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Restrictions had been lifted in New Zealand after the country declared it had eliminated the virus

New Zealand has put its largest city back into lockdown after recording four new Covid-19 cases, ending a 102-day streak without a local infection.

A three-day lockdown was swiftly imposed in Auckland after the cases were confirmed.

The four new cases are all members of a single family. None had travelled recently.

The restrictions will come into effect on Wednesday, as authorities scramble to trace contacts of the family.

Auckland residents will be asked to stay at home, large gatherings will be banned, non-essential businesses will be shut, and some social-distancing restrictions will be reintroduced in the rest of the country.

The country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also on Wednesday deferred the dissolution of parliament, following the latest Covid-19 cases.

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has delayed the dissolution of parliament

The dissolution of parliament, which is required to make way for a general election, has now been deferred until Monday.

Ms Ardern said no decision had yet been made on postponing the election – originally scheduled for 19 September.

“We have some time to work through that,” she said, according to a TVNZ report.

New Zealand has fared better than other countries, recording 1,220 confirmed cases and 22 deaths since the virus arrived in late February.

Before Tuesday, New Zealand had gone 102 days without recording a locally transmitted case of Covid-19, one of the few countries to reach such a milestone.

All 22 active cases of the virus before Tuesday’s announcement were among returning travellers quarantined in isolation facilities.

Praised internationally for its handling of the pandemic, the country’s government had lifted almost all of its lockdown restrictions, first imposed in March.

An early lockdown, tough border restrictions, effective health messaging and an aggressive test-and-trace programme have all been credited with virtually eliminating the virus in the country.

But as infections continue to rise across the world, surpassing 20 million globally on Tuesday, New Zealand officials have warned against complacency.

Announcing the lockdown, Ms Ardern said it was necessary to go hard and go early to stamp out the virus.

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Media caption“I did a little dance”: Prime minister confirms New Zealand is free of Covid-19

Auckland – a city of around 1.6 million people – would move to level three restrictions from 12:00 local time (01:00 BST) on Wednesday as a “precautionary approach”, she said.

The prime minister said the rest of the country would move to level two of New Zealand’s 4-tier alert system of measures against Covid-19.

“This is something we have prepared for,” Ms Ardern said at a news conference.

“We have had 102 days and it was easy to feel New Zealand was out of the woods. No country has gone as far as we did without having a resurgence. And because we were the only ones, we had to plan. And we have planned,” she said.

Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, said at least three days of lockdown were needed in Auckland to trace the source of the new cases.

“We’re expecting to see other cases,” Dr Bloomfield said. “We want to find those other cases as soon as possible and identify or isolate any contacts.”

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Shoppers were seen queuing at supermarkets after the lockdown was announced

Michael Baker, professor of Public Health at the University of Otago, told BBC’s Newsnight programme that even with the most successful strategies in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak “one thing you have to plan for is setbacks”.

“I think New Zealand will succeed and get rid of the virus,” he added.

In anticipation of a pre-lockdown rush to supermarkets, Ms Ardern and the mayor of Auckland, Phil Goff, called for calm, saying there was no need to panic-buy.

Despite their pleas, large crowds of shoppers were seen queuing at supermarkets on Tuesday night, as they attempted to stock up before lockdown.

One video posted to social media shows customers streaming through the door of a supermarket as a security guard tries to prevent them from entering.

The World Health Organization (WHO) had hailed New Zealand as an example to others for having “successfully eliminated community transmission”.

But other countries have had early success in suppressing the virus, only to see infections rise again after lifting lockdown restrictions that damaged the economy.

Vietnam went 99 days with no community transmission until July, when a 57-year-old man in Da Nang tested positive for the virus.

By the end of July, Da Nang was the epicentre of a new coronavirus outbreak, leading to the country’s first coronavirus death since the pandemic began.

Australia, too, has seen a resurgence of Covid-19 in some states, including New South Wales and Victoria, where a strict lockdown has been imposed.

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Paul Rusesabagina of ‘Hotel Rwanda’ appears in court again seeking bail after arrest on terrorism charges

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He appeared before the Nyarugenge intermediate court Friday in the capital, Kigali, where a judge ruled that a decision will be made on his bail application October 2.

