Johnson Announces Four-Week Lockdown In England As COVID-19 Cases Surge

 

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a new four-week coronavirus lockdown in England, which will join several European countries in imposing the measure for a second time, as Slovakia took a different tack and began testing its entire population.

Global infections are fast approaching 46 million, with close to 1.2 million deaths, and Europe is experiencing a dizzying spike in Covid-19 cases.

Under-pressure governments on the continent are scrambling to contain the outbreaks, with the reimposition of restrictions sparking widespread exasperation and sometimes violent protests.

“Now is the time to take action because there’s no alternative,” Johnson said. “We have got to be humble in the face of nature. In this country, alas, as in much of Europe, the virus is spreading even faster than the reasonable worst-case scenario of our scientific advisers.”

Under the new lockdown, planned to start on Thursday and end on December 2, England’s population must stay at home except when exemptions apply, such as for work, education or exercise, while all but essential shops will close.

The devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have already imposed partial lockdowns.

Britain’s infections surged past one million on Saturday.

Just minutes after Johnson, Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced a partial lockdown with 70 percent of the population going back under restrictions.

Also on Saturday, Austria brought in a second lockdown of its own, while Greece declared a partial one. The new measures came just a day after France started its second lockdown and Belgium said it would tighten its measures.

Italy has also already reintroduced some restrictions.

This time around in Europe, there have been sometimes-violent protests against the measures.

“This city will go bust. There will be nothing left of it,” Roger Stenson, a 73-year-old pensioner in Nottingham, said ahead of Britain’s lockdown announcement, echoing widespread concerns about the economic impact.

“You know, closed shops… There will just be nothing left of it, that’s the problem.”

– ‘I cannot vote for this man’ –

The United States remains the worst-hit country in the world, with 9.1 million infections, more than 230,000 deaths and fresh spikes in many parts of the vast nation.

Covid-19 has been one of the dominant campaign issues ahead of the presidential election on November 3, with millions of jobs lost and Donald Trump facing intense criticism over his handling of the pandemic.

Trump himself got Covid-19, as did members of his family and staff, but he has been critical of lockdown measures over their economic impact, belittled mask-wearing by his Democratic challenger Joe Biden, and organised rallies with thousands of supporters despite warnings about the risk of transmission.

The president has accused the media of overplaying the threat of the virus, but with tens of millions of Americans suffering because of the pandemic, some voters appear to be seeking an alternative.

They include Kimberly McLemore, a 56-year-old from Florida who did not see Trump taking the pandemic seriously.

“In good conscience, I cannot vote for this man,” the lifelong Republican told AFP, adding that both her parents, who are in their eighties, also voted for Biden — the first time they had voted for a Democrat.

– ‘End our misery’ –

With no vaccine yet available, governments have limited tools at their disposal to counter the spread of the virus.

In Slovakia, the government has decided to take a different approach to other European countries and test its entire population of 5.4 million, with Prime Minister Igor Matovic describing the strategy as the EU nation’s “road to freedom”.

But in the lesser privileged parts of the world with little or no infrastructure and resources, there are fewer options.

In northwestern Syria, where around 1.5 million people displaced by war live in overcrowded camps or shelters with poor access to running water, some feel they do not stand a chance.

“We’re scared of the disease but we don’t dare leave,” said 80-year-old Ghatwa al-Mohommad.

“We’re so confused about what we should do. If only God would have us die and end our misery.”

AFP

Millions More Face COVID-19 Restrictions In Northern England

A woman walks past a digital display in Nottingham, central England warning pedestrians that the County is moving into coronavirus Tier 3 restrictions on October 29, 2020.
Darren Staples / AFP

 

Millions of people in northern England face stricter coronavirus rules next week, the government said Friday as it perseveres with a localised response to surging case rates.

From Monday, nearly 2.4 million residents in five districts of West Yorkshire, including in the city of Leeds, will be barred from socialising with other households indoors.

Pubs and bars not serving “substantial meals” must close, alongside casinos, betting shops, soft play facilities, and adult gaming centres.

The public has also been told to avoid unnecessary travel.

