The Guardian (Reprinted)

The aftermath of the protests in Kazakhstan, floods in Brazil, fire in the Bronx and Novak Djokovic supporters in Melbourne: the most striking images from around the world this week

Windows of a building, which were smashed during recent protests triggered by the fuel price increase in Almaty.

Supporters of Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic gather around a car outside what is believed to be the location of his lawyer’s office during a day of legal proceedings over the cancellation of his visa to play in the Australian Open.

People look out their window at the apartment building on East 181st Street which was the scene of a fire in the Bronx borough of New York.

Israeli security forces advance during a protest held by Bedouins against tree-planting by the Jewish national fund on disputed land near Bedouin village of al-Atrash in the Negev desert.

Israeli security forces detain a Bedouin man during a protest against forestation at the Negev desert village of Sawe al-Atrash.

Houses burn during a fire in the low income neighbourhood of Laguna Verde.

Neighbours help firefighters combat the fire in Laguna Verde.

A woman looks on from a canoe after leaving her house during floods caused by heavy rain in Maraba.

A firefighter finds a statue of a saint in the mud as she carries out inspection works in Raposos after the level of the Rio das Velhas lowered following heavy rains in the state of Minas Gerais.

Police officers detain people in a street in Almaty.

A student seats alone in a classroom after reporting back to school on day one of re-opening following an almost two-year closure to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Kampala.

Travellers watch television whilst waiting for cross border transport to resume in Bamako.

Priests chant and dance during the celebration of Genna, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christmas, at Saint Mary’s Church in Lalibela.

Olympic Cougar Project members work to replace the GPS collar on Lilu, a wild cougar, near Port Angeles.

A man sleeps on the sidewalk while pedestrians walk by and look at their smartphones in downtown Barcelona.

Villagers arrive to participate in community fishing as part of Bhogali Bihu celebrations in the village of Panbari.

Soldiers take part in the rehearsal for the Republic Day parade on a foggy winter morning in New Delhi.

A trainee pulls a fellow trainee, who is pretending to be injured, through sewage contaminated water during the last week of a ten week programme to become members of the Taiwan navy’s elite Amphibious Reconnaissance and Patrol unit, at Zuoying navy base.

Wild elephants scavenge for food at an open landfill site in the village of Pallakkadu.

Pallakkadu, Sri Lanka

Wild elephants scavenge for food at an open landfill site in the village of Pallakkadu. Conservationists and veterinarians are warning that plastic waste in open landfill is killing elephants in the region, after two more were found dead this week. Examinations of the dead animals showed they had swallowed large amounts of the non-biodegradable plastic that is found there.

Photograph: Achala Pussalla/AP

Welsh mountain ponies graze in the mist and rain on the salt marsh near Crofty.
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A migrant caravan in Mexico, parkour in Gaza, refugees on the border between Belarus and Poland, and smog in Lahore: the most striking images from around the world this week

