US Infections Top Three Million As Trump Begins WHO Pullout

U.S. President Donald Trump participates in a meeting of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board in the East Room of the White House on June 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP
U.S. President Donald Trump participates in a meeting of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board in the East Room of the White House on June 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

 

 

Coronavirus infections in the United States topped the three million mark Wednesday, as President Donald Trump began withdrawing the country from the World Health Organization.

The US remains by far the worst affected country, with over 131,000 deaths, while Brazil — whose virus-skeptic President Jair Bolsonaro has tested positive for the disease — is a distant second with close to 67,000 deaths from almost 1.7 million cases.

Despite the figures, both Trump and Bolsonaro have continued to argue against lockdowns and other restrictive measures, reflecting a wider divide over the response to the crisis.

Trump Wednesday called for students to return in the fall despite the virus surging in several southern state hotspots.

Meanwhile, millions in the Australian city of Melbourne were preparing for a return to lockdown to fight an upsurge that is seeing more than 100 new cases reported each day, with panic buyers stripping supermarket shelves.

But there were signs in Europe that harsh restrictions would be difficult to reimpose, with thousands protesting in Serbia against a weekend curfew and France vowing not to have a blanket lockdown again.

The virus has infected almost 12 million people worldwide and killed more than 500,000 since it emerged in China late last year.

 

‘Knee-deep’

Having just a handful of cases at the start of February, the US infection rate passed the one million milestone on April 28 and hit two million on June 11, according to an AFP tally of official sources.

All the while, the death toll has been creeping up to its current figure of 131,480, almost one-quarter of the global total.

Top US infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci has warned that the country is still “knee-deep” in only its first coronavirus wave, but Trump said on Tuesday America was “in a good place” and that he disagreed with Fauci.

To the consternation of experts and political opponents, Trump formally started withdrawing from the WHO on Tuesday, making good on threats to deprive the UN body of some $400 million in funding after he accused it of being too close to China.

Joe Biden, who will face him in a presidential election in November, promised to rejoin the WHO “and restore our leadership on the world stage” if he wins.

Underlining America’s unilateral approach, the government Wednesday announced more than $2 billion in funding for research into vaccines and treatments.

In its biggest grant yet, $1.6 billion was awarded to biotech firm Novavax.

The company has agreed to deliver 100 million doses if successful and said it would now move with “extraordinary urgency”.

Several potential vaccines are being developed around the world — $1.2 billion was recently awarded to drug firm AstraZeneca as part of another project in Britain.

 ‘Fascist’ protesters

Following in the footsteps of world leaders including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Bolsonaro was the latest statesman to test positive for COVID-19.

He has consistently played down the risks of the disease, mocking it as a “little flu”.

The 65-year-old said he felt “tiredness, illness and a fever” but insisted he was feeling “good, calm” and took off his mask to emphasize the point.

Experts have criticized the US and Brazil for stoking the virus by failing to enforce rigorous social distancing measures and lockdowns.

In Europe, where millions lived for months under severe restrictions, the possibility of returning to that scenario triggered violent protests in Serbia.

Dozens were hurt, police cars set alight and the parliament building breached as thousands protested in Belgrade after the government said it would reimpose a weekend curfew.

Outrage focused on President Aleksandar Vucic, who branded the protesters “fascists” but later said the curfew could be reconsidered.

 

‘Extraordinary solidarity’

Mindful of potentially disastrous consequences of attempting to thrust millions back into their homes, France’s new prime minister aimed to soothe fears by promising no new full shutdown.

“We’re not going to impose a lockdown like the one we did last March, because we’ve learned… that the economic and human consequences from a total lockdown are disastrous,” Jean Castex said, promising “targeted” measures instead.

France is among the European nations attempting to frame a national response to the crisis while also leading European Union’s attempts to repair the massive  economic damage.

German Angela Merkel said Brussels needed to reach a deal quickly on a proposed $843 million package to help crisis-hit economies in the bloc.

“We need extraordinary solidarity,” she said ahead of an upcoming EU summit.

Australia neither suffered the kind of outbreak that ravaged Europe, nor the economic damage from draconian lockdowns.

