Scotland Launches App To Track COVID-19 Cases

A Swiss soldiers holds his smartphone showing an app, created by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) that could help trace those who have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for the COVID-19. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
FILE: A Swiss soldiers holds his smartphone showing an app, created by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) that could help trace those who have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for the COVID-19. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

Scotland on Thursday launched a smartphone app for tracking coronavirus cases using technology developed by Apple and Google, while neighbouring England is still struggling to roll out its own troubled version.

The “Protect Scotland” app, developed by the UK nation’s National Health Service (NHS), adopts the decentralised approach offered by the US tech giants to help fight the spread of Covid-19.

It alerts app users if they have been in close contact with another user who tests positive for the virus, and helps trace their other contacts “while keeping your information private and anonymous”, Scotland’s devolved government said.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urged Scots to adopt the tool, stressing it was “confidential” and users would be notified “anonymously”.

“There’s a new way to help fight COVID in Scotland,” she said on Twitter.

“Please download, and let’s all protect Scotland.”

The rollout contrasts with the situation in England, where the effort by the UK government in Westminster to develop its own app has been bedevilled by problems.

In an embarrassing U-turn in June, it was forced to abandon the release of the tool nationwide after it encountered major problems with its more centralised approach.

Officials switched to the Apple and Google technology, and needed several months of further troubleshooting before trials could begin with the latest version of the app in parts of England.

Britain has been the worst-hit country in Europe by Covid-19, recording nearly 42,000 deaths according to government statistics, and has seen positive cases spike dramatically in the last week.

 

AFP

Investigators Probe Deadly Scottish Train Crash

 

Investigators were seeking answers Thursday over why a train derailed in northeast Scotland, killing the driver, conductor and a passenger.

The 06:38 am passenger service from Aberdeen to Glasgow came off the tracks on Wednesday morning near the town of Stonehaven, which had been hit by flooding following heavy rain.

Six people were hospitalised with minor injuries and police said the train had fortunately not been busy, with media reports saying just 12 people were on board.

Aberdeen is subject to tighter coronavirus restrictions than the rest of Scotland due to a localised outbreak of COVID-19, with people advised not to travel to the city.

Government ministers were due to visit the site on Thursday and investigators are already picking through the debris, including the ashes of a fire that left four firefighters with minor injuries.

A landslip had been reported close to where the train derailed at 09:43 am (0843 GMT), and Prime Minister Boris Johnson was among those to suggest the weather might have played a part.

“It’s probably a very good idea to look at the effect of substantial rainfall on all our vulnerable infrastructure everywhere,” he told Sky News on Wednesday.

“And as I understand there was about a month’s worth of rainfall in a very short period which undoubtedly aggravated the problem there.”

However, he said it was up to investigators to determine what caused Britain’s first major derailment for 13 years and vowed to “make sure nothing like this happens again”.

Queen Elizabeth II, who is staying in her Scottish home of Balmoral around 50 miles away from Stonehaven, sent her condolences.

Scotland’s Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said he would meet members of the emergency services in Stonehaven, saying they had faced “significant challenges” at the site.

He told BBC Radio Scotland that changing weather patterns posed difficulties across the railways.

“The rail networks are experiencing increasing challenges across different parts of the routes, not just here in Scotland but across the UK, due to what is an increasing number of very intense localised weather events that have a significant impact on the infrastructure,” he said.

Britain’s last major rail derailment was in 2007 in Cumbria, in northwest England, which left one passenger dead and 30 others injured.

 

-AFP

Celtic Crowned Scottish Champions Amid COVID-19 Interruption

 In this file photo taken on November 28, 2019 Celtic's Scottish head coach Neil Lennon (L) congratulates Celtic's Scottish midfielder Scott Brown (R) as he comes off during the UEFA Europa League group E football match between Celtic and Rennes at Celtic Park stadium in Glasgow, Scotland. ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP
In this file photo taken on November 28, 2019, Celtic’s Scottish head coach Neil Lennon (L) congratulates Celtic’s Scottish midfielder Scott Brown (R) as he comes off during the UEFA Europa League group E football match between Celtic and Rennes at Celtic Park stadium in Glasgow, Scotland. ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP

 

Celtic were crowned champions for a record-equalling ninth consecutive season as the Scottish Premiership campaign was declared over on Monday.

Neil Lennon’s men were 13 points clear at the top of the table when the season was stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic in March with eight games remaining for the majority of clubs.

Second-placed Rangers had a game in hand to try and cut that gap and were due to face Celtic twice more before the end of the season.

