In Lebanon, Najib Mikati is set to begin his bid to form a government, a day after he was designated as the new prime minister. Mikati is due to hold consultations with leading political parties in an attempt to form the long-awaited government. That marks the third such attempt by a politician in a year. Last week, Prime Minister-designate Sa’ad Hariri failed to form a cabinet and stepped down. He cited differences with President Michel Aoun. Lebanon has been run by a caretaker administration since August last year. That’s when the government resigned in the aftermath of a devastating explosion in the Beirut port. The political vacuum has fueled Lebanon’s financial crisis. Mikati has pledged reforms and transparency.
Thaw in relations
North and South Korea have agreed to restore cross-border communication lines that were severed more than a year ago. The decision is the first step of an agreement between leaders of the two countries to improve ties. That’s according to a statement by the South Korean presidential office. It said, to that aim, President Moon Jae-in and the North’s Kim Jong Un have exchanged personal letters since April. Seoul said the two leaders also agreed to restore mutual trust as soon as possible. North Korea’s official news agency has confirmed the announcement. The North cut off all official military and political communication links with the South in June last year. It did so after activists sent anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border.
Australia Covid restrictions
Australia's most populous state of New South Wales faces an extension of coronavirus-related restrictions after new cases surged to a 16-month high. New South Wales reported 172 new infections Tuesday. That’s up from 145 cases a day earlier. In response, the local government said the five-week lockdown in the state could be further extended. A final decision is expected later this week. More than half of Australia's nearly 26 million population has been under lockdown in recent weeks. It followed an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant in New South Wales’ capital, Sydney and its spread to three other states. Australia has so far recorded over 33,000 Covid cases and 920 deaths from the pandemic.