Britain will deploy troops to hospitals in London to alleviate severe staff shortages caused by the Omicron outbreak, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Friday.
Around 200 armed forces personnel will join health workers in the capital, which has been particularly badly hit by the recent upsurge in coronavirus cases leading to mass staff absences in hospitals.
“The men and women of our armed forces are once again stepping up to support their dedicated colleagues in the NHS (National Health Service) as they work hand-in-hand to protect the nation from COVID-19,” said Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.
“They have shown their worth time and again throughout this pandemic, whether driving ambulances, administering vaccines, or supporting patients in hospital, and they should be proud of their contribution to this truly national effort.”
The deployment will include 40 military medics and 160 general duty personnel, said the ministry.
Britain on Tuesday recorded 218,724 daily cases of the virus, the highest figure since the pandemic started.
Although deaths and patients requiring ventilators have remained steady, the sheer number of health staff testing positive for the virus and having to self-isolate is putting pressure on the system.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said there were several thousand NHS staff absent and that “having 200 extra people is going to help but it’s only a very small part of what will continue to be a very difficult situation”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday said hospitals were on a “war footing” due to staff shortages, with many hospital groups declaring “critical incidents” because of the threat to crucial services.
London mayor Sadiq Khan on Saturday declared a “major incident” in the British capital due to the spread of the Omicron variant.
More than 65,000 new cases were confirmed in London over the past seven days, and 26,418 cases reported in the last 24 hours -– the highest number since the start of the pandemic.
A major incident is defined as an event with a range of serious consequences which requires special arrangements to be implemented, and is aimed at helping authorities support each other to reduce service disruption in the city.
Khan previously declared a major incident on January 8 during a previous wave of the virus, but stood down the order a month later as case numbers fell.
Britain’s upcoming budget will invest almost £7.0 billion ($9.6 billion, 8.3 billion euros) on transport outside London, the Treasury said on Saturday, as part of plans to cut economic inequality.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak will unveil the transport initiative during his autumn budget and spending review due on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s so-called “levelling up” programme is seen as vital to keeping voters in former strongholds of the main opposition Labour party who backed him in the 2019 general election.
His Conservative party won a swathe of seats in northern England on a promise to deliver Britain’s Brexit divorce from the European Union, as well as boost jobs and growth.
Recipients of the transport project cash include regions in the former Labour “red wall” that turned Tory blue two years ago and will be seen as payback for their support.
According to the finance ministry, the government will invest £5.7 billion in city regions to boost productivity via train and station upgrades, and tram network expansion.
It will also inject £1.2 billion into overhauling bus services.
The government wants to quicken journey times, simplify fares and increase services outside London, after repeated complaints that regions outside the British capital were ill-served by transport links, affecting business.
“Great cities need great transport and that is why we’re investing billions to improve connections in our city regions as we level up opportunities across the country,” said Sunak in the statement.
“This transport revolution will help redress that imbalance as we modernise our local transport networks so they are fit for our great cities and those people who live and work in them.”
Transport policy is set separately in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland by the nations’ devolved administrations in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.
The government said the extra investment for England would mean additional cash for the three other UK nations under-weighted public expenditure adjustments.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Sunak will also announce the latest growth forecasts for the economy, which is battling high inflation due largely to surging energy prices and a supply chain crisis that was sparked by Brexit and Covid.
Mikel Arteta called on Arsenal to consistently match the “special” levels they showed in blowing Tottenham away in the first-half of a 3-1 win on Sunday to move above their north London rivals in the Premier League table.
Just three weeks ago Spurs sat top and Arsenal bottom after their worst start to a league season for 67 years.
However, the Gunners have been rejuvenated by six summer signings and the return to fitness of a number of key players.
Arsenal struck three times in the opening 35 minutes as Emile Smith Rowe opened the floodgates before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang rounded off a brilliant team move and Bukayo Saka rolled home the third.
