British PM Boris Johnson To Announce Mass COVID-19 Testing Programme

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures during his visit to the Tollgate Medical Centre in Becton, east London on July 24, 2020.. (Photo by Jeremy Selwyn / POOL / AFP)

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was to announce on Monday a major testing programme in areas with the highest coronavirus infection rates as the country re-enters a system of tiered restrictions.

The prime minister was set to announce in parliament that regions classed as very high risk would be able to bring in the army to help with mass testing as part of the government’s Covid Winter Plan.

This comes after the city of Liverpool this month held England’s first city-wide testing, which the government hailed as a success leading to a “substantial fall” in cases.

The city in northwest England is now set to trial a new system of testing where contacts of those who have tested positive can take a test every day for a week and only have to isolate if they test positive, instead of immediately quarantining.

If successful, this system could be used across the country’s state-run National Health Service (NHS), in care homes and by the whole population from January, Downing Street said.

It said new measures will also focus on care home residents, who are unable to have visitors indoors due to social distancing rules.

It said that a pilot programme to test visitors in 20 care homes could roll out nationwide next month, allowing residents to have physical contact with visitors.

– Economic impact –

England is to return to a system of tiered anti-coronavirus restrictions after the latest lockdown ends on December 2.

Downing Street has said these will be similar to the system in place before the lockdown but more restrictive in some areas.

Britain has seen more than 55,000 deaths from some 1.5 million cases — one of the worst rates in the world — and has been grappling to control a second spike of infections.

READ ALSO: World’s Top Surgical Glove Maker Shuts Factories Due To COVID-19

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told BBC radio on Monday that “the top tier is going to have to be tougher than the previous top tier”.

“We need to make sure we bring the virus down, not just flatten it,” he said.

Johnson, under pressure because of the economic impact of the outbreak, was also due to announce Monday how rules will be relaxed for Christmas to allow family gatherings.

It comes after British drugs group AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford on Monday said they would seek approval for their jointly-developed vaccine against Covid-19.

“We can see with some confidence that this about getting through this winter and getting the vaccine programme rolled out,” Hancock said of the latest measures.

AFP

British Drugmaker, Oxford University Say COVID-19 Vaccine Shows 70 Percent Efficacy

An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes, with the logo of the University of Oxford and its partner British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP
An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes, with the logo of the University of Oxford and its partner British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, on November 17, 2020. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

British drugs group AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford on Monday said their jointly-developed vaccine against Covid-19 has shown “an average efficacy of 70 percent” in trials.

“This vaccine’s efficacy and safety confirm that it will be highly effective against Covid-19 and will have an immediate impact on this public health emergency,” AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot said in a statement.

The results ranged between 62 and 90 percent efficacy depending on the vaccine dosage.

The 70-percent average is lower compared with the efficacy of coronavirus vaccines trialed by rivals Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna which have come in above 90 percent.

Monday’s statement said “positive high-level results from an interim analysis of clinical trials of AZD1222 in the UK and Brazil showed the vaccine was highly effective in preventing Covid-19… and no hospitalisations or severe cases of the disease were reported in participants.”

It added: “One dosing regimen (n=2,741) showed vaccine efficacy of 90 percent when AZD1222 was given as a half dose, followed by a full dose at least one month apart.”

The pair said that regimen n=8,895 showed 62 percent efficacy when given as two full doses at least one month apart.

“The combined analysis from both dosing regimens (n=11,636) resulted in an average efficacy of 70 percent.”

AstraZeneca said it would “immediately prepare regulatory submission of the data to authorities around the world that have a framework in place for conditional or early approval”.

It added that it would seek emergency-use listing from the World Health Organization to accelerate vaccine availability in low-income countries.

AstraZeneca said it is looking at a capacity of up to three billion doses of the vaccine in 2021 pending regulatory approval.

It said the vaccine can be stored, transported and handled “at normal refrigerated conditions” of between two and eight degrees Celsius (36-46 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least six months.

‘Save many lives’

More than 23,000 adults are currently being assessed in the trials, with the number expected to rise to up to 60,000, the statement said.

“Clinical trials are also being conducted in the US, Japan, Russia, South Africa, Kenya and Latin America with planned trials in other European and Asian countries,” it added.

