Ruthless Hungary Inflict England’s Worst Home Defeat In 94 Years

Hungary's striker Adam Szalai (C) leads the celebrations as Hungary's players celebrate in front of their supporters after the UEFA Nations League, league A group 3 football match between England and Hungary at Molineux Stadium in Wolverhampton, central England on June 14, 2022. Hungary won the game 4-0. Adrian DENNIS / AFP
Hungary’s striker Adam Szalai (C) leads the celebrations as Hungary’s players celebrate in front of their supporters after the UEFA Nations League, league A group 3 football match between England and Hungary at Molineux Stadium in Wolverhampton, central England on June 14, 2022. Hungary won the game 4-0. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

England manager Gareth Southgate accepted responsibility for the Three Lions’ worst home defeat since 1928 as Hungary stormed to a 4-0 win in Wolverhampton on Tuesday.

Southgate’s men are staring at relegation from the top tier of the Nations League after a fourth consecutive game without a win.

But he called for fans to stand by his players ahead of the World Cup in five months’ time.

“I totally understand tonight is a chastening experience,” said Southgate who was the target for most of the anger coming from the stands at Molineux.

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“What I would say is this group of players have been unbelievable for the country and it’s important people stay with them because they are still going to be strong going forward.”

England surpassed all expectations to reach the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup and backed that up by reaching the final of a major tournament for the first time in 55 years at Euro 2020 last summer.

“It’s no time to panic,” said England captain Harry Kane, who dismissed any suggestion that Southgate should be sacked.

“It was a night to forget but we’ve got to take it on the chin. We’ve got to move forward.

“We are preparing for a big World Cup and that’s the most important thing.”

England toothless

Hungary secured their first win over England for 60 years in Budapest 10 days ago and followed that up with their first victory on English soil since a famous 6-3 success at Wembley in 1953.

A double from Roland Sallai and late goals from Adam Nagy and Daniel Gazdag kept Marco Rossi’s side on course to reach the Nations League finals next year.

Hungary are not headed to the World Cup after they finished a distant fourth behind England in their qualifying group.

But they lead Germany by a point in Nations League Group A3, with European champions Italy a further point behind with two games to go.

England are three points adrift at the bottom of the section and need a revival in September away to Italy and home to Germany to avoid relegation.

However, of greater concern for Southgate is how he rallies his squad with just two more matches before their World Cup campaign kicks off against Iran on November 21.

Fatigue at the end of a long season that began just weeks after losing the Euro 2020 final to Italy has been blamed for England’s lacklustre form.

Southgate has rotated his side heavily over the four matches this month and admitted his decisions have backfired.

“The results are my responsibility,” added Southgate.

“We picked a young team with energy and when the game started to go against them, it started to look that way.

“That’s my responsibility in the end. I felt at half-time we needed to go for the game. We made changes to have a more attacking impetus, but then we were more open as well.”

Southgate has bemoaned a reliance on Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling for goals and Kane’s penalty remains the only goal they have scored in four games this month.

However, there are also major defensive issues for Southgate to address before the World Cup.

John Stones rounded off a miserable evening when he was harshly sent off for a second yellow card eight minutes from time.

The Manchester City centre-back was also at fault for the opening goal as he turned a free-kick into Sallai’s path, whose shot had too much power for Aaron Ramsdale.

Sallai produced another deadly finish to double Hungary’s lead 20 minutes from time when he latched onto Martin Adam’s inch-perfect pass to fire in between Ramsdale’s legs.

Nagy drilled home a powerful shot from the edge of the area to put the result beyond any doubt.

Stones was then given his marching orders before Gazdag broke clear to rub salt into England’s wounds.

 

AFP

England Slump To Shock Defeat In Hungary

Hungary's midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai (C) scores the opening goal from the penalty spot past England's goalkeeper Jordan Pickford during the UEFA Nations League football match Hungary v England at the Puskas Arena in Budapest, Hungary, on June 4, 2022. Attila KISBENEDEK / AFP
Hungary’s midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai (C) scores the opening goal from the penalty spot past England’s goalkeeper Jordan Pickford during the UEFA Nations League football match Hungary v England at the Puskas Arena in Budapest, Hungary, on June 4, 2022. Attila KISBENEDEK / AFP

 

England slumped to their first defeat against Hungary in 60 years on Saturday as the hosts earned a shock 1-0 win in Budapest to launch their Nations League campaign.