Son Heung-min pulled a goal back for the visitors 11 minutes from time, but it was too little, too late for Nuno Espirito Santo’s men.
“It’s a special day. Today is one example of what we want to do, but we have to be consistent,” said Arteta.
“This win is for the fans. They were there when we needed their support.”
Arsenal climb to 10th ahead of Spurs on goal difference with both sides on nine points from six games.
However, they are going in opposite directions with Tottenham losing their last three league games by a combined score of 9-1.
“We lost complete control in the first half. We got smashed,” said Spurs captain Hugo Lloris.
“When you concede three goals in each of the last three league games you cannot hide the problems.”
The last time the north London derby took place in front of a full crowd, Unai Emery and Mauricio Pochettino were still in charge of the sides.
Both clubs have had little reason to celebrate in the two years since.
But there are encouraging signs for Arsenal that the decision to invest heavily in youth during the transfer window is beginning to pay off.
The Gunners spent more than any other Premier League club over the summer, investing £150 million in players aged between 21 and 23, despite failing to qualify for European football for the first time in 25 years.
Four of the new faces started with all 11 of the starting line-up either signed in the two years since Arteta was appointed or handed a contract extension in that time.
Saka and Smith Rowe are two of those to have committed their long-term future to the club where they came through the ranks and were the stars of a first 45 minutes that sent the Emirates into raptures.
“It’s probably the best day of my life,” said Smith Rowe.
The England under-21 international was allowed a huge amount of space to amble into the box and slot home Saka’s cross.
The hosts rampaged through Spurs with ease for a brilliant second goal in a move reminiscent of Arsenal’s glory days under Arsene Wenger.
Aaron Ramsdale, Granit Xhaka and Kieran Tierney were all involved before Aubameyang flicked a pass through for Smith Rowe to charge in on the Spurs goal and he had the presence to turn back and pick out his captain for a cool finish.
Harry Kane’s day was summed up in his part for the third goal as he found himself back in his own box trying to make a tackle only for the ball to break kindly for Saka to sweep the ball past Lloris.
Kane’s frustrating day continued into the second-half as he prodded wide with just Ramsdale to beat before seeing strong appeals for a penalty waived away for a challenge by Ben White.
The England captain is still to score in the Premier League this season after Tottenham refused to relent to Manchester City’s interest.
Spurs have only scored four goals in total in their opening six games, but Son has three of them as his shot from Sergio Reguilon’s cross had too much power for Ramsdale.
Buhari had on July 26 embarked on a trip to London where he also attended the Global Education Summit on Financing Global Partnership for Education (GPE) 2021-2025.
The Nigerian leader also held a bilateral meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He is expected back to the country by the second week of August, according to his media aide, Femi Adesina.
Tinubu had also been away from the country for some undisclosed reasons, sparking rumours about his health.
But Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State who visited him in London, debunked insinuations that the former Lagos leader is sick.
“He is well, he is healthy and we conversed. We talked about what is happening in our party, what is happening in the nation and just to say to him that all is well,” Sanwo-Olu said after the visit.
“You saw him (Tinubu). Yes, indeed, I am the one you saw in the picture that I took when I visited our leader in London just to dispel all of the rumours that were flying around that he was sick and hospitalised.
“I went to see things for myself. It is just to put the mind and heart of people to rest that there is nothing for us to worry about.”
President Muhammadu Buhari is set to travel to the United Kingdom on Monday, said his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina.
Adesina, in a statement, explained that the President would embark on the trip to participate in the Global Education Summit on Financing Global Partnership for Education (GPE) 2021-2025.
After the event, he disclosed that the President would spend a few days in the United Kingdom for an earlier scheduled medical check-up.
The summit will be co-hosted by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, and the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta.
It is expected to bring together Heads of State and Government, as well as stakeholders and youth leaders, and provide a platform for partners to chart a way forward towards transforming education systems in partner countries, through the exchange of best practices.
