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Cape Town introduces ‘world’s first water police’ after drought

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There was a point, earlier this year, when it looked like Cape Town was going to run out of water.

As a consequence, the people who run the city decided to change the rules.

At the beginning of February, officials introduced a series of water restrictions that are so draconian, they simply have no precedent world-wide.

It is not like they had much choice. This bustling city of four million souls has gone three years without significant rainfall – and the six dams which supply this ocean-side community are running dangerously low.

This was the moment “the crisis got real for a lot of people,” says Richard Bosman, the city’s executive director for safety and security.

Residents were restricted to just 50 litres of water and a host of everyday practices are prohibited under a series of measures known locally as “level 6B”.

Washing cars with municipal water is illegal.

Police monitor water use in Cape Town after three years without significant rainfall
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Officials introduced a series of water restrictions after a severe shortage

Topping up a swimming pool with city water is illegal (including inflatable paddling pools).

Watering the garden? Don’t even think about it.

“People turned around and said to themselves ‘we have to stop blaming the city for this’,” says Mr Bosman.

“We are going to have to save water. There has been this big change in mindset. Everywhere you go people are talking about water now.”

:: Cape Town drought hurts key tourism industry

Not everybody in Cape Town has changed their mindset however. To help enforce “level 6B”, the city now employs more than 60 officers as part of a specialised water inspectorate.

They are, for all practical purposes, the world’s first water police.

Sky News spent several days with the “water squad” and we did not have to wait long to see them in action.

Officers Ashwyn Maxim and Natasha Terreblanche received a tip off about an illegal car wash operating at an auto repair centre.

 Officers Ashwyn Maxim and Natasha Terreblanche monitor water use in Cape Town
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Officers Ashwyn Maxim and Natasha Terreblanche on patrol

The pair pulled up in their unmarked car, strode across the garage’s forecourt and caught the manager and her employees in the act.

“These people are using the municipal supply – as you can see there is the pipe,” said Officer Maxim as he gestured towards a hose pipe lying in a large pool of water.

A series of employees fumbled for words before the owner was located in the bottom of a pick-up truck.

“You are not allowed to use the municipal (water) supply and you know that,” said the exasperated-sounding officer.

“We have been here three times before, we have informed you, but you are still using city water. Why?”

The woman did not have much to say and the team from the water inspectorate were in no mood to forgive. She was handed a fine for 3,000 Rand (£180).

Police monitor water use in Cape Town after three years without significant rainfall
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Washing cars with municipal water is illegal in Cape Town

This bust came courtesy of an eagle-eyed member of the public who called the city’s special 24/7 hotline.

It is something Mr Bosman is particularly happy about because city residents are now operating like a volunteer detachment of the inspectorate.

He said: “We have neighbours phoning on each other saying, ‘hey, my neighbour’s pool looks pristine’ – or my sister’s pool, or my uncle’s pool and ‘they are using tap water to fill up’.

“Everyone is aware, everyone is so aware of who is using a hose pipe and they are passing it all on.”

We saw Cape Town’s water police deal with a host of other incidents over the course of a couple of days and like the drought itself, their presence on the streets is viewed by many as a basic fact of life.

Working as a “water-cop” is not exactly what Officer Maxim always dreamed of doing.

“I thought it was all a bit silly at first. I mean, water, why water?” he told me.

“But I soon realised I had to pull up my socks. I saw how serious this all is. Without water there is no life and we are not playing games.”

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Public praised for ‘heroic’ acts in detaining attacker in NZ supermarket stabbing | World News

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Shoppers and staff at a New Zealand supermarket have been praised for their courage in trying to stop an attacker armed with a knife while waiting for police to arrive.

The man stabbed four people, including two employees at the Countdown supermarket in the South Island city of Dunedin on Monday.

All four victims are in hospital, with three in a serious but stable condition, while the fourth is described as being in a moderate condition.

According to NZ media reports, one is a Department of Corrections officer, one is his wife (a nurse), the third is a manager at the supermarket and the other is a female employee.

New Zealand Police superintendent Paul Basham said he had watched CCTV footage of the attack and the efforts of bystanders to detain the man until police arrived were “nothing short of heroic”.