Dominik Szoboszlai scored the only goal from the penalty spot as Hungary celebrated their first victory over England since 1962.

Defeat on penalties to Italy in the Euro 2020 final was the only time Gareth Southgate’s side had been beaten in their previous 22 games.

However, an experimental side failed to trouble the hosts, who were roared on by a 30,000 crowd largely consisting of school children.

READ ALSO: Nigeria Recall Osimhen For Africa Cup Qualifiers

Hungary were forced to play the game behind closed doors due to the behaviour of fans during their home matches at Euro 2020.

UEFA guidelines allow children under the age of 14 to be given free tickets under such circumstances and the Hungarian Football Federation took full advantage.

Southgate handed senior debuts to Jarrod Bowen and James Justin, but the visitors never got going.

Hungary created the better of the chances, Szoboszlai seeing an effort cleared off the line by Conor Coady and captain Adam Szalai’s ambitious effort from just inside the England half dropping just wide after he spotted Jordan Pickford off his line.

The home side’s pressure paid off when they were awarded a penalty on 64 minutes as substitute Reece James was adjudged to have fouled Zsolt Nagy after the Hungarian left-back controlled a pass in the area.

James was booked as RB Leipzig forward Szoboszlai made no mistake from the spot to put the hosts ahead.

Harry Kane nearly salvaged a point in stoppage time but was inches away from his 50th international goal as his powerful effort flew into the side-netting.

Southgate’s men now have to raise themselves for a trip to Germany on Tuesday before hosting Italy and Hungary later this month.

England Women’s Striker Chioma Ubogagu Gets Nine-Month Doping Ban

A file photo of Chioma Ubogagu. [email protected] ChiAlreadyKnow

 

England women’s forward Chioma Ubogagu has been given a nine-month ban for two anti-doping violations, the Football Association announced Thursday.

The 29-year-old Tottenham Hotspur striker, capped three times, admitted she had broken rules relating to the presence and use of the banned substance canrenone, a masking agent, which were detected in a urine sample taken in October.

An independent regulatory commission that imposed the suspension — which runs to October this year — accepted Ubogagu had committed the violations unintentionally.

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Tottenham said the banned substance was in medication Ubogagu had been prescribed in the United States to treat acne and had not known it was prohibited.

“I am so sorry to my team-mates and staff that I can’t be out on the pitch,” said Ubogagu in a club statement.

“I want to make clear that the medication had no performance-enhancing effects for me, but I still made the mistake of not being as diligent as possible and as a result, I am unable to play the game I love until I serve my suspension.”

Ubogagu said it was her “responsibility” to know about the medication she was taking, adding she now hoped to educate other athletes to avoid similar situations.

Tottenham, who signed former Arsenal and Real Madrid player Ubogagu last year, said the issue had come to light in November.

“Chioma requested a repeat prescription from the club doctor who alerted the relevant bodies, the FA and UK Anti-Doping (UKAD), about the use of a banned substance,” said a Spurs statement.

“The FA accepts that Chioma did not take the medication, spironolactone, with a view to intentionally securing an illegal advantage.”

Tottenham added Chioma had been unavailable for selection since a provisional suspension imposed in January.

AFP

Villagers Decry UK Plan To House 1,500 Asylum Seekers

A man walks his dog along Main Street past a sign for former Royal Air Force Station, RAF Linton-on-Ouse in the village of Linton-on-Ouse, near York in northern England on May 4, 2022. (Photo by OLI SCARFF / AFP)

 

 

The village of Linton-on-Ouse is usually a sleepy place, but its residents are up in arms at a UK government plan to house up to 1,500 asylum seekers, whose numbers will dwarf local residents.

In mid-April, 43-year-old Steve says he was walking his dog in the village in North Yorkshire when he learnt of the proposal from visiting reporters.

They “asked what I thought of what was going on” Steve tells AFP.

It was then he found out that ministers want to open a centre for  male asylum seekers in the heart of the village, in northern England.

The project is based on a similar one in Greece, which has seen a wave of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea land on its islands.

It aims to help reduce the number of migrants crossing the Channel from northern France in small boats, which has soared to record highs in recent years despite government promises to tackle the issue post-Brexit.