According to Adesina, the event will also offer the opportunity for leaders to make five-year pledges to support GPE’s work to help transform education systems in up to 90 countries and territories.
“Deliberations at the summit will focus on: The Power of Education – A Conversation between Global Champions; Transforming Education for Girls; Financing for Impact and Recovery and; What Now? Priorities for Transforming Education in the Coming Five Years, among others,” he said.
The presidential aide added that President Buhari would hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Johnson.
He noted that the President would return to the country by the second week of August, although no specific date was given.
President Buhari, according to Adesina, will be accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, and the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba.
Others are the National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd), and the Director-General of National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ahmed Rufai.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will undertake “only essential government business” in the week ahead after the state health service designated him a close contact of a person infected with Covid, Downing Street said Sunday.
Johnson and finance minister Rishi Sunak were both designated but are taking part in a government pilot scheme that enables them to continue working, a spokesperson said.
The development came just as Johnson’s government prepares to ditch most pandemic restrictions in England on Monday. The pilot mandates daily testing for participants and outside of work, they must self-isolate.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed on Saturday he had tested positive for Covid-19 and was now self-isolating for 10 days.
“The prime minister and chancellor have been contacted by NHS (National Health Service) Test and Trace as contacts of someone who has tested positive for Covid,” the Downing Street spokesperson said.
“They will be participating in the daily contact testing pilot to allow them to continue to work from Downing Street.
“They will be conducting only essential government business during this period.”
Javid had a “lengthy” meeting with Johnson on Friday, according to the Sunday Times. The prime minister nearly died of Covid last year.
Javid also appeared alongside ministers in parliament last week, and one government source told The Telegraph newspaper: “I don’t see how half the cabinet doesn’t end up in isolation by the end of the week.”
Javid has only been in the job since late June, when former health secretary Matt Hancock resigned following revelations he had broken coronavirus restrictions during an affair with a close aide.
Jonathan Ashworth, the main opposition Labour party’s health spokesman, accused the government of double standards after millions of schoolchildren and workers were forced to stay home under Covid tracing rules.
The pilot’s exemption amounts to “an exclusive rule for Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak”, he told Sky News, and the public will see “one rule for them and something else for the rest of us”.
Javid stressed he has received both doses of a Covid vaccine and his symptoms were “very mild”. He said any member of the public feeling symptoms should get a test too.
“If everyone plays their part, you’re not only protecting yourself and your loved ones, but you’re also safeguarding the NHS and helping to preserve our way of life,” the minister said.
However, with coronavirus cases again surging, many scientists say the government is endangering the NHS with its plan on Monday to scrap most legal pandemic requirements in England.
For the first time since January, Britain’s daily Covid caseload now exceeds 50,000, and Javid has warned the figure could double from that in the coming weeks.
But the government insists that with two-thirds of the adult population now fully vaccinated, the risk can be managed, and Monday has been dubbed “freedom day” by many UK media.
Munira Wilson, health spokeswoman for the opposition Liberal Democrats, said Javid’s test result “shows no one is safe from this deadly virus”.
Urging the government “to rethink its reckless plans for Monday”, she said: “By easing all restrictions with cases surging, they are experimenting with people’s lives.”
The surge in infections sweeping Britain led to more than 530,000 people being instructed to self-isolate by a government-run app in the week to July 7, according to latest data.
Some companies such as carmaker Nissan have been losing staff en masse after they were pinged by the app — in a brewing crisis described by UK newspapers as a “pingdemic”.
Staff shortages caused by the isolation rules disrupted the London Underground network on Saturday, with one line suspended entirely.
Novak Djokovic won a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam title and sixth Wimbledon on Sunday with a four-set victory over Italian slugger Matteo Berrettini with rival superstar Roger Federer hailing the achievement as a “wonderful performance”.
The world number one triumphed 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 to move level on 20 majors with Federer and Rafael Nadal.