The Department of Health said the measures were needed as infection rates in West Yorkshire were “among the highest in the country” and rising rapidly.

The move means more than 11 million people or about a fifth of England’s population will be under the tightest restrictions from next week.

Most of the areas in the “very high” category of the government’s three-tier Covid alert system are in northern and central parts of the country.

Nottingham became the latest city to enter the highest tier Friday.

On Thursday night, young people took to the streets in fancy dress and drank alcohol in large groups before a ban on alcohol sales in shops came into force at 2100 GMT.

Britain has already been the worst-hit in Europe by the pandemic, as more than 45,000 people have died within 28 days after testing positive.

Case rates are spiralling again after a lull, tracking the situation elsewhere in Europe.

Cases are doubling every nine days and rising in all age groups and regions, according to the ongoing study by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI.

– ‘Targeted’ –

Britain’s European neighbours and the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have reimposed partial lockdowns to try to cut infection rates.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resisted his top scientists’ advice to follow suit in England, where the UK government sets health policy.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Friday the government would continue its “targeted and focused” strategy of local restrictions in virus hotspots.

“It is the right thing to do to target the virus where it is the greatest threat… and the science backs that up,” he told BBC radio.

“The arbitrariness of a blanket approach would be far worse than the effects of trying to be as targeted as possible.”

Meanwhile, a new study reported Friday that a Covid-19 variant originating in Spanish farm workers has spread rapidly throughout Europe in recent months and now accounts for most cases in Britain.

The variant — called 20A.EU1 — is thought to have been spread from northeastern Spain by people returning from holidays there, according to the study, which is awaiting peer review in a medical journal.

There is currently no evidence that the strain spreads faster or impacts illness severity and immunity.

“We are in the process of working with labs to more closely inspect the mutations, but we actually think that it’s really behaviour here that was the key point,” University of Basel researcher Emma Hodcroft, the study’s lead author, told BBC radio.

AFP

Arsenal’s Saka Makes England Debut As Three Lions Wallop Wales

Wales’ defender Connor Roberts (L) tackles England’s defender Bukayo Saka during the international friendly football match between England and Wales at Wembley stadium in north London on October 8, 2020. Nick Potts / POOL / AFP

 

In-form Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored on his England debut as Gareth Southgate’s experimental side beat Wales 3-0 in Thursday’s friendly.

Calvert-Lewin opened the scoring at Wembley with his 10th goal this season after netting nine times in six games for Everton.

The 23-year-old’s first-half strike was followed by another maiden England goal as Wolves defender Conor Coady struck after the interval.

On his first England start, Southampton striker Danny Ings got the third goal — his first for his country — with a fine overhead kick.

With Tammy Abraham, Ben Chilwell and Jadon Sancho missing following their Covid-19 breach and a squad packed with players who have already featured heavily for their clubs, Southgate turned to his understudies before England’s Nations League matches against Belgium on Sunday and Denmark on Wednesday.

 

England’s defender Conor Coady (R) scores their second goal during the international friendly football match between England and Wales at Wembley stadium in north London on October 8, 2020.  England won the game 3-0.  Glyn KIRK / POOL / AFP

 

It was an encouraging display for the England manager as the least experienced Three Lions team in 44 years, with a total of 54 caps, gave him some food for thought.

Aston Villa playmaker Jack Grealish provided the assist for Calvert-Lewin’s goal and was a lively presence in his first England start.

Arsenal teenager Bukayo Saka lined up at left wing-back and the debutant gradually grew into the game, while Nick Pope replaced error-prone Jordan Pickford in goal and produced a composed display.

Wales, without Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, were beaten for the first time in nine games dating back to June 2019.

They remain without a win over England since 1984, but boss Ryan Giggs had one eye on their Nations League games against the Republic of Ireland and Bulgaria.

– Phoney war –
In their first meeting since England beat Wales at Euro 2016, the visitors should have taken an early lead when Saka’s weak headed clearance fell to Kieffer Moore, who scuffed his shot wide from 12 yards.

It was England’s first game at Wembley in 11 months because of the coronavirus pandemic and the sterile behind closed doors atmosphere meant the ‘Battle of Britain’ felt more like a phoney war at times.