Oxford professor Andrew Pollard said the latest findings show “an effective vaccine that will save many lives”.

“Excitingly, we’ve found that one of our dosing regimens may be around 90 percent effective and if this dosing regime is used, more people could be vaccinated with planned vaccine supply.

“Today’s announcement is only possible thanks to the many  volunteers in our trial, and the hard working and talented team of researchers based around the world,” added Pollard, who is chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial.

 

AFP

Iconic James Bond Actor, Sean Connery Dies At 90

(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 25, 2008 British actor Sean Connery poses for photographers as he promotes his new book, called ‘Being a Scot’ at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, in Charlotte Square gardens, in Edinburgh.  AFP

 

Legendary British actor Sean Connery, best known for playing fictional spy James Bond in seven films, has died aged 90, his family told the BBC on Saturday.

The Scottish actor, who was knighted in 2000, won numerous awards during his decades-spanning career, including an Oscar, three Golden Globes and two Bafta awards.

Tributes immediately began pouring in for Connery who was considered one of the greatest movie stars of his generation.

“How infinitely sad to hear the news Sir Sean Connery has passed away,” stated a message on the Twitter account maintained for fellow Bond actor Roger Moore who died in 2017.

“He and Roger were friends for many decades and Roger always maintained Sean was the best ever James Bond. RIP.”

Connery claimed his Oscar in 1988 for best-supporting actor for his role as an Irish cop in “The Untouchables”.

He also starred in “The Hunt for Red October”, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” and “The Rock2.

But it is his smooth, Scottish-accented portrayal of the suave spy 007 that he will be best remembered for.

The first actor to utter the unforgettable “Bond, James Bond”, Connery made six official films as novelist Ian Fleming’s creation, giving what many still consider as the definitive portrayal.

AFP

COVID-19 Made Me Fitter, Says Boris Johnson

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. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / POOL / AFP)

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed Tuesday he was obese when he contracted coronavirus earlier this year, but after losing weight said he now felt much better.

The 56-year-old spent three nights in intensive care in April after contracting Covid-19, and there have been swirling questions about his health ever since.

“I am fitter than I was before, it may irritate you to know,” he said, when asked by a reporter about his health following a speech on education.

“I am fitter than a butcher’s dog, thanks basically to losing weight.

“When you reach 17 stone six (around 111 kg, 244 pounds) as I did, at a height of about five foot 10 (around 1.78 metres), it’s probably a good idea to lose weight, so that’s what I’ve done. And I feel much much better.”

An online calculator provided by the state-run National Health Service (NHS) suggests that a man with Johnson’s age, weight and height would have a body mass index (BMI) of 34.9 — classing him as obese.

It is not the first time Johnson has boasted about his health, using a newspaper interview in June to make the “butcher’s dog” analogy and even doing push-ups to prove his fitness.

But the issue has returned as a talking point amid disquiet among his Conservative lawmakers over his handling of a new uptick in coronavirus cases.

The outbreak has so far killed 42,000 people in Britain — the worst toll in Europe.

Johnson has recently been spotted running with a personal trainer in a park near his Downing Street office. As London mayor between 2008 and 2006, he was a keen cyclist.

AFP

EU Tells UK To ‘Stop Playing Games’ On Brexit

The flags of Britain (R) and the European Union flutter in front of the Chancellery in Berlin, where the British Prime Minister was expected on April 9, 2019. MICHELE TANTUSSI / AFP.

 

Senior EU and British officials will meet urgently next week on the Brexit withdrawal agreement, which has been threatened by London’s attempt to override parts of the treaty, Brussels said Tuesday.

“But please, dear friends in London: Stop the games. Time is running out,” Germany’s European affairs minister Michael Roth warned as he met colleagues in Brussels ahead of a summit of EU leaders on Thursday.

EU Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said he would meet senior British minister Michel Gove in Brussels on Monday, just ahead of Brussels’ end-of-the-month deadline for London to drop a bill designed to rewrite the deal.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is pushing ahead with legislation designed to override parts of the treaty, an act which it admits breaks international law, and Brussels is furiously defending the deal.

“The so-called Internal Market Bill worries us extremely, because it violates the guiding principles of the withdrawal agreement, and this is totally unacceptable for us,” Roth said.

