UK Bids To Reassure Over Northern Ireland After Biden Warning

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

 

Britain on Thursday reaffirmed its backing for Northern Ireland’s peace accord, after White House candidate Joe Biden warned of potential fallout for a future UK-US trade deal from London’s Brexit manoeuvering.

“We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit,” Democrat Biden, who has often spoken passionately of his Irish roots, wrote on Twitter.

“Any trade deal between the US and UK must be contingent upon respect for the Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said a contentious bill currently being debated by parliament was intended “precisely to make sure that the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement is upheld in all circumstances”.

“We continue to remain absolutely committed to no hard border and no border infrastructure between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland,” he told reporters.

The planned legislation — which Britain admits will override parts of the Brexit treaty — has provoked anger and concern among EU officials.

The proposed law would make unilateral changes to regulate trade with Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, if it cannot seal a post-Brexit deal with the EU by the end of this year.

Brussels has threatened legal action if it is not withdrawn by the end of September and reminded Britain of its duty to uphold international treaty obligations.

Northern Ireland is set to remain bound by some EU rules to ensure its border with Ireland remains open — a key part of the 1998 peace deal that ended 30 years of violence.

But Johnson charges that the EU could carry out a food “blockade” between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain, which would threaten peace and territorial integrity.

“We will continue to engage with our US partners on a bipartisan basis to ensure that our positions are understood,” Johnson’s spokesman said.

“The whole point of this, as the PM has set out, is to make sure the Belfast Good Friday Agreement is upheld.”

Biden’s strong words came as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab visited Washington to try to allay US concerns about the impact of Britain’s departure from the European Union.

It followed a similar warning from Democratic House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo voiced confidence that Britain would find a “good outcome” in its standoff with the EU.

Prior to Biden’s intervention, the prime minister told MPs on Wednesday that his bill would “protect the peace process in Northern Ireland”.

“Possibly the vital importance of protecting the symmetry of the Good Friday Agreement is something that may have been lost so far in the presentation of this matter (in Washington),” he said.

AFP

Assange Extradition Hearing Resumes In London

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks on the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador in London./ AFP

 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange returned to court in London on Monday for a hearing to decide whether he should be extradited to the United States for leaking secrets about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Supporters protested as the 49-year-old Australian was brought to the Old Bailey, brandishing placards reading “Don’t Extradite Assange” and “Stop this political trial”.

Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood said the former hacker was “shining the light on all the corruption in the world” while his father told the crowd the hearing was an “abuse trial.”

Earlier, Assange’s partner, Stella Moris, delivered an 80,000-strong petition opposing his extradition to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street office.

In an interview published in The Times newspaper on Saturday, Moris, 37, said she feared he would take his own life, and their two young sons, who were conceived during his asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy, would grow up without a father.

The clean-shaven Assange appeared in the dock wearing a dark suit and maroon tie — the first time he has been seen in public since the first part of the hearing in February.

He spoke to confirm his name and date of birth, and said he did not consent to extradition.

The first morning of the hearing — due to last three to four weeks — saw district judge Vanessa Baraitser set out what rules both sides will abide by.

It had been set to go ahead in April but was delayed by the coronavirus outbreak.

Assange faces 18 charges under the US Espionage Act for the 2010 release of 500,000 secret files detailing aspects of US military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Washington claims he helped intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to steal the documents before recklessly exposing confidential sources around the world.

If convicted, he could be jailed for up to 175 years.

Any ruling in favour of extradition is “almost certain” to be appealed by the losing side, according to John Rees of the Don’t Extradite Assange Campaign.

Assange — who has become a figurehead for press freedom and investigative journalism — had a “very strong defence”, Rees added.

But he was concerned the case had become “highly politicised”.

A previous hearing was told that US President Donald Trump promised a pardon if Assange denied Russia leaked emails from the campaign of his 2016 election opponent Hillary Clinton.

– Frail –

At the February hearing, Assange’s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, said his client would not get a fair trial in the United States and would be a suicide risk.

James Lewis, representing the US government, said WikiLeaks was responsible for “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States”.