Grodno, BelarusMigrant children at the Kuznitsa checkpoint at the border between Belarus and Poland. A Polish government official said migrants camped on the Belarusian side of Poland’s eastern border were being taken away by bus in a sign the tense standoff could be easing
Photograph: Maxim Guchek/AP
Gaza CityPalestinian youth practice parkour in Al-Shati refugee camp. For many young people living in Gaza, the years of living under a blockade effectively cutting them off from the outside world has taken a heavy toll with mental health issues rising among young people. Many of them turn to sport and other recreational activities to relieve the pressures of everyday life, from boxing to horse riding
Photograph: Fatima Shbair/Getty Images
Gaza CityPalestinian youths perform a show with fire in front of people in the Al-Shejaiya neighbourhood
Photograph: Fatima Shbair/Getty Images
thens, GreeceDemonstrators take part in a march towards the US embassy, during a rally marking the 48th anniversary of the 1973 Athens Polytechnic uprising against the military junta
Photograph: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images
Gran Canaria, SpainEmergency personnel assist migrants disembarking from a maritime rescue vessel in the port of Arguineguín, after their rescue off the coast of Gran Canaria
Photograph: Lluís Gené/AFP/Getty Images
Inke, Democratic Republic of Congo
A family of Central African refugees waits to leave for a transit centre before a repatriation flight to Bangui. This week 453 among Inke’s 18,444 refugees were flown back to Bangui by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Most of them fled the Central African Republic during the 2013 coup and subsequent civil war. Today, nearly 685,000 Central Africans are still living in exile and cannot return home because of the ongoing conflict
Photograph: Alexis Huguet/AFP/Getty Images
Palomares, MexicoMigrants walk through Palomares as they head in a caravan towards the US
Photograph: Claudio Cruz/AFP/Getty Images
Jesus Carranza, Mexico
Migrants help fellow migrants on to the bed of a trailer in Jesus Carranza. A group of mainly Central American migrants are attempting to reach the US-Mexico border
Photograph: Félix Márquez/AP
Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA supporter of Kyle Rittenhouse argues with a Black Lives Matter supporter in front of the Kenosha County courthouse while the jury deliberates over the Rittenhouse trial. Rittenhouse is accused of shooting three demonstrators, killing two of them, during a night of unrest that erupted in Kenosha after a police officer shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back while he was being arrested in August 2020
Photograph: Nathan Howard/Getty Images
Sofia, BulgariaElectoral staff carry ballot boxes as they visit people in self-quarantine to collect their votes for the first round of the presidential election and the parliamentary elections in Sofia. Bulgarians voted for the third time this year, but there was little hope the latest general election will bring a stable government to fight the country’s deadliest coronavirus wave
Photograph: Nikolay Doychinov/AFP/Getty Images
Kabul, AfghanistanA young girl looks at loaves of bread for sale at a bakery in Kabul
Photograph: Petros Giannakouris/AP
Liverpool, EnglandForensic officers work outside Liverpool Women’s hospital, following a car blast. Police declared the explosion a terrorist incident
Photograph: Ed Sykes/Reuters
Lima, PeruHealth workers carry coolers for the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine during a door-to-door vaccination campaign in Villa Maria del Triunfo on the outskirts of Lima
Photograph: Guadalupe Pardo/AP
Port-au-Prince, HaitiStudents attend class at the Le Grand Createur school in the gang-controlled Cité Soleil neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince
Photograph: Matias Delacroix/AP
Alaminos, PhilippinesElementary students sit inside dividers as a preventive measure against Covid-19, as they attend the first day of physical classes at Longos elementary school. After almost two years, the Philippines resumed limited face-to-face classes in 100 schools across the country this week
Photograph: Ezra Acayan/Getty Images
Lahore, PakistanPeople commute along a street in heavy smog conditions in Lahore
Photograph: Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
Zinal, SwitzerlandMountain guide Daniel Ruppen visits an ice cave formed at the end section of the Zinal glacier. Over the last 60 years the overall glacier volume in Switzerland has shrunk by almost 50%, losing between 2% and 3% volume a year over the last four years, according to the glacier monitoring in Switzerland project
Photograph: Valentin Flauraud/EPA
Melbourne, AustraliaA model showcases Jaton designs during the Fashion x Art at the Ian Potter centre in Melbourne
Photograph: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images
La Palma, SpainLava expelled by Cumbre Vieja volcano reaches the sea
Photograph: Miguel Calero/EPA
Nice, FrancePeople walk and ride horses in front of the Mediterranean Sea
Photograph: Valéry Hache/AFP/Getty Images
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Great institutions and openness help city retain top spot ahead of rivals such as Tokyo and Munich.

London remains the best city in the world to be a university student, according to an international ranking of higher education centres that placed it ahead of rivals such as Tokyo, Boston and Berlin.

The capital retained top spot for the third year running despite low marks for affordability, thanks to the presence of world-leading institutions such as Imperial College and King’s College London, and high ratings for its openness to international students and graduate career opportunities.

Munich came second, while Tokyo and Seoul were tied for third place ahead of Berlin, Melbourne, Zurich and Sydney. Paris, Montreal and Boston tied for ninth place.

The city rankings created by the education analysts QS Quacquarelli Symonds are based on its own league tables as well as surveys of 85,000 current and prospective students around the world. They cover cities with a population of at least 250,000 and two or more universities placed in the QS world university rankings.