According to the interior ministry the existing accommodation on a former Royal Air Force base which closed in 2020 “will help end the government’s reliance on expensive hotels” where tens of thousands of asylum seekers live at a cost to taxpayers of £4.7 million ($5.8 million) per day.

“1,500 people in a village of 700 seems to have an absence of proportionality”, argues Olga Matthias, another local.

– ‘Lose-lose’ –
While they say they back the idea of housing refugees in their village, Steve and Olga say they cannot understand why the Home Office chose to send such a large number to Linton-on-Ouse.

“There is nothing to do here,” says Matthias, glancing down the deserted street with immaculate front gardens.

The pub closed a long time ago and the only shop does not sell much except newspapers.

There is a bus four times a day that goes to York, the nearest large city about 10 miles (16 kilometres) away, but the price of a return ticket at £6.50 is more than an asylum seeker’s daily allowance of £5.66.

“It’s a lose-lose scenario,” says Steve. “They have a right for a peaceful life especially after the countries these people are coming from, so they have the right to be here.”

He argues the village does not have the facilities to allow its population to more than triple.

The sewage system is already failing, there is no high-speed internet nor police presence, he lists.

One local, 19-year-old Mya Aston, says that for her, the prospect of 1,500 more men walking in the streets was “daunting”.

Another voices concerns about how the plan might affect home prices, where the average detached house sells for nearly £350,000 ($435,000).

Furious at not being consulted, the villagers are now fighting to halt the project, even as the first asylum seekers are set to arrive.

The local Conservative MP, Kevin Hollinrake, says he is considering legal options.

 

A sign for the village is pictured in the village of Linton-on-Ouse, near York in northern England on May 4, 2022. (Photo by OLI SCARFF / AFP)

 

– ‘Nobody wants this’ –
“Nobody wants this. Nobody. Not the far-rights, not the villagers, not refugee charities, only the Home Office wants this to happen,” says Nicola David of Ripon City of Sanctuary, a group helping refugees.

The public debate has been dominated in recent weeks by a government proposal to send asylum seekers who arrive illegally to Rwanda.

But David argues that the opening of a reception centre in Linton-on-Ouse is far more problematic.

“The Rwanda (plan) was really shocking cause it’s massive and it’s bizarre. But the Refugee Council did some calculations and they reckon probably 200 people would get sent to Rwanda so that’s actually quite small and there is a very strong chance it won’t go ahead at all,” says David.

In the case of Linton-on-Ouse, “this is happening right now and it’s happening right here”, says David, worried about the condition of planned accommodation, while the government has been vague about how the site will be managed.

She gives the example of Napier former military camp in Kent near the Channel coast, which has been used since 2020 to house asylum seekers, prompting criticism of the authorities over the squalid living conditions and migrants being held in semi-detention.

“They’re constantly apologising and they’re constantly (holding) public inquiries that cost a fortune… and now they think they can run (a centre) for 1,500 people… here?” David questions.

“What assurance does anybody have that it’s not all going to go horribly wrong?”, she asks. “And then what happens when it does?”

Unhappy Spouses Celebrate As England Adopts ‘No-Fault Divorce’

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks from 10 Downing Street, in London, on February 24, 2022 during an address to the nation on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Jeff J Mitchell / POOL / AFP

 

 

No more faked evidence or years-long waits — from Wednesday, unhappy spouses in England and Wales can end their marriages without blaming each other, in the biggest reform of divorce law for half a century.

The onset of “no-fault” divorces means one spouse no longer needs to prove the other guilty of adultery, “unreasonable behaviour” or desertion.

If such grounds did not exist, the couple had to live apart for two years before a divorce could be granted — or five years if one partner objected to the proceedings.

The change brings England and Wales into line with Scotland, which has its own legal system, and with other countries including the United States, Australia and Germany.

While experts expect a rush of divorces by couples who were waiting for the legal reform, they predict it could also ironically increase rates of marriage, by promising an easier way out if the relationship sours.

The case of Tini Owens galvanised a campaign for the change after she lost a Supreme Court fight in 2018, having failed to persuade the judges that her 40-year marriage should end.

Her husband had contested her claims of unreasonable behaviour, and the judges ruled that being trapped in an unhappy marriage was not in itself grounds for divorce.

