UK Inflation Reaches Four-Year Low On Virus Lockdown

PM Johnson Says UK Anti-Racism Protests 'Hijacked By Extremists'
In this file photo taken on April 12, 2020 A handout image released by 10 Downing Street, shows Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he delivers a television address after returning to 10 Downing Street after being discharged from St Thomas’ Hospital, in central London on April 12, 2020. Pippa FOWLES / 10 Downing Street / AFP.

 

Britain’s annual inflation rate slid to 0.5 percent in May, the lowest level in four years, as the country’s coronavirus lockdown dampens prices, official data showed Wednesday.

Analysts said the data, along with recent figures showing a surge in UK unemployment and a massive contraction in the country’s economic output, meant the Bank of England was certain to pump billions more pounds into the economy under so-called quantitative easing (QE).

The Consumer Prices Index annual inflation rate slumped to 0.5 percent last month from 0.8 percent in April, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement Wednesday.

The CPI rate stood at 1.5 percent in March and at 2.0 percent in May 2019 and the last time it had stood at 0.5 percent was in June 2016.

Inflation continued to slide last month despite a rebound in oil prices.

“Global prices for crude oil fell sharply from the beginning of 2020 before recovering throughout May, albeit to levels well below the start of the year,” the ONS noted.

“Within the UK, those rises were not seen at the (petrol) pumps as the coronavirus lockdown continued.”

Another factor behind the slowdown in inflation was a cut in retail prices for recreational items.

“The cost of games and toys fell back from last month’s rises while there was a continued drop in prices at the pump in May, following the huge crude price falls seen in recent months,” said ONS statistician Jonathan Athow.

Britain’s lockdown is easing, with non-essential shops including clothes stores reopening this week after most were ordered to shut from the final week of March.

The country’s economy has crashed spectacularly as a result of COVID-19, shrinking by one-fifth in size during April.

Official data Tuesday meanwhile showed that UK jobless claims more than doubled to 2.8 million people at the height of the country’s outbreak, or three months to the end of May.

The Bank of England has warned that the economic paralysis could lead to Britain’s worst recession in centuries.

The BoE has reacted by slashing its main interest rate to a record-low 0.1 percent and pumping £200 billion ($247 billion, 220 billion euros) into the economy to get retail banks lending to fragile businesses.

“The Bank of England will tomorrow almost certainly announce more QE, likely increasing… by at least £100 billion,” said Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com.

“Numbers yesterday pointed to a looming unemployment crisis in the UK.”

The Bank of England will on Thursday unveil its latest monetary policy decisions following a regular meeting held this week.

AFP

Rashford 1 UK Govt 0: Man Utd Star Forces Change On Child Poverty

In this file photo taken on December 01, 2019 Manchester United's English striker Marcus Rashford applauds supporters on the pitch after the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Aston Villa at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on December 1, 2019.  Oli SCARFF / AFP
In this file photo taken on December 01, 2019 Manchester United’s English striker Marcus Rashford applauds supporters on the pitch after the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Aston Villa at Old Trafford in Manchester, north-west England, on December 1, 2019. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Britain’s government on Tuesday bowed to demands by Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford to change its policy on free school meals for the poorest children, amid growing concerns about the impact of the coronavirus lockdown on low-income families.

The England international drew on his own experience of growing up in poverty to lead an impassioned campaign for the programme to be extended through the summer holidays.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government had initially resisted making the change, which would see 1.3 million children in England receive vouchers for an extra six weeks.

But as the story dominated the headlines and opposition MPs and members of his own Conservative party backed Rashford, Johnson gave in.

“Owing to the coronavirus pandemic, the prime minister fully understands that children and parents face an entirely unprecedented situation over the summer,” his spokesman said.

“To reflect this we will be providing a Covid summer food fund. This will provide food vouchers covering the six-week holiday period.”

Rashford, 22, won widespread praise from politicians, charities and education leaders for his campaign. He said he was proud to have helped give a voice to “vulnerable parents”.

“There is still a long way to go but I am thankful to you all that we have given these families just one less thing to worry about tonight,” he added.