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The best UK universities 2021 – rankings
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Current students studying in London rated the British capital very highly for “outstanding cultural, economic, and educational opportunities”, although the city was only rated 15th – below Auckland and Montreal – for desirability among prospective students.

Ben Sowter, QS’s director of research, said: “With two of the world’s 10 best universities situated in the city, London remains a world-leading educational hub. However, increasing Covid cases and lingering Brexit effects may serve to undermine London’s privileged position.”

Elsewhere in the UK, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Manchester made the top 30 out of the 115 eligible cities. Coventry did extremely well for “student mix”, ranked second only to Melbourne for the proportion of domestic and international students in the local population, as well as tolerance and inclusion.

The highest-ranked US centre was Boston, thanks to the proximity of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard. But US cities suffered from high affordability, with Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco the worst overall based on cost of living, tuition fees and the Economist’s “Big Mac” index, which uses the local cost of the hamburger as a proxy for relative costs.

QS also noted that US cities “are suffering from a systemic decline” in their desirability ratings, which includes metrics such as pollution, crime, safety and corruption as well as a student survey.

The most desirable city in which to study was Tokyo, followed by Toronto and Zurich. Boston could only manage 26th, while Durham, North Carolina – close to the high-ranking University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University – was 85th.

Monterrey in Mexico and Almaty in Kazakhstan were rated as the least desirable places to study. The most affordable centre was the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, ahead of Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan in Russia

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The Guardian’s picture editors select photo highlights from around the world.

Guy Lane

Liege, BelgiumA woman tries to cross a flooded street following heavy rains in Liege. A provincial disaster plan has been declared in the provinces of Liege, Luxembourg and Namur
Photograph: Bruno Fahy/Belga/AFP/Getty Images
Bad Muenstereifel, GermanyA street is covered with stones after heavy rainfall and the flooding of the Erft river. Several people have died and dozens are missing in the western German states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North-Rhine Westphalia
Photograph: B&S/AP
Salgotarjan, HungaryLightning illuminates the sky over the capital of Nograd county
Photograph: Péter Komka/EPA
Lagos, NigeriaWomen queue for food parcels distributed by volunteers of the local food bank initiative in a community in Oworonshoki
Photograph: Temilade Adelaja/Reuters
Nice, FranceA light for each of the 86 people who were killed in the terrorist truck attack of July 2016 are displayed at night over the Promenade des Anglais to mark the fifth anniversary of the atrocity
Photograph: Nicolas Tucat/AFP/Getty Images
Coventry, EnglandThe British prime minister, Boris Johnson, looks at a battery cell during a visit to the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre
Photograph: David Rose/AFP/Getty Images
Madera, USA boat sits on a mound near Hensley Lake as soaring temperatures and drought continue to affect livestock and water supplies in California
Photograph: David Swanson/Reuters
Miami, USA protester shouts support for Cubans demonstrating against their government. One person has died and more than 100 have been arrested, including independent journalists and opposition activists, since the anti-government protests broke out in Cuba
Photograph: Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images
Los Angeles, USBritney Spears’s newly appointed lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, leaves the Stanley Mosk courthouse following a hearing concerning the pop singer’s conservatorship. Spears was granted permission by a judge to hire a lawyer of her own choice
Photograph: Chris Pizzello/AP
Mallorca, SpainPassengers rest on the Palma-Soller train. Inaugurated in 1912, the Palma-Soller railway line is one of the oldest routes still in operation in Spain. The wagons and locomotives retain their original designs, with maintenance and repairs carried out in the railway’s own workshops
Photograph: Jaime Reina/AFP/Getty Images
Jinhua, ChinaTourists enjoy cool water in a cave in Zhejiang province
Photograph: VCG/Getty Images
Bangkok, ThailandFirefighters capture a python in Benjasiri Park
Photograph: Adam Schreck/AP
London, EnglandA couple pose for wedding photographs outside Westminster underground station
Photograph: Tayfun Salcı/Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock
Glasgow, ScotlandCast members appear on set in Glasgow city centre during filming for the new Indiana Jones movie
Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Image
Beirut, LebanonSoldiers hide from stones behind their protective shields as they clash with supporters of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri who stepped down on Thursday
Photograph: Hussein Malla/AP
Musselburgh, ScotlandCity Breakz is an outdoor performance trail from Scottish dance company Room 2 Manoeuvre, led by world-class choreographer Tony Mills that will take in over twelve locations across the country including Glasgow, Edinburgh, St Andrews, Dunoon, Dumfries, Falkirk
Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian
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Myanmar has been in turmoil since the country’s civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was deposed on 1 February, triggering a mass uprising of daily protests and a nationwide civil servants’ boycott. As journalists are not officially allowed to report from the country, the photographers’ names have been withheld

