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SpaceX astronauts reveal the surprising details of their historic trip to space

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Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken landed on the International Space Station (ISS), over two hours after docking with the orbiting laboratory. They had to run pressure and leak tests before exiting the Crew Dragon capsule.

They met American astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian space station residents Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, as they left their spacecraft.

Both are currently official affiliates of the Expedition 63 crew.

Speaking to the men from mission control in Houston, Texas, Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine said: “The whole world saw this mission and we are so, so proud of everything you’ve done for our country and, in fact, to inspire the world.”

Mr Hurley and Mr Behnken’s 19-hour itinerary on SpaceX’s Dragon capsule on top of the Falcon 9 rocket started in Cape Canaveral in Florida on Saturday evening.

Despite only being 300 miles above the planet, the space station took almost a day to reach.

A number of manoeuvres had to be performed to raise its orbit to get close enough to hook up to the space station.

The assignment, dubbed Demo-2, is the first mission Nasa where has launched astronauts from the US in nine years.

SpaceX also became the first private firm to launch humans into orbit in a historic event.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: The truth about how New Zealand beat deadly disease

The mission aims to prove SpaceX’s ability to send astronauts into the space station and bring them back safely.

It is the last major procedure for SpaceX’s astronaut carrier, the Crew Dragon, to get authorised by Nasa’s Commercial Crew Programme for long-term manned missions to space.

Mr Hurley and Mr Behnken have entitled their Dragon capsule Endeavour as a tribute to Space Shuttle Endeavour, a retired orbiter from Nasa’s Space Shuttle programme.

He added: “Endeavour is going to get a lot of checkout over the next week or two here and hopefully we will be able to declare her operational.

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“Doug and I will be able to take some burden off Chris and his crew mates Ivan and Anatoli, so that we can keep the space station operating at a peak possibility.

“So we are looking forward to contributing any way that we can and, like I said, trying to keep (the) space station as productive as possible.”

The mission is expected to last anything between one and four months.

Speaking of their sleeping patterns, Mr Behnken said: “We did get probably a good seven hours or so of opportunity for sleep and I did succeed at sleep and Doug did as well.”The first night is always a bit of a challenge but the Dragon was a sleek vehicle and we had good airflow. So we had an excellent evening.”

He added that he was “excited to be back in low-Earth orbit again.”

Mr Behnken said while they are on the space station, they hope to put the Dragon capsule, which they called Endeavour, through its paces and aiding other members of the crew in different other exercises.

He added: “Endeavour is going to get a lot of checkout over the next week or two here and hopefully we will be able to declare her operational.

“Doug and I will be able to take some burden of Chris and his crew mates Ivan and Anatoli so that we can keep the space station operating at a peak possibility.

“So we are looking forward to contributing any way that we can and like I said trying to keep (the) space station as productive as possible.”

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Hong Kong reports first local COVID-19 cases in two weeks

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong has confirmed its first locally transmitted coronavirus cases in more than two weeks, fuelling concerns over its spread as restrictions on movement are relaxed.

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) said on Sunday it was investigating two confirmed cases of coronavirus, taking the number of cases so far to 1,085. Four people have died of the disease in Hong Kong.

The global financial hub last reported a locally transmitted case on May 14, when a 62-year-old man with no travel history was confirmed with coronavirus.

The two new cases involved a 34-year-old woman and a 56-year-old man. Neither had a travel history during the incubation or infectious period, CHP said. Contact tracing was under way, it added.

The woman is a night-shift worker at a Kerry Logistics warehouse in Kwai Chung district where she labels food items imported from the United Kingdom, broadcaster RTHK reported.

Two co-workers, who fell ill about a month ago, tested positive for COVID-19 and authorities are investigating if the warehouse where one of the patients works represents a new cluster of infections, RTHK reported, citing CHP.

About 25 staff in the warehouse and three medical staff who dealt with one of the patients are being quarantined for 14 days, RTHK reported.

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Rio Tinto apologises for blowing up 46,000-year-old Aboriginal site

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Rio Tinto apologised for the destruction of a sacred Aboriginal cave in Western Australia that showed evidence of continual habitation dating back 46,000 years, and said it would urgently review its plans for other sites in the area.

Rio Tinto blew up the cave last week in Juukan Gorge, about 1,075 km (667 miles) north of Perth, as part of an expansion programme in the Pilbara iron ore region, provoking a local outcry and calls for reform of heritage protection laws.

Explosives destroyed two ancient rock shelters, where artefacts discovered included 4,000-year-old plaited human hair with genetic links to the present day traditional owners, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) people.