“This was a fast-moving and extremely traumatic event for every person in the supermarket – for the victims who were stabbed, for those who were present who tried to intervene and those who had to flee to a place of safety.

“What I can say is that those who intervened, some of whom became injured themselves, I think have acted selflessly and with great courage to prevent this man from hurting anybody else,” he said.

A man, 42, has been charged with four counts of attempted murder and he will appear in court later today.

He was also injured in the attack and was treated under police guard.

Supermarket staff embrace as police officers take a victim to an ambulance outside a Countdown supermarket in central Dunedin, New Zealand, Monday May 10, 2021. Pic: AP
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Four people were injured, including two supermarket employees. Pic: AP

The motivation for the attack has not been confirmed, with Mr Basham saying: “On the face of what we currently know, we believe this was a random attack”.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also praised the actions of those in the supermarket during the attack, describing them as “courageous acts…to protect those around them”.

Supermarket chain Countdown said employees were “shocked and devastated” by what had happened, adding: “We are deeply upset that customers who tried to help our team members were also injured”.

The company said its priority is the injured employees and “caring for our wider team in the wake of this extremely traumatic event”.

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COVID-19: Overweight and obese more likely to test positive for the virus | World News

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People with a higher body mass index – BMI – are more likely to test positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, a study suggests.

Research by Chaim Sheba Medical Centre in Israel found that people who are overweight – with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 – are 22% more likely to contract the virus.

The figure for people who are obese – with a BMI between 30 and 34.9 – rises to 27%.

For those who are morbidly obese, with a BMI at or above 40, the risk increases by 86%.

Some 26,030 people were tested between 16 March and 31 December last year and 1,178 positive COVID-19 tests were recorded.

Even after age, sex, and other medical conditions were considered, the relationship between BMI and the probability of a person testing positive remained significant, the researchers found.

The study authors concluded: “As BMI rises above normal, the likelihood of a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result increases, even when adjusted for a number of patient variables.

“Furthermore, some of the comorbidities associated with obesity appear to either be associated with an increased risk of infection or to be protective.”

People with diabetes were 30% more likely to test positive, while the likelihood was six times greater for those with high blood pressure.

But the risk was reduced for those with a history of stroke (by 39%), ischemic heart disease (by 55%) and chronic kidney disease (by 45%).

The researchers were unable to explain this.

Also, research by the IRCCS Policlinico San Donato research hospital in Italy, has found that abdominal obesity is more important than general obesity in predicting the severity of chest X-ray results in coronavirus patients.

Abdominal obesity is fat around the waist as opposed to general obesity, which is determined by BMI.

Chest X-ray severity scores were calculated by dividing each lung into three zones, with each one scoring a maximum of three points – zero for normal lung performance and three for poor function.

Some 59% of patients with abdominal obesity had a high score, whereas this was true for just 35% of those without abdominal obesity.

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Hamas says it has fired rockets at Jerusalem in retaliation for Israeli ‘aggression’ | World News

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A number of rockets have been fired at Jerusalem and the surrounding area, says Israel’s military.

It came minutes after an ultimatum from Hamas for Israel to withdraw forces from two flashpoints in the city.

The group claimed responsibility for the attack, calling it retaliation for Israeli “crimes and aggression”.

Israel carried out a missile strike in northern Gaza in response, causing injuries, according to Palestinian media.

Seven rockets had set off sirens in Jerusalem and the surrounding area and rocket fire from Gaza was continuing, said Israel’s military.

A civilian car was hit and one person injured by one of the rockets, it added.

Sky’s Mark Stone, in Jerusalem, said he understood a number of rockets were fired at an area 10-15km west of the city.

He said Israel’s Iron Dome defence system is believed to have destroyed most, but that a few landed.

Stone said the attack was almost certain to mean a “heavy night of bombardment” on Hamas base the Gaza Strip this evening.

It comes as clashes in Jerusalem between Palestinians and Israeli forces reportedly injured more than 300 people.

Police fired stun grenades and tear gas inside the Old City’s Al Aqsa Mosque during the violence this morning.

Israeli authorities said “extremists” had thrown stones and other objects at officers, and onto a road near the Western Wall where thousands of people had gathered to pray.

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