3 February 2021Soldiers ride in armoured vehicles in Myitkyina, Kachin state, as Aung San Suu Kyi was formally charged two days after her detention
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
3 FebruaryPeople take part in a noise campaign in Yangon after calls for protest went out on social media
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
3 FebruaryPeople make three-finger salutes in Yangon
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
8 FebruaryProtesters gather in the centre of Yangon
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
9 FebruaryProtesters stand under plastic sheeting to protect themselves against police water cannon in Yangon
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
11 FebruaryProtesters in Yangon step on an image of the country’s military chief, Min Aung Hlaing
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
22 FebruaryA mass protest in Mandalay
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
26 FebruaryPolice arrest a protester in Yangon
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
28 FebruaryPolice crack down on protesters in Yangon
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
2 MarchProtesters react to teargas fired by police in the north-western town of Kale
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
3 MarchProtesters clash with police in Yangon
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
8 MarchA nun pleads with police not to harm protesters in Myitkyina, Kachin state
Photograph: Myitkyina News Journal/AFP/Getty Images
16 MarchThe mother of Khant Nyar Hein reacts at his funeral. The first-year medical student was shot by security forces as he protested
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
17 MarchProtesters carry a wounded man shot by the security forces in Yangon
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
19 MarchProtesters take cover behind makeshift barricades in Thaketa township, Yangon
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
19 MarchA protester jumps over a makeshift barricade during a crackdown by the security forces in Thaketa township
Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
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A roundup of the coverage on struggles for human rights and freedoms, from Cambodia to Peru

