UK News

UK to provide USD 5.4 million to tackle ‘disinformation’ in Russia, Ukraine

London [UK]: The UK government will allocate more than 4 million pounds sterling (USD 5.4 million) to the BBC World Service for the information war against Russia, the UK Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

“The UK will also provide an additional GBP 4.1 million for the BBC World Service as part of a cross-government effort to tackle disinformation in Russia and Ukraine, as well as new financial and policing support for the International Criminal Court’s investigation into war crimes,” the statement said.
“[The] emergency funding to support its Ukrainian and Russian language services in the region… has been provided by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and FCDO,” it said.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova earlier said “the BBC… corporation in Russia is far from playing the last role in undermining domestic political stability and security in our country.”

On March 4, Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor blocked the websites of a number of publications, including the BBC Russian service. The reason for the restriction was “the purposeful placement on a systematic basis of information materials containing false information about the essence of the special military operation in Ukraine.” (ANI/Sputnik)

 

Russia Today TV Channel banned in UK, license Cancelled

London [UK]: The UK Office of Communications (Ofcom) on Friday announced that it has revoked Russia Today’s license to broadcast in the country “with immediate effect,” arguing that it did not consider the television channel “fit and proper” to hold the broadcasting permit.

“Ofcom has today revoked RT’s license to broadcast in the UK, with immediate effect. We have done so on the basis that we do not consider RT’s licensee, ANO TV Novosti, fit and proper to hold a UK broadcast licence,” the watchdog said in a statement. (ANI/Sputnik)

Johnson promises Zelenskyy to boost sanctions against Russia

London [UK]: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that London would boost sanctions against Russia over the military operation in Ukraine, the Downing Street said on Wednesday.

“The Prime Minister committed to further tighten these sanctions in order to impose the maximum economic cost on Russia. He outlined the work the UK is doing to provide the military equipment Ukraine needed to defend itself,” Downing Street said in a statement.
This comes a day after Zelenskyy said British PM has committed to a new “Marshall Plan” for Ukraine and hinted the US and allies will garner support for the plan.

Speaking in a video posted on Telegram, Zelenskyy had said, “There will be a new Marshall Plan for Ukraine. The West will form this support package. The British Prime Minister said this today. A man of his word, a sincere friend of Ukraine.”

The Marshall Plan was an initiative to rebuild Europe after World War II in a bid to stave off Communist influence, CNN reported citing the US Office of the Historian, Foreign Service Institute.

Zelenskyy also had said he is grateful to the UK for offering to phase out the import of Russian oil and oil products by the end of 2022.

Johnson and Zelenskyy also accused Russia of failing to respect the ceasefire agreements in humanitarian corridors. Meanwhile, Russia blames the Ukrainian forces for the agreements’ collapse.

On February 24, Russia launched a “special operation” after the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk requested assistance to defend themselves from ongoing attacks by the Ukrainian troops.

The Western countries have strongly condemned this operation as unproved military aggression and boosted the sanctions pressure on Moscow. (ANI)

 

De-SWIFTing Russian banks first step in isolating Russia financially: Boris Johnson

         

London [UK]: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says that disconnecting certain Russian banks from SWIFT, a restrictive measure agreed upon by Western states this weekend, is the first step in isolating Russia financially.

“We have taken decisive action tonight with our international partners to shut Russia out of the global financial system, including the important first step of ejecting Russian banks from SWIFT,” Johnson said on Twitter late on Saturday.
Earlier on Saturday, the United Kingdom, the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, and the United States agreed on additional anti-Russia sanctions over the Ukraine situation. They committed to ensuring that selected Russian banks are removed from the SWIFT system and that the Russian Central Bank is prevented from deploying its international reserves in ways that undermine the impact of sanctions.

The British government said that Western allies are ready to continue imposing sanctions on Russia as the latter’s special military operation in Ukraine continues. A special task force will be created to ensure the implementation of the restrictive measures.

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told The Sunday Times that the British government plans to sanction Russian oligarchs on a regular basis in the coming months and that people close to Russian President Vladimir Putin will have “nowhere left to hide.” According to Truss, the UK Foreign Office is preparing a “hit list” of Russian oligarchs to be targeted by sanctions.

Western nations have increased sanctions pressure on Russia after it launched a military operation in Ukraine following requests for help from the people’s republics in Donbas that have accused Kiev of intensified shootings in recent weeks. The Russian Defense Ministry said the operation was targeting the military infrastructure of Ukraine only and that the civilian population was not in danger. Moscow says it has no plans to occupy Ukraine. (ANI/Sputnik)

UK will work to ensure sovereignty, independence of Ukraine: PM Boris Johnson

               

London [UK]: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday said that the United Kingdom will work for as long as it takes to ensure the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine is restored, adding that the National flag of Ukraine flies over Downing Street.

“The national flag of Ukraine flies over Downing Street. The United Kingdom will work for as long as it takes to ensure that the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine is restored,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a Tweet.
Meanwhile, he pledged that the UK will provide further support to Kiev “in the coming days.”

“The Prime Minister committed to providing further UK support to Ukraine in the coming days,” Johnson’s office said in the readout of the telephone conversation with Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday morning.

According to the statement cited by Sputnik News Agency, Zelenskyy updated Johnson on the most recent developments in Ukraine and the “terrible developments in Kyiv in the early hours of this morning.”

Meanwhile, Zelenskyy suggested to Putin that they sit down at the negotiation table amid escalating tensions over Russia’s military actions in Ukraine.

“I would like to address the president of Russia once again … let us sit down at the negotiation table to stop people dying,” Zelenskyy said in a video address, Sputnik News Agency reported.

Zelensky urged European countries to demand stoppage of “the war”.

Leaders from a number of countries including the UK, the US, Canada, and the European Union have condemned Russia’s military operations in Ukraine. They have also imposed heavy sanctions on Russia.

US President Joe Biden on Thursday said that the US will introduce a new wave of sanctions against Russia in a broad effort to isolate Moscow from the global economy.

The new package of sanctions aims to cut Russia off from the US financial markets and includes freezing the assets of four major Russian banks, including VTB Bank, the nation’s second-biggest bank. (ANI)

UK will respond ‘decisively’ to Russia attack on Ukraine: Johnson, Biden also asks Russia to ‘stop’

              

London [UK]: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday termed the Russian invasion of Kiev as a “catastrophe for the European continent” and said that Britain and its allies ‘will respond decisively’.

He blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for choosing a “path of bloodshed and destruction” for his unprovoked attack on Ukraine.
“I am appalled by the horrific events in Ukraine and I have spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to discuss the next steps. President Putin has chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction by launching this unprovoked attack on Ukraine. The UK and our allies will respond decisively,” tweeted Johnson.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said special military operations are being launched “to protect” the people in the Donbas region. He also warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to “consequences”.

Notably, Ukraine has introduced martial law, urging citizens to remain calm amid Russia’s military operations.

UK PM Johnson said that the Russian move is a catastrophe for the European continent. Further, Johnson informed that he will address the nation on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and will also speak to his fellow G7 leaders, as well as call an urgent meeting of NATO.

“This is a catastrophe for our continent. I will make an address to the nation this morning on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I will also speak to fellow G7 leaders and I am calling for an urgent meeting of all NATO leaders as soon as possible,” tweeted Johnson. (ANI)

UK’s Johnson announces sanctions on 5 Russian banks, 3 businessmen

              

London [UK]: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday announced that the United Kingdom would impose sanctions on five Russian banks and three Russian entrepreneurs over Moscow’s decision to recognize the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

“Now the UK and our allies will begin impose the sanctions on Russia that we have already prepared,” Johnson told the parliament.
The prime minister said that the five Russian banks to face sanctions are the Rossiayaz Bank, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank.

He also said that three “very high net worth individuals,” including Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and Igor Rotenberg, will have their assets in the UK frozen, and will also be banned to travel to the UK. (ANI/Sputnik)

Red weather alert issued for most of UK as storm Eunice hits England, Wales

               

London [UK] (ANI/Sputnik): The UK Meteorological Office has issued a red alert for most of the UK, including London, after storm Eunice began battering the west coast of England and southern Wales on Friday with winds of up to 145 kilometers (90 miles) per hour.

“Storm Eunice will bring damaging gusts in what could be one of the most impactful storms to affect southern and central parts of the UK for a few years,” chief meteorologist Paul Gundersen was quoted as saying in the latest weather forecast.
The specialists added that the red warning areas indicate a significant danger to life as extremely strong winds can potentially damage structures and pick up dangerous debris.

The UK Environment Agency also issued a statement urging coastal communities to prepare for flooding as the storm coincides with the start of a period of spring tides.

Red weather warnings are rarely issued by the UK Meteorological Office, with the last one given over Storm Arwen in November 2021, The last such warning for high winds dates back to March 2018.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that Army was on standby to help those affected. (ANI/Sputnik)

Boris Johnson appoints new team to help deliver on people’s priorities

              

London [UK]: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has appointed new faces for Downing Street operations to improve and deliver the change necessary to get on with the job, as per a press statement from the UK Prime Minister’s Office on Saturday.

It said that the new appointments will have the discipline and focus to drive the Prime Minister’s priorities and deliver for the country.
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Steve Barclay, will become the Prime Minister’s new Chief of Staff, working directly with Cabinet colleagues to ensure the Prime Minister’s levelling up agenda is driven forward and delivered at maximum speed.

According to the press statement, this change will significantly strengthen the Cabinet government, meaning there will be an enhanced role for both Ministers and Parliament.

Guto Harri, a journalist with a distinguished career before taking on some of the most demanding roles in communications, is joining as Director of Communications. He was the Prime Minister’s Spokesman and Chief of Staff during his first term as London Mayor.

The government said that there will continue to be further appointments over the coming days with a particular focus on improving engagement and liaison with MPs.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “This week I promised change so that we can get on with the job the British public elected us to do. We need to continue our recovery from the pandemic, help hundreds of thousands more people into work, and deliver our ambitious agenda to level up the entire country, improving people’s opportunities regardless of where they’re from.”

“The changes I’m announcing to my senior team today will improve how No 10 operates, strengthen the role of my Cabinet and backbench colleagues, and accelerate our defining mission to level up the country”, he added.

Last week, Johnson refused calls to resign after an investigation into a string of parties held at his official residence in Downing Street during the COVID-19 lockdown found there were serious “failures of leadership and judgment.”

“I am going to get on with the job,” Johnson told Parliament following the release of the report on the inquiry conducted by senior civil servant Sue Gray.

The long-awaited report, which was published as an update because the London Metropolitan Police had asked the senior civil servant conducting the probe to make minimal reference to some of the gatherings to avoid prejudice to their own investigation, concluded that the parties held at Downing Street during the lockdown “should not have been allowed to take place.” (ANI)

Invasion of Ukraine would be ‘tragic miscalculation’, Johnson warns Putin

               

London [UK](ANI): UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday (local time) warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against the invasion of Ukraine and said it would be a “tragic miscalculation.”

Johnson issued the warning during a phone call with Putin. He told the Russian President that he is deeply concerned about the 100,000 soldiers massed at Ukraine’s border, reported NHK World.
British officials released a statement saying the leaders agreed that aggravation was in no one’s interest.

Johnson also stressed that Ukraine had every right to apply to join the “defensive alliance” of NATO if it wished and that Kyiv should be included in any talks over the standoff with Russia.

He visited Kyiv on Tuesday, warning after talks with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky that Russian forces massed on the border represented a “clear and present danger” to Ukraine, reported Al Jazeera.

Meanwhile, Russian officials released their own statement, saying NATO’s response to their concerns has been inadequate.

Putin has been calling for NATO troops to withdraw from eastern Europe and wants guarantees that Ukraine will never be allowed to join the bloc, reported NHK World.

Putin said members of the alliance are hiding behind their open-door policy. He said that contradicts their own commitments to shared security.

Tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine have been building for weeks, with the West accusing Moscow of preparing an imminent invasion of its pro-Western neighbour.

Russia has denied any plans to invade but is demanding that Ukraine never be allowed to join NATO and a series of other security guarantees against the US-led military alliance’s expansion in the ex-Soviet bloc. (ANI)

UK Joins US, Canada in imposing new sanctions against Myanmar officials

          

London [UK]: The UK marked the first anniversary of the military coup in Myanmar on Tuesday by joining the US and Canada in imposing new sanctions against three government officials that they said “have been instrumental in suppressing democracy and stifling opposition voices.”

The new sanctions will be brought against attorney general Thida Oo, the chair of the Union Election Commission, U Thein Soe, and the head of the Anti-Corruption Commission, U Tin Oo, Sputnik News Agency reported citing the UK foreign office statement.
“All 3 individuals are responsible for disregarding the Myanmar election results in November 2020 and supporting unsubstantiated claims of electoral fraud in an attempt to legitimise the coup,” it claimed.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, today said that Britain stands with the people of Myanmar in the face of brutality by the military and a humanitarian crisis.