Rusesabagina, 66, was appealing against last week’s ruling to remand him for 30 days.

His lawyers, Emelin Nyembo and David Rugaza, told the court that Rusesabagina should not be tried for crimes committed by the MRCD party, a coalition of opposition parties. The group’s military wing, FLN, is accused of several attacks on Rwandan territory in 2018.

Rusesabagina faces 13 charges related to terrorism, and is accused of being the “founder, leader and sponsor of violent, armed, extremist terror outfits,” Rwandan authorities have said.

He admitted to the court that he was a member of the MRCD and that general decisions were taken under the leadership of all parties, with each party having different functions.

He said, “MRCD was a coalition of four opposition political parties, my own party PDR-Ihumure was in charge of diplomatic mission, CNRD party was in charge of military operations hence forming military wing (National Liberation Front-FLN), others had other responsibilities.”

“The FLN was an armed group with specific role, mine was different. I was in charge of diplomacy,” he added.

At a hearing on September 17, the judge said the court had analyzed all 13 charges against Rusesabagina and concluded that there were compelling reasons to remand him for 30 days.

His lawyers questioned the jurisdiction of the court to try their client, saying he is a citizen of Belgium, with residence in the United States.

It is a sentiment echoed by his family. His daughter Carine Kanimba told CNN that he has no right to be put on trial as a Rwandan, as a Belgian citizen.

“We do not accept this whole attempt at pretending that this is a fair trial. We are begging the international community to help us. We are worried that they will kill him and they have already silenced him. The pictures we saw of him in court told us that he is frail and weak,” she said.

Kanimba said that a Belgian diplomat was able to visit her father, but that Rwandan officials were present.

There are also questions about how Rusesabagina came to be in Rwanda. His family believes he was kidnapped from Dubai in late August. In a video interview with the New York Times on September 15, Rusesabagina said he was supposed to go on a private plane to Burundi to speak to churches on August 28, but when he woke up, he was in Rwanda surrounded by soldiers.

Longstanding Kagame critic

Rusesabagina gained prominence for saving hundreds of Rwandans during the country’s genocide by sheltering them in the hotel he managed. His story was made into the Hollywood film “Hotel Rwanda,” starring Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo.
Rusesabagina and his supporters have long maintained that he became a target of Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s government after sustained criticism of the government and the conduct of the Rwandan Patriotic Front in ending the genocide in 1994.

Around 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in the genocide, which was led by Hutu extremists.

He is the recipient of several human rights awards for his efforts during the genocide, including the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 and the Human Rights Prize by the Lantos Foundation in 2011, among others.

Rusesabagina also holds Belgian citizenship, according to a government source in Belgium.

Crackdown on opposition

Rusesabagina has not lived in Rwanda since 1996, when he survived an assassination attempt.

While widely praised for transforming Rwanda in the aftermath of the genocide, Kagame has also faced widespread criticism for human rights abuses and a crackdown on opposition.

Rwanda accuses a pastor's daughter of treason and espionage. Her family says the charges are fabricated

Opposition politicians in Rwanda have often found themselves jailed on what they say are trumped-up charges for standing against Kagame in polls.

In one of the more widely publicized cases, Diane Rwigara and her mother were jailed when the former attempted to run for president in the same election as Kagame in 2017.

Diane Rwigara was acquitted of all charges including insurrection and forging of documents in 2018.

Victoire Ingabire, the leader of the FDU-Inkingi party, was jailed in 2010 for charges that included collaborating with a terrorist organization, “divisionism,” “minimizing the genocide” and “genocide ideology.”

She had returned to the country from the Netherlands to contest in the 2010 presidential elections after years of living abroad but was barred from running, and served eight years of a 15-year prison sentence before receiving a presidential pardon in 2018.

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House GOP super PAC seeks to shore up additional Republican seats

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“CLF is doubling down and pressing even deeper into our top offensive opportunities, reinforcing our swing-seat incumbents and providing a small insurance policy in a few seats to ensure a win this November,” CLF President Dan Conston said in a statement.

Notable new reservations include $865,000 to boost Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska); $500,000 to help Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.), $500,000 for Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), $750,000 for Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), $740,000 for Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) and $750,000 for an open seat in central Virginia where Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) lost renomination in a district convention.

