Basque Country crowds urged to disperse before Copa final

Authorities in Spain’s Basque Country region on Saturday called on fans of Athletic Bilbao to break up street gatherings that formed ahead of their team’s Copa del Rey final against fierce rival Real Sociedad

A few thousand Bilbao fans violated public health restrictions in place for the coronavirus pandemic when they rallied in rowdy, tightly packed groups in Bilbao city center. Videos published by Spanish radio Cadena SER showed at least one trash container in flames near a crowd of mostly young people, many wearing Bilbao’s red-and-white shirts.

Bilbao’s police made pleas on social media for the crowds to go home. The city’s mayor also criticized the gatherings.

“Some lunatics are provoking incidents before the final. And what about the families that are suffering from COVID and cannot enjoy this historic day? You do not represent the values of Athletic or our city,” mayor Juan Mari Aburto wrote on Twitter.

The match between the two Basque teams was 0-0 at halftime on Saturday night in Seville’s La Cartuja Stadium. No fans have been allowed into the final, which was postponed from the end of last season when the pandemic struck.

Spain is also currently prohibiting travel between regions, meaning that no fans should be able to travel to southern Seville from the northern cities of Bilbao and San Sebastián, home to Real Sociedad.

Spain’s soccer federation had waited until now to hold last year’s cup final in hopes that the pandemic situation would improve enough to allow spectators into the match.

Syria president Bashar al-Assad and his wife test positive for Covid

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma have both tested positive for coronavirus, his office said in a statement posted by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (Sana).

Both had shown mild symptoms for Covid-19 before they were given a test to confirm infection, the statement said.

Assad, 55, was described as being in “good health and a stable condition”. He and his wife will spend two to three weeks at home in isolation before returning to work, the president’s office said.

The announcement comes just days before the 10-year anniversary of the uprising against the Assad regime and his rule, which began after his enforcers abducted and tortured a group of children accused of posting anti-government graffiti in the southern city of Daraa.

The ensuing public response to the torture of the children prompted a massive uprising against the Assad family’s decades-long dictatorship.

As the regime of Mr Assad clung to power, the conflict eventually descended into a civil war drawing in major regional and international powers, as well as armed jihadi groups, including Isis.

Mr Assad and his deputies have been accused of perpetrating the worst crimes against humanity of the 21st century, including the deliberate targeting of hospitals in opposition-held areas now struggling to cope with a flood of coronavirus patients.

Over the years, Mr Assad and his loyalists have repeatedly tried to win sympathy from the international conflict and avoid accountability for actions, despite a “large and growing body of evidence”, according to the US, that the regime has used chemical weapons against its own civilians.

The statement posted to Sana said the Assads “wish safety and well-being for all Syrians and all the peoples of the world from this virus,” calling on Syrians to follow health protocols.

The Assads provided no proof that they had contracted Covid.

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