“A year ago the military junta seized power in Myanmar, trampling upon democracy. The UK stands with the people of Myanmar in the face of brutal military violence, a humanitarian crisis, and the detention of political opponents. Freedom and democracy must be restored,” UK PM tweeted.

As Myanmar reached the first anniversary of the military coup that saw the arrest of national icon Aung San Suu Kyi and her civilian government dissolved, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday said that he stands in “solidarity with the people”, and for a return to an inclusive, democratic society.

The Burmese military overthrew the democratically elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint on February 1 last year, announcing a state of emergency, and imprisoning democratic leaders, while brutally suppressing street protests against the coup and imposition of martial law. (ANI-Image Instagram}

UK could send jets, warships to protect NATO allies: Downing Street

              

London [England]: The United Kingdom is considering boosting its military support to NATO allies and could double its forces deployed in Estonia, the office of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson informs.

“Fast jets, warships and military specialists could be sent to protect NATO allies,” Downing Street said in a Saturday statement, adding that the UK is “considering options to double troop numbers and send defensive weapons to Estonia.”
The British government said that its offer of extra military deployment to NATO comes “in the face of rising Russian aggression” and could reinforce NATO’s defences and “underpin the UK’s support for Nordic and Baltic partners.”

“I have ordered our Armed Forces to prepare to deploy across Europe next week, ensuring we are able to support our NATO allies on land, at sea and in the air,” Johnson emphasized as quoted in the Downing Street release.

The West has been accusing Russia of a troop build-up near the Ukrainian border and of allegedly preparing for an invasion. Moscow has denied these accusations, pointing to NATO’s military activity near the Russian borders, which it deems a threat to its national security. Russia has also said it has the right to move its forces within its own territory.

Downing Street said that Johnson had asked the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, to brief ministers on the situation in Ukraine on Tuesday. Meanwhile UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace will travel to Hungary, Slovenia, and Croatia for talks this upcoming week.

The United Kingdom is expected to finalize its offer of extra military deployment to NATO allies this upcoming week during talks in Brussels.

According to the British government, the UK has over 900 military personnel based in Estonia. Over 100 British troops are deployed in Ukraine as part of Operation Orbital, and a squadron of around 150 people is deployed to Poland.

Earlier this week, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in an interview with El Mundo that the European Union is not unanimous about the scope of military assistance to Kiev or potential sanctions against Russia in the event of escalation around Ukraine. (ANI/Sputnik)

British PM Johnson wishes India on 73rd Republic Day, says UK, India tied by decades-old bonds

London [UK]: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has extended his wishes to the people of India on the country’s 73rd Republic Day on Wednesday.
“The UK and India are tied by bonds that span over decades, through generations and across some of the greatest challenges we have faced,” Johnson said in a tweet on Wednesday. “I want to send my best wishes from the UK to the people of India, and to all British Indians, on India’s Republic Day,” he added.
India is celebrating its 73rd Republic Day on Wednesday. The celebrations this year are special as Indian Republic Day falls in the 75th year of Independence, being celebrated as ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ across the country. (ANI/Image Instagram Pm Johnson)

China targets UK Minister for making anit-Beijing remarks, says Britain following Cold War playbook

London [UK] (ANI): China has said that the UK is following the Cold War playbook, which it will get nowhere following the British Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Liz Truss’ remarks in Australia where she blamed Beijing for exerting the “economic coercion” against other countries and working more closely with Russia.
“The accusations against China in this speech confuse right and wrong and raise questions about their real intention. They are full of disinformation about China as well as the current international situation,” the Chinese Embassy in the UK said in a statement on Sunday. “Today’s world is a far cry from the one 40 or 50 years ago. The Cold War is long gone! In the face of global challenges including pandemics, what the international community needs is solidarity and cooperation, not division or confrontation. British diplomacy, if following the Cold War playbook, will get nowhere,” the statement added.
The embassy further stated that what the people are seeing is parroting of US rhetorics in the speech, drawing lines along with ideology and discrediting other sovereign countries regardless of facts. “This is an attempt to justify the move to create the small circles, which has inflicted negative impact on regional peace and stability,” it said.
China’s remarks came after UK Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Liz Truss delivered a speech at the Lowy Institute of Australia recently, in which she mentioned China several times, blaming China groundlessly for exerting “economic coercion” against other countries and working more closely with Russia. She called on the UK and Australia to work with some other countries to “defend economic security and freedom”. (Image source: Instagram)

UK Foreign Secretary to meet with Lavrov in Moscow in Feb

Moscow [Russia] (ANI): The Russian side consented to a request for a visit by UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to Moscow in February, TASS News Agency reported citing a diplomatic source.
“The head of UK’s diplomatic agency asked about an opportunity to come to Moscow for talks with (Russian Foreign Minister Sergey) Lavrov. Moscow agreed to hold the visit in February,” the source said. Citing a UK-based publication source, TASS reported that in mid-January, Truss, who became Foreign Secretary in September 2021, may visit Russia as early as the beginning of February.
Russian Ambassador to the UK Andrey Kelin said that the Russian Embassy in the UK had not received an official request with regards to her visit to Moscow.
UK Foreign Secretaries have not visited Russia since December 2017, when Boris Johnson who is now heading the UK government came to Moscow, it added. (Image source: Instagram)

Prince Andrew’s social media accounts deactivated

               

London [UK]: Some of Prince Andrew’s social media accounts on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube channel have been deactivated, days after Queen Elizabeth stripped him of his military ties and patronages during a judicial battle over allegations of sexual assault, reported Wall Street Journal.

Earlier, after a New York judge gave the green light to a civil lawsuit by Virginia Giuffre, who alleged that Britain’s Prince Andrew sexually abused her when she was 17, the Queen stripped The Duke of York of his military ranks and royal patronage.
Changes are being made to Prince Andrew’s digital presence, according to a Buckingham Palace spokesperson, to reflect news last week that he would no longer use the title ‘His Royal Highness’ and would continue to avoid public duties.

“Channels are in the process of being removed,” the spokeswoman said, reported WSJ.

The Duke of York will defend the sex assault case as a private citizen.

British Prince Andrew, son of Queen Elizabeth II, is stripped of his military ranks and royal patronage after facing sex assault accusations, according to the press service of Buckingham Palace.

A spokesperson from Youtube confirmed that Prince Andrew’s account has been deleted while a spokesperson from Instagram declined to comment.