The striker had written to Johnson and MPs and on Tuesday wrote in The Times newspaper that he understood personally how much free school meals mattered to children receiving them.

“Ten years ago, I was one of them. I know what it feels like to be hungry,” he wrote.

Ahead of a parliamentary debate called by the main opposition Labour party, he urged MPs to put aside their political differences and back his campaign.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also announced Tuesday that she would extend the meals scheme to the summer holidays in Scotland, following a move already made by the devolved government in Wales.

Educational poverty

Johnson had highlighted how much his government has already done to help people hit by nationwide stay-at-home orders imposed in March to stem the spread of COVID-19.

When schools were shut, pupils eligible for free meals were offered vouchers instead, and the government has boosted welfare payments and provided targeted funds for the most vulnerable.

It has also paid the salaries of 9.1 million people in its furlough scheme as of June 14, although new figures show a surge in claims for out-of-work benefits to 2.8 million people in the three months to May.

With a deep recession looming however, fears are growing for how many people will cope when the furlough scheme ends in October.

Several Conservative MPs had called on Johnson to “do the right thing” and extend the school meal programme.

Commentators also questioned why the prime minister was picking such a fight when he was already on the back foot over his response to the coronavirus outbreak, which has claimed more than 41,000 lives.

“@MarcusRashford is right. Public know it. Politicians know it,” tweeted Conservative MP Robert Halfon, the chairman of the Commons education committee.

“He’s lived food hunger and helps food charities,” he said, referring to Rashford’s help in raising £20 million ($25 million) for FareShare, a charity that fights hunger and food waste.

Halfon had previously warned about “an epidemic of educational poverty” after the government conceded most children would not return to school until September.

Earlier, Labour’s education spokeswoman, Rebecca Long-Bailey, said Rashford was “one of the best of us”, accusing the government of being “callous”.

Downing Street has said the cost of the scheme will come to £120 million in additional spending.

A new study from UCL’s Institute for Education found just 19 percent of children were spending more than four hours a day on school work, falling to 11 percent for those on free school meals.

UK PM Johnson Announces Inequality Review After Anti-Racism Protests

PM Johnson Says UK Anti-Racism Protests 'Hijacked By Extremists'
In this file photo taken on April 12, 2020 A handout image released by 10 Downing Street, shows Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he delivers a television address after returning to 10 Downing Street after being discharged from St Thomas’ Hospital, in central London on April 12, 2020. Pippa FOWLES / 10 Downing Street / AFP.

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday announced a government review into “all aspects of inequality” following a wave of anti-racism protests in Britain, but was accused of using it to delay real action.

Johnson said there had been “huge progress” in tackling racism “but there is much more that we need to do, and we will”.

“It is time for a cross-governmental commission to look at all aspects of inequality — in employment, in health outcomes, in academic and all other walks of life,” he wrote in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Britain has been rocked by protests against racial discrimination, some of them violent, following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, as he was arrested by police in the United States.

In a broadcast interview, Johnson said he wanted to “change the narrative so we stop the sense of victimisation and discrimination”.

READ ALSO: Norway Suspends Virus-Tracing App After Privacy Concerns

“We stop the discrimination, we stamp out racism, and we start to have a real sense of expectation of success.”

But David Lammy, justice spokesman for the main opposition Labour party, said the lack of detail about the new review suggested it “was written on the back of a fag (cigarette) packet yesterday to assuage the Black Lives Matter protest”.

He said the government should focus on implementing the recommendations of numerous reviews already completed, including one by Lammy himself about discrimination in criminal justice.

“Get on with the action, legislate, move!” he urged Johnson in an interview with BBC radio.

“Black people aren’t playing victims, as Boris indicates, they are protesting precisely because the time for review is over and the time for action is now.”

– Tear down the past –

During an anti-racism protest in the city of Bristol, demonstrators pulled down a statue to local slave trader Edward Colston, while in London, a statue to World War II leader Winston Churchill was defaced.

The toppling of Colston’s statue sparked moves by institutions across the country to remove or review monuments to Britain’s colonial past.