But seeking to staunch a surge of cases in its second-biggest city, it is sealing off the state of Victoria — a move that  sparked panic-buying and prompted supermarkets to introduce limits on the purchase of some goods.

“This is not the situation that anybody wanted to be in, but it is the reality that we must confront,” said Victoria premier Daniel Andrews.

 

 

-AFP

Britain To Reveal Post-Coronavirus Recovery Plan

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in central London on June 24, 2020, to attend Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) at the House of Commons. Ben STANSALL / AFP.

 

The British government will on Wednesday unveil a mini-budget to kickstart economic growth after the coronavirus shutdown, with a jobs scheme for young people and investment in infrastructure among the big ticket measures.

Britain has suffered Europe’s deadliest outbreak of COVID-19 and a nationwide shutdown led to the worst economic contraction among the G7 leading industrialised states.

In a statement to parliament at 1130 GMT, finance minister Rishi Sunak will detail a £2 billion (2.2-billion-euro, $2.5 billion) jobs scheme for young people at risk of long-term unemployment.

He has also already announced £3 billion of green investment, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to “build, build, build” out of the economic crisis.

“As Britain recovers from the outbreak, it’s vital we do everything in our power to support and protect livelihoods across the nation,” Sunak said ahead of the statement.

The investment package includes £2 billion in grants for households to insulate homes and make them more energy efficient, and another £1 billion for public sector buildings, including hospitals.

The plan is part also of Britain’s long-term pledge to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 to tackle climate change.

In addition, Sunak is reportedly set to announce plans to reduce stamp duty, which is levied on real estate transactions, to boost the property market.

Yet he is not expected to alter Britain’s emergency jobs retention plan, or furloughing, under which the government pays up to 80 percent of salaries for private sector workers.

It is currently supporting more than nine million jobs, part of a series of multi-billion-pound packages to help those affected by the impact of the outbreak, but is due to end in October.

Since the global pandemic hit Britain in mid-March, more than 44,000 people confirmed to have COVID-19 have died.

Infection rates have now slowed and schools, shops and the hospitality industry are gradually reopening.

“Four months on from the outset of coronavirus, we have slowly and carefully reopened much of our economy, and we can now begin our national recovery,” Sunak told parliament Tuesday.

However, he acknowledged that “we cannot protect every single job”.

– Financial ‘hole’ –

Britain imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 23 to halt the spread of COVID-19 but has gradually begun easing restrictions in the hope of boosting ailing businesses.

Recent official data showed that the UK’s biggest quarterly contraction for more than 40 years — at minus 2.2 percent — in the January-March period.

However, the data included only the first full week of the lockdown and economists expect subsequent damage to be considerably worse for the second quarter.

Another contraction would place Britain in a technical recession.

Since the crisis began, the Bank of England has pumped cash stimulus worth £300 billion into Britain’s virus-hit economy and slashed its main interest rate to a record-low 0.1 percent — moves aimed at propping up businesses and saving jobs.

Experts estimate the total cost of state emergency measures meanwhile could run as high as £300 billion.

“As the UK begins to emerge slowly from lockdown, focus now turns to plugging the eye-popping £300 billion hole left in the UK’s finances by COVID-19,” said analyst Tom Selby at stockbroker AJ Bell.

“The chancellor will have to weigh up his desire to kickstart the economy after its slumber with the need to raise extra revenue via the tax system.”

Selby said “a strong recovery should boost tax receipts and lower the amount spent on benefits, automatically improving the government’s balance sheet.

“The chancellor may decide to front-load the ‘good news’ items on Wednesday as he attempts to kickstart the economy — and save the tax nasties for his Autumn budget,” he added.

AFP

British PM’s Comments On Coronavirus-Hit Care Homes Sparks Outrage

PM Johnson Says UK Anti-Racism Protests 'Hijacked By Extremists'
In this file photo taken on April 12, 2020 A handout image released by 10 Downing Street, shows Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he delivers a television address after returning to 10 Downing Street after being discharged from St Thomas’ Hospital, in central London on April 12, 2020. Pippa FOWLES / 10 Downing Street / AFP.