“Reporting or journalism is not an excuse for criminal activities or a licence to break ordinary criminal laws,” he added.

Assange appeared weak and confused during his February court appearance, apparently forgetting his date of birth.

His legal team has repeatedly warned about his health, including from the spread of Covid-19, and an independent UN rights expert said in November that his continued detention at a high-security prison was putting his life at risk.

Assange’s father John Shipton told supporters that “the malice that constantly falls like a Niagara upon Julian is just appalling, and indicates to us that the administration of justice here is enfeebled”.

– Long-running saga –

The saga began in 2010 when Assange faced allegations of sexual assault and rape in Sweden, which he denied.

He was in Britain at the time but dodged an attempt to extradite him to Sweden by claiming political asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in London.

For seven years he lived in a small apartment in the embassy, but after a change of government in Ecuador, Quito lost patience with its guest and turned him over to British police in April 2019.

Swedish prosecutors confirmed last year they had dropped the rape investigation, saying that despite a “credible” account from the alleged victim there was insufficient evidence to proceed.

AFP

COVID-19 Forces London Tourist Guides To Adapt

Tourists queue for the London Eye attraction in central London on August 24, 2020. – The World Travel & Tourism Council said this week that Britain’s economy will lose about £22 billion ($29 billion, 24 billion euros) this year because of the coronavirus outbreak. VisitBritain also forecast that the number of foreign tourists will plummet by 73 percent in 2020 to 11 million people. The grounding of aircraft and travel restrictions have largely been blamed. Tolga Akmen / AFP.

 

“I don’t know if you’re aware, but we’re living through a pandemic right now,” says Joel Robinson with a smile as he introduces his Jack the Ripper tour in London’s East End.

Robinson, a trained actor and history buff who works for the tourist company London With A Local, goes on to explain social distancing best practice to his nine clients.

Although he doesn’t wear them himself, he advises the tourists to wear masks and gloves before they set off through the once-gloomy alleyways of Victorian-era London.

Down darkened side streets and past shiny new buildings, Robinson recounts the tale of the still unidentified serial killer of five women who stalked the streets of Whitechapel in 1888.

London’s tourist guides are resuming their work slowly as lockdown restrictions are eased, and adapting to new health and safety rules to curb the spread of the virus.

Numbers are currently limited but it’s the background of the clients that has changed the most.

Where before Robinson and walking guides like him played mainly to foreign tourists, now customers are mainly British.

Dwindling numbers of overseas clients are largely down to quarantine measures imposed by the British government on foreign visitors.

“We have far more Britons than we had,” said Olivia Calvert, one of Robinson’s colleagues. “It’s a huge shift. They’re expecting something else, something different.”

Among the home-grown tourists traipsing around the Ripper’s old haunts are Anne and Nick Garner, a couple in their fifties from near Manchester, in northwest England.

“We would have been abroad but we decided to come to London,” said Anne Garner after her insight into the bloodthirsty past of the city’s East End.

– Getting creative –

The 90-minute Jack the Ripper tour is one of London’s most popular, alongside the Harry Potter tour and another visiting the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll hotspots of Soho.

“The British already know London’s famous monuments, so they expect something else,” said Calvert.

Antony Robbins is an independent guide affiliated to the Guild of Tourist Guides, the national professional association for Blue Badge Tourist Guides across the country.

Tour guide Joel Robinson (R) leads a group of tourists on a Jack The Ripper tour in London on August 24, 2020. – London’s tourist guides are resuming their work slowly as lockdown restrictions are eased, and adapting to new health and safety rules to curb the spread of the virus. Numbers are currently limited but it’s the background of the clients that has changed the most: before Robinson and walking guides like him played mainly to foreign tourists. Now, they’re mainly British. Tolga Akmen / AFP.

 

Lack of demand has meant he has had to abandon his walks from Westminster to Buckingham Palace.

This week, he led his first “fooding” tour, taking a young woman and her mother to several restaurants and high-end patisseries in the British capital.

“We’re changing the way we work because we have to,” he said. “We need to be more creative.”