Calvert-Lewin raised the tempo when he got behind the Wales defence and rounded keeper Wayne Hennessey, only to see his shot cleared.

It was a warning that Wales failed to heed and Calvert-Lewin extended his hot streak in the 26th minute.

Grealish cleverly worked a yard of space to loft a fine cross into the six-yard box, where Calvert-Lewin timed his run to evade the flat-footed Chris Mepham and head past Hennessey.

Moore had a chance to equalise when he barged his way through England’s defence, but Nick Pope charged off his line to save at the Wales striker’s feet.

Set up by Southgate with three centre-back and two holding midfielders in Kalvin Phillips and Harry Winks, England were too conservative in the first half — a criticism that was labelled at them in their goalless draw with Denmark in September.

They were much improved after the break and Wales couldn’t cope.

In the absence of the rested Harry Kane, Kieran Trippier was serving as the ninth different England captain under Southgate and the Atletico Madrid defender celebrated the honour by setting up the second goal in the 53rd minute.

Trippier swung his free-kick to the far post and Coady arrived to guide a half-volley past Hennessey from close-range.

Ings put the result beyond doubt in the 63rd minute, meeting Tyrone Mings’ header with a superb overhead kick from six yards.

Grealish was denied a goal by two saves from Hennessey, but England’s new-boys had already made their mark.

AFP

Britain To Impose New Coronavirus Curbs As US Nears 200,000 Deaths

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic.(Photo by Rui Vieira / POOL / AFP)

 

The British government will announce fresh steps Tuesday to try and stop a coronavirus surge in England, while the United States was on the verge of 200,000 COVID-19 deaths.

The pandemic is showing no signs of slowing down — more than 31.2 million infections have been detected worldwide, with 964,000 deaths — and nations are scrambling to contain new outbreaks.

The ramped-up response in Britain follows warnings that the country could see up to 50,000 cases a day by mid-October, and a month later exceed 200 deaths every day.

France and Spain are battling similar surges.

“If we don’t do enough, the virus will take off and at the moment that is the path that we are clearly on,” said Chris Whitty, the British government’s chief medical officer.

“And if we do not change course, then we are going to find ourselves in a very difficult problem.”

Under new rules to come into force on Thursday, English pubs, bars and other hospitality venues will be required to close at 10 pm. Food and drink outlets will also be restricted to table service only.

Many nations in Europe were easing restrictions after largely overcoming initial outbreaks, but the resurgence of the virus has forced them to tighten curbs again.

In the Czech Republic, Prime Minister Andrej Babis admitted Monday that the government had loosened restrictions too quickly.

“Even I got carried away by the coming summer and the general mood,” he said.

“That was a mistake I don’t want to make again.”

– ‘Lies and incompetence’ –
The number of deaths in the United States was close to 200,000 on Tuesday, with infections in the worst-hit nation in the world approaching seven million.

Overall, the US accounts for four percent of the world’s population and 20 percent of its coronavirus deaths.

President Donald Trump has faced intense criticism of his handling of the crisis ahead of the November election.

“Due to Donald Trump’s lies and incompetence in the past six months, (we) have seen one of the gravest losses of American life in history,” his Democratic rival Joe Biden charged on Monday.

“With this crisis, a real crisis, a crisis that required serious presidential leadership, he just wasn’t up to it. He froze. He failed to act. He panicked. And America has paid the worst price of any nation in the world.”

Trump insisted Monday that the United States was “rounding the corner with or without a vaccine”.

But US Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell will warn Tuesday in testimony before a Congressional committee that a full recovery in the world’s biggest economy “is likely to come only when people are confident that it is safe to reengage in a broad range of activities”, according to prepared remarks.

– ‘I’ll never return’ –
A vaccine is considered crucial to ending the pandemic — with multiple development efforts underway around the world — but there are concerns that the poorest nations may not be able to access it.

More than 60 wealthy nations — but not China and the United States — have joined a programmed backed by the World Health Organization to facilitate poor countries’ access to vaccines, according to a list published Monday.

