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A public row over coronavirus restrictions in Northern Ireland is now in court, with Health Minister Robin Swann suing Belfast-born musician Van Morrison for defamation.

The veteran singer, a well-known critic of anti-pandemic measures, called Swann a “fraud”. In a video that went viral after one of his concerts was canceled at the last minute, Van Morrison is seen trying to blackmail the audience that “Robin Swann is very dangerous”.

Swann retaliated by saying the singer’s comments were “bizarre and irresponsible”. Swann’s attorney, Paul Tweed, has now said the defamation proceedings are “at an advanced stage with a court date scheduled for early 2022”.

Van Morrison’s attorney, Joe Rice, said the singer would argue his comments were “related to a matter of public interest and constituted fair comment.” Morrison has previously called his comments “jokes and sarcasm.”

Here are the main developments on the coronavirus around the world:

Americas

The United States reopened its borders to vaccinated travelers on Monday after midnight – more than a year and a half after the global coronavirus outbreak prompted authorities to restrict international travel.

Visitors from several countries, including Brazil, China, India, South Africa, the United Kingdom and much of Europe, can now enter the United States with proof of vaccination status and a negative test.

Asia

Japan recorded no daily deaths from COVID-19 for the first time in over a year, local media reported. The last day without coronavirus-type deaths was August 2, 2020, according to national broadcaster NHK.

Singapore and Malaysia said they would allow non-quarantine travel between the two countries for those vaccinated. Flights will begin on November 29.

Europe

Germany recorded a record seven-day incidence rate of more than 200 on Monday, according to the latest data released by the Robert Koch Institute of Infectious Diseases (RKI).

The rate, which indicates the number of new COVID-19 infections per 100,000 people over the past week, is now the highest since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Many public places throughout Austria are now inaccessible to anyone not fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, under new measures that came into force on Monday.

Under the new rules, those who cannot provide full proof of vaccination or who have recovered from COVID will not be allowed to enter places like restaurants, bars and hairdressers. Unvaccinated people will also be excluded from hotels, events of more than 25 people and ski lifts.

Oceania

that of New Zealand Auckland’s largest city is expected to emerge from a lockdown later this month, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday. Some virus restrictions are due to be relaxed from Tuesday.

“Auckland hit 90% of the first dose and 80% of the second dose over the weekend, and it’s now within weeks of 90% of the double dose,” Ardern said. “And so while we are raising those rates further, we are relaxing our reopening.”

After being stranded for nearly three months, Auckland’s retail stores, malls, libraries, museums and zoos may reopen from Tuesday.

Australia began giving booster shots of the BioNTech-Pfizer COVID vaccine on Monday as restrictions in Sydney were further relaxed.

The country’s vaccination campaign has gained momentum since July after a wave of the highly infectious variant of the Delta virus caused several parts of Australia to go on lockdown. The state of New South Wales, home to Sydney, is on track to hit the 90% mark for double vaccinations.

see, dj / rt (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

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