A points-per-game formula for determining final league placings also sees bottom club Hearts relegated unless there is any progress in talks over league reconstruction.

“It is, of course, a real shame that we were not able to see out the league in front of our fans. However, no one can deny how deserved this title is,” said Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell.

“While we rightly celebrate this fantastic, deserved achievement we must take time to consider the wider circumstances we have all been experiencing and remember those who have helped us through these unique and challenging times with such bravery and selflessness.

“We dedicate this title to everyone who has cared for us and all those who have been affected by these times of challenge and difficulty.”

The three leagues below the Premiership were ended over a month ago when clubs passed a controversial resolution that allowed the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) board to also bring the top flight to a halt if it deemed the games could no longer be played.

Last week Rangers failed to gain the support of the 42 member clubs for an independent inquiry into how the vote on the resolution was passed.

Prize money to be released

Premiership clubs agreed on Friday that finishing the season was no longer a realistic option.

Scottish clubs will not be allowed to return to training until June 10 at the earliest.

The cost of testing and the fact a high percentage of players will be out of contract in May and June were also highlighted by clubs as reasons why making a return to finishing the campaign was impractical.

“The SPFL has today announced that, following consultation with all 12 top-flight clubs, the Board of the SPFL has determined that the 2019/20 Premiership has been concluded with immediate effect,” the league said in a statement.

By calling the season to an end, the SPFL can now release a final instalment of prize money to clubs based on their league position.

“On Friday, Premiership clubs expressed their clear and unanimous view that there was no realistic prospect of completing the outstanding fixtures from season 2019/20,” said SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster.

“The SPFL board met this morning and in line with the express agreement of member clubs in April, the board determined that League season 2019/20 and the Premiership be brought to an end.

“This decision now enables us to pay out around £7 million ($8.5 million) in fees to help clubs stay afloat during this incredibly difficult time.”

Leagues in France, Belgium and the Netherlands have also called their seasons to a premature end.

However, many more across Europe are hoping to follow the example of Germany’s Bundesliga, which has already returned behind closed doors and with a series of strict safety measures in place to protect players and staff.

PHOTOS: Buhari Visits Prince Of Wales

 

President Buhari has visited the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles.

The President visited the monarch in Scotland.

This visit comes on the sidelines of the Uk-Africa Summit.

Below are some photos from the meeting between the President and the Prince.

READ ALSO: ‘Igbos Cannot Produce President By Just Complaining’ – The Week In Quotes

Japan Will Be ‘Tough To Beat’ At World Cup, Says Scotland’s Townsend

Scotland’s head coach Gregor Townsend awaits the start of the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Japan and Scotland at the International Stadium Yokohama in Yokohama on October 13, 2019.
William WEST / AFP

 

Japan are a quality side that will be very tough to beat at the Rugby World Cup, Scotland coach Gregor Townsend said Sunday after his side crashed out with a 28-21 defeat by the Brave Blossoms.

The result saw Japan defy 50/1 odds to go unbeaten in Pool A and set up a mouth-watering quarter-final against South Africa in Tokyo next weekend.

Scotland, however, face an early flight home after missing out to Six Nations rivals Ireland for the pool’s runners-up spot.

“We’re disappointed, we obviously look at the game from how we play and we weren’t able to win by more than eight points,” said Townsend.

“We started well in attack and defence but didn’t see ball for the rest of half.”

Finn Russell opened the scoring with a try, but the hosts, roared on by a capacity crowd at International Stadium Yokohama, hit back with three first-half tries before withstanding a Scottish fightback in the second period.

“At 58 minutes we were seven points behind, but we didn’t do enough to get the win,” lamented Townsend.

“We came here with high aspirations and getting out of the pool was stage one of that.

“We’ve worked hard to go further than tonight.”

Townsend insisted that the on-off build-up to the match, in light of the deadly Typhoon Hagibis that swept through eastern Japan overnight, had not been behind Scotland’s failure to reach the quarter-finals for only the second time in their history.

“It was going to be a challenge with the team we were playing, our (four-day) turnaround,” the Scotland coach said.

“The players are professional. We always believed that the game would go ahead.”

‘Take It On The Chin’

Townsend added: “It’s always a good indication of where the players are with energy when they start and they started well, and then we made a couple of errors, and we gave Japan the ball and they made the most of that.

“I’m proud of the effort, but we need to be more accurate in the final 20 minutes. We had an opportunity to win tonight and we didn’t take it.”

Townsend praise the Japan team as a “very cohesive group”.