Until one is available, the options for treatment available to the less privileged are limited.

In Mexico, where more than 73,000 people have died, many are choosing to stay at home when they fall ill instead of seeking treatment at creaking public hospitals.

Jessica Castillo in Hidalgo state said she suffered for a week at home, and even had suicidal thoughts.

“I felt that the air I was breathing wasn’t entering my lungs,” said 43-year-old pastry chef, whose coronavirus recovery took more than a month.

“But I said: ‘If I go to hospital, I’ll never return’.”

UK Warned COVID-19 Test Shortages Harming Health System

(FILES) In this file photo Dr. Rhonda Flores looks at protein samples at Novavax labs in Gaithersburg, Maryland on March 20, 2020, one of the labs developing a vaccine for the coronavirus, COVID-19. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP)

 

Healthcare services are being jeopardised by lack of access to coronavirus testing, hospital bosses in England warned on Tuesday.

NHS Providers, which represents the heads of hospital trusts in the state-run National Health Service, said there were “current capacity problems with the testing regime”.

Its chief executive Chris Hopson said the government should prioritise health workers, as shortages of tests had caused a slew of staff absences in major cities.

Patients were also struggling to get tests, compounding delays within the NHS that have worsened since the outbreak began.

“We have now got cases where patients who should be being treated, we can’t treat them because they can’t get access to a test,” he told Sky News television in an interview.

“So, for them that’s a real problem.”

Hopson spoke after LBC radio reported on Monday that no coronavirus tests were available in any of the 10 worst hotspots in England.

The revelation followed weekend reports of a backlog of 185,000 swab tests, and that the system was so stretched samples were being sent to labs in Italy and Germany.

The UK government has blamed surging demand for the situation and promised increased capacity while urging people only to get tested if they are showing symptoms.

Interior minister Priti Patel denied claims of acute shortages in England’s hotspots, saying mobile testing units were boosting capacity in areas under local lockdowns.

“Clearly there is much more work that needs to be undertaken with Public Health England and the actual public health bodies in those particular local areas,” she told BBC radio on Tuesday.

Britain, which has been the worst-hit country in Europe registering nearly 42,000 deaths, has seen a resurgence in the virus in recent weeks.

The country recorded more than 3,000 new cases on three consecutive days over the weekend, for the first time since May.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had pledged to have a “world-beating” testing and tracing operation in place by June.

But alongside the faltering testing regime, the tracing system is still failing to reach the required number of people to work effectively.

Meanwhile, a much-touted smartphone app to help trace people is yet to launch in England.

Scotland, which runs health from the devolved administration in Edinburgh, launched an app last week using technology developed by Apple and Google.

AFP

Tighter Socialising Rules In England After COVID-19 Spike

Workers wear NHS-branded Test and Trace high-vis jackets as they work at an NHS COVID-19 walk-in testing centre in Bolton, northern England on September 9, 2020, as local lockdown restrictions are put in place due to a spike in cases of the novel coronavirus in the city. – The UK government, which controls health policy in England, imposed tougher restrictions on Bolton, near the northwest city of Manchester, after a “very significant rise” in cases. Bolton was found to have 120 cases per 100,000 people — the highest in the country. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP)

 

The UK government on Wednesday sets out tighter rules on social gatherings to curb the spread of the coronavirus, with concern mounting at rising infection rates among the young.

The law in England will change from next week to reduce the number of people who can gather socially from 30 to six, with some exemptions.

A new public information campaign was also launched to emphasise the importance of hand washing, the use of face coverings and maintaining social distancing.

“We need to act now to stop the virus spreading,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in comments before an expected news conference later Wednesday.

More than 41,500 people confirmed to have coronavirus have died in Britain, the worst toll in Europe.

The death rate has now fallen to its lowest level since mid-March.

But as in other parts of Europe, cases are increasing, with almost 3,000 daily infections reported in recent days, and concern the outbreak is slipping out of control.

Johnson’s office said medical and scientific advisers had agreed that “urgent action is needed”, while police had also asked for the rules to be simplified.

Current guidelines stipulate that people must not socialise outside in a group of more than six people from different households.