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was accused Tuesday of trying to rewrite history for appearing to blame the deadly spread of coronavirus in care homes on the institutions themselves.

Britain has suffered the worst death toll in Europe from the virus, with more than 44,000 confirmed deaths, and care homes have suffered badly.

The government initially said it did not believe care homes were at particular risk, and has been slow to roll out testing of both staff and patients.

Critics also say the rapid transfer of elderly patients from hospitals to care homes at the start of the pandemic, to free up beds for coronavirus patients, helped spread the disease.

In an interview on Monday, Johnson said: “We discovered too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have.”

The Conservative leader’s comments caused outrage among care providers, with one accusing Johnson on Tuesday of an “appalling” attempt to deflect from “an absolute travesty of leadership from the government”.

Mark Adams, chief executive of Community Integrated Care, which provides services for people with learning disabilities and dementia, told BBC radio that at best, the remarks were “clumsy and cowardly”.

“If this is genuinely his view, I think we’re almost entering Kafka-esque alternative reality where the government sets the rules, we follow them, they don’t like the results, they then deny setting the rules and blame the people that were trying to do their best,” he said.

Adams said he was “unbelievably disappointed” in Johnson’s comments, adding: “What we’re getting is history rewritten in front of us.”

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has recorded 14,852 care home deaths involving COVID-19 in England and Wales in the year to June 26.

But that is likely to be an underestimate, as almost 30,000 more residents have died than in the same period last year.

– Action plan –

The National Care Forum membership organisation said Johnson’s comments about care homes were “neither accurate nor welcome”.

The Independent Care Group, another representative body, said the majority of providers had “done their absolute best in the face of slow and conflicting advice”.

But Business Secretary Alok Sharma insisted Johnson was “certainly not blaming care homes” for the coronavirus outbreak.

“What he was actually pointing out was that nobody knew what the correct procedures were at the time, because quite frankly we didn’t know what the extent of the asymptomatic transition was,” he told BBC radio.

The government had put in place “very detailed action plans” for care homes, ensuring a “rigorous testing regime” and funds for infection control, he added.

It was not until April 15 — more than three weeks after the nationwide lockdown — that the government committed to testing all residents before they were moved from hospital, and all symptomatic residents.

AFP

UK Readies £3.0bn Recovery Plan To Green Up Economy

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers a speech during his visit to Dudley College of Technology in Dudley, central England on June 30, 2020. – Johnson said Britain needed the type of massive economic response that US president Franklin D. Roosevelt mobilised to deal with the Great Depression. He has earmarked £1 billion ($1.2 billion) for school repairs and a further £4 billion for “shovel-ready” projects that cover everything for road maintenance to public transport. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / POOL / AFP)

 

 

British finance minister Rishi Sunak will Wednesday unveil a mini-budget to help kickstart the UK economy following devastation wreaked by coronavirus fallout, featuring green investment worth £3.0-billion ($3.7-billion, 3.3 billion euros).

Chancellor of the Exchequer Sunak hopes the plan will help to support more than 100,000 green jobs, including across the construction sector.

He will offer £2.0 billion in grants for households to insulate homes and make them more energy efficient, the Treasury said in a statement Tuesday.

Sunak will also provide £1.0 billion in green grants for public sector buildings, including hospitals, schools and social housing.

In England, the government aims to pay for at least two thirds of homeowner costs on green upgrades.

“As Britain recovers from the outbreak, it’s vital we do everything in our power to support and protect livelihoods across the nation,” Sunak said in the statement.

“Our green homes grant will not only cut families’ bills by making their homes more energy efficient, it will also kick start our economy by creating thousands of green jobs — and supporting those skilled tradespeople who are ready to work.”

Households will be offered vouchers of up to £5,000 to make their homes more energy efficient, while some of the poorest families will be given up to £10,000.

The plan is part also of Britain’s long term pledge to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 to tackle climate change.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed that his Conservative administration will deliver an “infrastructure revolution” to help Britain build its way out of the economic devastation wreaked by the virus.