“You can tell they’ve been together for a long time and they know the game they play, they play to their strengths… a fast game.

“They have some really good players, ball-carriers in the forwards and some players (in the backs) with real pace and confidence right now.”

Japan play South Africa next weekend and Townsend predicted a tough battle for the two-time champion Springboks.

“They’ll be a tough team to beat, that’ll be a tough game for South Africa,” he said.

Scotland skipper Greg Laidlaw insisted that Japan had “never caught us off-guard as such”.

“We started the game fairly well, switched off and let Japan into the game.

“We’re disappointed as a group because we had aspirations. They scored 28 points against us tonight and we’ve got to take that on the chin.”

Lukaku, Hazard Help Belgium Thrash Scotland 4-0

Belgium’s striker Romelu Lukaku (L) celebrates with Belgium’s midfielder Eden Hazard (C) and Belgium’s midfielder Thorgan Hazard after scoring the opening goal of the International friendly football match between Scotland and Belgium at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland on September 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Andy BUCHANAN

 

World Cup semi-finalists Belgium capitalised on a series of Scotland mistakes with goals from Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and a Michy Batshuayi double to thrash the hosts 4-0 in a friendly at Hampden on Friday.

Roberto Martinez’s men showed their class and no hangover from their exertions in finishing third in Russia to warm-up for their Nations League opener against Iceland on Monday.

However, the visitors were handed a series of gifts by a Scotland side that slumped to a fourth defeat in five games since manager Alex McLeish was appointed for a second spell in charge.

The contrasting fortunes of the two nations were summed up by Belgium playing to a crowd less than that which celebrated their return from Russia in July at a barely half-full Hampden.

Martinez named a strong side with six of those that started the World Cup semi-final defeat to France in the starting line-up.

But it took a gift from Aston Villa’s John McGinn to get the visitors going when the midfielder was caught in possession on the edge of his own box and Mousa Dembele and Thorgan Hazard teed up Lukaku for his 41st international goal.

Hazard smashed home Belgium’s second a minute into the second half, but again McLeish might have been disappointed to see goalkeeper Craig Gordon beaten at his near post.

A truer test of McLeish’s ability to qualify Scotland for a first major tournament in over 20 years will come when Albania are the visitors to Hampden on Monday in the Nations League.

However, vast improvements will need to be made in possession as Valencia striker Batshuayi scored twice in eight minutes before the hour mark after pouncing on slack passes by Charlie Mulgrew and Ryan Jack.

Scotland did at least force Thibaut Courtois into a couple of late saves through Ryan Fraser and Steven Naismith, but the Real Madrid goalkeeper ensured there wasn’t even to be a consolation for the home side.

AFP

Scotland Puts Bid For Second Independence Vote On Hold

Scotland’s devolved government has shelved its immediate plans to hold a second independence referendum until after the terms of Britain’s exit from the United Kingdom are clear, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Tuesday.

The Scottish parliament in March backed Sturgeon’s bid to hold a new referendum in 2018 or early 2019, but British Prime Minister Theresa May had refused to enter into discussions on the proposal.

“We will not seek to introduce the legislation for an independence referendum immediately,” she said, adding that she would still aim to offer a new vote on secession after it was clear what Britain’s decision to leave the European Union meant.

Scots voted against independence by 55 to 45 percent in 2014 but Sturgeon has argued the Brexit vote changed circumstances because Scots voted overwhelmingly against leaving the EU and they should not be dragged out against their will.

However, she had been under pressure to put off a new referendum because of her party’s weak performance in a national election earlier this month.

She told the Scottish assembly she had listened carefully to those who were concerned about Brexit but had not wanted another independence vote immediately. She said a choice still needed to be offered, but the timing needed to be more cautious.

Brexit has strained relations between Britain’s four nations because Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to keep EU membership while England and Wales voted to leave.

Poppies Display: Fifa Fines England, Scotland, Wales And Northern

Poppies Display: Fifa Fines England, Scotland, Wales And NorthernFifa has fined England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for displaying poppies during World Cup qualifiers around Armistice Day.

Though the football body’s disciplinary committee chairman, Claudio Sulser, said he “fully respected” the commemorations, he noted that the rules “need to be applied to all member associations”.

Sulser added that “the display, among others, of any political or religious symbol is strictly prohibited. In the stadium and on the pitch, there is only room for sport, nothing else”.

England and Scotland players had worn armbands featuring poppies when they met at Wembley on 11 November.

Wales and Northern Ireland also featured displays on the pitch or in the stands to mark the event in their respective games.