But the law actually puts that limit at 30 in private spaces.

From Monday, this will be reduced to six, except for large families, weddings, funerals, organised team sports, workplaces and educational settings.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News television in an interview: “Abiding by these rules is absolutely vital to protect life.

“We’ve seen the increase in the number of cases, sadly, in the last few days. We’ve seen that across Europe, there’s a second wave that many countries have experienced.”

– Targeted action –

The UK government, which controls health policy in England, imposed tougher restrictions on Bolton, near the northwest city of Manchester, after a “very significant rise” in cases.

Bolton was found to have 120 cases per 100,000 people — the highest in the country.

Hancock told parliament on Tuesday contact tracing data had shown this was “partly due to socialising by people in their 20s and 30s”.

A number of pubs were identified as hotspots, and curbs were put on opening hours of hospitality venues, and locals were banned from socialising with people outside their household.

The latest targeted local restrictions follow similar action in Caerphilly, south Wales, and East Dunbartonshire and Renfrewshire, in the west of Scotland.

The developments come as the UK government is trying to get the economy moving again after nearly three months of lockdown imposed in late March.

It has encouraged people to go back to work and use a government-subsidised restaurant scheme to boost revenues for eateries hit hard by the shutdown.

Critics say such measures have only exacerbated infection rates as young people in particular head out to pubs with scant regard for social distancing.

Hancock warned that although younger people were less likely to develop serious forms of Covid-19, they could easily pass it to those more vulnerable, particularly the elderly.

AFP

Several Stabbed In Birmingham ‘Major Incident,’ Says UK Police

birmingham
A small forensics tent is seen at the junction of Church Street and Barwick Street, following a major stabbing incident in the centre of Birmingham, central England, on September 6, 2020. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

British police declared a “major incident” early on Sunday after multiple people were stabbed in the centre of England’s second city Birmingham.

“We can confirm that at approximately 12:30 am today (Sunday 6 September) we were called to reports of a stabbing in Birmingham city centre”, West Midlands Police said in a statement.

“A number of other stabbings” were reported in the area shortly after and “this has been declared a major incident”, the statement added.

“We are aware of a number of injured people, but at the moment we are not in a position to say how many or how serious.

“However, all emergency services are working together at the scene, and making sure that those who are injured receive medical care.”

Footage aired on British television news channels showed large areas of the city centre cordoned off as police officers wearing forensic suits worked at the scene.

“Work is still going on to establish what has happened, and could take some time before we are in a position to confirm anything,” West Midlands Police said.

“At this early stage it would not be appropriate to speculate on the causes of the incident.”

AFP

Ten-Man England Narrowly Beat Iceland In Nations League Opener

England's forward Raheem Sterling (front) and Iceland's defender Hjortur Hermannsson vie for the ball during the UEFA Nations League football match between Iceland v England on September 5, 2020 in Reykjavik. Haraldur Gudjonsson / AFP
England’s forward Raheem Sterling (front) and Iceland’s defender Hjortur Hermannsson vie for the ball during the UEFA Nations League football match between Iceland v England on September 5, 2020 in Reykjavik. Haraldur Gudjonsson / AFP

 

Raheem Sterling’s last-minute penalty salvaged England from another embarrassing result against Iceland as Gareth Southgate’s men survived going down to 10 men and Birkir Bjarnason also missing a late spot-kick to start their Nations League campaign with a 1-0 in Reykjavik on Saturday.

Four years on from one of English football’s most embarrassing nights in losing 2-1 to Iceland at Euro 2016, the Three Lions were far from the free-scoring force that romped through Euro 2020 qualifying in their first match for 10 months.

Harry Kane had an early goal wrongly ruled out for offside before Kyle Walker was sent-off for two bookable offences 20 minutes from time.

All of Iceland’s good defensive work was undone in the 89th minute when Sverrir Ingason was also harshly dismissed for a second booking when he blocked Sterling’s shot with his arm.

With Kane having been replaced by Mason Greenwood, Sterling took responsibility from spot, but the drama did not end there.