When trying to visit Prince Andrew’s Twitter account, which uses his Duke of York title as the handle, a notice displays that says “This account does not exist.” According to a Twitter representative, when that notice appears, it signifies the account has been deactivated. Image – Instagram)

UK supplied Ukraine thousands of light anti-tank missiles amid tensions with Russia

London [UK] (ANI): The British government has said that it supplied Ukraine with several thousands of light anti-tank missiles amid tensions with Russia, reported Sputnik.
James Heappey, UK Minister for Armed Forces, said that London supplied several thousands of light anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, according to Sputnik. Emphasizing that Ukraine is a proud sovereign nation, said Heappey, adding that Ukrainians are ready to fight for every inch of their country.
On Tuesday, the UK had said that its military airlifted a batch of light anti-tank weapons to Ukraine for self-defense.
Meanwhile, the Russian embassy in Washington has said that the US should reaffirm its interest in the diplomatic resolution of tensions around Ukraine by refusing to supply weapons to Kiev.
“If the United States is truly committed to diplomatic efforts to resolve the intra-Ukrainian conflict, it should abandon plans to supply new batches of weapons for the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” the embassy said on Facebook.
Washington should instead use its influence on the Ukrainian authorities to persuade them to stop sabotaging the Minsk agreements, according to the statement.
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also arrived in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, the CNN state department pool reported.
Blinken is set to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba as part of his visit. (Image source: Unsplash)

UK police arrest two teenagers in connection with Texas synagogue attack

London [UK] (ANI): Greater Manchester police on Sunday (local time) arrested two teenagers as part of the Texas synagogue attack probe.
“As part of the ongoing investigation into the attack that took place at a Synagogue in Texas on 15 January 2022, Officers from Counter Terror Policing North West have made two arrests in relation to the incident,” read Greater Manchester police statement. Two teenagers were detained in South Manchester this evening. They remain in custody for questioning.
Counter-Terrorism Policing (CTP) North West and CTP International operations continues to assist the investigation being led by the US authorities, and police forces in the region are liaising with local communities to put in place any measures to provide further reassurance, added the statement.
Earlier, a 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram was killed on Sunday after a tense standoff.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) identified Akram, who was demanding the release of the Pakistani scientist Aafia Siddiqui, who was convicted of trying to kill US military officers while in custody in Afghanistan.
At least four people were taken hostages, including a Rabbi by Akram at a synagogue in the town of Colleyville for more than ten hours on Saturday. (Image source: Instagram)

UK to abolish mandatory PCR Test for vaccinated people returning to country: Reports

London [UK] (ANI/Sputnik): The United Kingdom will abolish mandatory COVID-19 tests for all fully vaccinated travelers returning to the country by the end of January, the Times reported on Sunday, citing a source close to UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
“We are looking at removing all COVID tests for vaccinated travelers by the end of January, which is likely to coincide with the review of the plan B measures on January 26,” the source said, as quoted by the media. According to the newspaper, this move will help UK families to save hundreds of pounds and will give impetus to the recovery of the tourism industry.
In addition to the abolition of PCR tests for fully vaccinated people, the minister intends to remove other restrictions, in particular the mandatory wearing of face masks in shops and public transport.
The UK faced a surge in COVID-19 cases ahead of Christmas. On December 7, the authorities introduced the requirement for a negative COVID-19 test to all persons over 12 entering the country amid the spread of the new Omicron strain. In accordance with these rules, all passengers were required to present a negative PCR test taken no more than 48 hours before their arrival.
On December 8, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the country would move to the so-called Plan B. The British were encouraged to work from home whenever possible and required to wear a mask. In addition, a COVID-19 pass confirming vaccination became mandatory for visiting public places. Daily testing was required for those who may had come into contact with carriers of the coronavirus.
A few days later, British airlines asked Johnson to abolish mandatory COVID-19 tests for fully vaccinated passengers. (Image source: Instagram)

Prince Harry petitions UK government to provide security, says he’s not safe there

London [UK] (ANI): Prince Harry has said that his family is unsafe in England and has threatened to take legal action against the British government if it does not provide security for him while he is there.
According to Page Six, Harry claimed he offered to pay for the arrangement. He stepped down from his royal duties in 2020 and moved to North America with his family amid tensions with Buckingham Palace. The Duke of Sussex pays for a private security team, but lawyers claim more protection is needed in his homeland, as his family “has been subjected to well-documented neo-Nazi and extremist threats,” according to a statement.
Lawyers put the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court on notice in September that his legal team will seek a judicial review if the government does not provide security for the prince, wife Meghan Markle, and children Archie and Lilibet, sources said.
“The Duke first offered to pay personally for UK police protection for himself and his family in January of 2020 at Sandringham. That offer was dismissed. He remains willing to cover the cost of security, as not to impose on the British taxpayer,” the statement read.
Prince Harry’s security “was compromised due to the absence of police protection” during his last visit to the UK in July, lawyers said, as per Page Six. (Image source: Instagram)

Boris Johnson’s office apologizes to Queen Elizabeth for holding parties on eve of Prince Philip’s funeral

London [UK] (ANI): UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office on Friday apologized to the royal family for holding staff parties in Downing Street on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral last year, when COVID-19 rules barred indoor socializing.
“It is deeply regrettable that this took place at a time of national mourning and Number 10 has apologized to the Palace,” Xinhua News Agency reported quoting a spokesperson for British Prime Minister on Friday. This came as reports about a string of lockdown-breaching gatherings organized by Downing Street officials over the past two years have enraged the British public and threatened Johnson’s premiership.
On Wednesday Johnson apologized for attending a Downing Street garden party during the country’s first lockdown in 2020.
At the weekly session of Prime Minister’s Questions at the House of Commons (lower house of the British Parliament), Johnson admitted that he attended the gathering in the back garden of 10 Downing Street on May 20, 2020.
The prime minister conceded: “With hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside. I should have found some other way to thank them.”
Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, raged against Johnson’s “ridiculous” apology, saying the prime minister’s excuse that he “did not realize he was at a party” was “offensive” to the British public.
Starmer urged Johnson to “do the decent thing and resign.”
In response, Johnson insisted that everyone should wait until the inquiry by Sue Gray, the senior civil servant tasked with investigating the reported party in Downing Street, has concluded before questioning further on the matter.
The Prime Minister’s comments came after days of outrage after new evidence about the illicit gathering emerged. The rules in England were clear enough during that lockdown as no indoor and outdoor gathering was allowed. (Image source: Instagram)