Sefcovic said he would meet Gove as joint chair of the EU-UK Joint Coordination Committee overseeing the divorce agreement.

However, “we will not be renegotiating, but we are dedicated to its full and timely implementation — nothing more and nothing less.”

In parallel to the wrangling over the existing agreement, which Johnson signed last year and hailed as an “oven-ready” deal to get Britain out of Europe, EU and UK teams are negotiating a possible trade deal.

The EU leaders meeting Thursday will receive a “point of information” on progress in these talks, but for the moment have left the protracted debate in the hands of their negotiator, Michel Barnier.

The next round of trade talks begin on October 2 in Brussels. Johnson has set a mid-October deadline for success or failure, and EU officials say the deal must be done by the end of the month if it is to pass into law by the end of the year.

Britain left the European Union on January 31, and will leave the bloc’s single market and customs union at the end of the year. Experts fear economic chaos if no new trade deal can be agreed by then.

But the two sides are still divided on rules for a “level-playing field” of fair competition between companies, on state aid or subsidies for EU and UK firms and on access for EU boats to British fishing waters.

And the dispute about the withdrawal agreement has thrown a new spanner in the works. Johnson’s decision to use domestic law to overwrite parts the treaty with the EU has infuriated Brussels.

AFP

British Pound Sinks Amid Brexit Deadlock Fears

PM Johnson Says UK Anti-Racism Protests 'Hijacked By Extremists'
In this file photo taken on April 12, 2020. Pippa FOWLES / 10 Downing Street / AFP.

 

The British pound sank Monday after Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared to revive investor fears of a no-deal Brexit, dealers said.

Heading into the half-way point in London, sterling deepened losses to shed 1.0 percent versus the dollar. It was also down 0.8 percent against the European single currency.

Johnson has given an October 15 deadline for a post-Brexit trade agreement with the European Union, brushing off fears about “no-deal” chaos if talks fail.

“If we can’t agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free-trade agreement between us,” Johnson said, insisting it would still be a “good outcome” for Britain.

The Financial Times meanwhile reported that Johnson is planning legislation to override parts of the withdrawal treaty that Britain and the EU agreed last year.

The report cited three people close to the plans as saying a bill to be put before parliament this week would undermine agreements relating to Northern Ireland customs and state aid.

– ‘Negotiation tactics?’ –

“Judging by today’s price action in the pound, investors appear to believe that Johnson has indeed resurrected the spectre of a no-deal Brexit,” ThinkMarkets analyst Fawad Razaqzada told AFP.

“However, I reckon it is all part of negotiation tactics — and in the end a cliff-edge Brexit will probably be avoided as it is not in either party’s interests.”

In response to the report, Downing Street said only that it was still “working hard to resolve outstanding issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol” but was considering “fall-back options”.

EU leader Ursula von der Leyen warned that Britain is legally obliged to respect the Brexit withdrawal agreement, which must form the basis of bilateral relations going forward.

The eighth round of negotiations resume in London this week, with both sides talking increasingly tough, amid accusations of intransigence and political brinkmanship.

– European stocks rally –

The weak pound meanwhile handed a fillip to the London stock market, because it boosts the share prices of multinationals earning in dollars.

Frankfurt and Paris also charged higher as investors snapped up bargain stocks following heady losses last week.

Asian equities struggled Monday, with a mixed US jobs report offsetting a pledge from Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell that interest rates would remain rock-bottom for years.

China-US tensions and a lack of progress in Washington stimulus talks — all against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic — were keeping markets from surging.

Wall Street nursed more losses on Friday, albeit shallower than Thursday’s rout that hammered the tech sector as traders took profits from months of huge gains.

In commodity markets on Monday, world oil prices sank on stubborn concerns over the long-term energy demand outlook, as economies struggle to shake off coronavirus fallout.

“The market is growing less and less confident that oil demand will recover as quickly as it hoped,” said Rystad Energy analyst Paola Rodriguez-Masiu.