Straight from kick-off, Joe Gomez was adjudged to have bundled over Holmbert Fridjonsson inside the area, but Bjamason blazed the resulting penalty over.

Southgate handed an international debut to Manchester City midfielder Phil Foden, while Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse started for the first time in a competitive fixture for his country in an experimental line-up.

England's forward Harry Kane shoots the ball during the UEFA Nations League football match between Iceland v England on September 5, 2020 in Reykjavik. Haraldur Gudjonsson / AFP
England’s forward Harry Kane shoots the ball during the UEFA Nations League football match between Iceland v England on September 5, 2020 in Reykjavik.
Haraldur Gudjonsson / AFP

 

However, there was still plenty of enough experience and promise in a front three of Kane, Sterling, and Jadon Sancho for England to have had a far more comfortable afternoon in Reykjavik.

Kane had the ball in the net for what he thought was his 33rd international goal inside six minutes when he bundled in at the back post.

However, the England captain was wrongly flagged for offside and with no VAR in operation, the visitors were denied.

Sancho has been linked with a move to Manchester United from Borussia Dortmund for more than £100 million in recent months and the 20-year-old was England’s most dangerous weapon early on as he eased past his marker before teeing up Declan Rice, who miscued his shot with the best chance of the first half.

Arnor Traustason curled a free-kick wide with Iceland’s only attempt on goal until stoppage time, but the move leading to that effort still proved costly for England as Walker picked up his first yellow card.

Southgate’s men continued to enjoy the vast majority of possession in the second period, but the closest they came to breaking the deadlock before the dramatic finale was when Iceland’s Kari Arnason flicked Kieran Trippier’s free-kick onto his own post.

Moments later Walker’s ill-judged lunge to break up an Icelandic counter-attack left his side a man down.

A breakthrough did not look like coming until Sterling collected an overhit corner and the ball struck Ingason’s arm in his attempt to block the shot.

Sterling coolly rolled his penalty straight down the middle and how Bjarnason wish he had showed the same composure as his wild finish let England off the hook.

 

AFP

England Announces Equal Pay For National Teams

File photo: England’s defender Steph Houghton (hidden) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal during the France 2019 Women’s World Cup round of sixteen football match between England and Cameroon, on June 23, 2019, at the Hainaut stadium in Valenciennes, northern France. Denis Charlet / AFP

 

England men’s and women’s senior players have been paid the same match fee for representing their country since January 2020, the Football Association confirmed on Thursday.

Brazil on Wednesday joined Australia, Norway and New Zealand on the list of football associations who had publicly committed to paying their men and women players the same amount for earning a senior cap.

“The FA pays its women’s players exactly the same as their male counterparts for representing England, both in terms of match fees and match bonuses,” the FA said in a statement.

“This parity has been in place since January 2020.”

In March 2019, the US women’s team, the current world champions, sued their federation alleging discrimination over pay and conditions.

A judge dismissed their case in May this year but the team have appealed that ruling.

AFP

Masks The Subject As Virus-Wary Schools Reopen Across Europe

File photo: Homemade protective face masks are prepared by Sarah, a 45-year-old volunteer, who sews face masks to be distributed to people in need, at her home in Vincennes, eastern suburbs of Paris, on May 7, 2020, on the 52nd day of a strict lockdown in France to stop the spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). – GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP.

 

Millions of students headed back to class in France, Belgium and England on Tuesday as European schools cautiously reopened amid rising coronavirus cases in several countries, with face masks often mandatory.

Officials have drawn fire from parents and teachers worried that strict social distancing and other protective measures will not be enough to prevent a second wave of COVID-19.

But many governments insist that the greater risk is young people losing out on crucial in-person lessons, and that keeping kids at home for distance learning puts too big a burden on working parents.

“I do not underestimate how challenging the last few months have been, but I do know how important it is for children to be back in school, not only for their education but for their development and well-being,” Britain’s Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said.

The UN’s education agency UNESCO warned that just half the roughly 900 million primary and secondary students restarting school from August to October will actually be allowed back in classrooms.

“Several generations are facing the threat of school closures, which concern hundreds of millions of students and have lasted many months,” the agency’s director general Audrey Azoulay said in a statement late Monday.