British Prince Andrew stripped of military honours over sex assault accusations

London [UK] (ANI): Soon after a New York judge gave the green light to a civil lawsuit by Virginia Giuffre, who alleged that Britain’s Prince Andrew sexually abused her when she was 17, the Queen’s stripped The Duke of York of his military ranks and royal patronage.
The Duke of York will defend the sex assault case as a private citizen. British Prince Andrew, son of Queen Elizabeth II, is stripped of his military ranks and royal patronage after facing sex assault accusations, according to the press service of Buckingham Palace.
“With the Queen’s approval and agreement, The Duke of York’s military affiliations and Royal patronages have been returned to The Queen,” The Royal Family said in a statement on Thursday.
“The Duke of York will continue not to undertake any public duties and is defending this case as a private citizen,” the statement added.
It came after human rights activist Virginia Giuffre filed a lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan and accused Prince Andrew of raping her when she was 17 years old. However, Prince Andrew has denied the allegations, reported CNN.
The New York judge on Wednesday ruled against the motion by Andrew’s legal team to dismiss a civil lawsuit brought against him by Virginia Giuffre. She alleged that she was trafficked by disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein and forced to perform sex acts with the prince at the age of 17. Andrew has vigorously denied those claims, said the Amerian publication.
The prospect of a public trial that would attract global attention could put Andrew — the third child (and reportedly the favourite son) of Queen Elizabeth II — in an unprecedented situation for a senior British royal.
Earlier in November 2019, Britain’s Prince Andrew announced that he’s quitting royal duties following controversy over his “ill-judged” association with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Further, a photo of Andrew and Epstein strolling in Central Park provoked further controversy. Following this, Andrew had to quit as a trade envoy for the United Kingdom. (Image source: Instagram)

UK to kick-off negotiations for Free Trade Agreement with India

              

London: (ANI): The UK and India will launch negotiations on an ambitious Free Trade Agreement at an event in New Delhi on Thursday, said Britain’s Department for International Trade on Wednesday (local time).

Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal will meet UK’s International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan here to formally start talks on a deal that could create huge benefits for both countries, said the UK Department for International Trade in a press release on Wednesday (local time).
The agreement will create huge benefits for both countries and could boost our total trade by up to euro 28 billion a year by 2035 and increase wages by up to euro 3 billion across the UK, the release added.

Trevelyan is in New Delhi to officially launch negotiations on a new ambitious free trade deal with the world’s biggest democracy.

The UK wants an agreement that slashes barriers to doing business and trading with India’s euro 2 trillion economy and market of 1.4 billion consumers, including cutting tariffs on exports of British-made cars and Scotch whisky.

“A trade deal with India’s booming economy offers huge benefits for British businesses, workers and consumers,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the statement on Wednesday.

“As we take our historic partnership with India to the next level, the UK’s independent trade policy is creating jobs, increasing wages and driving innovation across the country,” he added.

A deal with India would be a big step forward in the UK’s strategy to refocus trade on the Indo-Pacific, home to half of the world’s population and 50 per cent of global economic growth. A new economic partnership with India, alongside UK membership of the massive Asia-Pacific trading bloc, Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), will create a pillar in the region supporting free and fair trade.

The UK has world-class businesses and expertise we can rightly be proud of, from Scotch whisky distillers to financial services and cutting-edge renewable technology. We are seizing the opportunities offered in the growing economies of the Indo-Pacific to cement our place on the global stage and deliver jobs and growth at home.

India is one of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies and a bold new deal would put UK businesses at the front of the queue to supply India’s growing middle class, forecast to increase to a quarter of a billion consumers by 2050. India is set to become the world’s third-biggest economy by 2050, with a bigger population than the US and EU combined.

A deal has the potential to almost double UK exports to India, boost Britain’s total trade by as much as euro 28 billion a year by 2035, and increase wages across the UK by up to euro 3 billion. Investment from Indian companies already supports 95,000 jobs across the UK.

“A deal with India is a golden opportunity to put UK businesses at the front of the queue as the Indian economy continues to grow rapidly. By 2050 India will be the world’s third-largest economy with a middle class of almost 250 million shoppers,” said UK’s International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan in the statement.

“We want to unlock this huge new market for our great British producers and manufacturers across numerous industries from food and drink to services and automotive,” Trevelyan added.

As an independent, deal-making nation the UK is broadening our economic horizons and forging stronger partnerships with the fastest-growing economies of the world. India marks the start of our ambitious 5-star year of UK trade and will show how the deals we negotiate will boost the economies across all nations and help level up all regions of the UK.

The negotiations will aim to double trade with India by 2030 – supercharging the growth of the UK’s trading relationship which totalled over euro 23bn in 2019, according to the UK Department for International Trade. (Image – GovUK)

UK high court allows Uyghur advocacy group to proceed with forced labour case

London [UK] (ANI): The High Court of England and Wales on Wednesday allowed Uyghur rights advocacy group to proceed with a forced labour case against UK authorities for permitting the importation of cotton goods produced with Uyghur forced labour in China.
The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) of Munich, Germany, and the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN) had registered a case against states and actors involved in human rights violations, alleging that cotton goods produced by Uyghurs in detention camps in Xinjiang are entering the UK, reported Radio Free Asia. Roseanne Gerin, writing in Radio Free Asia said that rights groups also argued that a 19th-century law prohibiting the importation of prison-made goods is being violated by the purchase of cotton goods produced by forced labour.
GLAN said a court win would set a “world-first precedent” by confirming that the UK’s Proceeds of Crime Act — originally targeting money laundering and other illegal activities of organized crime — also applies to proceeds companies accumulate from so-called atrocity crimes, GLAN’s statement said.
Witness statements, leaked government documents, satellite imagery, a secret memorandum from within the textile industry, and documents that the Chinese government has attempted to remove from the internet will prove the case, GLAN said in a statement.
“All evidence points to cotton made using forced labour coming into the UK from the Uyghur region, East Turkestan,” Siobhan Allen, a GLAN legal officer, said in a statement.
“Living in a free country which upholds respect for human rights, it hurts so much to know that the products that are used in this country are the fruit of the enslavement of my people,” Rahima Mahmut, WUC’s UK Director, said in the statement.
Chinese authorities have used Uyghur forced labour in the cotton industry as part of its systematic persecution of the roughly 12 million Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities who live in Xinjiang.
China is the UK’s third-largest trade partner, with total trade in goods and services between the two countries amounting to Pound 93 billion (USD123 billion) in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021, according to government figures, reported Radio Free Asia.
Earlier this year the UK Parliament voted unanimously to declare that genocide and crimes against humanity were taking place against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, said Gerin.
In the US, Congress a week ago passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which will block the importation of goods produced by forced labour in Xinjiang. The White House has said that President Joe Biden will sign the legislation into law. (Image source: Unsplash)

UK-based NGO expresses concern over humanitarian crisis affecting Afghan children