“That site, for us, that’s where our ancestors were occupying their traditional land,” PKKP director Burchell Hayes told Australian Broadcasting Corp, adding that the community felt sorrow and sadness over the loss of heritage.

The mining giant, which had been granted state government approval in 2013 to damage or destroy the site under a legal framework that is currently under review, apologised on Sunday.

“We pay our respects to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people, and we are sorry for the distress we have caused,” Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said in a statement.

The miner said that it had performed archaeological work in 2014 to preserve significant cultural heritage artefacts, recovering approximately 7,000 objects.

Rio said that it would work with traditional owners to look at its approach to preserving heritage.

“As a matter of urgency, we are reviewing the plans of all other sites in the Juukan Gorge area,” Salisbury said.

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt last week flagged a need to strengthen the protection of indigenous sites, while his state counterpart said Western Australia was moving to fix out-of-date legislation.

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Podcaster in Golden, B.C., raises awareness of chronic diseases with sound bites

Becky Gale isn’t just creating a podcast — she’s trying to spark a movement.

“The Chronic Movement is to make it so that people are not being misdiagnosed for years and that people are being invalidated and people are being heard,” said Gale.

Gale was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2011 after six years of being misdiagnosed. The misdiagnoses are a common thread she has noticed with many of the people she has interviewed from her home studio in Golden, B.C.

By 2030, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada predict that 1 in 100 Canadians will be diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and the podcaster said that she wants to make sure no one feels isolated.

“There’s a lot of people out there who are suffering in silence and suffering alone and that’s not OK,” said Gale.

When she was diagnosed, Gale went to a support group but said that she didn’t feel comfortable so she decided to make an online support group for people who have been diagnosed with a chronic disease.

To help, she releases multiple podcasts a week sharing people’s stories from around the world who have received various diagnoses.

“I’m actually doing this from the bottom of my heart because I don’t want people to suffer like I did,” said Gale. “I want to create a community so that we can all talk about our experiences and get connected with people who have similar diseases as a whole.”

To hear the stories Gale shares, listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or visit her website www. curechronic.com

 

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Coronavirus: Bolsonaro’s Trump-like theatre ignores the crisis gripping Brazil

A posse of mule-riding cowboys and cowgirls, Brazilian flags aloft, trot along the vast parks that are the centre of Brasilia, the country’s capital.

It’s quite a sight as they are cheered on by thousands of anti-lockdown protesters who are in the city for their now weekly rally.

The numbers vary and the count is always contested but by any standards large numbers of people flooded the roads in their cars, horns honking and vuvuzelas blaring out a deafening cacophony. Many have travelled from towns and cities hundreds of miles away.

It is noisy and raucous and utterly defiant. Forget social distancing, forget staying safe. In fact, forget COVID-19.

These are the faithful supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro, who continues to pour scorn on the pandemic and is willing to ignore the crisis engulfing the country.

The number of people being infected every day is in the tens of thousands but the crowds seem utterly oblivious to the fact that these types of gatherings are potentially lethal.

Mr Bolsonaro’s supporters call him “Legend”, they chant it constantly, and they come here to see him.

His arrival is pure theatre. Circling the crowd time and again, he waves from the open door of a military helicopter to his adoring supporters on the ground shouting and urging him on.

Finally he appears outside the presidential palace surrounded by guards, but walking the lines of supporters, shaking hands as they chant his name and mainly scream.

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Why do some protests turn violent?

Curfews have been imposed in multiple cities in the US, after unrest and protests have spread across the country over the death of a black man, George Floyd, in police custody.

Most of the protests began peacefully – and several stayed peaceful. But in a large number of cases, demonstrators clashed with police, set police cars on fire, vandalised property or looted shops. The National Guard has been activated 5,000 of its personnel across 15 states and Washington DC.

Experts have also drawn parallels with the 2011 England riots – when a peaceful protest over a man who was shot dead by police turned into four days of riots, with widespread looting and buildings set alight.

How do protests spread so quickly – and why do some become violent?

Protests spread when there’s a shared identity

Incidents like Mr Floyd’s death can “become a trigger moment because it symbolises a broader experience, amongst much larger numbers of people, about the relationship between police and the black community”, says Prof Clifford Stott, an expert in crowd behaviour and public order policing at Keele University.

Confrontations are particularly likely when there are structural inequalities, he adds.

Prof Stott studied the 2011 England riots extensively, and found that the riots there spread because protesters in different cities identified with each other – either because of their ethnicity, or because they shared a dislike of the police.

This meant that, when the police appeared to be overwhelmed, rioters in different districts felt empowered to mobilise.