Recent official data showed that the UK economy suffered its biggest quarterly contraction for more than 40 years — at minus 2.2 percent in the January-March period.

However, the data included only the first full week of the lockdown and economists expect subsequent damage to be considerably worse for the second quarter.

While Britain’s nationwide locked is easing, with most pubs and hair salons reopening at the weekend for example, the central England city of Leicester is back on full lockdown after a new spike in virus cases.

 

 

-AFP

 

 

UK Offers Hong Kongers Citizenship In Response To China

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers a speech during his visit to Dudley College of Technology in Dudley, central England on June 30, 2020. – Johnson said Britain needed the type of massive economic response that US president Franklin D. Paul ELLIS / POOL / AFP.

 

Britain on Wednesday extended Hong Kong residents a broader path to citizenship in response to China’s sweeping new security law for the former UK territory.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement represents the most direct international response to legislation that has been roundly condemned by Western allies.

It comes during a London review of its entire range of relations with Beijing, including its decision to allow China’s Huawei help build Britain new 5G data network.

“We stand for rules and obligations,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told parliament just hours after China made its first arrest in Hong Kong under the new legislation.

“And we think that is the scientific basis for our international relations and the enactment, and deposition of this national security law constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration.”

Johnson said London had warned Beijing that it would introduce a new route for those with British National Overseas status to enter the UK.

“And that is precisely what we will do now,” he told lawmakers.

About 300,000 Hong Kongers have BNO passports and another 2.6 million are eligible to apply.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Britain’s offer also extended to dependents of those with BNO status but refused to be drawn about how many would apply.

– ‘Deeply disturbing’ –

Hong Kong was under UK jurisdiction until Britain handed it to China in 1997 with a guarantee that Beijing would preserve the city’s judicial and legislative autonomy for 50 years.

But critics say the new law — passed by Beijing’s rubber-stamp parliament this week without its text being released to the public — tests the limits of the “One Country, Two Systems” principle that formally entered international law in 1984.

Britain’s last Hong Kong governor, Chris Patten, called details of the legislation unveiled overnight were “even worse than I expected”.

“It is Orwellian stuff,” Patten told the BBC.

“It does go wider and further than anybody had feared.”

Britain’s response to China’s legislation offers a much smoother pathway to UK citizenship for millions of Hong Kongers.

Raab said Hong Kongers with BNO status and their dependents would first have the right to work or study in Britain for five years.

They would then have the right to apply for settled status then possible citizenship.

He said there would be “no quotas” and described the entire system as “bespoke”.

“This is a grave and deeply disturbing step,” he said of the Chinese law.

“China through this national security legislation is not living up to its promises to the people of Hong Kong. We will live up to our promises to them,” he told lawmakers.

– Policy review –

Britain had opened itself up to closer relations with China as it sought out trading partners after ending its decades-long membership in the European Union this year.

Johnson’s government also irritated the US administration in January by allowing the private Chinese telecoms group Huawei to unroll Britain’s speedy new data network.

But Britain is now studying ways it can cut Huawei out of its system entirely and build up an alliance of European and Asian providers that reduces China’s dominance in the field.

British condemnation of the Chinese law has spanned the political divide and seen London’s Asia-focused HSBC group come under political assault for openly backing it last month.

Raab did not mention the bank by name but noted: “The rights and the freedoms and our responsibilities in this country to the people of Hong Kong should not be sacrificed on the altar of bankers’ bonuses”.

HSBC offered support for the law after public pressure from a pro-Beijing figure in Hong Kong who pointed to the bank’s reliance on business in China.

AFP

UK PM Johnson Warns Israel Against Annexation Plan

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in central London on June 24, 2020, to attend Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs)a at the House of Commons – ˜Ben STANSALL / AFP.

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Israel Wednesday against going ahead with plans to annex parts of the West Bank, calling them illegal and against the Jewish state’s own interests.

“I am a passionate defender of Israel,” he wrote in an article published in Hebrew on the front page of Israel’s top-selling daily, Yediot Aharonot.

“So it is with sadness that I have followed the proposals to annex Palestinian territory,” he added.

