While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, July 5

America celebrates Independence Day but political tension is building

This Fourth of July weekend, the United States has something to celebrate.

Close to 70 per cent of adults have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and the economy is chugging, with latest employment numbers showing 850,000 jobs added in June, which means total jobs recovered from the pandemic-induced crash have reached 15.6 million.

Americans took to the skies for the holiday in droves. The Transportation Security Administration reported it screened 2,196,411 people nationwide last Friday – the highest since the pandemic, and higher than the same day in 2019.

But the partying and fireworks belie building political tension.

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Johnson to set out plan for Britain’s final Covid-19 lockdown easing

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out plans for the final step of easing lockdown in England on Monday, including guidance on social distancing, face coverings and working from home, the government said.

The remaining legal restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 are due to be lifted on July 19, with the decision whether to go ahead scheduled for July 12.

Data suggests that cases will continue to rise as restrictions are eased, but the link to hospitalisations and deaths has been weakened by the vaccination programme, the government said.

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Xi, top European leaders said to plan call as tensions flare

Chinese President Xi Jinping, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron are expected to hold a video call this week, said people with knowledge of the matter.

The agenda isn’t yet known, according to the people, who asked not to be named as the information isn’t public.

The virtual meeting will not be the first high-level communication between the trio at a time the pandemic has halted most international travel by world leaders. 

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Settlement agreed to release ship that blocked Suez Canal

The owners and insurers of the Ever Given container ship that blocked the Suez Canal in March said on Sunday a formal settlement had been agreed in a compensation dispute, and the canal authority said the vessel would be allowed to sail on July 7.

The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) has held the giant ship and its crew in a lake between two stretches of the waterway since it was dislodged on March 29, amid a dispute over a demand for compensation by the SCA.

The Japanese-owned Ever Given had become stuck in high winds and remained wedged across the canal for six days, disrupting global trade.

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Saudi energy minister says Opec+ supply pact needs to be extended

Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said on Sunday (July 4) that an Opec+ global oil supply pact due to end in April 2022 should continue for longer, Saudi-owned Asharq television reported.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman’s remarks came after the United Arab Emirates suggested deferring a decision by the group on extending the deal.

Asharq also quoted the prince as saying there should be an increase in production to meet an expected decline in oil supply during the summer period.

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