In France, some 12.4 million students returned Tuesday, with masks required for all teachers as well as students over 11.

“It doesn’t bother me to wear a mask, even if it does feel a little weird,” said Marie, who was starting her first year of middle school in the southern French city of Marseille.

But many teachers were less enthusiastic. “How can we connect with children when half your face is hidden behind a mask?” said Julie Siata, who teaches English at another Marseille school.

– ‘No zero risk’ –

Pupils also returned Tuesday in Belgium, which has suffered one of the highest rates of coronavirus deaths in Europe.

Masks are required for those aged 12 and older, and must be kept in a protective case or pouch.

“You can’t risk having the mask contaminated when taking it off to eat,” said Martin, soon to be 13, as he headed to school in Brussels, adding that he was “stressed” about the new protective measures.

In England and Wales, where openings as well as start times are being staggered this week to avoid crowds on public transport and playgrounds, teachers are urging parents to avoid lingering with other parents after drop-offs.

The British government has faced a storm of criticism over reopening schools, after reversing course last week to announce that face masks would be recommended after all to stem a rise in new Covid-19 cases.

German schools reopened last month, as did many in Scotland which has control of its school system.

Masks will also be compulsory in Greece, where children are expected to return to school on Monday, while Spain will require all students 6 and older to wear masks when classes resume next week.

Children in Spain should also maintain a distance of 1.5 metres (5 feet) from each other, and are being urged to wash their hands at least five times a day.

“I believe fathers, mothers, and the education community can be sure that their sons and daughters, that school employees, will be much safer in schools than in other places,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told Cadena Ser radio.

“But there is no zero risk,” he acknowledged, as Spain also reported an alarming surge in the number of coronavirus cases in recent weeks.

In Italy, where the virus first struck in Europe, concerns are growing that school reopenings set for September 14 could prove too risky despite masks and staggered opening and cafeteria times.

Three regions in southern Italy have already pushed back openings to the end of this month.

AFP

England Appoint Wiegmann As Head Coach To Replace Neville

Sarina Wiegman
Sarina Wiegman has been in charge of Netherlands Women since early 2017 and will start with England in 2021. Photo: The FA

 

 

Sarina Wiegman is to replace Phil Neville as head coach of the England women’s football team next year, the Football Association (FA) announced on Friday.

The 50-year-old Dutch woman will take charge of the Netherlands in next year’s Olympics before assuming control of England.

The former Dutch international defender will be in charge when England hosts the 2022 Euros, the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and the following Euros in 2025.

Wiegman was the FA’s preferred choice ahead of reportedly two-time World Cup-winning former USA coach Jill Ellis.

Ellis’s second World Cup triumph came at the expense of Wiegman’s Dutch side last year.

“Sarina was our number one choice,” said Sue Campbell, the FA’s director of women’s football.

Wiegman said she was delighted to be taking over a side whose country had been at the forefront of developing women’s football in recent times.

“I’m delighted and honoured to join England Women next year,” Wiegman said in a statement.

“England is the cradle of football and the major developments in women’s football globally over recent years have been led by the FA.

“I’m very much looking forward to contributing my experience and expertise to this ambitious team.”

Under Wiegman, Holland won the 2017 European Championship as hosts.

Wiegman — who in 2001 became the first Dutch footballer to be capped 100 times — says she wants to bow out on a high next year.

“The ride with the Oranje Lionesses has been amazing so far, but we haven’t reached our final destination yet,” she said.

“There are two more goals: qualifying for the Euros in 2022 and challenging at the Olympics next summer.

“That would be a fitting completion for me of everything we’ve strived to achieve in women’s football in my home country.

“I will do my utmost to add another chapter to their remarkable journey before making my next step.”

Neville coached England’s women to fourth place at the 2019 Women’s World Cup but the former Manchester United’s star waned as their form slumped following that.

He announced in April he would be stepping down when his contract expires in July next year.

There is a possibility he could be the Team GB coach at the Olympics in Tokyo next July — postponed from this year due to the coronavirus pandemic — but the FA are not taking any chances as he has indicated he would like to coach a club.