– Key figures around 1115 GMT –

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3150 from $1.3279 on Friday

Euro/pound: UP at 89.89 pence from 89.15 pence

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1834 from $1.1838 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 106.20 yen from 106.24 yen

London – FTSE 100: UP 1.6 percent at 5,890.67 points

Frankfurt – DAX 30: UP 1.4 percent at 13,017.69

Paris – CAC 40: UP 1.2 percent at 5,022.54

EURO STOXX 50: UP 1.2 percent at 3,298.52

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.5 percent at 23,089.95 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.4 percent at 24,589.65 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 1.9 percent at 3,292.59 (close)

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.6 percent at 28,133.31 (close)

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 1.4 percent at $42.08 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.5 percent at $39.17

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

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 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 PM Johnson Says Will Not Ignore Anger Over Racial Injustice

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
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 has acknowledged the “cold reality” behind angry protests against racial injustice, but warned he would not tolerate violence or the breaking of coronavirus distancing laws.

Demonstrations have broken out across Britain following the death of George Floyd in the United States, most of them peaceful, although clashes in London left 35 police officers hurt.

“We simply cannot ignore the depth of emotion that has been triggered by that spectacle of a black man losing his life at the hands of the police,” Johnson said in a statement late Monday.

“In this country and around the world his dying words — I can’t breathe — have awakened an anger and a widespread and incontrovertible, undeniable feeling of injustice, a feeling that people from black and minority ethnic groups do face discrimination: in education, in employment, in the application of the criminal law.

“And we who lead and who govern simply can’t ignore those feelings because in too many cases, I am afraid, they will be founded on a cold reality.”

He continued: “And so I say yes, you are right, we are all right, to say Black Lives Matter.

READ ALSO: Cyprus Welcomes First Tourist Flights Since March

“And to all those who have chosen to protest peacefully and who have insisted on social distancing, I say, yes of course I hear you, and I understand.”

He said while Britain had made “huge strides… there is so much more to do — in eradicating prejudice, and creating opportunity, and the government I lead is committed to that effort.”

However, he warned the country was “in a time of national trial” as it battled the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed 40,000 people in Britain.

– ‘Bygone era’ –

“I will not support those who flout the rules on social distancing,” he said.

“And no, I will not support or indulge those who break the law, or attack the police, or desecrate public monuments.”

London protesters defaced the statue of World War II leader Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, and in Bristol, southwest England, crowds pulled down a statue of a notorious local slave trader.

“We have a democracy in this country. If you want to change the urban landscape, you can stand for election, or vote for someone who will,” Johnson said.

London mayor Sadiq Khan on Tuesday announced a review of the capital’s landmarks, including statues and road names, many of which he said “reflect a bygone era”.

“We must ensure that we celebrate the achievements and diversity of all in our city, and that we commemorate those who have made London what it is — that includes questioning which legacies are being celebrated,” he said.

AFP

UK PM Johnson Urges Global Effort At Vaccine Summit

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
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 called for a “new era of global health co-operation” as he prepared to host a vaccine fundraising summit on Thursday under the shadow of coronavirus.

The virtual meeting aims to raise $7.4 billion for immunisation programmes stalled by the pandemic, and will see the launch of a new fundraising drive to support potential COVID-19 vaccines.

“I hope this summit will be the moment when the world comes together to unite humanity in the fight against disease,” Johnson said in a statement.

The British leader added he hoped it would “inaugurate a new era of global health co-operation, which I believe is now the most essential shared endeavour of our lifetimes”.

More than 50 countries are taking part in Thursday’s meeting, as well as individuals such as philanthropist Bill Gates, and will raise funds for Gavi, the vaccine alliance.

Over the next five years, it wants to reboot halted programmes and provide vaccines at a much-reduced cost to some 300 million children.

READ ALSO: Armenia Hospitals Overwhelmed As COVID-19 Cases Surge

Gavi and its partners will also launch a financing drive to purchase potential COVID-19 vaccines, scale-up their production and support delivery to developing nations.

The pandemic has exposed new ruptures in international cooperation, notably with US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the World Health Organization (WHO).

But Johnson said helping developing countries would benefit places such as Britain, which has suffered the worst coronavirus death toll in Europe.

“This support for routine immunisations will shore up poorer countries’ healthcare systems to deal with coronavirus — and so help to stop the global spread,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“This virus has shown how connected we are. We’re fighting an invisible enemy. And no one is safe frankly until we are all safe.”