But it also drew condemnation from politicians as well as public anger, particularly after Churchill’s statue outside parliament was boarded up to protect it from further protests.

Self-styled “patriots” backed by far-right groups took to the streets in London on Saturday, some of them claiming to defend Churchill’s statue.

Violent clashes broke out and 113 people were arrested, while 23 police officers suffered minor injuries at the hands of people Johnson condemned as “thugs”.

A 28-year-old man was jailed for 14 days on Monday after he pleaded guilty to urinating next to a memorial to a police officer killed in a 2017 attack on parliament.

Andrew Banks admitted one charge of outraging public decency. Photographs of the act caused outrage. His lawyer said he was “ashamed by his action”.

Johnson has written a biography about Churchill and defended him as a “hero”, despite claims his policies led to the deaths of millions of people in a famine in the Indian state of Bengal in 1943.

“We need to tackle the substance of the problem, not the symbols. We need to address the present, not attempt to rewrite the past,” he wrote.

But he added: “Rather than tear down the past, why not add some of the men and women — most often BAME (black, Asian, and minority ethnic) — who helped to make our modern Commonwealth and our modern world? Isn’t that a more cheerful approach?”

Lammy said the statues were a distraction, asking why Johnson was arguing to keep Churchill’s statue when no serious public figure had called for it to go.

“They want a culture war because they want to distract from the central issue,” he said.

AFP

PM Johnson Says UK Anti-Racism Protests ‘Hijacked By Extremists’

PM Johnson Says UK Anti-Racism Protests 'Hijacked By Extremists'
In this file photo taken on April 12, 2020 A handout image released by 10 Downing Street, shows Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he delivers a television address after returning to 10 Downing Street after being discharged from St Thomas’ Hospital, in central London on April 12, 2020. Pippa FOWLES / 10 Downing Street / AFP.

 

British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has said the UK anti-racism protests has been ‘hijacked by extremists,’ according to the latest tweet on his handle on Friday. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Friday that the UK anti-racism protests had been “hijacked by extremists” who were attacking national monuments in an effort to “censor our past”.

READ ALSO: UK Economy Shrinks By A Fifth

“It is clear that the protests have been sadly hijacked by extremists intent on violence,” Johnson said in a statement issued on Twitter.

Police have boarded up prominent statues around London ahead of a new wave of demonstrations and rallies this weekend.

A famous statue of Winston Churchill outside parliament was defaced last weekend during “Black Lives Matter” rallies sparked by George Floyd’s death during a police arrest in Minnesota on May 25.

Johnson called the targeting of Churchill “absurd and shameful”.

“The statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square is a permanent reminder of his achievement in saving this country — and the whole of Europe — from a fascist and racist tyranny,” said Johnson, who lists the war-time leader as one of his personal heroes.

“Yes, he sometimes expressed opinions that were and are unacceptable to us today, but he was a hero, and he fully deserves his memorial,” Johnson wrote.

Protesters blame Churchill for policies that led to the death of millions during famine in the Indian state of Bengal in 1943.

“We cannot now try to edit or censor our past. We cannot pretend to have a different history,” said Johnson.

“The statues in our cities and towns were put up by previous generations.”

AFP

UK Protesters Call For Removal Of Cecil Rhodes Statue From Oxford

Demonstrators hold placards during a protest arranged by the 'Rhodes Must Fall' campaign, calling for the removal of a statue of British businessman and imperialist Cecil John Rhodes, from outside Oriel College at the University of Oxford in Oxford, west of London on June 9, 2020. Adrian DENNIS / AFP
Demonstrators hold placards during a protest arranged by the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ campaign, calling for the removal of a statue of British businessman and imperialist Cecil John Rhodes, from outside Oriel College at the University of Oxford in Oxford, west of London on June 9, 2020. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Thousands of people called on Tuesday for a statue of 19th century British imperialist Cecil Rhodes to be removed from an Oxford University college, as debate raged over the removal of other monuments to the nation’s colonial past.

Protesters chanted “Take it down” and “Decolonise”, and held placards urging “Rhodes Must Fall” and “Black Lives Matter” beneath the statue at Oriel College.

