While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, July 19

Britain is proceeding with a full reopening of the economy despite a fresh surge in Covid-19 cases. PHOTO: AFP

British PM Johnson pleads for caution as 'Freedom Day' arrives in England

Prime Minister Boris Johnson ends more than a year of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in England on Monday, urging the public to remain cautious but putting his faith in vaccines to protect the country even as infections are surging.

On what local media have dubbed "Freedom Day", Johnson's decision to lift regulations in favour of restarting an economy damaged by a series of on-off lockdowns since March 2020 marks a new chapter in the global response to the coronavirus.

If the vaccines continue to prove effective in reducing severe illness and deaths even while infections reach record levels, Johnson's decision could inform other highly vaccinated countries' approach to returning to normal.

But the strategy comes with risks - most notably that a variant capable of resisting vaccines could emerge, or that the caseload could grow so severe that the economy grinds to a halt.


Private Israeli malware used to spy on journalists, activists: Report

Activists, journalists and politicians around the world have been spied on using cellphone malware developed by a private Israeli firm, reports said Sunday, igniting fears of widespread privacy and rights abuses.

The use of the software, called Pegasus and developed by Israel's NSO group, was reported on by the Washington Post, the Guardian, Le Monde and other news outlets who collaborated on an investigation into a data leak.

The leak was of a list of up to 50,000 phone numbers believed to have been identified as people of interest by clients of NSO since 2016, the reports said.


Israel removes cancer patients from third Covid-19 vaccine jab list

Israel on Sunday walked back part of its policy for third coronavirus vaccination shots, saying that contrary to a recent announcement, oncology patients should actually stick with two jabs only.

On Monday, Israel began administering a third shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech inoculation to patients with compromised immune systems, including people who have had heart, lung and kidney transplants and some cancer patients.

But on Sunday, the health ministry said that after reviewing data on hundreds of patients from oncology wards, "the recommendation at this stage is to not vaccinate" cancer patients.


Major US wildfire grows, forcing new evacuations

With oppressively hot, dry weather looming over much of the Western US and Canada on Sunday, the enormous Bootleg Fire in Oregon grew again and authorities ordered new evacuations.

Bootleg, the largest of 80 major fires now active in the US, spread overnight from 274,000 acres to 290,000 acres - three times the size of the metropolis of Detroit, officials said.

Some 2,000 people have had to evacuate, with more following on Sunday.


Tennis: Coco Gauff tests positive for Covid-19, to miss Tokyo Games

American tennis player Coco Gauff will miss the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for Covid-19, the 17-year-old said on Sunday.

"I'm disappointed to share the news that I have tested positive for Covid and won't be able to play in the Olympic Games in Tokyo," world number 25 Gauff said on Twitter.

"It has always been a dream of mine to represent the USA at the Olympics, and I hope there will be many more chances for me to make this come true in the future."


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