Although some guides have been able to go back to work, many tourism professionals — particularly freelancers not linked to major attractions — are finding it hard.

Only six staff at London With A Local have returned to work and the number of weekly guided tours has been cut by half.

And predictions for the coming months don’t make easy reading.

– Loss of income –

The World Travel & Tourism Council said this week that Britain’s economy will lose about £22 billion ($29 billion, 24 billion euros) this year because of the outbreak.

British tourism promotion body VisitBritain also forecast that the number of foreign tourists will plummet by 73 percent in 2020, to 11 million people — a drop largely blamed on grounded aircraft and travel restrictions.

In London, guides in particular are worried about the lack of American visitors, who have a culture of tipping well, but who are also currently subject to quarantine restrictions.

A man takes pictures on Tower Bridge from the near empty top of an open top tourist tour bus in central London on August 24, 2020. – The World Travel & Tourism Council said this week that Britain’s economy will lose about £22 billion ($29 billion, 24 billion euros) this year because of the coronavirus outbreak. VisitBritain also forecast that the number of foreign tourists will plummet by 73 percent in 2020 to 11 million people. The grounding of aircraft and travel restrictions have largely been blamed. Tolga Akmen / AFP.

 

Some 85 percent of tourist spending in the British capital is by foreigners, putting nearly three million jobs in the UK supported by travel and tourism at risk, the WTTC said.

At London With A Local, tours in Spanish have not restarted — unsurprisingly, as arrivals to the UK from Spain have since July been required to self-quarantine.

The numbers don’t lie when Pepe Martinez, an independent guide and blue badge holder, compares this year with last.

“June is one of the biggest months. I did 46 visits last year. This year, I’ve only done eight. Six of those have been online,” he said.

AFP

Amber Heard Denies Affairs With Elon Musk, James Franco

US actress Amber Heard waves as she arrives on day ten of the libel trial by her former husband US actor Johnny Depp against News Group Newspapers (NGN), at the High Court in London, on July 20, 2020. Depp is suing the publishers of The Sun and the author of the article for the claims that called him a “wife-beater” in April 2018.
JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

 

Amber Heard on Tuesday denied having an affair with billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, as she gave evidence in ex-husband Johnny Depp’s high-profile London libel action.

Depp, 57, had accused the 34-year-old actress of having liaisons with the Tesla and SpaceX founder and the Hollywood actor James Franco during their stormy two-year marriage.

But giving evidence she rejected the claims, in particular dismissing suggestions Musk visited her regularly at night from March 2015, not long after the couple wed.

“I wasn’t even in communication with Elon until 2016,” she told London’s High Court on her second day on the witness stand.

Depp, star of “The Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, is suing British tabloid The Sun and the author of a 2018 article that claimed he was a “wife-beater”.

He maintains it severely damaged his reputation.

Depp’s lawyer, Eleanor Laws, read out a 2016 text message sent by Musk offering Heard protection against Depp after an alleged fight between the couple.

“The offer would stand, even if you never wanted to see me again… anyway, sorry for being an idiot,” he wrote.

“The radio silence hurts a lot. It only matters because I really like you.”

The text was sent the day after Heard claims the actor hit her in the face with a mobile phone during an argument, and while she was considering obtaining a restraining order.

Kate Moss Rumour

Heard claimed on Monday that Depp threatened to kill her on a number of occasions, and subjected her to verbal and physical violence while under the influence of drink and drugs.

On Tuesday, Heard acknowledged hitting Depp during a particularly nasty argument in March 2015 whose details have been in dispute throughout the trial.

“I did strike Johnny that day in defense of my sister,” she said, expressing fear that Depp was about to push her sister Whitney down the stairs.

“He was about to push (Whitney) down the stairs and, the moment before that happened, I remembered information I had heard (that) he pushed a former girlfriend — I believe it was Kate Moss — down the stairs.

“I had heard this rumour from two people and it was fresh in my mind.”

The British supermodel has not publicly accused Depp, whom she dated in the 1990s, of causing her to fall downstairs.

Depp denies ever pushing or hitting Whitney. He has claims his ex-wife had a violent temper, and that he has always acted in self-defense.