Kabul [Afghanistan] (ANI): UK-based international NGO “Save the Children” has expressed grave concern over the humanitarian crisis affecting Afghan children and said the cold weather has greatly increased problems for the young in the country.
Save the Children said that millions are hungry, out of school, displaced, and face the threat of cold weather. They need urgent humanitarian assistance, Tolo News reported citing the organisation’s statement. “Families at the moment are struggling to eat. Nearly five million children are one step away from famine, so it is absolutely critical that the international community continue to support Afghanistan,” said Kristiana Marton, an officer at Save the Children.
Ahmad Hussain, 11, is one of millions of Afghan children who is working to afford food for his 11-member family. He said that poverty forced him to leave school.
“I was in school, but I left it after my father lost his job. Every day, I earn about 50 to 60 afghani,” Ahmad Hussain told Tolo News. “I polish shoes to find the money to buy bread for my family; in these cold days, few people come,” said Kaihan.
Afghanistan has been in turmoil since the Taliban took control of the war-torn nation in mid-August.
Moreover, the humanitarian crisis has spiked since international aid has dried up. (Image source: Instagram)

Windsor Castle to become no-fly zone over concerns for Queen’s safety

London [UK] (ANI/Sputnik): Windsor Castle, the official royal residence of British monarchs, will become a no-fly zone due to the concerns for the safety of Queen Elizabeth II, the country’s media reported on Sunday.
The decision on the security measure was taken after an attacker armed with a crossbow entered the castle’s grounds at the end of December, threatening to kill the Queen, according to the Sun. From January 27, planes and unmanned aerial vehicles will be prohibited from flying over the residence at an altitude of 2,500 feet, the news said. Under the order, flying within 1.4 miles from the castle walls will be deemed a crime, the Sun noted.
The UK civil aviation authority said the ban was in the public interest.
The compliance with the decree will be monitored by air traffic control, and in the event of a violation fighters will be dispatched to escort the plane that enters the zone and does not respond to radio warnings. The police guarding the castle will also receive more powers to take down illegal drones. (Image source: Unsplash)

Voices in the UK grow louder to revoke Blair’s knighthood

London [UK]: Hundreds of thousands of people in the UK are coming together to join the call to strip former prime minister Tony Blair of his recently awarded knighthood for his role in Iraq war.
An online petition was set up in response to Blair’s knighthood with the oldest and most senior British order of chivalry- Knight Companion of the Noblest Order of the Garter in Queen Elizabeth II’s New Year’s honours list. As of Wednesday, there were a total of 700,000 signatures on the online petition. The opinion poll, published by UK polling company YouGov, revealed 63 per cent of Britons are opposed to Blair being knighted. The survey was based on responses from 2,441 Britons. It suggested that most Labour Party voters voted against the move.
The petition says Blair is “the least deserving person of any public honour”. It calls for Blair to be held accountable for “war crimes”, reported Aljazeera.
It added, “Tony Blair caused irreparable damage to both the constitution of the United Kingdom and to the very fabric of the nation’s society. He was personally responsible for causing the death of countless innocent, civilian lives and servicemen in various conflicts,”
Blair, an ex-Labour Party leader served as UK’s Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007. He has been facing criticism from UK people for his role in the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, reported Aljazeera.
The 2003 Invasion of Iraq followed the removal of former President Saddam Hussein and his subsequent execution.
Despite the growing voices against Blair’s knighthood, several leading politicians have spoken out in favour of him, reported Aljazeera. (Image source: Instagram)

India welcomes Joint Statement by US, UK, Russia, France and China, aimed at preventing nuclear war and arms race

New Delhi [India]: India on Friday welcomed the Joint Statement on preventing nuclear war and avoiding arms race which was given by the leaders of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States on Monday.
“We welcome the Joint Statement this week, which reaffirms the importance of addressing nuclear threats, and underscores the desire to work towards creating a security environment more conducive to progress on disarmament with the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons with undiminished security for all.”, said Bagchi in a statement. Bagchi cleared India’s stance on the No First Use posture and the non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states.
“As a responsible nuclear weapon state, India has a doctrine of maintaining a credible minimum deterrence based on a No First Use posture and non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states. India remains committed to the goal of universal, non-discriminatory and verifiable nuclear disarmament”, he said in a statement.
He added that India’s resolution at United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) stands for steps to reduce the risk of unintentional or accidental use of nuclear weapons and India will continue to contribute to global nuclear disarmament.
“India will continue to contribute further to the global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation agenda.”, said the statement.”, said the statement.
Earlier, the leaders of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States on Monday (local time) reiterated their commitment to de-targeting and reaffirmed that none of their nuclear weapons was targeted at each other or at any other State.
In a joint statement, the leaders of the five countries said “we affirm that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
“We affirm that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. As nuclear use would have far-reaching consequences, we also affirm that nuclear weapons–for as long as they continue to exist–should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war. We believe strongly that the further spread of such weapons must be prevented,” the statement read.
The five permanent member states of the UN Security Council also reaffirmed the importance of addressing nuclear threats and emphasised the importance of preserving and complying with their bilateral and multilateral non-proliferation, disarmament, and arms control agreements and commitments.
The five countries also underlined their desire to work with all states to create a security environment more conducive to progress on disarmament with the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons with undiminished security for all.
They intend to continue seeking bilateral and multilateral diplomatic approaches to avoid military confrontations, strengthen stability and predictability, increase mutual understanding and confidence, and prevent an arms race that would benefit none and endanger all.
“We are resolved to pursue a constructive dialogue with mutual respect and acknowledgement of each other’s security interests and concerns,” the statement read.
It was the first time for leaders of the five Nuclear-Weapon States to issue such a joint statement, which has demonstrated the political will of the five states to prevent nuclear wars, and given their common voice of maintaining global strategic stability and reducing the risk of nuclear conflicts, Chinese vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu said.

UK COVID-19 cases top 14 million

London [UK]: Britain reported another 179,756 COVID-19 cases in the latest 24-hour period, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 14,015,065, according to official figures released Thursday.
The country also reported a further 231 coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 149,515, with 17,988 COVID-19 patients still in hospital. New data revealed that the epicentre of the current COVID outbreak in Britain has moved from London to the North West of England.
Figures from the UK Health Security Agency’s latest surveillance report also showed a sharp rise in hospital admissions in older people, especially those aged over 85.
British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed that more than 20 National Health Service (NHS) trusts have now declared a critical incident.
“There are 137 trusts, there are 24 which are critical. It is not entirely unusual for hospitals to go critical over the winter, often with things like the flu pandemic, but there are very real pressures which I absolutely recognise,” he told Sky News.
He added that an additional 5,000 doctors and 10,000 more nurses are in place across the country compared to last year.
Meanwhile, an estimated 1.3 million people in Britain were experiencing self-reported long COVID as of December 6, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said.
The figure, which only accounts for the four weeks to December 6, represents 2 per cent of the country’s entire population.
The ONS added that 21 per cent who were reporting having long COVID first had or suspected having the virus less than 12 weeks ago. A total of 70 per cent said they had it at least 12 weeks previously and 40 per cent said they were infected at least a year ago.
More than 90 per cent of people aged 12 and over in Britain have had their first dose of vaccine and more than 82 per cent have received both doses, according to the latest figures. More than 60 per cent have received booster jabs, or the third dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States have been racing against time to roll out coronavirus vaccines.