“No-one should have to remain in a loveless marriage or endure a long, drawn-out and expensive court battle to end it,” Owens said.

“This change in the law guards against that happening and I welcome it,” she added.

The reform does not herald US-style “quickie divorces” — there is a minimum wait of 20 weeks between a spouse first initiating proceedings and then applying for a legal order.

They must then wait another six weeks before the divorce can be granted.

But it does overhaul the current system, in place for decades, under which some spouses would resort to private detectives to find evidence of fault, or the couple would agree simply to concoct the evidence.

Vicky admitted that she and her first husband “had to make up scenarios and situations that we felt were going to be accepted” by the court after they had agreed to an amicable divorce.

Her second marriage was to a “very manipulative” and “violent” man who refused to engage with divorce proceedings, forcing her to wait for five years of separation.

“And I could have been out of that relationship a lot quicker and a lot sooner than I was,” Vicky, giving only her first name, told BBC radio.

Some lawyers welcomed the end of an adversarial divorce culture, while stressing that legal advice remained essential for resolving financial and child custody issues.

A survey commissioned by the law firm Slater and Gordon pointed to an unintended consequence — 32 percent of cohabiting respondents said they were more likely to get married now that the divorce process was simpler.

Brazil Football Great Carlos To Play For English Team

Brazilian football legend Roberto Carlos (C) scores from the penalty spot playing a friendly match for Shrewsbury and District Sunday League side “Bull in the Barne United” outside Shrewsbury in north-west England on March 4, 2022, after he was purchased by the club in an auction.  Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Brazil and Real Madrid great Roberto Carlos will get a taste of English grassroots football when he turns out for a pub team on Friday.

The 48-year-old retired full-back will appear for Bull in the Barne United in Shrewsbury, western England after the team won a charity “Dream Transfer” raffle on eBay in January.

Carlos is set to be involved as the team face fellow Shrewsbury and District Sunday League side Harlescott Rangers in a friendly.

The Brazilian, who won the World Cup in 2002, most recently had a brief spell in India with Delhi Dynamos in 2015.

READ ALSO: Brazil ‘Neutral’ In Russia-Ukraine Conflict, Bolsonaro Says

When it was announced in January that he would be turning out for Bull in the Barne for one game, Carlos said in a statement: “I’m excited to play for Bull in the Barne in Shrewsbury, paying homage to when I nearly signed for Birmingham City in the 90s, which is very close by.

“I’ve heard that the team’s been down a number of players this season so here’s hoping my training is enough to help them up their game and bring what Bull in the Barne’s fans want to see.”

Bull in the Barne manager and goalkeeper Ed Speller said: “Roberto Carlos is one of those legends who’s inspired so many young players’ love of the game.

“My jaw absolutely dropped when we found out Bull in the Barne won the Dream Transfer and he’ll be playing alongside the team in Shrewsbury.

“It should be a right laugh for him to come see what we’re made of, with some tense free-kicks and hopefully no dodgy tackles.”

Money raised from the raffle has gone to Football Beyond Borders, a charity that helps disadvantaged young people.

AFP

COVID-19: England Could Scrap Self-Isolation Requirement By March

File photo British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. PHOTO: Christopher Furlong / Getty Images Europe / POOL / AFP

 

England will scrap the legal requirement to self-isolate after testing positive for COVID-19 later this month if infection levels remain stable, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Wednesday.

Johnson, dogged by revelations of apparent breaches of the COVID-19 rules at Downing Street that have led to calls for him to quit, had earlier said he aimed to end the self-isolation rules on March 24.

But addressing lawmakers before parliament goes into recess on Thursday until February 21, he said he would bring the change forward by a month, to cheers from his fellow Conservative MPs.

“It is my intention to return on the first day after the half-term recess to present our strategy for living with Covid,” Johnson told parliament.

READ ALSO: WHO Urges Rich Countries To Pay Up For COVID-19 Plan

“Provided the current encouraging trends in the data continue, it is my expectation that we will be able to end the last domestic restrictions — including the legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive — a full month early.”

England lifted almost all coronavirus restrictions in late January that had been reimposed in early December to tackle the Omicron variant, with masks no longer required in enclosed places and vaccine passports shelved.