– All at risk –

Gates said that pharmaceutical companies had been working together to try and secure the required production capacity.

“It’s been amazing, the pharmaceutical companies stepping up to say ‘yes, even if our vaccine is not the best, we will make our factories available’,” he told BBC Radio 4.

“If you only have one factory, and it’s only making say 300 million doses a year, then the scramble for that would be very difficult.

“If you can get 10 of those factories and get three billion a year, then it’s not nearly as difficult.”

The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 380,000 people since it emerged in China last December, according to an AFP tally of official sources.

Stay-at-home orders were imposed across the world, causing huge economic disruption and the suspension of many routine immunisation services.

The WHO, UN children’s agency UNICEF and Gavi warned last month that vaccine services were disrupted in nearly 70 countries, affecting some 80 million children under the age of one.

Polio eradication drives were suspended in dozens of countries, while measles vaccination campaigns were also put on hold in 27 countries, UNICEF said.

Recent Gavi-supported modelling from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimated that for every coronavirus death prevented by halting vaccination campaigns in Africa, up to 140 people could die from vaccine-preventable diseases.

“More children in more countries are now protected against more diseases than at any point in history,” said Seth Berkley, chief executive of Gavi.

“However, these historic advances in global health are now at risk of unravelling as COVID-19 causes unprecedented disruption to vaccine programmes worldwide.

“We face the very real prospect of a global resurgence of diseases like measles, polio and yellow fever, which would put us all at risk.”

AFP

UK PM Johnson Condemns George Floyd killing, Calls For ‘Lawful’ Protests

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
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 on Wednesday condemned the killing of George Floyd by police in the United States but declined to say whether he had spoken about the issue with key ally Donald Trump.

“I think what happened in the United States was appalling, inexcusable,” Johnson told lawmakers in parliament, in his first public comment on the case.

“We all saw it on our screens and I perfectly understand people’s right to protest what took place,” he added.

“Obviously I also believe that protests should take place in a lawful and reasonable way.”

But Johnson avoided answering questions as to whether he had raised the matter with the president, as Britain eyes a post-Brexit trade deal with the United States.

Floyd, an unarmed African-American, died last week after a police officer in the US city Minneapolis knelt on his neck, an incident captured on video by a witness. The officer concerned has been charged with third-degree murder.

The killing has prompted waves of angry and sometimes violent protests in cities across the country and around the world.

Johnson’s comments echoed those of British police chiefs Wednesday.

“We stand alongside all those across the globe who are appalled and horrified by the way George Floyd lost his life,” they said in a joint statement.

“Justice and accountability should follow.

“We are also appalled to see the violence and damage that has happened in so many US cities since then.”

The police chiefs appealed for people in Britain to “work with officers” as protests mount over Floyd’s killing, just as a nationwide coronavirus lockdown is being eased.

– ‘Challenging time’ –

Hundreds of people defied the virus restrictions and rallied in the British capital on Sunday, including outside the US embassy and in Hyde Park.

The Metropolitan Police said it arrested 23 people, and issued a further 10 people with fines for breaching the rules.

Protests also took place in other cities, including Liverpool and Manchester, and more are expected on Wednesday.

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In their statement, police chiefs said they understood “people want to make their voices heard” but appealed to them “to work with officers at this challenging time”.

“The right to lawful protest is a key part of any democracy, which UK police uphold and facilitate,” they added.

“But coronavirus remains a deadly disease and there are still restrictions in place to prevent its spread, which include not gathering outside in groups of more than six people.”

Britain has its own fraught history of racism within policing, with a landmark 1999 report finding “institutional racism” within London’s police force.

The report was commissioned after the racist murder of a black teenager, Stephen Lawrence, at a bus stop in south London in 1993.

The police investigation was marred by a catalogue of failures that saw no one convicted until 2012.

Despite programmes of reform, a 2015 study by the Runnymede Trust, an educational charity which aims to promote a successful multi-ethnic Britain, found “systemic and institutional racism persists” within British policing.

“Britain is no stranger to racialised police violence,” it noted.

“Black and minority ethnic people are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system at every level, from arrests to stop and search, to imprisonment, to deaths in custody.”

AFP