The “Rhodes Must Fall” movement, which began in South Africa, failed in a previous attempt to have the statue removed but has been revived by a wave of anti-racism protests.

Protesters sat with raised fists for nearly nine minutes in tribute to unarmed black man George Floyd, whose death in US police custody triggered outrage and condemnation worldwide.

Sylvanus Leigh, 44, said the limestone statue of the Victorian-era tycoon, who founded the De Beers diamond company in what is now Zimbabwe, represented “a colonial mindset”.

The care worker told AFP he could think of more deserving candidates for a statue. “Better to have Mother Teresa or Desmond Tutu,” he said.

The leader of Oxford City Council, Susan Brown, said it would be a “good thing” if Oriel, which was founded in 1326, applied for permission to remove the statue.

The college had to “find the right balance between the laws that protect our historic buildings and the moral obligation to reflect on the malign symbolism of this statue”, she added.

Local MP Layla Moran called Rhodes a “white supremacist who does not represent the values of Oxford in 2020”.

‘Uncomfortable truth’

The protest comes after activists toppled a statue to Edward Colton, a 17th century merchant who helped build the city of Bristol and played a leading role in slavery.

Years of local debate over what to do with the statue came to an end on Sunday when it was thrown in the harbour.

Campaigners in Wales are now demanding the removal of memorials to Napoleonic war hero Thomas Picton, who was accused of cruelty while serving as a governor in Trinidad.

In Scotland, activists have called for changes to the streets named after the 18th and 19th century tobacco and sugar traders who made their fortunes through slavery.

A central London statue of Winston Churchill was defaced, with protesters blaming his policies for the death of millions during famine in the Indian state of Bengal in 1943.

Mayor Sadiq Khan launched a review of city landmarks and street names, saying many reflected “a bygone era”, and could better reflect the capital’s diversity.

“It is an uncomfortable truth that our nation and city owes a large part of its wealth to its role in the slave trade,” he said.

Late on Tuesday, an east London council said it had removed a statue of Robert Milligan, whose family owned sugar plantations in Jamaica, from the Docklands district and added it would “review” other monuments in the borough “to understand how we should represent the more troubling periods in our history”.

‘Cold reality’

Despite widespread support, some warned of an attempt to erase the past.

“If you change the street names it’s easier to forget but it’s better to have signs underneath to talk about what these men did,” said student Kieran Weatherill, 24, in Glasgow.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he understood the “depth of emotion” triggered by Floyd’s death and the anger from black and ethnic minority groups about discrimination.

“We who lead and who govern simply can’t ignore those feelings because in too many cases, I am afraid, they will be founded on a cold reality,” he said in a video message Monday.

But he warned he would not tolerate vandalism or violence, after clashes near his Downing Street office left 35 police officers injured.

Johnson’s Conservatives have been embroiled in a number of scandals over their treatment of immigrants, and he has been accused of using racist language in his journalism.

However, he expressed pride in having what he claimed was the most diverse cabinet in British history, including interior minister Priti Patel, who on Monday told MPs how she had faced racial abuse as a child.

Fears For UK Homeless As COVID-19 Hotel Scheme Draws To Close

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 25, 2020 a homeless person’s belongings are pictured on the beachfront in Hove, on the south coast of England, during the national lockdown due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. – Thousands of homeless people in Britain were given hotel rooms to protect them from coronavirus but as the outbreak slows, charities fear they could soon be back on the streets. Campaigners are demanding the government urgently clarify what happens to people when the hotel contracts run out. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Thousands of homeless people in Britain were given hotel rooms to protect them from coronavirus but as the outbreak slows, charities fear they could soon be back on the streets.

Lisa was among 15,000 people in England given emergency accommodation as part of an unprecedented government scheme in March to get “Everyone In” as COVID-19 spread.

She has a chronic health condition and had been living on the streets, relying on temporary shelters run by the charity Glass Door, which helped her onto the hotel scheme.

“I was elated,” the 30-something told AFP by telephone. “To be able to sleep in a bed, it was like sleeping on cloud nine!”