The need for fully vaccinated travellers to test for COVID-19 before or after arriving in the UK will end later this week.

The number of positive COVID-19 cases has fallen sharply since the new year. Although still at high levels, the figures have kept falling in the weeks following the easing of the measures.

The government announced 66,183 new infections on Tuesday, as well as 314 new deaths from the virus, taking the country’s total toll to nearly 159,000 — one of the highest in Europe.

The UK government only has responsibility for health policy in England, with devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland setting their own rules.

AFP

England Lifts Omicron Restrictions, Face Masks No Longer Required

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits the exhibition hall to try means of green transportation on the third day of the annual Conservative Party Conference at the Manchester Central convention centre in Manchester, northwest England, on October 5, 2021. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

 

England on Thursday lifted coronavirus restrictions imposed to tackle the Omicron variant, with masks no longer required in enclosed places and vaccine passports shelved.

The number of positive Covid-19 cases has fallen sharply over the past two weeks, and although still at high levels, have plateaued in recent days.

The UK government introduced the so-called “Plan B” restrictions on December 8, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned of a looming “tidal wave” of Omicron.

Face masks were required in all enclosed spaces and, controversially, vaccine documentation also was to enter places such as nightclubs, football grounds and large-scale events.

READ ALSO: US Ships Nearly 1.7 Million COVID-19 Vaccine Doses To Uganda

On the streets of London around St Paul’s Cathedral, there was general support for the lifting of restrictions, which comes after more than 37 million people had booster jabs.

“I think it’s a really good thing,” said Elizabeth Hynes, 71, who is originally from Ireland but has lived in England for 47 years.

“I was coming up the lifts here at St Paul’s and I was looking at all the shows” being advertised, she said of the posters inside the underground station.

“And I thought ‘how wonderful, it’s like old times’.

“It’s like we’re getting back to how London was, and you realise how much you’ve missed live theatre and fantastic shows.”

Hynes said she had stage-4 melanoma skin cancer, but had so far “been lucky” and not caught Covid.

“We don’t know about tomorrow, we have to live… for today, trying to get a bit of enjoyment out of life,” she added.

Julia, 28, from Spain, said it was time to “have a normal life”.

“It’s been two years and it’s time to take responsibility ourselves,” she said as she waited for the St Paul’s eatery in which she works to open.

“In Spain we need to wear masks everywhere, even in the street,” she added.

Even if “there’s nobody in the street… you need to wear the mask. On the beach, you need to wear the mask.

“I prefer the UK restrictions because it’s going to be very difficult to visit the family there. I’m fully vaccinated but I don’t want to get the vaccine every nine months.”

‘Traumatic’

England previously lifted restrictions on July 19, so-called “Freedom Day”, but then introduced new rules as the Omicron wave arrived.

Health minister Sajid Javid credited the country’s booster programme for allowing restrictions to be lifted.

“Our vaccines, testing and antivirals ensure we have some of the strongest defences in Europe and are allowing us to cautiously return to Plan A, restoring more freedoms to this country,” he said.

From Thursday, passengers on London’s transport network will still be required to wear face masks but they will no longer be mandatory in secondary school classrooms.

“It was traumatic for them, they couldn’t hear the teachers, the teachers couldn’t hear them,” Hynes said of the mask rules in school.

US holidaymaker Ethan Letson, 24, agreed with London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s decision to mandate face coverings on the capital’s trains and buses.

“I still wear the mask on public transport, I will wear it in very crowded areas like the Underground. It’s so tight down there, you could get sick at any time,” he said.

Unlike Scotland and Wales, which set their own health policy, England kept nightclubs and bars open over the festive period.

But businesses still took a heavy hit as punters stayed at home.

Hospitality workers in the business district around St Paul’s said things had only just started to improve.

“The last week, business has started to pick up again. Around Christmas it was dead,” said bartender Lewis Colby, 39.

“People aren’t so scared anymore, trains are busier coming into work, people are starting to drink more.”

Despite the lifting of restrictions, those who test positive for coronavirus must still self-isolate for a minimum of five days.

Johnson said he also hopes to scrap those rules when they expire on March 24.