How the police respond matters

Violent protests are less likely when police have a good relationship with the local community – but how they react to demonstrations on the day also matters, experts say.

“Riots are a product of interactions – largely to do with the nature of the way police treats crowds,” says Prof Stott.

For example, he says, in a large crowd of protesters, tensions may begin with just a few people confronting the police.

However, “police often react towards the crowd as a whole” – and if people feel that the police use of force against them is unjustified, this increases their “us versus them” mentality.

This “can change the way people feel about violence and confrontation – for example, they may start feeling that violence is legitimate given the circumstances.”

Darnell Hunt, dean of social sciences at UCLA, believes police in the US “ramped up their aggressiveness” over the weekend.

“Deploying the national guard, using rubber bullets, tear gas, and pepper spray – these are a range of police tactics that can exacerbate an already-tense situation.”

It’s a pattern that has been seen in other protests around the world too. For example, in 2019, Hong Kong saw seven months of anti-government protests, that began as mostly peaceful and ended up increasingly violent.

Experts highlight a series of police tactics that were seen as heavy-handed – including the firing of large amounts of tear gas at young protesters – as moves that galvanised protesters and made them more confrontational.

Prof Stott argues that police forces that have invested in de-escalation training are more likely to avoid violence at protests. He points to protests that were able to stay peaceful in the US over the weekend – such as in Camden, New Jersey, where officers joined the residents in a march against racism.

Chief Wysocki on the march today, standing together with the residents we serve to remember and honor George Floyd. #StrongerTogether #CamdenStrong pic.twitter.com/UJAjxXkxrx

End of Twitter post by @CamdenCountyPD

It also depends on what’s at stake

Moral psychology can help explain why some protests turn violent, says Marloon Moojiman, an assistant professor in organisational behaviour at Rice University.

A person’s sense of morality is central to how they see themselves, so “when we see something as immoral, it creates strong feelings, because we feel our understanding of morality has to be protected”.

“This can override other concerns people have about keeping peace”, because “if you think the system is broken, you’re going to want to really do something drastic to show that that’s not acceptable.”

This can apply to a wide range of beliefs – for example, in an extreme case, someone who thinks abortion is a moral outrage may be more likely to say it’s OK to bomb an abortion clinic, he says.

Research suggests that social media echo chambers could also make people more susceptible to endorsing violence, if they believe that their peers have the same moral views as them, he adds.

Looting and vandalism can be more targeted than you think

In the US, hundreds of businesses have been damaged, and there has been widespread looting in LA and Minneapolis over the weekend.

However, Prof Stott warns that while it’s easy to assume that riots and crowds are “irrational and chaotic, none of that is true – it’s highly structured and meaningful for the people taking part”.

“To some extent, looting is an expression of power – black citizens may have felt disempowered in relation to the police – but in the context of a riot, the rioters momentarily become more powerful than the police.”

Studies of previous riots show that places that get looted are often related to big businesses, and that looting “often relates to the sense of inequality related to living in capitalistic economies”, he says.

Prof Hunt has studied the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which were sparked after four white police officers were acquitted over the videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King.

He says there is “a long history of targeting, or selectivity”, in vandalism and looting. “In the LA uprisings, you’d often see ‘minority owned’ spray painted on minority businesses, so that people would bypass those.”

However, both Prof Stott and Prof Hunt caution that looting is complicated – especially as lots of people with different motivations take part, including people in poverty, or organised criminals.

The idea that violent protests are targeted and meaningful events to those taking part can also explain why looting occurs in some protests, but not others.

In Hong Kong for example, protesters smashed shop windows, threw petrol bombs at police, and defaced the national emblem – but there was no looting.

Lawrence Ho, a specialist in policing and public order management at the Education University of Hong Kong, believes this is because those protests were triggered by political developments and anger at the police, rather than discrimination and social inequality.

“Vandalism was targeted at stores seen to have a strong connection to mainland China,” says Dr Ho. “It was a deliberate attempt to convey a message.”

How can violence be prevented?

Public order experts say that for the police, being seen as legitimate and able to engage protesters in dialogue is key.

“Good policing tries to avoid an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality, and also tries to avoid the sense that police can act in ways that people see as illegitimate,” says Prof Stott.

Dr Ho also believes that negotiation is the best way – but points out that “one of the hardest things today is that a lot of protests are leaderless. If you can’t find the leader, you can’t negotiate with them.”

More generally, he adds, politicians can make matters better – or worse – based on their approach to dialogue, and whether they use emergency legislation.

Ultimately, however, riots can be a symptom of deep-seated tensions and complicated issues that don’t have an easy solution.