His win also put him three-quarters of the way to the first calendar Grand Slam of all four majors since 1969.
“I could definitely envisage that happening and I hope I will give it a shot. I’m in great form and played well and having my best form at Grand Slams is my number one priority,” said Djokovic.
A sixth victory at the All England Club for Djokovic, who was playing in his 30th final at the Slams, added to his nine Australian Opens, two Roland Garros titles as well as three at the US Open.
Should he win a fourth title in New York in September, he will become just the third man in history after Don Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969) to complete the calendar Grand Slam.
“It was more than a battle. He is a true Italian hammer I felt it on my skin,” said Djokovic of Berrettini.
Of sharing the record with Federer and Nadal, he said: “It means none of us three will stop. Roger and Rafa are legends, they are the reason I am where I am today.
“They showed me what I needed to do to get stronger, physically, tactically and mentally. Over the last 10 years it has been an incredible journey that’s not stopping here.”
Federer — who bowed out in the quarter-finals while Nadal did not play — tweeted his congratulations.
“Congrats Novak on your 20th major,” said Federer, an eight-time champion at Wimbledon.
“I’m proud to have the opportunity to play in a special era of tennis champions. Wonderful performance, well done.”
Djokovic also now has 85 career titles while he has become the first man to break the $150 million prize money barrier.
A gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics could give him the first ever Golden Grand Slam by a male player.
“Novak is a great champion, he is writing history on this court,” said Berrettini.
Djokovic overcame a nervy start to break for 3-1, which he stretched to 5-2.
He even had a set point in a marathon eighth game which the Italian saved after eight deuces.
Reinvigorated, he broke Djokovic when he served for the set and then dominated the tiebreaker which he sealed with his fourth ace of the contest.
The top seed stormed to a 5-1 lead in the second set on the back of a double break.
Berrettini, bidding to be Italy’s first men’s Grand Slam winner since Adriano Panatta at the 1976 French Open, clawed his way back to 4-5, saving three set points, but Djokovic this time served it out for a set apiece.
Djokovic struck first again for a 2-1 lead in the third set and fought off three break points in the sixth game, a show of defiance which brought watching Hollywood star Tom Cruise to his feet.
That was Berrettini’s last chance of the set as Djokovic served it out in the 10th game.
A weary Berrettini then served up a double fault on break point to hand Djokovic a 4-3 lead in the fourth set.
Djokovic kept coming, sprinting from the back of the court to pull off a wondrous pick-up and he held on for 5-3.
Berrettini, hoping to be Italy’s first singles champion at Wimbledon, saved two championship points in the eighth game.
But he was powerless on the third as Djokovic swept to his place in history.
“It is not the end, it is the beginning for me,” said Berrettini.
“Without my family, friends, and team all this would not have been possible so I just say Grazie Grazie.”
A British police officer on Friday pleaded guilty to the murder of a woman whose disappearance as she walked to her London home sparked outrage and a national debate about women’s safety.
Wayne Couzens, 48, who served in the Metropolitan Police’s elite diplomatic protection unit, had already admitted kidnapping Sarah Everard. On Friday he pleaded guilty to her murder via video link at London’s Old Bailey court.
Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive, went missing while walking in Clapham, south London, during the evening of March 3.
Her disappearance led to vigils and protests and prompted the government to promise enhanced police patrols at night, as well as funding to make the streets safer for women.
Couzens was wearing khaki trousers and a blue sweatshirt as he appeared by video link from Belmarsh high-security prison in southwest London, bowing his head as he admitted to the killing.
He pleaded guilty last month to the charge of kidnapping Everard “unlawfully and by force or fraud” on March 3 and also to a second charge of rape between March 2 and 10.
Everard’s family sat in the court as Couzens entered his plea.
Everard had been visiting friends in the Clapham area and was returning to her home in nearby Brixton when she disappeared.
