Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson on Sunday declared a state of emergency to help deal with an unprecedented 10-day occupation by protesting truckers that has shut down much of the core of the Canadian capital. “(This) reflects the serious danger and threat to the safety and security of residents posed by the ongoing demonstrations and highlights the need for support from other jurisdictions and levels of government,” he said in a statement. Watson, who complained earlier in the day that the demonstrators outnumbered police and controlled the situation, did not give details of what measures he might impose. The protesters, who first reached the capital on January 29, have parked their big rigs on city streets and put up tents and temporary shacks – paralysing the capital to the consternation of officials and the mounting frustration of many residents. “The situation at this point is completely out of control,” Mayor Jim Watson told a local radio station, adding that the protesters “have far more people than we have police officers.” “Clearly, we are outnumbered and we are losing this battle,” he told CFRA radio. “This has to be reversed; we have to get our city back.” Watson called the truckers “insensitive,” as they have continued “blaring horns and sirens and fireworks, and turning it into a party.” In Toronto, police arrested a 22-year-old man in Queen’s Park after he set off a smoke bomb, officials said in a Twitter post. In Winnipeg, police arrested a 42-year-old man who drove through a group of protesters downtown. Three men suffered minor injuries and a fourth was treated in a hospital and released. In Vancouver, police arrested five people amid reports of cars being kicked and nails being thrown on roadways. The incidents occurred as demonstrations against vaccine mandates and Covid restrictions expanded across Canada, snarling traffic in major cities from Vancouver to Quebec City. In Toronto, a large group of protesters, trucks and tractors clogged part of the city’s centre through most of Saturday, though it was cleared at night, according to police in Canada’s largest city. In the nation’s capital, however, hundreds of trucks continued to occupy the downtown area near Canada’s parliament with no sign that they plan to leave. Ottawa’s police services board held an emergency meeting in which the police chief described the situation as a “siege” and said his force lacks the resources to bring an end to demonstrations that began on January 28. Truckers in the Ottawa protests have been stockpiling jerry cans of diesel fuel and other necessities to keep them going. They’ve commandeered a baseball stadium car park as a logistics centre and have built a wood shed as a kitchen in a downtown park. Their blockade of streets and use of air horns for days – sometimes deep into the night – has angered residents. The protests started in reaction to Canadian and US laws that went into effect in January, requiring truckers crossing the border to be fully vaccinated. They have since morphed into a rally against Covid-19 restrictions more broadly, and Canada’s “Freedom Convoy” has since been championed by the likes of Fox News and by podcaster Joe Rogan, Tesla billionaire Elon Musk and former President Donald Trump. US demonstrators planned to follow the Canadian protests with a similar convoy to Washington, DC. “This is an extremely polarising situation,” said Winnipeg Police Constable Rob Carver. “There are very divergent views, not just here but across the country.” Russia hits new daily Covid record: 180,000 cases Russia is reporting a record daily count of new coronavirus infections of 180,071, a tenfold spike from a month ago as the highly contagious omicron variant spreads through the country. The figure released by the state coronavirus task force on Sunday was about 2,800 cases more than recorded the previous day and continued a surge that began in mid-January, when daily new cases were around 17,000. Although the number of infections has increased dramatically in recent weeks, the task force reported that daily deaths from Covid-19 are holding steady or marginally declining: 661 deaths were recorded over the past 24 hours, compared with 796 on January 6. For the entire course of the pandemic, the task force has reported 12.8 million infections and 335,414 deaths. Russia’s Putin gets experimental nasal vaccine against coronavirus Despite the soaring infections, President Vladimir Putin told Russia’s top business association last week that authorities are not planning any lockdowns or other additional restrictions because of the surge. Moreover, the government lifted the seven-day self-isolation restrictions for those who come into contact with Covid-19 patients. Faced with the biggest virus surge yet, Russian authorities have generally resisted imposing any major restrictions and repeatedly rejected the idea of introducing a lockdown. Russia had only one, six-week lockdown in 2020, and in October 2021 many people were also ordered to stay off work for about a week. But beside that, life in most of the country remained largely normal, with even mask mandates being loosely enforced. In recent weeks, a growing number of Russian regions have started introducing restrictions for those under 18, as officials noted that the current surge affects children much more than the previous ones. In many areas, schools have either switched to remote learning or extended holidays for students. In St Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city, minors have been temporarily barred from most public places. Russia started vaccinating children aged 12-17 only last month with the domestically developed Sputnik M jab, which is the same as Sputnik V but contains a smaller dose. According to media reports and social media users, only small amounts of vaccine for teenagers have been made available. Only about half of Russia’s 146-million population has been vaccinated so far, even though the country was among the first in the world to roll out Covid-19 shots. Record number of severely ill Covid-19 patients in Israel The number of serious Covid-19 cases in Israel continues to rise to record highs, with 1,263 reported on Sunday. This is the highest number since the start of the pandemic. On Saturday the figure was 1,229. Before this, the number of serious cases had peaked on January 26 last year with around 1,185 seriously ill people. Israeli hospitals are struggling to cope with demand. At the same time, however, there are signs that the Omicron wave is gradually breaking in Israel, with the number of reported new infections steadily decreasing. Coronavirus rules in the country are to be relaxed further from Monday. AU states to form new health organisation for African nations due to Covid-19 African nations have agreed to establish a new health organisation for the continent in response to the coronavirus pandemic. A draft setting out the plan was approved by heads of state and government at a summit of the African Union (AU) in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa this weekend. “The concept is endorsed,” John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Sunday. The AU health organisation will provide the foundations for the new body, called the African Preparedness and Response Authority (APRA). South Africa becomes Africa’s clear leader in coronavirus infections The CDC is seeking to pool the resources of African states and coordinate measures to combat Covid-19. The new organisation will be given an autonomous structure that gives it extensive powers and allows it to report directly to the respective governments. One of the organisation’s main tasks will be designing a rapid response action programme for future pandemics, said Olive Shishana, head of the AU’s Covid commission. In her view, funding the new organisation should not be difficult. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, 10.8 million infections have been documented across Africa. However, experts believe the real number is much higher due to the many cases that go unreported on the continent of 1.3 billion people. Nkengasong also announced several initiatives in the coming weeks to mobilise young Africans to help vaccination campaigns. Churches and religious groups are also to be involved. Four detained for ‘insulting’ tweets about Turkish president’s Covid infection Four people have been detained in Turkey for allegedly posting “insulting” comments about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s coronavirus infection, state media reported on Sunday. In total, more than 30 accounts are being investigated for offensive remarks made about the president and his wife Emine contracting the virus, the Anadolu news agency reported. Erdogan, who turns 68 this month, tweeted on Saturday that they had both tested positive but were experiencing only “mild” symptoms. Turkey’s Erdogan and wife catch ‘mild’ cases of Omicron Anadolu gave no details on the content of the messages. The pro-government newspaper Sabah wrote that some of the Twitter users under investigation had obliquely wished Erdogan dead. Among them was the former Turkish national swimmer Derya Büyükuncu. Sports Minister Mehmet Kasapoglu said there would be consequences for the athlete. Police said Erdogan had been insulted, his honour violated and his reputation damaged. Erdogan’s state of health is a recurring topic in Turkey. In July, a video of the president nodding off during a speech helped fuel rumours. Then in November, after the hashtag #ölmüs (“deceased”) began to be used, cases were opened against about 30 people. Reporting by Bloomberg, Associated Press, dpa.