AFP

England To Host Côte d’Ivoire As Part Of World Cup Build-Up

Ivory Coast players pose for a team photo during the Group E Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Ivory Coast and Algeria at Stade de Japoma in Douala on January 20, 2022.
CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP

 

Gareth Southgate’s England will face Ivory Coast in a Wembley friendly on March 29 as part of their build-up to the World Cup in Qatar.

The match against the two-time African champions, currently competing in the Africa Cup of Nations, will be the first meeting between the two nations at senior level.

It will be the first time that the Euro 2020 runners-up have faced non-European opposition since November 2018.

READ ALSO: Ivory Coast Send Reigning Champions Algeria Crashing Out Of AFCON

England are hosting Switzerland, also at Wembley, on March 26.

England play four Nations League fixtures in June, then complete Group A3 in September — the final international meet-up before the World Cup in Qatar, which starts on November 21.

AFP

Boris Johnson Calls End To Most COVID-19 Restrictions In England

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks on as he welcomes Oman's Sultan Haitham bin Tariq for talks in 10 Downing Street in London on December 16, 2021. Frank Augstein / POOL / AFP
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks on as he welcomes Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq for talks in 10 Downing Street in London on December 16, 2021. Frank Augstein / POOL / AFP

 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday said most restrictions deployed to fight the latest wave of the Covid pandemic in England would be lifted from next week.

People will no longer have to wear masks in closed spaces, work from home and prove vaccination to enter public spaces such as nightclubs, Johnson told parliament.

“Because of the extraordinary booster campaign… we can return to Plan A in England and allow Plan B regulations to expire,” Johnson said.

Last month, England switched to “Plan B” in order to cope with what Johnson called a “tidal wave” of expected infections from the Omicron variant.

But he had to fight his own party to get the changes into law, as Conservative colleagues called the restrictions a step too far and a curb to public freedoms.

READ ALSO: Retired Angela Merkel Turns Down UN Job

The relaxing of restrictions have been seen as a concession to critics angry at revelations that he and his staff broke Covid lockdown rules by holding parties at Downing Street.

Johnson told MPs: “While there are some places where cases are likely to continue rising, including in primary schools, our scientists believe it is likely that the Omicron wave has now peaked nationally.”

Secondary school pupils will no longer be required to wear face masks from Thursday, Johnson said, calling for a review of self-isolation rules to be brought forward from March 24.

– Pandemic ‘not over’ –

After the Omicron variant emerged, Britain’s daily caseload for Covid topped a record 200,000 infections in early January, but has now dropped to less than half that.

“As Covid becomes endemic, we will need to replace legal requirements with advice and guidance, urging people with the virus to be careful and considerate of others,” Johnson said.

There was however still significant pressure on the state-run National Health Service “across our country”, Johnson said, encouraging people to have a booster vaccination.

“We know that around 90 percent of people in intensive care are not boosted,” Johnson said, insisting “the pandemic is not over”.

“Omicron is not a mild disease for everyone, especially if you’re not vaccinated.”

Latest government figures on Tuesday recorded 438 deaths within 28 days of a positive test for Covid, taking the overall toll to more than 152,500 since early 2020.

Facing restive Tory backbenchers, the prime minister had rebuffed calls by some scientists to impose a full lockdown in December, and allowed sporting events to continue with capacity crowds in England.

The devolved governments of Scotland and Wales imposed bans on large crowds at sports fixtures last month, but have now lifted that rule in time for the Six Nations rugby tournament starting next month.

Scotland on Tuesday said it was easing other coronavirus restrictions, allowing nightclubs to reopen and no longer requiring table service in bars.

Guidance asking people to stick to a three household limit on indoor gatherings will also be lifted, said Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The Welsh government has said a decline in Covid cases in intensive care means it will scale down its alert level from two to zero in coming weeks.

France To Ease COVID-19 Rules As England Says Curbs Are ‘Last Resort’

Travellers get off the ‘Train des Neiges’ (the snow train) at Tende Station, on December 31, 2021. – Since 12 December, 2021, Trenitalia offers 12 free trips per day between the cities of Limone in Italy and Tende, Alpes-Maritimes in France for both commuters and ski lovers. (Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP)

 

France announced an easing of Covid restrictions from Monday and Britain’s health minister said curbs were an “absolute last resort”, as governments face tough choices between controlling the virus and keeping economies open.

Coronavirus cases have surged globally in recent weeks, fuelled by the emergence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, and the pandemic dampened New Year’s celebrations yet again.