But her room in a London hotel is only confirmed until the end of June — and as the government eases a nationwide lockdown, she is getting increasingly anxious.

The scheme “does give me some glimmer of hope that things can go forward. When you are on the street it feels never-ending”, she said.

“I have faith that the charities are not going to put us back on the street.

“But if it’s a case of going back into the kind of temporary accommodation I was in, I know the cycle will be repeated.”

Campaigners are demanding the government urgently clarify what happens to people like Lisa when the hotel contracts run out.

“Returning people back onto the streets should not be an option, but time is running out to find alternative solutions,” said Glass Door chief operating officer Lucy Abraham.

READ ALSO: Britain To Reopen Places Of Worship On June 15

There are also calls for wider action amid warnings that homelessness will increase as the economic impact of the outbreak bites.

“The government’s actions and support so far are welcome, but there is still a long way to go,” said a joint letter to ministers from leading homelessness charities.

“With the risk of a second wave of infection and looming economic crisis, more needs to be done. Getting this right is critical for the health and economic security of tens of thousands of people and families.”

– Seize this opportunity –

Charities had warned that people living on the streets or in crowded hostels were particularly vulnerable to coronavirus, which has killed around 40,000 people in Britain so far.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government responded with an extraordinary effort, housing 14,610 people sleeping rough or at risk of doing so in England — 4,450 in London alone.

Many were given rooms in shuttered hotels, providing a safe and comfortable environment that some people had not experienced for years.

“We’ve heard some incredible stories of people really seizing this opportunity and showing they can hold down a tenancy,” said Balbir Chatrik, of the youth homelessness charity Centrepoint.

“But many more require the sort of intensive support that can only be provided in tandem with stable accommodation.”

– Moral mission –

There is a major shortage of public housing in Britain and local authorities, which have responsibility for homelessness, have suffered years of cuts in central government funding.

Research by charities suggests rough sleeping has risen by 141 percent in the last decade.

In December’s election, Johnson’s government pledged to end rough sleeping within five years, backed up by a £650 million package.

Last month, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said he would accelerate delivery of 6,000 new “housing units” with support staff on hand, with 3,300 made available in the coming year.

“This government wants to end rough sleeping for good, and we now have a real opportunity to deliver on this moral mission,” he said.

On Friday, Jenrick also extended a three-month ban on evictions proceedings until August, to help people struggling to pay the rent.

– Still dangerous –

David Renard, housing spokesman for the Local Government Association (LGA), welcomed the extra funds for councils.

But he asked for “clarity from government on what additional practical support will be available to councils to help them move people out of hotels”.

Campaigners say people are already falling through the gaps.

Some who became homeless since March, such as newly released prisoners, have not been able to access the hotel scheme, one case worker told AFP.

There are also concerns that rules restricting government help on the basis of immigration status, which were suspended, are also being reimposed in some areas.

“There are people being turned away from that support despite the fact that the pandemic continues,” said Jasmine Basran, from housing charity Crisis.

“And that is putting people in a very dangerous situation.”

AFP

EU Tells UK Post-Brexit Deal Vital During COVID-19 Crisis

European Union, Ogbonnaya Onu, Science and technology

 

The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator told Britain on Sunday that the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus crisis made it especially important the sides reach a new trade deal.

EU and UK negotiators will enter a fourth and last scheduled round of talks this week that could determine if a comprehensive new agreement is struck by the year-end deadline.

Britain formally left the other 27 EU nations in January but still largely operates as if it were a member of the bloc.

It also continues making contributions to the EU budget — a reality that particularly upsets Brexit supporters.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed not to extend the talks past the current deadline — something he must do by the end of June — and the prospects of a broad new deal look bleak.

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier told The Sunday Times that London and Brussels could afford to make the economic situation even worse by breaking off their nearly 50-year partnership without arrangements for what comes next.

– ‘Three steps back’ –

“If we don’t get an agreement then that will have even more consequences. And then of course those will be added to the already very serious consequences of the coronavirus crisis,” Barnier said.