The couple met on the set of the 2011 film “The Rum Diary” and their relationship veered from “intensely affectionate, warm and charming” to “very intense and dark”.

She said the actor blamed his actions on a “self-created third party” he sometimes named “the monster”, and that she stayed in the relationship because she thought she could “fix” his well-documented problems.

The Sun’s publisher, News Group Newspapers (NGN), argues it told the truth in its report, and that it has evidence to prove 14 alleged incidents of domestic violence.

Lampard Hails Chelsea’s ‘Character’ After FA Cup Semi-Final Success

Chelsea's English head coach Frank Lampard gestures during the English FA Cup semi-final football match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London, on July 19, 2020. Andy Rain / POOL / AFP
Chelsea’s English head coach Frank Lampard gestures during the English FA Cup semi-final football match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London, on July 19, 2020. Andy Rain / POOL / AFP

 

Frank Lampard saluted Chelsea’s “character and personality” as they powered into the FA Cup final with a 3-1 win over woeful Manchester United on Sunday.

Lampard’s side were gifted their goals by an error-strewn display from United goalkeeper David De Gea, but Chelsea were deserved winners as they dominated the semi-final from start to finish.

Olivier Giroud opened the scoring late in the first half and Mason Mount got the second after the interval at Wembley.

Harry Maguire’s own goal killed off United before Bruno Fernandes’ late penalty.

After some shaky performances in recent weeks, including a 3-0 hammering at Sheffield United, Lampard was impressed with the spirited way his players out-classed in-form United at Wembley.

“I can’t ask for any more from my players than that. The work ethic and the level of performance. We were on top and when they changed their system we were even better,” Lampard told the BBC.

“Where we are at, it is going to happen that we have some bad displays like against Sheffield United. But to do that against Manchester United, I’m delighted and very proud.

“There was a lot of work done in the last two days to change the system, and you’re only as good as your players in that situation. They deserve a huge amount of credit.

“They should take confidence from that display. We have leaders, you can’t compare across eras but we have leaders in the team. It was a performance full of character and personality.”

Chelsea’s victory moved Lampard a step closer to silverware in his first season in charge of the club where he earned legendary status as a player.

Before their FA Cup final date with London rivals Arsenal on August 1, Chelsea have to focus on qualifying for the Champions League via a top four finish in the Premier League.

They sit third — one point above Leicester and United — with games against Liverpool and Wolves to finish the league season.

“We have finals ahead. Two in the league and then Arsenal,” Lampard said.

“We want to win things, and at the start of the season we wanted to be up there challenging for the top four.

“A lot of people were tipping against us, but quietly I was always hoping.

“I don’t want to put everything on these three games defining everything we’ve done and the progress we’ve made, but of course we want top four, we want trophies and we’re at the business end, so let’s see.”

Brexit Talks Move To London After Tough Week In Brussels

An anti-Brexit activist waves a Union and a European Union flag as they demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament in central London/ AFP

 

Britain’s separation talks with the European Union resume Monday with few signs of compromise on a new trade agreement and time running out to avoid a messy split.

London will host EU negotiator Michel Barnier after a round of face-to-face talks ended a day early last week in Brussels because of deep divides in the sides’ approach.

Barnier said after ending the negotiations last Thursday that “serious divergences remain”.

His UK counterpart David Frost said there were “significant differences” that meant the sides were still searching for basic “principles underlying an agreement”.

And German Chancellor Angela Merkel said upon taking over help of the EU’s rotating presidency Wednesday that both her country and the 27-nation bloc “should prepare for the case that an agreement is not reached”.

Britain followed through on the results of a 2016 EU membership referendum and officially pulled out of the bloc in January after nearly half a century.

But a standstill transition period that ends on December 31 allows the UK to effectively function as if it were still a member.

London and Brussels are supposed to agree new trade terms in the meantime that prevent ties from reverting to the minimum standards — and accompanying high tariffs and quotas — of the World Trade Organization.

British businesses fear that possibility and want Prime Minister Boris Johnson to give them guidance as soon as possible about whether a trade deal is feasible or not.