Prof Hunt says this week’s US riots are the most serious ones since 1968 – when Martin Luther King was assassinated.

“You can’t think about police brutality, and the profiling of certain communities, without thinking about the inequalities that exist in society and fuelled those concerns,” he says.

“The George Floyd case was not the cause – it’s more like the straw that broke the camel’s back. You could argue even the police killings are symptoms – the underlying cause is white supremacy, racism, and things the US has not fundamentally dealt with.”

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Tropical Storm Amanda kills at least seven people in El Salvador

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) – Tropical Storm Amanda has killed at least seven people in El Salvador as heavy rains made rivers overflow, flooded city streets and produced landslides, Interior Minister Mario Duran said on Sunday.

“We’ve seen people asking for help, asking for the government. We haven’t deployed everywhere, the situation is overwhelming,” said Duran.

Among those killed was an eight-year-old boy, who died after the house he was in collapsed, while another person was killed by a falling wall and another drowned in a swollen river, Salvadoran civil protection authorities said.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Amanda or its remnants are expected to produce rain totals of 10 to 15 inches over El Salvador, southern Guatemala, western Honduras, and the Mexican states of Tabasco and Veracruz.

The storm’s heavy rainfall could “cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides across portions of Central America and southern Mexico, and these threats will continue over the next several days even after Amanda is no longer a tropical cyclone,” said the NHC.

Amanda was packing maximum sustained winds of nearly 40 miles per hour (65 kilometers per hour) with higher gusts and was expected to weaken “very soon” as its center moves farther inland, said the NHC.

It is forecast to degenerate into a remnant low or dissipate over the mountains of Central America later on Sunday.

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No COVID-19 deaths reported in Sweden in 24 hours, but weekend figures typically delayed

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Sweden has not reported any coronavirus deaths in the last 24 hours, for the first time since March 13, the health authority said on Sunday, but there is typically a delay in reporting figures at weekends.

Sweden’s open approach to the virus, mostly based on voluntary social distancing and basic hygiene, has been criticized by some as a dangerous experiment, but also once touted as a future model by the World Health Organization.

Last week, Sweden had the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in Europe per capita over a seven-day-period, data showed.

There have been previous weekends where the death toll has increased by as little as two, only for a steeper rise to return in the following days when the reporting catches up, the health authority spokesman said.

The pandemic has killed 4,395 people in Sweden.

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Who is Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Iraq's new prime minister?

Al-Kadhimi is viewed as pragmatic as well as having good relations with main players across Iraqi political spectrum.

Iraq’s new Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi took office after the country’s parliament approved a new government on Wednesday following nearly six months of political wrangling.

The parliament approved 15 ministers out of a prospective 22-seat cabinet in a vote of confidence. Five candidates were rejected while voting on two ministers was postponed, leaving seven ministries still empty, including the key oil and foreign affairs positions.

More:

  • Iraq forms new government after six months of uncertainty

  • Could it be third time lucky in Iraq with new PM-designate?

  • Iraqi PM to resign after deadly anti-government protests

Two previous nominees for the role of prime minister – Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi and Adnan al-Zurfi – failed to secure enough support among cabinet ministers.

This led to President Barham Salih appointing al-Kadhimi as prime minister-designate last month as the third candidate to form a cabinet, amidst a backdrop of anti-government protests.

The protests began in October 2019 after thousands of Iraqis took to the streets and called for the overhaul of what they said was the country’s political and corrupt ruling elite.

Heavy-handed responses by the government security forces, which killed hundreds of protesters, forced then Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to resign, although he remained in a caretaker role until Allawi was appointed in early February.

Before the voting session on the new cabinet on Wednesday, al-Kadhimi said his government would be a “solution-based, not a crisis government”. He promised early elections and rejected the use of Iraq as a battleground by other countries.

The prime minister also pledged to address the repercussions of the economic crisis by rationalising spending and negotiating to restore Iraq’s share of oil exports.

Early life

Born Mustafa Abdellatif Mshatat in 1967 in the capital Baghdad, he left Iraq in 1985 to Iran, before moving to Germany and the United Kingdom, which he later became a citizen of.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in law and is better known for his work as a journalist, where he chose the title of al-Kadhimi. 

He was known to oppose the rule of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. 

After the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003, al-Kadhimi returned to Iraq and cofounded the Iraqi Media Network, running in parallel with his work as executive director of the Iraq Memory Foundation, an organisation founded for the purpose of documenting the crimes under Hussein’s Baath regime.

Al-Kadhimi also served as editor-in-chief of Iraq’s Newsweek magazine for three years from 2010. He is also an opinions writer as well as the editor of the Iraq section of the US-based Al-Monitor website. 

