancelling his much-anticipated trip to Beijing at the last minute.

Although his visit was largely seen as symbolic – as opposed to making any substantive policy breakthroughs – it was still seen as another big step in repairing relations between China and the U.S.

Instead, face-to-face talks have been cancelled and it looks likely that it will now be some time before Secretary Blinken makes the journey to Beijing.

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Blaze burns down Buddhist temple in Australia

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A massive blaze burnt down a Buddhist temple in Australia

Footage shows fire engulfing Melbourne’s Bright Moon Buddhist Society Temple on Sunday evening.

More than 80 firefighters battled the blaze into the night as the fire quickly spread throughout the building.

It’s not yet known if anyone was inside when the fire started.

Roads in the surrounding area are closed as investigations into the cause of the fire are underway.

The temple is understood to draw thousands of visitors to the area each year.

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