“So I think that we have a joint responsibility in this very serious crisis, which affects so many families… with so many deaths, so many people sick, so many people unemployed… to do everything we can to reach an agreement and I very much hope that we will do so.”

READ ALSO: 100-Year-Old Indonesian Woman Beats COVID-19

The previous round of talks ended in acrimony in May.

Johnson is expected to work out the best way forward with EU chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel at a summit held shortly before the June deadline to extend the talks by up to two years.

READ ALSO: 100-Year-Old Indonesian Woman Beats COVID-19

The European Union is willing to offer Britain preferential trade terms if Johnson signs up to the major standards and regulations followed by the remaining members of the bloc.

Johnson’s team argues that the whole point of Brexit was to give Britain the right to set its own rules.

Barnier accused UK negotiators of reneging on the commitments Johnson signed up to in a non-binding political declaration that accompanied the sides’ formal divorce deal.

“The UK has been taking a step back — two steps back, three steps back — from the original commitments,” Barnier told The Sunday Times.

“The UK negotiators need to be fully in line with what the prime minister signed up to with us.”

AFP

No Positives From Latest Premier League COVID-19 Tests

In this file photo taken on August 12, 2017 The Premier league trophy sits beside the pitch ahead of the English Premier League football match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Manchester City at the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton. CHRIS J RATCLIFFE / AFP
In this file photo taken on August 12, 2017 The Premier league trophy sits beside the pitch ahead of the English Premier League football match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Manchester City at the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton. CHRIS J RATCLIFFE / AFP

 

There have been no positive findings from the latest round of coronavirus testing carried out in the Premier League, the English top-flight announced on Saturday.

The fourth round of screening saw a total of 1,130 players and club staff tested, with the lack of any new cases bolstering the Premier League’s plan to resume the season on June 17.

“The Premier League can today confirm that on Thursday 28 May and Friday 29 May, 1,130 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19,” said a statement.

“Of these, zero have tested positive.”

That means there have been just 12 positive cases from a combined total of 3,882 tests since Premier League players and club staff started being examined earlier this month.

UK Has Highest COVID-19 Death Rate – FT Analysis

File: A member of the ambulance services assists in moving a patient from an ambulance to St Thomas' Hospital in London on March 31, 2020, as the country is under lockdown due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Tolga AKMEN / AFP.
File: A member of the ambulance services assists in moving a patient from an ambulance to St Thomas’ Hospital in London on March 31, 2020, as the country is under lockdown due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Tolga AKMEN / AFP.

 

Britain has suffered the highest death rate from the novel coronavirus among the most-affected countries with comparable tracking data, according to Financial Times research published Thursday.

Official numbers from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released earlier this week show Britain has registered almost 60,000 more deaths than usual since the week ending March 20.

Subsequent analysis by the FT, which looked at data from 19 countries, indicate the virus has directly or indirectly killed 891 people per million in the UK, the highest comparable figure.

According to this measure, the UK death rate exceeds those in other countries also badly affected by the pandemic, including the US, Italy, Spain and Belgium.

Counting how many people died above a running average for the previous five years is considered by many experts to be the best way to give international comparisons, due to a lack of uniformity in the way countries collect data.

READ ALSO: US COVID-19 Death Toll Surpasses 100,000 As Pandemic Rages In Latin America

Britain has Europe’s highest death toll from the pandemic, with more than 46,000 fatalities attributed to the virus by mid-May, according to ONS figures.

The government, whose separate tally of deaths confirmed by a positive test now stands at 37,460, has faced sustained criticism over its handling of the crisis.

According to the latest AFP tally, published Thursday, the coronavirus death toll in Europe has now passed 175,000, making it the worst affected continent.

In addition, Italy — which does not count most deaths in care homes or the community — has officially suffered 33,072 deaths, France 28,596 and Spain 27,118.

The US topped 100,000 fatalities on Wednesday and the global number of deaths now stands at more than 355,000.