UK reports over 190,000 daily COVID-19 cases

London [UK]: Britain reported 194,747 coronavirus cases in the latest 24-hour period, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 13,835,334, according to official figures released Wednesday.
The country also reported a further 334 coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 149,284, with 17,276 COVID-19 patients still in hospital. Meanwhile, an estimated one in 15 people in England had COVID in the week up to Dec. 31 last year, the equivalent to 3,270,800 people, the British Office for National Statistics said Wednesday.
The figure for the week ending December 31 was up from 2.3 million in the week to December 23. It marked the highest number since comparable figures began in autumn 2020.
Earlier Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson led a cabinet meeting where he recommended sticking with England’s Plan B, which includes work-from-home guidance and mandatory face masks in most public indoor venues.
The move came despite the record infection numbers and increasing pressure on hospitals, with several National Health Service (NHS) trusts declaring critical incidents.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said there are more than 20 such incidents at the moment.
Also, people in England who test positive on a lateral flow device will no longer need a follow-up PCR to begin their isolation period if they do not have symptoms, the UK Health Security Agency has confirmed.
It’s also been announced that pre-departure testing will no longer be required for travellers returning to Britain.
According to the new measures, arrivals will not have to isolate until they get a negative PCR test, but will instead have to take a lateral flow test at the end of day two after arriving.
If that is positive they will then have to take a confirmatory PCR test to help identify any new variants.
In Scotland, it was announced the coronavirus isolation period is to be reduced from 10 days to seven.
More than 90 per cent of people aged 12 and over in Britain have had their first dose of vaccine and more than 82 per cent have received both doses, according to the latest figures. More than 60 per cent have received booster jabs, or the third dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States have been racing against time to roll out coronavirus vaccines.

UK logs over 2,00,000 daily COVID-19 cases for first time since start of pandemic

London [UK]: The United Kingdom has reported 218,724 COVID-19 cases in the latest 24-hour period, exceeding 200,000 daily cases for the first time since the start of the pandemic, Xinhua News Agency reported citing official figures on Tuesday.
According to the news agency, this brought the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 13,641,520. The country also reported a further 48 coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 148,941, with 14,126 COVID-19 patients still in hospital, as per the official release cited by Xinhua News Agency.
Earlier on Tuesday, British Health Secretary told Sky News that there’s nothing in data at this point that suggests that Britain needs to move away from Plan B, which includes guidance to work from home and mandatory face masks in most public indoor venues.
The British government is not planning to cut the isolation period from seven days to five days, as the United States has done, he said.
More than 90 per cent of people aged 12 and over in Britain have had their first dose of vaccine and around 82 per cent have received both doses, according to the latest figures cited by Xinhua News Agency.

UK: West Midlands Police recover 3 million pounds of ‘ill-gotten gains’ from criminals in 12 months

London [UK]: UK’s West Midlands Police have recovered almost three million pounds of ‘ill-gotten gains’ during the last 12 months after its financial investigators pursued the ‘dirty money’.
The West Midlands Police said in a statement that the economic crime unit of the police have worked diligently to ensure crooks can’t benefit from their illegally obtained cash now or in the future. “Our determined team have overcome the difficulties of the pandemic to continue retrieving money linked to crime, and targeting crooks who’ve benefited financially from their illegal activities,” the statement read.
Those criminals who do not pay up face extended prison sentences, although the debt never goes away and officers are able to recover what is owed in the future.
Jenny Birch, head of Economic Crime Unit, said: “A criminal being convicted and sent to jail isn’t always the end… it can just be the beginning for us.”
“The likes of drug dealers and fraudsters can accrue vast amounts of money, and it’s down to us to trace it and prove it’s been illegally obtained. These are often lengthy and detailed investigations and it’s testament to the team we’ve been able to claw back so much money,” Birch said.
The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Foster said: “I’m so pleased to see our police force hitting criminals where it hurts most, in the pocket.”
“If these individuals think they can break the law and profit from their illegal activity then I’m afraid they’re mistaken. I use this money to support community groups, via my Active Citizens Fund, meaning the proceeds of crime taken from criminals are used to tackle crime and support communities,” Foster added.

London-based Indian origin restaurateur Amritpal Singh Maan makes it to UK New Year Honours list

London [UK]: Amritpal Singh Maan, a philanthropist who has provided over 200,000 meals to those in need since the COVID-19 pandemic began, has been awarded OBE in recognition for his services to charity and community. He is among those honoured by the Queen in the New Year Honours List 2022.
Known to most as Amrit Maan, he is an unassuming philanthropist within the Sikh and many other communities and has been supporting charities and organisations that engage mostly with the homeless, the armed forces, and heritage and the arts for several years. Those knowing Amrit Maan most likely know him as the MD of Punjab Restaurant in Covent Garden, established in 1946, by his great-grandfather as the UK’s first-ever Punjabi restaurant.
Amrit Maan has sponsored almost £1 million worth of meals to the British public, several landmark community events, exhibitions and talks, and since the pandemic began in March 2020, has provided over 200,000 meals to those in need. He is very hopsitable to servicemen visiting London.
In addition, as a solicitor, he has provided pro bono assistance to hundreds of victims of crime and traumatic events and given free legal and business advice to small businesses and organisations to date, according to a release.
In late 2018, his personal love of the arts led him to set up a social enterprise to try to showcase British Punjabi artists and is a trustee and trusted advisor for several other organisations including Under One Sky, The Seven Dials Trust, Khalsa Academies Trust and The Sharan Project, the release said.
“I was stunned with disbelief when I received the email notification of the honour. I’d had a difficult day and it was instantly forgotten!” Amrit Maan said.
“I feel truly humbled to have received this honour for services to charity and community. Seva, selfless service, for the community has been the ethos of our family business since it was founded, and I accept this honour not just for me, but on behalf of the generations that came before me who made huge sacrifices, took chances, and shared their spirit with me,” he added.
Amrit Maan said the Officer of the Order of the British Empire recognition will strengthen his resolve to continue the philanthropic work.
“The recognition strengthens my resolve to continue my philanthropic work championing issues, such as women’s rights, fighting social injustice, highlighting British Sikh history and support and increase Sikh representation contribution to our fantastic Armed Forces and other key services such as the Police Force,” he said.
Lieutenant Colonel David Utting LLM RWxY commended Amrit Maan’s work.
“As a recognised leader in the Sikh community, Amrit Mann has worked hard to help many Sikhs define what their identity is within the diverse country where they live, and how to maintain their culture. As part of this, his support to the Armed Forces has been superb and I strongly doubt we would be making the progress we are within the Sikh community without his help. He has combined physical support to several events with sound advice. Having worked with him on a number of occasions, I cannot think of anyone who deserves this honour more,” he said.
Amandeep Madra OBE, Chair, UK Punjab Heritage Association also lauded Amrit Maan’s achievements and congratulated him for the honour.
“Amrit has been a long-standing and important figure for community, humanitarian and cultural activities amongst British Sikhs. He is a role model for other business owners and his voluntary and material support of Sikh charities over decades makes him, in my opinion, absolutely deserving of this national honour,” he said.