England’s Football Association would appeal against the fine of 45,000 Swiss francs (£35,311), with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland yet to decide.

Scotland and Wales were both fined 20,000 Sfr (£15,694) while Northern Ireland got a penalty of 15,000 Sfr (£11,770).

UK Floods: Extra 500 Soldiers Sent To Stricken Areas

uk-floodsAn extra 500 troops have been brought in to deal with “unprecedented” flooding in Yorkshire and Lancashire.

Some 400 soldiers are already helping people in areas affected by downpours at Christmas and the Prime Minister vowed to help people in “their hour of need”.

Emergency teams are working to evacuate people from homes in York, while Police advised about 400 people to evacuate their areas near the River Ouse and River Foss.

Report says up to 3,500 properties were at risk.

Hundreds of flood alerts and warnings are in place for England, Wales and Scotland, including more than 20 severe warnings – indicating danger to life.

Prime Minister, David Cameron, after chairing an emergency conference call, said that the “level of the rivers plus the level of rainfall had created an unprecedented effect, and so some very serious flooding”.

“We will do everything we can to help people in this, their hour of need”, he added.

Rome To Host 2022 Ryder Cup

Ryder-CupItaly will host the Ryder Cup for the first time in 2022 at the Marco Simone course in Rome.

The Marco Simone course, 17km from the centre of the Italian capital, will be reconstructed to meet the standards for the tournament.

It will be the 44th edition of the biennial team tournament between Europe and the United States of America.

Europe has held the event outside of England on only five other occasions – Muirfield in 1973 and Gleneagles in 2014 in Scotland, Spain in 1997, Republic of Ireland in 2006 and Wales in 2010.

Europe will defend their title in Minnesota in 2016, before France hosts in 2018.

Scotland Votes To Stay With United Kingdom

Scotland No VoteScotland has voted to remain as part of the United Kingdom, after 1,914,187 voters said ‘No’, beating the 1,539,920 people who voted ‘Yes’ to independence, in a referendum which began on Thursday morning.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, who accepted the result, called for unity and the unionist parties to deliver on their pledge of more powers.

People in Scotland began voting on Thursday in a referendum on whether the country should become independent or stay part of the United Kingdom.

Voters turned up at polling stations in schools and halls as soon they opened at 0600 GMT, to decide the fate of a 307-year-old union.

Following the announcement of the results, Salmond said the referendum and the high turnout had been a “triumph for the democratic process” and promised to keep his pledge in the Edinburgh Agreement which paved the way for the referendum to respect the result and work for the benefit of Scotland and the United Kingdom.

“The unionist parties made vows late in the campaign to devolve more powers to Scotland,” he told supporters, adding that “Scotland will expect these to be honoured in rapid course – as a reminder, we have been promised a second reading of a Scotland Bill by March 27 next year.

“Not just the 1.6 million Scots who voted for independence will demand that timetable is followed but all Scots who participated in this referendum will demand that timetable is followed.”

In response, UK Prime Minister said in a tweet, Friday morning, that “Just as Scotland will have more power over their affairs, it follows England, Wales and N Ireland must have a bigger say over theirs”.

Okagbare Leads Nigeria’s Athletic Team To Glasgow 2014

Olympics Day 7 - AthleticsThe Athletic Federation of Nigeria has named a strong contingent of athletes that will represent Nigeria at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland from July 23 to August 3.

Africa’s fastest female sprinter, Blessing Okagbare, who has being doing well in the Diamond Leagues recently, leads the team and will be competing in the women’s 100 metre, 200m and 4x100m events alongside Gloria Asumnu, Dominique Duncan, Justina Sule, Mariam Bassey and Christy Udo.

The likes of  Folashade Abugan, Omolara Omotosho, Regina George, Patience Okon, Ada Benjamin and Funke Oladoye,  will be competing in the women’s 400metres and the 4x400m.

The Men’s sprint team which has new national 100m champion, Mark Jelks, also includes Mozavous Edwards, Ogho-Oghene Egwero, Seye Ogunlewe, Obinna Metu and Peter Emelieze Triple jump Champion Tosin Oke alongside long jumpers Samson Idiata and Sule Hammed also made the list.

The listed athletes were selected at the completion of the 2014 Cross River State/All-Nigeria Athletics Championships on Saturday in Calabar.

The quartet of Isah Salihu, Noah Akwu, Orukpe Erayokan and Abiola Onakoya are said to be on probation in the men’s 400m and 4x400m team respectively after failing to meet the standard in Calabar.