Her body was discovered a week later in woods some 80 kilometres (50 miles) away in Kent, southeast England.
The Metropolitan Police said that a post-mortem examination gave the cause of death as “compression of the neck”.
Couzens is due to be sentenced at the end of September.
London’s Heathrow airport said Wednesday it plans to offer fast-track lanes for fully-vaccinated arriving passengers, as the UK government winds down its pandemic curbs.
The government is expected Thursday to announce that travellers coming to England from “amber” countries — the middle ranking for Covid incidence, covering most of Europe — will no longer have to quarantine.
In advance, Heathrow said it was launching a pilot for passengers coming from selected destinations to enter an immigration fast track on arrival, after showing proof they have received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine.
“This pilot will allow us to show that pre-departure and arrival checks of vaccination status can be carried out safely at check-in, so that fully vaccinated passengers can avoid quarantine from July 19,” Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said.
July 19 is the government’s target date for lifting most pandemic restrictions in England, although many scientists are worried about the plan as infection rates soar from the more contagious Delta variant.
The government, however, says a successful mass vaccination programme has weakened the link connecting infections to hospitalisations and deaths.
More than 86 percent of adults in the UK have received at least one jab, and 64 percent are fully vaccinated, according to official data.
“The UK is already falling behind (the) US and EU, and a continued overly cautious approach towards international travel will further impact economic recovery and the 500,000 UK jobs that are at stake,” said Shai Weiss, chief executive of the airline Virgin Atlantic.
The Heathrow trial will initially cover passengers flying in on selected flights from Athens, Los Angeles, Montego Bay in Jamaica, and New York.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid on Tuesday said people in England who have been double-jabbed — as well as under-18s – will no longer have to self-isolate if they have been in contact with someone who tests positive for Covid-19.
But the easing will only apply from August 16, almost a month after other controls are due to have ended, including the mandatory wearing of face masks in enclosed spaces.
The UK’s other nations — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — set their own health policy and are moving more slowly.
Appeal court judges in London on Tuesday overturned the convictions of three black men for attempting to rob a corrupt police officer nearly half a century ago.
The Court of Appeal cleared the trio following a referral by a criminal cases review commission, and comes just over a year after the acquittals of four men in a similar case.
The latest ruling is the third time convictions have been overturned based on the tarnished evidence of discredited British Transport Police officer Detective Sergeant Derek Ridgewell.
The three men — all aged between 17 and 20 at the time — and three friends were accused of trying to rob Ridgewell in 1972 on the London Underground while travelling from Stockwell station, south London.
All bar one of “The Stockwell Six” were convicted, largely on the word of the corrupt officer, who himself was jailed for seven years and died of a heart attack in prison in 1982.
At their trial, the accused told jurors that officers including Ridgewell, who had previously served in the South Rhodesian, now Zimbabwean, police force, had lied and subjected them to violence and threats.
“It is most unfortunate that it has taken nearly 50 years to rectify the injustice,” Julian Flaux, one of three judges to hear the case, said Tuesday.
The two remaining members of the Stockwell Six who were convicted have not yet been traced.
Lawyers for the men said it was “deeply troubling” it had taken so long for the convictions to be overturned, and said the transport police and the Home Office knew about Ridgewell in 1973.
Ridgewell, who led a so-called “mugging squad” tackling robberies on London’s transport network, was involved in a number of high-profile and controversial cases in the early 1970s.
One of the three, Cleveland Davidson, said outside court the decision was a “vindication”, and the original conviction had blighted his life for 50 years.
“It was a total stitch-up, it was a frame-up for nothing,” he said.
In December 2019, three members of the “Oval Four” — who were arrested at Oval underground station in 1972 and accused of stealing handbags — had their convictions overturned.
What a great season. I am grateful to be part of this incredible Team. I am grateful to be part of a wonderful club with special fans. Moments I’ll never forget Thank you @norwichcityfcpic.twitter.com/iQsNNlKkr6