This would give them a chance to trigger costly contingency planning aimed at disrupting trade and business activity as little as possible.

But EU officials feel much less pressure to strike a quick agreement and are suggesting that one could still be done by late October.

– Litany of disputes –

Brussels has shrugged off Johnson’s repeated threats to walk away and accept very distant relations with the bloc that complicated trade but gave Britain broader independence.

The differences between the sides remain vast.

London refuses to accept jurisdiction over trade disputes by the European Court of Justice and wants a much bigger part of fishing waters it now shares with the bloc.

A separate dispute concerns the degree to which Britain must follow EU rules on state aid to important economic sectors as well as labour and environmental rules.

London argues that the entire point of leaving the bloc was to give Britain a bigger say over its own affairs.

Brussels counters that Britain cannot expect to undercut the bloc on price through looser standards and still expect a favourable trade deal.

The talks in London are being held in an intensified format that follows video conference discussion held at the European height of the coronavirus crisis.

AFP

 

UK To Bail Out London Transport System With $1.95bn

Commuters wearing PPE (personal protective equipment) including face masks as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, travel by public transport during the evening 'rush hour', on TfL (Transport for London) Circle Line underground trains, in central London on May 14, 2020. ISABEL INFANTES / AFP
Commuters wearing PPE (personal protective equipment) including face masks as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, travel by public transport during the evening ‘rush hour’, on TfL (Transport for London) Circle Line underground trains, in central London on May 14, 2020. ISABEL INFANTES / AFP

 

The British government will pump £1.6 billion into London’s public transport system to restore services and help prevent overcrowding as people return to work, operator Transport for London (TfL) said Friday.

London mayor Sadiq Khan is now expected to restore full bus and train services, having warned they would be cut further without emergency state support, owing to the coronavirus epidemic.

But he criticised the government, which will obtain control for the period of the bailout, because of likely fare increases to offset losses incurred during the lockdown.

He accused the Department for Transport of “making ordinary Londoners pay the cost for doing the right thing on COVID-19”.

TfL informed the London Stock Exchange Friday that “an extraordinary funding and financing support package has been agreed between TfL and the Department for Transport to contribute towards TfL’s forecast funding shortfall.

“The funding package is based on the assumption that the funding shortfall will be £1.6 billon ($1.95 billion, 1.8 billion euros) for the period 1 April 2020 to 17 October 2020.”

TfL has seen a 90-percent drop in revenue from ticket sales during the seven-week coronavirus lockdown as passenger numbers slumped.

It has been paying the £600 million monthly operating bill from cash reserves but said the situation was no longer sustainable.

Khan on Thursday warned that without government funding, bus and Tube services would have to be cut to save money, as TfL tried to balance its books.

The government is urging people who cannot work from home to return to work in an easing of stay-at-home measures, while also calling for people to avoid public transport if possible.

The deal comprises a £1.095 billion grant and a £505 million loan, with the potential for £300 million more if there is still a shortfall.

TfL is a local government body responsible for the capital’s transport system, and comes under Khan’s responsibilities.

Khan has warned commuters to expect an above-inflation one-percent rise in fares, after the DfT made several caveats “in order to safeguard services in the future”.

The mayor has frozen single fares since he became mayor in 2016, although travlecard fares have increased. But he said he had “no choice” but accept the offer, “as it was the only deal the government put on the table”.

Other temporary measures include stopping free travel for children and only allowing free travel for people with disabilities and the over-60s outside peak hours.

British Virus Death Toll Now World’s Third-Worst

Britain Flag

 

Britain’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak jumped to 26,097 on Wednesday — the second-highest in Europe behind Italy and third-highest in the world — as the government took into account fatalities outside hospital, including care homes, for the first time.

The increase came after surprise news that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had become a father again at age 55, several months earlier than expected, and just weeks after he was taken to hospital with COVID-19.

Downing Street announced that his partner, Carrie Symonds, 32, gave birth to a healthy baby boy, prompting messages of congratulation from across the political spectrum at home and abroad.

