Pope Francis arrived in Iraq on Friday to urge the country’s dwindling number of Christians to stay put and help rebuild the country after years of war and persecution, brushing aside the coronavirus pandemic and security concerns to make his first-ever papal visit. Among the highlights of the three-day visit is Francis’ private meeting Saturday with the country’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a revered figure in Iraq and beyond.
The normal rules of business that protect the profits of vaccine manufacturers will have to be set aside if that is what it takes to ensure everybody is immunized against the coronavirus, according to the director general of the World Health Organization. Writing in the Guardian, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says the world needs to be “on a war footing”.
China moved to overhaul Hong Kong’s electoral system on Friday in a further blow to democracy in the city and unexpectedly set an economic growth target for this year, albeit a modest one, as it kicked off its annual session of parliament. Beijing proposed legislation that would tighten its increasingly authoritarian grip on Hong Kong by making changes to the electoral committee that chooses the city’s leader.
Australia has asked the European Commission to review Italy’s decision to block the export of 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the country. It is the first time new rules have been used that allow a ban on EU exports if the drug provider fails to meet its obligations to the bloc. The move has heightened a tense dispute between AstraZeneca and EU countries over supply issues and delays.
The oldest known bird in the world has hatched a chick at the age of 70. Wisdom the albatross welcomed her new baby on 1 February on the Midway Atoll in the North Pacific. Wisdom was banded by experts in 1956, outliving the person that classified her all those years ago, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.