CLF also reserved $850,000 in Meadows’ former district, where the Republican nominee is 25-year-old businessman Madison Cawthorn. Court-ordered redistricting last year made the seat more favorable to Democrats by uniting the liberal enclave of Asheville, but President Donald Trump still carried it by 17 points.

Reps. Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.), Kendra Horn (D-Okla.) and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.) are each getting over a million in new ad reservations against them from the group — a sign that Republicans are still pushing to pick off incumbents. The group is also making large six-figure buys against Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.), Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) and Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.). And earlier this week it laid down a new offensive target with a $2 million ad buy against Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.).

The vast majority of CLF’s total spending for the cycle is on offensive targets, and Republicans feel confident they will make gains in November, particularly if Trump tightens the presidential race. Democrats are defending 30 districts that the president carried in 2016.

But most of the districts in this new wave of reservations are Republican-held. CLF is increasing its buys to help Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.) — and in open seats on Long Island and in the suburbs of Indianapolis, Houston and Dallas.

Democrats, meanwhile, are scaling back their defensive buys and shifting resources away from once-vulnerable incumbents. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this week scrapped four TV flights set to run from early-to-mid October in districts held by Reps. Jared Golden (D-Maine), Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), Haley Stevens (D-Mich.) and Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) — a show of confidence in their reelection prospects. All four hold seats won by Trump in 2016.

Republicans are hampered by the cash advantage of Democratic candidates and by their large number of open seats. Members like Hill and Young were outraised by their opponents last quarter — and Young trails in cash on hand. And retirements by longtime incumbents in Indiana, New York and Texas deprived the GOP of the war chests they amassed over the years.

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Matt Hancock Must Guarantee MPs A Vote On New Coronavirus Restrictions Or The Government Will Be Defeated, Says Rebel Ringleader Graham Brady

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The leader of a growing band of Tory rebels, Sir Graham Brady, says Matt Hancock must offer “explicit guarantees” MPs will get to vote on new coronavirus restrictions before they come into force or the government faces defeat on its flagship pandemic legislation.

Pressure is mounting on Boris Johnson to cave to the demands of his backbenchers after dozens of Conservatives signed an amendment put forward by Sir Graham, the chair of the powerful 1922 Committee.

He told PoliticsHome it is “a fundamental matter of principle that the House ought to be consulted” before new lockdown measures are put in place.

It comes amid growing anger from MPs the Commons has been ignored by ministers as they have repeatedly changed the rules, affecting the lives of their constituents.

Sir Graham said he was spurred to act after his own constituency of Altrincham and Sale West was put into and then taken out of extra local restrictions, only to be put back under the measures hours later.

“It’s been a frustration for a long time, I was wary even back in March when we gave the emergency powers very rapidly. And I accepted it on the basis the House was about to go into recess and there was plausible concern NHS critical care capacity would be overwhelmed.

“But then when we found that every review of the lockdown, the government simply continued, and that when Parliament returned on 21 April we still didn’t have decisions put to the House of Commons.

“I thought that was wrong.”

He added: “But I guess it came to a head really with the experience of the additional local restrictions that were put in for Trafford and Greater Manchester at the end of July.

“And then the experience of the government removing Trafford from the extra restrictions at the end of August – and then 12 hours putting us back in again.

“And in none of this was the House of Commons, or me as a local MP, able to express a view.”

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With the six-month renewal of the coronavirus powers due for a vote on Wednesday, he has written an amendment which could bind the government into more votes. It has more than 50 signatories, including 42 Tories as of Friday afternoon – enough to defeat the government if selected, but there is some debate as to whether it will be allowed.

Such a motion would not normally be amendable; it would simply be the case that MPs either back it or not, with the final decision to be taken by the Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle on the morning of the debate.

On whether it would be selected for debate, Mr Brady said: “Some people have suggested it is ‘disorderly’ in itself. It was drafted by a very senior clerk, who when I raised that with him gave me a very clear explanation why he is right.

“So I’m confident that it is selectable, but it is still – as with any amendment – a decision for the Speaker.”

He confirmed he had been to see Sir Lindsay, who he said suggested it was “more likely to be selected” if it had support from across the House, which is why he was pleased to have chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party, John Cryer, put his name to it along with party grandees Harriet Harman and John Spellar.