The rare good news was soured however by the additional 4,419 deaths in the overall coronavirus death toll, just as Johnson, who returned to work on Monday, is under pressure to ease a month-long lockdown.

Until now, Britain had reported only deaths of people who had tested positive for COVID-19 in hospital but there has been mounting concern about high numbers of unreported victims in the wider community.

On Tuesday, the Office for National Statistics said deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending April 17 were running at roughly double the five-year average and were the highest weekly total since 1993.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Wednesday said there were an additional 3,811 deaths included in the outbreak since the start of March, on top of figures from the last 24 hours.

“They don’t represent a sudden surge in the number of deaths,” he told reporters.

According to an AFP tally from official sources at 1300 GMT on Wednesday, Britain has now leapfrogged the tolls in France and Spain and is the second-worst affected country in Europe, behind Italy’s 27,359 deaths.

The United States has the world’s worst death toll with 58,355.

Second peak

Britain has widened its testing regime for COVID-19 to care homes, the over-65s and people unable to work from home, as part of increased measures to curb the outbreak.

A total of 85 frontline workers in the state-run National Health Service (NHS) have died from the coronavirus, and 23 in social care, according to the government.

There remain questions about the provision of personal protective equipment to medics and others dealing with patients, and the availability of testing.

Raab, who has deputised for Johnson during his illness and recovery, warned the government is not yet ready to ease lockdown restrictions.

“This issue of a second spike and the need to avoid it, it’s not a theoretical risk,” he said.

“Having relaxed restrictions in Germany over the last week, they’ve seen a rise in the transmission rate of coronavirus.

“We’re in a delicate and dangerous moment. We’re coming through the peak, but we’re not there yet.”

‘Relief and joy’

Britain shut non-essential shops and services, and ordered people to stay at home except to shop for groceries and medicines, on March 27.

A review of the measures is expected on May 7, amid dire warnings about the economic impact and indications of frustration at the continued confinement.

Johnson held a lunchtime telephone call with the leader of the main opposition Labour party, Keir Starmer who has called for more clarity on the lockdown exit plan.

Starmer earlier joined well-wishers in congratulating Johnson on becoming a father again, particularly after his recent experience. Symonds also displayed COVID-19 symptoms but was not tested.

“Whatever differences we have in this house, as human beings we all recognise the anxiety the prime minister and Carrie must have gone through in these past few weeks,” he told parliament.

“I really hope this brings them incredible relief and joy.”

Johnson had to spend three nights in intensive care, and later admitted his illness “could have gone either way”.

He was present for the birth at an unnamed NHS hospital in London and would be taking some paternity leave later in the year, his spokesman said.

Johnson has at least five other children, including four with his second wife, Marina Wheeler, from whom he split in 2018.

He also had a daughter as a result of an extra-marital affair while he was mayor of London, according to a 2013 court case.

The news of his youngest child’s birth came as a surprise, as Symonds was not thought to be due for several weeks.

Both she and the baby were said to be doing “very well”.

Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta Tests Positive For Coronavirus

Arsenal's Spanish head coach Mikel Arteta gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and West Ham at the Emirates Stadium in London on March 7, 2020. Ian KINGTON / AFP
Arsenal’s Spanish head coach Mikel Arteta gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and West Ham at the Emirates Stadium in London on March 7, 2020. Ian KINGTON / AFP

 

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting the Premier League to announce they will hold an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss future fixtures.

Arsenal have closed their training ground as a result of Arteta’s positive test, with Gunners players and club staff who had recent contact with the Spaniard now forced to self-isolate.

“This is really disappointing but I took the test after feeling poorly,” Arteta said in a statement on Arsenal’s website.

“I will be at work as soon as I’m allowed.”

Arsenal confirmed the shock news just minutes after the Premier League had said all fixtures would go ahead this weekend despite the spread of the global pandemic.

Arsenal, due to play at Brighton in the Premier League on Saturday, said it was “clear we will not be able to play some fixtures on their currently scheduled dates”.

Arsenal’s Premier League match at Manchester City on Wednesday was postponed and several Gunners players went into self-isolation after Olympiakos and Nottingham Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis contracted the virus.