“I am fearful that these proposals will fail in their objective of securing Israel’s borders and will be contrary to Israel’s own long-term interests.”

Israel’s coalition government has agreed July 1 as the date from which it can begin implementing US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal, which paves the way for annexations of Jewish West Bank settlements and potentially the Jordan Valley.

“Annexation would represent a violation of international law,” Johnson wrote, adding that it would also jeopardise “the progress that Israel has made in improving relationships with the Arab and Muslim world.

“I still believe the only way to achieve true, lasting security for Israel, the homeland for the Jewish people, is through a solution that allows justice and security for both Israelis and Palestinians,” Johnson wrote. “I refuse to believe that this is impossible.”

Last month, in a rare op-ed in an Israeli newspaper, the Emirati ambassador to Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, warned that annexation of parts of the West Bank would jeopardise any warming of Arab-Israeli ties.

Describing it as the “illegal seizure of Palestinian land”, Otaiba said “plans for annexation and talk of normalisation are a contradiction”.

AFP

UK PM Johnson Pledges ‘Infrastructure Revolution’ For COVID-19 Crisis

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers a speech during his visit to Dudley College of Technology in Dudley, central England on June 30, 2020. – Johnson said Britain needed the type of massive economic response that US president Franklin D. Roosevelt mobilised to deal with the Great Depression. He has earmarked £1 billion ($1.2 billion) for school repairs and a further £4 billion for “shovel-ready” projects that cover everything for road maintenance to public transport. Paul ELLIS / POOL / AFP.

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged on Tuesday to deliver an “infrastructure revolution” to help Britain build its way out of the economic devastation of the coronavirus outbreak.

But his optimistic message, thin on detail and reminiscent of last year’s election pledges, was overshadowed by the first local lockdown since an easing of measures was announced, because of a spike in cases in the city of Leicester.

Shops which only reopened two weeks ago after being shut for more than three months were forced to close again, and travel was restricted to the city in the English East Midlands.

Johnson, however, tried to harness the can-do spirit that US president Franklin D. Roosevelt adopted when he introduced a “New Deal” for tackling the Great Depression 90 years ago.

“This is a programme for jobs, jobs, jobs because it’s by building, building, building… that we will get the jobs this nation needs,” he said after touring a construction site in Dudley, 40 miles (64 kilometres) away in the West Midlands.

“It sounds like a New Deal, and all I can say is, if that is so then that is how it is meant to sound and to be because that is what the times demand.”

He promised £1 billion ($1.2 billion) for school repairs and a further £4 billion for “shovel-ready” projects from road maintenance to public transport in what he said was a new “infrastructure revolution” that will also build new homes.

– ‘Neglected and unloved’ –

Johnson’s message was thin on detail, particularly on jobs, and in part repackaged broad-brush promises made by his Conservative party before December’s general election.

He pledged again to spread the wealth more fairly from London to economically struggling regions that traditionally supported the opposition Labour party.

“Too many parts of this country have felt left behind, neglected, unloved,” he said.

That pledge helped Johnson secure a record 80-seat parliamentary majority that enabled him in January to take Britain out of the European Union after repeated delays.

But Britain is now dealing with Europe’s deadliest virus outbreak and the worst economic contraction among the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialised states.

Johnson’s once soaring approval ratings slipped into negative territory in a YouGov poll this month.

And opposition leaders said the £5 billion announced on Tuesday was simply bringing forward some of the money promised in a spending plan his government had already unveiled for the coming five years.

“The government’s refusal to genuinely emulate Roosevelt’s boldness is a missed opportunity,” the Labour-supporting New Statesman magazine wrote.

The Financial Times said Roosevelt’s New Deal “spawned mega-projects such as the Hoover Dam” but Johnson’s list of priorities included repairing a bridge near Birmingham.

– Local lockdown –

Johnson’s rambunctious style and oratory flourishes have appealed to Britons tired of ceaseless battles over Brexit that dragged on for nearly four years.

The 56-year-old former journalist remains popular in his party and has commanding control of Britain’s political agenda.