In June 2016, al-Khadhimi took over the role of director of the Iraqi National Intelligence Service, in light of the intensification of the battles against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).

During his tenure, he forged links with dozens of countries and agencies operating within the US-led international coalition against ISIL.

During a rare visit to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, in 2017, accompanied by former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, al-Kadhimi was seen in a long embrace with his friend Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). 

Al-Kadhimi is widely viewed by associates and politicians as having a pragmatic mentality in addition to cultivating relations with all the main players across the Iraqi political spectrum: a good relationship with the US, and another that has recently reached out to the Iranians.

Iran and its allied Iraqi Fatah political bloc had previously vetoed al-Kadhimi’s appointment.

Last month, Kataeb Hezbollah, an armed group close to Iran and linked to the Popular Mobilization Units, issued a statement accusing al-Kadhimi of having blood on his hands for the deaths of its leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, and accused him of collaborating with the US.

However, with the oil price crash and the coronavirus pandemic, compromises were made between the Fatah bloc and al-Kadhimi who said he will uphold the muhasasa, or political apportionment system.

Introduced in Iraq after the 2003 US-led invasion in an attempt to provide proportional government representation among Iraq’s various ethno-sectarian groups, many Iraqis believe the system is deeply flawed and acts as a conduit for corruption and political patronage.

According to Iraqi political analyst Hisham al-Hashimi, al-Kadhimi faces no easy task in getting the country back on its feet again.

“I don’t doubt his ability on the technical issues such as forming equitable laws and a fair commission,” al-Hashimi told Al Jazeera.

“He will succeed in preparing for early elections, but the timing is not on his side due to the dire economic conditions and the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.”

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Bangladesh cartoonist, writer charged for anti-government posts

At least 11 people charged for posting content critical of the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

A Bangladeshi cartoonist and a writer are among 11 people to be charged for posting content on social media critical of the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Two of the 11 – cartoonist Ahmed Kabir Kishore and writer Mushtaq Ahmed – were arrested on Wednesday by the Rapid Action Battalion paramilitary forces under the Digital Security Act (DSA), which critics say is a serious threat to freedom of expression in the nation of 168 million people.

More:

  • Free speech concerns in Bangladesh as writers, activist arrested

  • Bangladesh editor arrested after report on executed Jamaat leader

  • Bangladesh editors protest ‘chilling’ Digital Security Act

Police have arrested at least 40 people in recent weeks under the controversial law that activists say is being used to suppress criticism of the government’s handling of the contagion.

The impoverished South Asian nation has reported 11,719 virus cases and 186 deaths so far, but experts say limited testing by authorities means the true figures could be much higher.

‘Spreading rumours’

The 11 have been charged with “spreading rumours and misinformation on Facebook about the coronavirus situation,” Dhaka Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Shamim Ahmed told AFP news agency.

They are also accused of “undermining the image” of the late Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the nation’s founding leader.

An investigation officer told the Daily Star newspaper that Kishore and Ahmed were arrested on charges of posting anti-government content on Facebook.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who enjoys an absolute majority in Parliament, has been accused of suppressing dissent and jailing opponents.

Kishore was working on a Life in the Time of Corona cartoon series that included caricatures of ruling party leaders and allegations of health sector corruption.

Ahmed has been a vocal online critic about the alleged shortage of protective gear for doctors.

The DSA passed in 2018 authorises prison sentences for up to 14 years for anyone who secretly records government officials or gathers information from a government agency using a computer or other digital device.

It also sets similar punishments for people who spread “negative propaganda” about the country’s 1971 war of independence and its founding leader Sheikh Mujib.

‘Assault to freedom of expression’

Activists and journalists fear misuse of the law.

“It is seen as an assault to freedom of expression, to the right to life and livelihood,” human rights activist Rezaur Rahman Lenin told AFP after the latest charges.

“The government should instead nurture a free press … which can greatly help in curbing the pandemic.”

Bangladesh reported 790 new infections on Wednesday – its fourth-straight one-day record of fresh cases.

The government on Monday extended its nationwide lockdown to May 16, but has allowed factories and some shops to reopen to kickstart the economy.

“There are deaths. We are sorry for that. But the number of deaths is still low compared to other nations,” Health Minister Zahid Maleque said on Tuesday as he acknowledged that the reopenings could drive up infections.

Bangladesh has also lifted restrictions on people congregating in mosques for prayers from Thursday.

Places of worship are to provide hand sanitiser and devotees should wear face masks and use their own prayer mats, the religious affairs ministry said on Wednesday.


UpFront

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