Marinakis, 52, met a number of Arsenal’s players and staff when the Gunners faced Olympiakos in a Europa League tie in February.

“Our London Colney training centre has been closed after head coach Mikel Arteta received a positive Covid-19 result this evening,” the Arsenal statement said.

“Arsenal personnel who had recent close contact with Mikel will now self-isolate in line with Government health guidelines.

“We expect this to be a significant number of people from Colney, including the full first-team squad and coaching staff.”

Arsenal are now trying to trace any other people who may have had contact with Arteta.

 Premier League emergency 

Arsenal managing director Vinai Venkatesham added: “The health of our people and the wider public is our priority and that is where our focus is.

“Our thoughts are with Mikel who is disappointed but in good spirits. We are in active dialogue with all the relevant people to manage this situation appropriately, and we look forward to getting back to training and playing as soon as medical advice allows.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday that the government was considering cancelling sporting events in the United Kingdom, but was not ready to do so yet.

But the news of Arteta’s positive test could force the Premier League to cancel English top-flight matches.

“In light of Arsenal’s announcement tonight confirming that their first-team coach Mikel Arteta has tested positive for COVID-19, the Premier League will convene an emergency club meeting tomorrow morning regarding future fixtures,” the Premier League said.

Arsenal are the latest Premier League club to be hit by the virus.

Leicester revealed on Thursday that three of their players have self-isolated after showing signs of the virus.

Manchester City said one unnamed member of their squad, reportedly France defender Benjamin Mendy, is in self-isolation after a family member suffered a respiratory illness.

The relative is being treated in hospital and has undergone tests for the coronavirus, which can cause shortness of breath.

Chelsea reportedly cancelled training on Thursday after a member of staff showed signs of the illness.

AFP

VIDEO: ‘My Heritage Is Nigeria,’ Anthony Joshua Gives Moving Speech At Commonwealth

Heavyweight Champion, Anthony Joshua speaks during the annual Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey in London on March 09, 2020. Organised by the Royal Commonwealth Society, the Service is the largest annual inter-faith gathering in the United Kingdom. PHOTO: Ben STANSALL / POOL / AFP

 

Heavyweight Champion, Anthony Joshua on Monday gave a moving speech in front of the Royal Family during the Commonwealth Day celebration service held at Westminster Abbey in London.

In the speech, the world boxing champion spoke about his Nigerian roots and Yoruba culture.

“My name is Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua. Like many of you here, I’m a child of the commonwealth I was born in Watford, and my heritage is Nigeria.

“I come from the Yoruba people, who are the largest – and some might say, the loudest – ethnic group in all of Africa. I am proudly Nigerian and I am proudly British.

“I join a long line, perhaps too long to count, of UK citizens of Commonwealth origin who’ve made enormous contributions to this great, multicultural society of ours,” he said in the video which was shared on his verified Twitter handle.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II talks with Anthony Joshua as she leaves after attending the annual Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey in London on March 09, 2020. PHOTO: Ben STANSALL / POOL / AFP

 

Joshua also advocated for work to be done to remove all sense of division across the Commonwealth.

“Let’s work to make wealth more common,” he captioned the video on Twitter.

 

He ended the heartfelt speech by making mention of what can probably be described as his favourite meals.

“So, here’s to fish and chips and egusi soup and pounded yam, to the UK and Nigeria and to the children of the Commonwealth,” Joshua said.

Fans and followers in response to his post heaped praises on him, describing him with kind words like, ‘MVP, generational talent, impressive young man.”

“He’s got brain to match his biceps,” another great fan posted on Twitter.

 

 

The professional boxer was recently in Nigeria where he visited the nation’s capital to register for the National Identity card. He also visited Sagamu, his hometown in Ogun State where he took pictures with traditional rulers and his young fans on the streets.

Chelsea Crush Everton To Cement Top Four Place

 

Frank Lampard warned Chelsea not to get complacent after they took control of the race to qualify for the Champions League with a 4-0 demolition of Everton on Sunday.