But he has faced criticism for Britain having the world’s third-highest virus death toll in the outbreak — now officially at 43,575 — and one of Europe’s longest lockdowns.

Labour leader Keir Starmer accused Johnson on Monday of falling “asleep at the wheel” — and the Leicester lockdown will be a further test of his strategy to fight the disease.

It will mean the city’s pubs and restaurants will not fully reopen along with those across the rest on England from this weekend.

Johnson had expected the reopening, along with swathes of the tourism and cultural sectors, to help kick-start the country’s stalled economy.

Revised official data released on Tuesday indicated the country has suffered its biggest quarterly contraction for more than 40 years, as the pandemic slashed activity.

Gross domestic product shrank 2.2 percent in the first quarter compared to the three previous months, with second quarter data likely to be even worse.

Recent data showed UK economic activity crashed by a record 20.4 percent in April, and there are widespread predictions of a deep, long-lasting recession.

AFP

UK PM Johnson Vows ‘Rooseveltian’ Response To COVID-19 Crisis

PM Johnson Says UK Anti-Racism Protests 'Hijacked By Extremists'
In this file photo taken on April 12, 2020 A handout image released by 10 Downing Street, shows Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he delivers a television address after returning to 10 Downing Street after being discharged from St Thomas’ Hospital, in central London on April 12, 2020. Pippa FOWLES / 10 Downing Street / AFP.

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday the coronavirus crisis needed the type of massive economic response US president Franklin D. Roosevelt mobilised to deal with the Great Depression.

Johnson told The Times newspaper’s new radio station that Britain was heading for “bumpy times” as it struggles through its biggest economic contraction on record.

He intends to unveil a spending programme in a speech Tuesday his office has simply dubbed “build, build, build”.

“I think this is the moment for a Rooseveltian approach to the UK, really really moving forward,” said Johnson.

“I really think the investment will pay off.”

Roosevelt launched the New Deal programme in the 1930s that created a comprehensive social care system whose legacy lives on to this day.

The first part of Johnson’s initiative earmarks £1 billion ($1.2 billion, 1.1 billion euros) for school repairs.

“The country has gone through a profound shock. But in those moments you have the opportunity to change and to do things better,” Johnson said.

“We really want to build back better, to do things differently, to invest in infrastructure, transport, broadband — you name it.”

READ ALSO: EU Trade Chief Hogan Drops Out Of WTO Race

Johnson’s interview with Times Radio comes a week before the full reopening of restaurants, pubs and other parts of the hospitality, tourism and cultural sectors in England for the first time since March 20.

A full lockdown was imposed three days later, and has been one of the longest in Europe.

As restrictions ease nationwide, the UK’s first local lockdown may soon be introduced in the central city of Leicester to deal with a reported spike in virus cases.

“I think the crucial thing is that we are ready to crack down on local flare-ups,” Johnson said.

“That’s why you’re seeing the steps that are being taken in Leicester.”

Johnson admitted that his own near-death experience with COVID-19 — he was treated at an intensive care unit in early April — made him reassess his hands-off approach to Britons’ general fitness.

Some data suggest that people who are overweight have a higher mortality rate from the new virus.

Johnson has admitted he is on a diet and said Monday he “lost some weight” while recovering.

“I have taken a very libertarian stance (on fitness). But when you compare us to other countries, we are significantly fatter,” he said.

AFP

UK Could Lockdown City Of Leicester Over Virus Fears

PM Johnson Says UK Anti-Racism Protests 'Hijacked By Extremists'
In this file photo taken on April 12, 2020 A handout image released by 10 Downing Street, shows Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he delivers a television address after returning to 10 Downing Street after being discharged from St Thomas’ Hospital, in central London on April 12, 2020. Pippa FOWLES / 10 Downing Street / AFP.

 

The English Midlands city of Leicester could face a local lockdown due to a rise in coronavirus cases, the UK’s Home Secretary Priti Patel said Sunday.

“There will be support going into Leicester and in fact the health secretary (Matt Hancock) was in touch with many of us over the weekend explaining some of the measures, the support on testing, resources that will go into the local authority as well,” Patel told the BBC.