Europe crossed 100 million known cases on Saturday, and governments there are keen to prevent healthcare systems from becoming overwhelmed by Covid-19 while also avoiding punishing restrictions.

Fully vaccinated people in France who test positive will only have to isolate for seven days, and can leave quarantine after five days if they show a negative test.

The change in rules should allow a “benefit-risk balance aimed at ensuring the virus is controlled while maintaining socio-economic life”, the French health ministry said.

READ ALSO: US Airport Chaos As Over 2,700 Flights Cancelled

According to an AFP tally of official figures, 17 out of 52 countries or territories in Europe beat their previous record of most cases in a single week.

The countries with the highest ratio of infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the world were all in Europe too, with Denmark showing the worst figure of 2,045.

However, some studies have sparked hope that Omicron does not cause Covid as severe as the Delta variant, with some governments factoring that into their decisions to ease curbs.

But the World Health Organization has warned of trying times ahead, saying Omicron could lead to “a tsunami of cases” because of its high transmissibility.

– ‘Absolute last resort’ –

The virus surges dampened New Year’s celebrations around the world, with events cancelled and tens of millions spending the holidays under some form of restrictions.

The British government, which is responsible for health policies in England only, has put in place some precautions but so far refused to curb socialising and large events despite record case numbers last week.

It has pointed to the less dramatic rise in hospitalisations compared with case numbers as justification.

“Curbs on our freedom must be an absolute last resort and the British people rightly expect us to do everything in our power to avert them,” Health Secretary Sajid Javid wrote in the Daily Mail newspaper.

“I’ve been determined that we must give ourselves the best chance of living alongside the virus,” he added, noting the “enormous health, social and economic costs of lockdowns”.

Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have all rolled out new rules since Christmas limiting gatherings.

– Parties, protests, prayers –

Despite virus concerns, populations in many parts of the world have grown increasingly weary of restrictions, sparking regular protests and defiance in some countries.

Dutch police on Saturday broke up a rave in breach of Covid rules that was attended by hundreds in a disused factory, local media reported.

Dozens of police officers entered the makeshift venue in the central town of Rijswijk with hundreds more mobilised to shepherd people away, NOS television said.

The illegal rave attracted people from far and wide with locals saying they had seen vehicles come in from France and Germany but also as far away as Spain and Italy.

And in Stuttgart, Germany, about 100 activists attempted to stage an unauthorised protest against Covid vaccines and restrictions.

The virus was also on the minds of some worshippers who hiked to the summit of Mount Mitake in Japan to pray at a shrine and watch the first sunrise of 2022.

“Naturally, I prayed for a new year to be one in which the coronavirus goes away,” said visitor Rie Mogi.

England To Open Field Hospitals As COVID-19 Cases Surge

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) visits a Covid-19 vaccination centre at the Rainbow Pharmacy in the Open University Campus, Walton Hall, in Milton Keynes on December 29, 2021. (Photo by Geoff PUGH / POOL / AFP)

 

England is set to open temporary field hospitals to contain a possible overspill of inpatients due to a surge in coronavirus cases, the national health service said Thursday.

Fuelled by the highly contagious Omicron variant, daily cases have ballooned, standing at more than 183,000 on Wednesday.

NHS England said it would start building the structures in the grounds of eight hospitals in cities including London, Bristol and Leeds from this week, with each designed to house around 100 extra patients.

“Given the high level of COVID-19 infections and increasing hospital admissions, the NHS is now on a war footing,” National Medical Director Stephen Powis said.

The extra beds are designed for patients who are recovering from illnesses, including those who no longer have Covid, to free up space and staff to treat large numbers of virus cases.

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The number of patients in hospital with the virus are also growing fast, exceeding 10,000 in England on Wednesday — the highest figure since March.

The UK has been one of Europe’s worst hit countries with a death toll of 148,089.

The government opened large “Nightingale” field hospitals in venues such as exhibition centres during the first wave of the virus. The facilities named after nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale were not widely used.

This time, the plan is to make available as many as 4,000 “super-surge beds”, in some cases using existing hospital facilities such as gyms.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “We hope the Nightingale surge hubs at hospitals will not have to be used but it is absolutely right that we prepare for all scenarios and increase capacity”.