Lampard’s side won for just the second time in seven league games thanks to goals from Mason Mount, Pedro, Willian and Olivier Giroud in a masterful display at Stamford Bridge.

Fourth-placed Chelsea are in pole position to qualify for the Champions League with nine games to play.

But Lampard doesn’t want his stars to rest on their laurels just yet.

Aware that inconsistency has been the Achilles heel of his promising young team, Lampard said: “We can’t get ahead of ourselves. I’m experienced enough to know we go to Aston Villa next week, they are fighting for their lives and we have to replicate this performance.

“There’s still a long way to go. It’s still close. Even if it looks like a cushion as I sit here now, it doesn’t feel that way.

“It’s in our hands, but I’m certainly not going to jump in and say we are favourites. We have had inconsistency at times this season.”

While Lampard struck a cautious note about Chelsea’s Champions League ambitions, the Blues boss was quick to praise his players for delivering their biggest league win of the season.

It was exactly what Lampard demanded after Chelsea got back on track with their FA Cup fifth round win over Liverpool on Tuesday.

“At home yes, it was our best performance, because of the goals and the clean sheet,” Lampard said.

“In terms of performance we have been close to that a lot. We haven’t got the hard bit, the goals. Today we reached that.

“The finishing, the energy in the team, the speed of the pass, getting after the ball. We saw some really good stuff.

“It’s encouraging. You will always need your squad. We have a lot of injuries. The only way to tackle that is to work hard, play with energy and trust either other.

“I thought the whole attitude and focus of the team felt strong after Liverpool.”

Gilmour shines

Too often this term, Chelsea have dominated possession without killing off defensive opponents at Stamford Bridge.

But they tore into Everton from the start, with Mount and Pedro especially lively as they built on the platform provided by 18-year-old midfielder Billy Gilmour.

Gilmour was making his first Premier League start after a fine display against Liverpool and the Scot did everything Lampard asked of him.

“In the position where he plays, receiving the ball under pressure, he has to show balls. He’s done that, then when he played further up the field later in the game, he immediately took that on as well,” Lampard said.

Everton’s revival under Carlo Ancelotti has hit the buffers, with a run of three games without a win exposing them as frauds in the Champions League battle.

“Everything went wrong. We were too open defensively. We lost a lot of duels and with the ball we did a lot of mistakes,” Ancelotti said.

“It is not difficult to analyse this game. It is the first game when we did not compete. We have to learn from this.”

Defeats against Arsenal and Chelsea, along with a draw against Manchester United, have left Everton to focus on a Europa League berth instead.

“We never said we could qualify for the Champions League, but we can fight for the Europa League,” Ancelotti said.

Asked if he was satisfied with Everton’s commitment, Ancelotti gave a pointed pause before saying: “There are things I can analyse with you, and things I can analyse with my players.”

AFP

Bekele Wins London Half-Marathon, Breaks Farah’s Record

Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele crosses the finish line to win the Berlin Marathon on September 29, 2019 in Berlin. John MACDOUGALL / AFP

 

Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele broke Mo Farah’s course record as he won the London half-marathon on Sunday in a time of one hour and 22 seconds.

Bekele took 1min 18sec off the record set in 2019 by British distance great Farah, who missed this year’s edition with an Achilles injury.

Britain’s Christopher Thompson finished second, with Jake Smith third.

Sunday’s event served as a warm-up event for the full London Marathon on April 26. That race is set to see Bekele go up against Eliud Kipchoge, the reigning Olympic champion from Kenya, as the two fastest marathon runners of all time meet in the British capital.

“The new course record is a great bonus. I wasn’t focused on time today, I just wanted to win,” Bekele, three times an Olympic gold medallist on the track, told the BBC.

“I’m on schedule in my preparation for the London Marathon in April.

“There’s no question about the crowds in London being great. They were cheering all around the course and it felt like a great place to be.”

Farah decided to concentrate on the marathon having won gold in the 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres at both the London and Rio Games, but a relative lack of success on the road has seen him turn his attention back to the track ahead of this year’s Olympics in Tokyo.

AFP