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Anyone over the age of 12 who travels to Malta after Tuesday must present a proof of full vaccination before they will be allowed into the country.

Authorities will require a recognised COVID-19 vaccination certificate, such as the type issued by Malta, the European Union or the United Kingdom’s NHS.

Children aged between five and 12 only need to present a negative PCR test, and the under-fives are exempt.

While the rule applies to everyone, regardless of where they come from, the rules are slightly different for people from the UK, according to Visit Malta and the move effectively bans those aged 12-17 who currently cannot be vaccinated in the UK, unless they are part of a trial, as well as millions of adults who are yet to be vaccinated.

Other countries in the EU, under its green passport system, say anyone who is certified to have been vaccinated, has had a negative PCR test result or has certifiably recovered from COVID-19 can cross their borders, but Malta has decided to only recognise those who are fully vaccinated.

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In late June, the country announced it would not accept the NHS app as proof of vaccination, but relented at the start of this month.

Health minister Chris Fearne said: “Malta will be the first EU country taking this step.”

In the past few weeks, Malta has been a popular option for UK holidaymakers as it is on the UK’s green list, meaning anyone returning does not have to quarantine unless they have a positive test. It is also not on the green watch list, indicating it is not expected to move to the amber list imminently.

The change in rules comes amid a surge in cases across the Mediterranean island, which has a population of just over half a million.

On 1 July, Malta had 46 active cases but by Friday the number had risen to 252.

Malta’s vaccination rates have been high, with 79% of Maltese adults receiving both jabs so far.

Despite that, the Maltese government says 90% of new cases are among the unvaccinated with many of those linked to travel.

The government has also closed English-language schools from Wednesday, after several positive cases linked to those locations were identified.

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Israel v Iran – Is escalation inevitable?

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Vietnam: Property tycoon Truong My Lan sentenced to death after country’s biggest fraud trial

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Vietnam: Property tycoon Truong My Lan sentenced to death after country's biggest fraud trial

A property tycoon has been sentenced to death in Vietnam after the biggest fraud trial in the country’s history.

Truong My Lan was sentenced on Thursday by a court in Ho Chi Minh City after being found guilty of embezzlement, bribery and violations of banking rules following a month-long trial, state media reported.

The 67-year-old chair of the company Van Thinh Phat (VTP) was accused of fraud amounting to $12.5bn – nearly 3% of the country’s GDP in 2022.

Lan and her accomplices were charged with illegally controlling the Saigon Joint Stock Commercial Bank (SCB) between 2012 and 2022 to siphon off funds through thousands of ghost companies and by paying bribes to government officials.

From early 2018 to October 2022, when the state bailed out SCB after a run on its deposits, Lan appropriated large sums by arranging unlawful loans to shell companies, investigators said.

The start of the trial featured prominently in state media, which showed pictures and footage of Lan in the courtroom surrounded by dozens of police officers.

Truong My Lan
Pic: AP
Image:
Lan was sentenced after a month-long trial. Pic: AP

“Lan didn’t plead guilty and didn’t show remorse,” Thanh Nien newspaper cited the prosecutors as saying last month, while demanding the death penalty on the charge of embezzlement.

“The consequences are extremely serious and irreparable, and therefore, there must be a strict punishment for Truong My Lan and remove her from society,” it added.

The harsh sentence was due to the seriousness of the case, with the court saying Lan was at the helm of an orchestrated and sophisticated criminal enterprise that had serious consequences – with no possibility of the money being recovered, state media VnExpress reported on Thursday.

“We will keep fighting to see what we can do,” a family member told Reuters news agency, speaking on condition of anonymity. Before the verdict was issued, he had said Lan would appeal against the sentence.

A total of 84 defendants in the case received sentences ranging from probation to life imprisonment, reported Thanh Nien.

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VTP was among Vietnam’s richest property firms, with projects including luxury residential buildings, offices, hotels and shopping centres.

Lan’s arrest in October 2022 was among the most high-profile in an ongoing anti-corruption drive in Vietnam.

The crackdown, dubbed “blazing furnace”, has led to hundreds of senior state officials and high-profile business leaders facing prosecution or being forced to step down.

Former President Vo Van Thuong resigned in March after being implicated in the campaign.

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Nguyen Phu Trong, leader of the ruling Communist Party, has pledged for years to stamp out corruption in the country.

In November, he said the anti-corruption fight would “continue for the long term”.

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Risks of bigger war rising as Iran intends to hit back over suspected Israeli embassy strike – but Biden knows he can’t blink

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Risks of bigger war rising as Iran intends to hit back over suspected Israeli embassy strike - but Biden knows he can't blink

The risks of the Gaza war expanding into a much bigger regional conflict had seemed to have subsided. Not any longer.

Comments from Iranian and American leaders in the last 24 hours may be entirely predictable but they raise the prospects of escalation.

Iran knows it’s been directly attacked in the airstrike on its embassy in Damascus and unless it retaliates it is weakened.

And in this region that is dangerous.

So on Wednesday, celebrating the end of Ramadan, Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei issued a stern warning that Israel must be punished and will be.

Middle East latest:
Iran attack on Israel could be imminent

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during a meeting with members of the Air Force in Tehran, Iran 
Piv:WANA/Reuters
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Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Piv: WANA/Reuters

The US president knows the attack presumed by most to have been the work of its ally Israel violated international law which declares embassies ‘inviolable’.

And Biden’s relations with the man who almost certainly ordered it, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are rock bottom.

But the US president also knows any sign of weakness on his part is dangerous, too.

It would only embolden Iran to do its worst and that in turn would provoke Israel to do the same – potentially setting the entire region alight.

Joe Biden during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Pic: AP
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Relations are strained between Biden and Netanyahu. Pic: AP

So Joe Biden has declared his ironclad support for Israel and raised the prospect of America becoming directly involved if war were to break out between its ally and Iran.

It is exactly the same calculus that led the US president to send two naval carrier groups to the waters off Israel in the wake of the 7 October attacks by Hamas to warn Iran – ‘don’t get involved’.

That move was successful. This time Biden may need to do more.

Read more:
Three sons of Hamas leader killed in Israeli strike
Key element in path to peace still missing

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Biden: ‘We want to address Iranian threat’

Iran has shown remarkable restraint holding back in this war despite frequent attacks by Israel on its assets and allies in Syria and Lebanon.

It has done so by claiming those attacks were not direct strikes on Iran itself.

The logic is clear. The ayatollahs are weak at home after the biggest uprising against its rule since its revolution and a regional war would be devastating.

But a direct attack on an embassy can’t be overlooked. The Iranians have made that clear.

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They believe they have to retaliate.

But by the same logic, they may try to calibrate their response to avert a regional conflagration.

The region watches and waits.

The balance of stability in the Middle East hangs on Tehran’s decision.

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