A mural in Mumbai, India. Amnesty International has warned that human rights crises will multiply and become a threat to global security if governments continue to use the Covid pandemic as a cover to push authoritarian agendas.
Photograph: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty
‘We Are the 11 Million’ march, in El Paso, Texas, earlier this month. The demonstration marked the launch of a campaign by the Border Network for Human Rights and the Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance to push for a change to US immigration laws for undocumented migrants.
Photograph: José Luis González/Reuters
A protester at a rally in Paris against a new law designed to prevent religious separatism and combat ‘radical Islamism’, which many see as anti-Muslim. The controversial law will extend the state’s powers to ban religious groups judged to be extremist.
Photograph: Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty
A sign appealing to the UN at a protest in East Dagon township, Yangon, against Myanmar’s military junta. Thousands of people have been arrested and hundreds killed in demonstrations since the army seized power from the government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February.
Photograph: Facebook/AFP/Getty
Carnations on Barceloneta beach, Barcelona, to draw attention to migrant deaths in the Mediterranean and Atlantic.
Photograph: Thiago Prudencio/Dax/Zuma/Rex/Shutterstock
Kara Tepe refugee camp on Lesbos, Greece. An investigation by the Guardian and the cross-border journalism collective Lost in Europe found that 18,292 unaccompanied child migrants went missing in Europe from 2018 to 2020 – equivalent to nearly 17 children a day.
Photograph: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty
The Covid-19 vaccine at a clinic for Indigenous Mexican and Guatemalan residents of Los Angeles. Greta Thunberg condemned vaccine inequality between rich and poor countries. The climate activist called for governments and vaccine developers to address ‘vaccine nationalism’.
Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty
Russian protesters clash with police at a rally in support of the jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny in St Petersburg. A human rights group that monitors political repression said at least 400 people were arrested across the country with many seized before demonstrations had even begun.
Photograph: Dmitri Lovetsky/AP
Poland’s human rights ombudsman, Adam Bodnar, arrives at a constitutional tribunal in Warsaw, which removed him from office this month.
Photograph: Piotr Molęcki/East News/Rex/Shutterstock
The Portuguese justice minister, Francisca Van Dunem, at a conference on protection from racial discrimination in Lisbon. Portugal has committed itself to promoting human rights and equal opportunities while it holds the presidency of the Council of the EU.
Photograph: António Pedro Santos/EPA
Rubber gloves at the Top Glove factory in Shah Alam, Malaysia. The US barred rubber gloves from the Malaysian firm, which also supplied NHS hospitals, due to ‘evidence of forced labour’.
Photograph: Lim Huey Teng/Reuters
Police arrest an activist outside West Kowloon court at a sentencing hearing of seven pro-democracy leaders in Hong Kong, including Jimmy Lai, founder of the Apple Daily newspaper, and the former lawmakers and barristers Martin Lee and Margaret Ng, who were convicted of unauthorised assembly at a peaceful protest in 2019.
Photograph: Anthony Kwan/Getty
A people-smuggler takes migrants, mostly from Central America, across the Rio Grande to the US near Roma, Texas. Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said protecting human rights was the aim in Mexico’s efforts to stop child migrants being smuggled into the US.
Photograph: Dario Lopez-Mills/AP
A girl holds munitions debris at Yemen’s Suweida camp for people displaced by the war, now in its seventh year. Fighting around Marib, the Saudi-backed Yemeni government’s last northern stronghold, could determine the course of Yemen’s conflict. The UK government’s decision to resume military exports to Saudi Arabia, while slashing foreign aid to Yemen, was heavily criticised in a report by Amnesty International.
Photograph: Nabil Alawzari/AFP/Getty
Members of the Uighur community demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament in London. MPs voted to declare that China was committing genocide against Uighurs in Xinjiang.
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty
The funeral of a Cacataibo man, Herasmo García, in his village in Huánuco, in Peru’s Amazon region. He was shot dead by unknown assailants. Peru’s indigenous leaders have called for protection after a string of killings by drug gangs seeking land to grow coca under cover of the pandemic.
Photograph: Courtesy of Fenacoca
Lebanese women display a protective mask distributed to women and social workers in Beirut, with a helpline for the organisation Abaad, which campaigns for gender equality. Many women and girls say sexual harassment via social media has intensified as the pandemic pushed people off the streets.
Photograph: Patrick Baz/Abaad/AFP/Getty
The Turkish journalist and writer Ahmet Altan, centre, with his children Kerem, left, and Senem, after he was released from jail in Istanbul. A Turkish court released the novelist and newspaper editor after more than four years in prison on charges of involvement in a failed 2016 coup attempt, which he had always denied. The release of Altan, who has been critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and in support of Kurdish rights, came a day after the European court of human rights demanded the 71-year-old’s release, accusing Turkey of violating his civil rights.
Photograph: Bülent Kılıç/AFP/Getty
Cambodian policemen are seen at a checkpoint during lockdown to prevent the coronavirus disease spread in Phnom Penh. The government has been accused of using Covid to edge towards ‘totalitarian dictatorship’.
Photograph: Cindy Liu/Reuters
Ingrid Noel, 51, left, weeps on the shoulder of Robert Bolden, at a rally in Brooklyn, New York, after the former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin was convicted of the murder and manslaughter of George Floyd. The explosive case triggered worldwide protests and a re-examination of racism and policing in the US. Floyd died last May after Chauvin, a white officer, pinned his knee on the black man’s neck for about nine minutes.
Photograph: Brittainy Newman/AP
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Guardian photographer Sarah Lee has been finding comfort and relief from the lockdown by using her camera to focus on the quiet beauty that is around despite the darkness

‘It has been uncertain and frightening start to the year, but there is beauty in unexpected places,’ says Lee
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian
‘While I know the vaccine is coming, and that the longer days of spring and the progress the vaccine will bring are things to cling on to, that adage about it being darkest just before the dawn seems very real right now’
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian
On Waterloo Bridge in London
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian

‘I’ve been trying to focus my personal work on the moments of joy and light that are still available as sources of joy and solace’
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian
Imperial hotel in Russell Square, London
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian
‘Mostly I see them from my bike and my permitted daily exercise out of my home’
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian
‘This has been going on long enough for me to have seen the city go through all the changes of the seasons, and while winter is, unsurprisingly, the harshest, I’ve found this year to be the most beautiful I have ever known living in London’
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian
‘I think because I’ve never had the time before to really notice and appreciate detail the way I do now’
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian
‘I think because I’ve never had the time before to really notice and appreciate detail the way I do now’
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian
‘Like most other people I’m confined to either home or exercising from home, but as a journalist there have been a couple of occasions where I’ve had to travel further afield’
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian
‘Occasionally I’ve cycled with a friend. Those rare occasions have been as exhilarating and wonderful as parties used to be back when I was cavalier enough to think such things would never stop’
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian
‘Something that used to feel so regular and happenstance now feels like an adventure’
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian
‘The change of scenery is so welcome. I travelled to Aldeburgh a couple of weeks ago for a story and while I was careful to turn round and drive back as soon as I’d finished the [socially distant] shoot, I took some shots as I walked back to the car’
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian
‘It was one of those rare winter days where the sun dazzled and the air was totally clear’
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian
‘An hour by the sea and the marshes felt like an immensely precious holiday’
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian
‘I long for the world to open up again, for things to be safe for us all to be able to be together …’
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian
… In the meanwhile I’ve found genuine comfort and relief in using my camera as a way of focusing on the light and the quiet beauty that is still very much there despite the darkness’
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian

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Festive season usually last four months but this year as well as the pandemic there have been three strong storms.

he strains of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer echo around a popular shopping mall in Quezon City, Manila. A band of mechanical snowmen, dressed in Santa hats, sway back and forth to the music, as shoppers – socially distanced – browse stacks of baubles and Christmas lights.

In the Philippines, a majority Catholic country, festive preparations are well and truly under way already. The country has one of the longest Christmas periods in the world, with celebrations beginning at the start of September and, for some, lasting as late as Valentine’s Day.

This year festivities will inevitably be different. On top of a ban on gatherings, and restrictions on church attendance, the economic impact of the coronavirus has left millions without work. The country has also faced three strong typhoons over recent weeks, including Vamco, which has killed at least 67 people as well as causing devastating flooding.

A shop in San Fernando sells fairy lights and artificial trees. Photograph: Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images

Some are torn over whether to put up their decor or “tone down” celebrations given the difficulties facing the country, according to Ambeth Ocampo, a historian and author.

For others the challenges of 2020 make it especially important to celebrate Christmas, even if the usual shopping sprees and parties are not possible. “We are still thankful because our family is complete. As long as we are together we’re OK,” said Nancy Endeno. “Our Christmas tree is up. I’m here to buy additional decorations,” she said, as she haggled with other shoppers at the side street stores selling parols – a traditional, and pricey, Philippine Christmas lantern.

Sato Laxa, who runs a shop on Granada street in Manila, sold 10 lanterns on Saturday afternoon. Sales are not as good as previous years but he is happy to be selling at all.

“We started getting buyers in September although we weren’t selling much. Sales have been very good lately,” Laxa said. Shoppers can pay anything from P3,000 (about £47/US$60) to P9,000 for the multi-coloured lanterns.

People start to prepare for Christmas in the Philippines
in September. Photograph: Francis R Malasig/EPA

It is not clear why Christmas celebrations start so early in the Philippines, and it hasn’t always been this way, according to Ocampo. “Traditionally, Christmas started with the nine-day Misa de Gallo – literally Rooster Mass,” he said, referring to nine dawn masses leading to Christmas. “There is no cultural or religious reason for the long Christmas,” he said, but it may be a commercial ploy to encourage people to begin their shopping early.

Others say the extended festivities are unsurprising given Filipinos’ love of celebrations – there are 19 public holidays this year and a fiesta for each of its 146 cities and 1,488 municipalities.

The Christmas season traditionally ends on 6 January with the feast of Three Kings, “but some people extend beyond that to Chinese New year or even Valentine’s to keep the decor up and keep a festive mood”, said Ocampo.

Laxa is optimistic that people will still find a way to celebrate over the coming months. “Problems do not stop Filipinos from celebrating Christmas,” he said. “Be it a pandemic or typhoons, we manage to recover.”

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