The Games run from July 23 to August 8.

The FA said it will talk to the other home nations over the post for the Olympics and a decision will be announced in “due course”.

AFP

Beer Flows Again In England’s Pubs After Lifting Of COVID-19 Restrictions

Customers leave with pints of beer for takeaway at The Ten Bells pub in east London on June 27, 2020. DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP
Customers leave with pints of beer for takeaway at The Ten Bells pub in east London on June 27, 2020. DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP

 

Some of the beer may be stale from sitting in kegs for over three months, but Britons were still eager to sip it as England reopened its beloved pubs as part of the next stage of easing the coronavirus lockdown.

“Gorgeous,” sighed Andrew Slawinski at a pub in northern London, echoing a sentiment possibly felt across the nation which shuttered its bars, cafes and restaurants in late March.

The government is trying to tease its key hospitality sector back to life on what has been touted as “Super Saturday”, with restaurants finally allowed to open their doors to customers again and barbers and hairdressers also able to get their clippers out.

Prince William got into the spirit of things, and was photographed visiting a pub in eastern England, but dutifully using hand sanitiser from a wall-mounted dispenser first.

The Spectator magazine warned against the dangers of drinking stale beer in pubs that were all shut in a hurry, suggesting that a pint actually might taste better on Sunday.

And Rishi Sunak, the finance minister, urged Britons to “eat out to help out”, pointing out that pubs and restaurants often employed younger people entering the jobs market for the first time.

“This is really about social justice,” said Sunak.

But safety was still at the front of many people’s mind and fear that social distancing measures could be forgotten as alcohol blood levels rise later in the evening.

“I’m no killjoy,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock, “but the virus can still kill”.

‘Total chaos’

The first nationwide closure of pubs since the Great Plague of 1665 has contributed to a record slump in beer sales and compounded existing financial difficulties in the sector.

But takings could be up nearly 75 percent to £210 million ($262 million, 233 million euros) this weekend, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, a think-tank.

It predicted 6.5 million customers — 1.5 million more than a usual weekend.

The British Beer and Pub Association said it hoped 80 percent of England’s 28,000 pubs could open but it could take 12 months or more for trade to return to normal.

“If 10 percent of them are profitable, that will be a surprise to us,” said chief executive Emma McClarkin, warning up to 18,000 drinking establishments were at risk of closure by the year end.

Some pubs are adopting a wait-and-see approach, as several surveys indicated many people were hesitant about mixing in larger groups.

In Newcastle, northeast England, where pubs are normally packed at weekends, just one in three city-centre pubs, bars and restaurants will be open, the local council said.

“We are genuinely concerned that this could be a day of total chaos for the pub trade,” the owners of the popular Tyne Bar on the city’s Quayside said in a tweet.

“We’ve decided it’s not worth the risk.”

Government guidelines insist on “minimum contact” between staff and customers, with table service only. Drinkers will also have to give contact details in case of any outbreak.

Britain has had some 44,000 deaths in the outbreak — the third-highest in the world — and concern remains about a second spike of infections as the lockdown is eased.

Pubs in Northern Ireland opened on Friday. A partial reopening is slated for July 13 in Wales and July 15 in Scotland.

Don’t blow it!

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for the public to use common sense. “My message is, let’s not blow this now, folks,” he told LBC radio on Friday.

And he defended a weekend reopening, dismissing fears of raucous New Year’s Eve-style celebrations to mark the end of lockdown.

Health secretary Hancock told The Daily Mail that he would have a pint with his brother but would otherwise have a quiet night, describing how the crisis made him rethink his entire approach to life.

“People I admire and respect have died. Friends. I got off lightly,” he said in the sombre interview.

The hospitality industry and the emergency services have also warned the public not to overdo it.

Brian Booth, chairman of West Yorkshire Police Federation representing rank-and-file officers, said alcohol-fuelled crime and added pressure on overstretched health services.

Local accident and emergency departments were “akin to a circus full of drunken clowns” before the outbreak. “We do not need this once again,” he added.

 

AFP