A spokesperson for the Speaker would only confirm the motion is “technically amendable”.

They added: “The Speaker will take advice from the clerks about whether the amendment is in scope before deciding whether to select it.”

There is also debate over whether any amendment, if passed, would have any binding effect on the government, given it is not a vote on the legislation itself.

Sir Graham said: “It wouldn’t have statutory force because the motion itself isn’t statute, so what it would be is a resolution of the House instructing ministers to do something – and that has constitutional force.”

And Tom Tugendhat, chair of the foreign affairs select committee, told PoliticsHome: “This isn’t supposed to be an epic rebellion but an indication that people want to have wider consultation.

“I think what this is a very clear sign of, and I think the government recognises this, is the whole country needs to be involved in decision making and the decisions that we are taking and for us to  have consent we need to consult widely and part of that consultation is with the people sent to Parliament to represent their communities.”

Mr Spellar said: “What we are trying to do is say to government you can’t just go rampaging around making decisions based on a very small group of advisers. 

“If you say you’ve gone from the science, there’s a significant division in the scientific world.”

It is a view echoed by Sir Graham: “I’m quite sceptical about a number of these measures, I think they are grossly intrusive into people’s civil liberties, the right to family life, but I suspect that there is a fairly strong majority of the House that would support the government in most of what it’s doing.

“So I don’t think by securing these votes we’re suddenly going to see the government losing them all and these powers being stripped away.

“I think it’s just a fundamental matter of principle that the House ought to be consulted, that if people’s liberties are being removed it should be done with the consent of parliament on their behalf.

“And also that ministerial decision-making will be improved if they know they’ve got to justify themselves in the House of Commons and the House will express its views in a vote.”

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Mr Johnson is likely to want to avoid another confrontation with his own backbenchers after already having to change tack on the Internal Markets Bill, with talks set to take place with Mr Brady and other rebels on Monday.

One MP suggested more names could go down on the amendment over the weekend ,with another signatory telling PoliticsHome it would be “dumb” if the government did not reflect on the number of disaffected Tories and try to come up with a compromise, or table their own amendment.

On whether he would pull the amendment, Sir Graham said it would need Matt Hancock to say from the despatch box that MPs will get votes on new restrictions before they are enacted, a point he said he had already pressed upon Number 10.

“If there were sufficient explicit guarantees given on the floor of the House then I may not press it to a vote,” he said.

“But I think it’s really important to have the opportunity to press it to a vote to make sure the health secretary gives those explicit guarantees.”

He said the time lag between announcements being made and the restrictions coming into force was the perfect time to hold a debate, pointing to the ‘rule of six’ policy.

“That was leaked to the press on Tuesday, the PM made a statement about it on Wednesday, it wasn’t going to come into force until the following Monday – but the Thursday was just general debates in the House of Commons,” he explained.

“It would have been entirely possible to change the schedule, put in a full day’s debate on the ‘rule of six’ with a vote at the end of it, and the government simply chose not to.”

Pressed on whether his amendment was in response to ministers not listening to backbench concerns, he said: “I put the point to Matt Hancock in the chamber as to why these powers had not been put to the House on the Wednesday, and he said ‘I’m talking to the business managers about how this can happen’, but it still hasn’t happened two weeks later, there still hasn’t been a debate or a vote on what was introduced then.”

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The PM’s spokesman has repeatedly said there would be a vote on the renewal of the Coronavirus Act 2020, and that MPs also have the chance to vote on individual regulations.

But there has been criticism of that system, which is known as an ‘affirmative statutory instrument’, which allows the Commons a vote within 28 days of the legislation coming into force.

Some MPs have said they want new powers to be created as ‘draft affirmative statutory instruments’, where the vote takes place before they start to take affect.

But the government have said with a backlog of legislation from the summer, along with the fact the process can pass through the Commons quickly, but takes weeks to get though the House of Lords, they have argued it was not possible.

One potential solution may be to give MPs the guarantee that an ‘affirmative’ SI will be debated within seven days, rather than it taking the full month, but the government have stuck to the line that “the current position does provide for parliamentary scrutiny”.

 Disclosure: Sir Graham Brady is editor of the House magazine, which is part of the Dods Group.

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