Reports in the Sunday Times newspaper said the government was set to reimpose strict lockdown rules on Leicester “within the next few days” after a spike of 658 new cases reported in the two weeks up to June 16.

The increases were linked to fresh outbreaks at food production plants and reports of large gatherings outside takeaway restaurants.

Patel added there had been “flare-ups across the country in recent weeks, in just the last three or four weeks in particular”.

“For local outbreaks, it is appropriate to have local solutions in terms of infection control, social distancing, screening and many tools,” said Patel.

The news regarding Leicester comes at a worrying time for the UK, a country badly affected by the pandemic.

Boris Johnson’s government is set to ease virus lockdown restrictions from July 4 — despite predictions of a second wave of infections — by opening pubs, restaurants and hairdressers among others across England on July 4.

In the last few days, Britain has seen tens of thousands of people ignore social distancing rules and flood to beaches, hold street parties as well as Liverpool fans crowd the city after their football club won the Premier League.

Patel added: “I think it’s right that we are all conscientious about concerns of another wave.

“I think nothing would be more damaging for our country, for our economy if we do have a second wave.”

Leading medical experts warned earlier this month of the “real risk” of a second coronavirus wave this winter.

More than 43,000 people have died due to the coronavirus, official figures show, though the final death toll is expected to be much higher.

UK Govt Under Pressure To Lift Cricket COVID-19 Ban

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in central London on June 24, 2020, to attend Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs)a at the House of Commons – ˜ (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP)

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was told “England is not England without cricket” by one of his own Conservative MPs on Thursday as the British government came under renewed pressure to lift a ban on recreational cricket during the coronavirus pandemic.

During a debate in Parliament, Peter Bone MP urged Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons, to “persuade the chief umpire (Johnson) to stroll across from Number 10 next week” and announce the amateur game can resume.

International cricket is set to get underway for the first time since lockdown when England face the West Indies in a three-Test series starting at Southampton on July 8.

But the amateur game remains mothballed, with professional county cricket delayed until at least August 1.

Earlier this week, while announcing a lifting of lockdown restrictions on pubs and restaurants, Johnson said club cricket could not resume because the ball is a “natural vector of disease”.

But with social tennis and golf currently allowed, his comments were labelled “utter nonsense” by former England captain Michael Vaughan.

Many British politicians have been cricket lovers.

Clement Attlee, Labour’s Prime Minister in the years immediately after the Second World War had an agency ticker machine installed at 10 Downing Street so he could receive the county scores.

Alec Douglas-Home, briefly Prime Minister in the 1960s, played 10 first-class matches in the 1920s.

READ ALSO: UN Urges ‘Moratorium’ On Facial Recognition Tech Use In Protests

Meanwhile, another Conservative Prime Minister and cricket enthusiast, John Major, during a speech to rally support for his position of keeping Britain in the European Union in 1993, said that “fifty years from now, Britain will still be the country of long shadows on county (cricket) grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs (and) dog lovers”.

Bone, the MP for Wellingborough, central England, appeared to tap into that spirit on Thursday when he recalled visiting his local cricket club last weekend.

He said he had “heard the ripple of applause from the boundary and the occasional shouts of “owzat?'” before realising he was imagining it.

Bone added: “Up and down the country thousands and thousands of men and women and boys and girls are desperate to play competitive cricket.

“England is not England without cricket.

“Leader, would you persuade the chief umpire to stroll across from Number 10 next week and make a statement in this House that play can resume?”

Somerset supporter Rees-Mogg replied that few MPs missed cricket as much as he did.

“All my tickets to go to watch various Test matches across the course of the year, my visits to Taunton (Somerset’s headquarters), have all had to be cancelled,” he said.

“And worst still, there was a chance that Somerset might win the County Championship for the first time in its history.”

Rees-Mogg agreed the absence of cricket was a “real loss” but added “we have to be as safe as we possibly can be”.

AFP

England To Reopen Cinemas And Galleries In July

(FILES) In this handout file photo taken and released on April 29, 2020 by 10 Downing Street, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seen recording a video message for Captain Tom Moore’s 100th birthday, inside 10 Downing Street in central London.  Pippa FOWLES / AFP.