AFP

COVID-19: Two UK Flights To Evacuate Citizens From Nigeria

 

Two flights from the United Kingdom will be coming into Nigeria to evacuate British citizens in the country.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, announced this on Wednesday, during the briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

He, however, noted that it would not be possible to take advantage of the situation to evacuate Nigerian citizens in the UK.

“The situation with the flights now coming in is that the UK Government which is effectively chattering these planes… in the contract that they have with those companies, there are provisions not to carry anybody coming to Nigeria on that first leg, so their contract is only to carry passengers going from Nigeria to the United Kingdom. So it would not be possible but furthermore, it also would not have been possible because the plan that we had was to use a Nigerian carrier to evacuate Nigerians from all the countries around the world where we have an evacuation operation unless it is absolutely impossible to do so,” Onyeama said.

Speaking further, he noted that the ministry is developing new guidelines for citizens seeking to be evacuated.

He explained that part of the new guidelines would require that intending evacuees must do a compulsory test for the COVID-19 at least five days to their departure.

Meanwhile, the minister also affirmed that 69 Nigerian girls trafficked to Lebanon have been rescued and evacuated back to the country.

UK PM Johnson Suffers Sharp Poll Fall After Cummings Scandal

In this file photo taken on April 12, 2020 A handout image released by 10 Downing Street, shows Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he delivers a television address after returning to 10 Downing Street after being discharged from St Thomas' Hospital, in central London on April 12, 2020. Pippa FOWLES / 10 Downing Street / AFP
In this file photo taken on April 12, 2020 A handout image released by 10 Downing Street, shows Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he delivers a television address after returning to 10 Downing Street after being discharged from St Thomas’ Hospital. Pippa FOWLES / 10 Downing Street / AFP.

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s public support has suffered the sharpest fall for a Conservative party leader in a decade following the Dominic Cummings scandal, according to an opinion poll published Wednesday.

As the prime minister prepares to be quizzed by senior MPs later Wednesday over his handling of the coronavirus crisis and the scandal, a YouGov poll for The Times newspaper showed the Conservative lead over the main opposition Labour party has been cut by nine points in a week.

The survey put the Tories on 44 percent — down four points — and Labour on 38 percent, up five points over the past seven days.

The last Tory leader to see his lead fall by the same amount was David Cameron during the 2010 general election campaign.

A poll in the Daily Mail newspaper showed Johnson’s approval rating had plummeted from 19 percent to minus one percent in just a few days — despite leading his party to a comprehensive general election victory just six months ago.

It adds to a sense of growing revolt over the government’s handling of Cummings, with nearly 40 Tory MPs demanding he lose his job, while one minister has quit in protest.

However, Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick, the housing, communities and local government secretary, backed the PM’s top adviser on Wednesday.

“I think, is the time for us all to move on,” he told the BBC, adding that Cummings had not broken any government guidelines.

READ ALSO: EU Agency To Set Up ‘Independent’ Research On COVID-19 Vaccine

Cummings drove his wife and young son on a 264-mile (425-kilometre) trip from London to Durham, northeast England, in late March during the height of the coronavirus crisis.

He later admitted taking a 60-mile round trip to a local beauty spot, to test his eyesight.

Britain is one of the worst-hit countries by the pandemic, with more than 46,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19 by mid-May, according to official statistics released Tuesday.

Johnson’s government, whose less comprehensive tally is updated daily, has counted 37,048 fatalities.

AFP

FG Fines UK-Based Airline, Flairjet N1m For Violating Aviation Regulation

A file photo of the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika.

 

A UK-based airline, Flairjet has been fined the sum of N1million by the Federal Government for violating COVID-19 commercial flights’ ban regulation.

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, says the fine was the maximum penalty provided for in the country’s civil aviation regulations.

READ ALSO: FG Evacuates 69 Nigerians Stranded In Lebanon

The Federal Government had banned international and local flights in the country as part of the efforts to control the COVID-19 outbreak and only allowed essential and emergency flights to operate in the airports.

According to Sirika, Flairjet had applied and received approval from the ministry of aviation to carry out humanitarian operations but was caught on May 17 operating commercial flight into Nigeria.

The flight crew has also been quarantined for 14 days in line with precautions recommended by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).