 

Cinemas, museums, and galleries in England will reopen on July 4 in the next phase of easing the coronavirus lockdown, the government said Monday, as infection and death rates continued to slow.

Venues will be asked to introduce social distancing measures including one-way systems, spaced queuing, increased ventilation, and pre-booked tickets, a Downing Street source said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will unveil the changes in a statement to parliament on Tuesday, and say whether hairdressers, places of worship, pubs, and restaurants will also be allowed to open.

He will also announce the outcome of a review into the rule that people stay two metres apart, which the hospitality industry and many lawmakers want cut to one metre, saying it is impractical and unnecessary.

Britain’s coronavirus outbreak has been the deadliest in Europe, but stay-at-home orders imposed in late March are slowly being eased as infection rates fall.

The death toll among people who tested positive for COVID-19 rose by 15 to 42,647 on Sunday, the lowest daily increase since March 15, although there is always a lag in reported deaths over the weekend.

Separate official data including suspected coronavirus deaths puts the toll at 51,804 to June 5.

A total of 958 people tested positive in the 24 hours to Monday morning, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock said only one in 1,700 people now had the virus, down from one in 400 a month ago.

“All of those figures are coming down and pointing in the right direction,” he told a daily media briefing on Monday.

“It shows that while there’s still much to do, we are clearly making progress.”

Some of the youngest children have already gone back to school and non-essential shops have reopened.

On Monday, Hancock announced plans to ease restrictions on 2.2 million people in England classed as clinically extremely vulnerable.

They had been asked to avoid all social contact, but from July 6 will be allowed to meet outside in groups as big as six from July 6.

From August 1 the entire “shielding” programme will be paused, although officials warned it could be restarted if the outbreak worsens in the winter.

 

AFP

UK Unveils £1 Billion Schools ‘Catch-Up’ Plan After Lockdown

In this file photo taken on March 25, 2020 A handout image released by 10 Downing Street, shows Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during a remote press conference to update the nation on the Covid-19 pandemic, in side 10 Downing Street in central London on March 25, 2020. 10 Downing Street / AFP
In this file photo taken on March 25, 2020 A handout image released by 10 Downing Street, shows Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during a remote press conference to update the nation on the Covid-19 pandemic, in side 10 Downing Street in central London on March 25, 2020. 10 Downing Street / AFP

 

 

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday said English schools would receive £1 billion ($1.2bn, 1.1bn euros) in funding to help pupils catch up after missing months of classes due to the coronavirus.

The financial boost comes as his government faces withering criticism over its broken pledge to have all primary school children back for a month before the summer holidays.

It is also struggling to get all pupils back for the new academic year in September if social distancing rules requiring people to keep two metres apart remain in force.

The new money includes £650 million for state-run primary and secondary schools to “lift educational outcomes”, and £350 million for a tutoring scheme specifically for the most disadvantaged youngsters.

Head teachers will be able to decide how to spend the £650 million, but the government said it expects it to be spent “on evidence-based interventions”, in particular small group tuition.

“This £1 billion catch-up package will help head teachers to provide extra support to children who have fallen behind while out of school,” Johnson said.

British schools have been closed to most pupils since late March, when the country headed into lockdown as the virus spread out of control.

Some primary school year groups were able to come back earlier this month, but the government backtracked on the remainder and some older students returning amid staff shortages and social distancing concerns.

Johnson is under growing pressure to relax the rules to one metre to make it easier for schools and hospitality businesses to restart.

In Northern Ireland, most pupils are set for a return in the autumn after the devolved government agreed Thursday to cut the social distancing measure to one metre for pupils in school.

“I am determined to do everything I can to get all children back in school from September, and we will bring forward plans on how this will happen as soon as possible,” Johnson said.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the government also hopes to allow providers running holiday clubs and activities for children over the summer to open “if the science allows”.

“Guidance will be provided to the sector on how to implement the protective measures necessary to open safely, and to parents on how to minimise the spread of the virus if they choose to attend,” he added.

-AFP