Boris Johnson says UK in better position than last year as COVID-19 infections soar

London: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday said that the United Kingdom is in “an incomparably” better position than this time last year in terms of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the country currently seeing a record number of infections caused by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
“Whatever the challenges that fate continues to throw in our way and whatever the anxieties we may have about the weeks and months ahead, particularly about omicron and the growing numbers in hospitals … we can say one thing with certainty – our position this December the 31st is incomparably better than last year,” Johnson said in his New Year’s message posted on social media by his office. The prime minister also hailed the success of the COVID-19 vaccine programme and the “heroic” public response to the booster campaign, claiming that the government’s target to offer a third dose to every eligible adult in the UK had been met.
Johnson, who has resisted calls to impose new COVID-19 social restrictions in England to tackle the spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant, urged people, however, to be “cautious,” amid fears that the National Health Service could be overwhelmed by a surge in positive cases in the first week of January.
On Thursday, the UK recorded a further 189,213 COVID-19 cases, a new daily record since the pandemic began in March 2020, while in England alone, the number of patients in hospital climbed to 11,452, its highest level since February.

UK New Year’s Honours List 2022 Out: Tony Blair, Covid experts and Olympians honoured

London [UK]: Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair will be knighted with the highest possible rank in the list, Buckingham Palace announced on Friday.
Blair will be honoured with the oldest and most senior British order of chivalry- Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. In total 1,122 people are included in The New Year’s Honour List 2022, reported CNN. Blair, who was UK’s prime minister from 1997 to 2007 in a tweet posted by the Tony Blair Institute, said, “It is an immense honour to be appointed Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, and I am deeply grateful to Her Majesty the Queen,”
It is not the first time that a UK prime minister has been bestowed by this honour. John Major, who was UK’s prime minister prior to Blair, also received the honour.
The list includes other names who contributed significantly to help the nation tide over tough waters during pandemic. This includes England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam.
British diver and Olympic gold medalist, Tom Daley is appointed OBE (Order of the British Empire) for services to “diving, LGBTQ+ rights and charity.”
“When I was a little boy, I felt like an outsider and felt different, and I felt like I was never going to be anything, because who I was, wasn’t what society wanted me to be,” he said this summer.
Matty Lee, Dally’s diver partner and gold medallist, received MBE (Member of the Order of the Empire) honour. Tennis star Emma Raducano, winner of the US Open in September is also awarded an MBE, reported CNN.
Notably, the New Year’s Honour list is published twice a year. As per the royal family, the list is published once on New Year’s and, on Queen’s birthday, for the second time. It recognizes British people with excellence in fields ranging from science and politics to arts and athletics.

US, UK, Germany, France express solidarity with Lithuania amid Chinese coercion

Washington [US]: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a telephonic conversation with his counterparts from France, Germany and the UK, during which they highlighted their solidarity with Lithuania in the face of escalating political pressure and economic coercion by China.
In a statement, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said: “Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke today with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, and UK Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss”. They discussed the importance of continued coordination Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke today with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, and UK Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss.
The Secretary and his counterparts also discussed their shared concerns about the pace of developments in Iran’s nuclear program as time runs short for Tehran to return to the JCPOA.
“They highlighted their solidarity with Lithuania in the face of escalating political pressure and economic coercion by the People’s Republic of China and rejected those practices,” the statement read.
They also discussed Libya’s ongoing efforts to organize national elections and agreed on the importance of the electoral process advancing without delay.
The dispute between Lithuania and China began earlier this year when Lithuania withdrew from the “17+1” bloc in Eastern Europe.
Lithuania then upgraded diplomatic relations with Taiwan, becoming the only European country to permit a Taiwanese representative office.
Back in August, China recalled its ambassador from Vilnius, to which Lithuania responded reciprocally in September.

UK reports 98,515 COVID cases, 143 deaths in past 24 hrs

London [UK]: The UK reported 98,515 COVID-19 fresh cases and 143 deaths in the past 24 hours on Monday (local time).
The country in the past seven days has recorded 763,295 infections and 742 deaths, according to the official data released by the UK government. The Omicron variant is continuously increasing the transmission among people in the country. For some days, the UK has been reporting the highest single-day COVID-19 infections across the world following the emergence of the new variant.
In the wake of the rising cases, the National Health Service in the UK has said that all adults are now eligible to book a COVID-19 booster dose.
The booster helps give you longer-term protection against getting seriously ill from COVID-19, NHS added.
Meanwhile, the UK government is urging its citizens to get vaccinated.
“We know two jabs do not give you enough protection against Omicron so whether it is your first, second or booster jab I urge you to book an appointment now,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a tweet on Monday.
He also urged the people to act cautiously given the rising number of Omicron cases.
“Most importantly I urge everyone to get their first, second or booster jab without delay to protect yourselves and your loved ones,” Johnson added.

UK reports 98,515 COVID cases, 143 deaths in past 24 hrs

London [UK]: The UK reported 98,515 COVID-19 fresh cases and 143 deaths in the past 24 hours on Monday (local time).
The country in the past seven days has recorded 763,295 infections and 742 deaths, according to the official data released by the UK government. The Omicron variant is continuously increasing the transmission among people in the country. For some days, the UK has been reporting the highest single-day COVID-19 infections across the world following the emergence of the new variant.
In the wake of the rising cases, the National Health Service in the UK has said that all adults are now eligible to book a COVID-19 booster dose.
The booster helps give you longer-term protection against getting seriously ill from COVID-19, NHS added.
Meanwhile, the UK government is urging its citizens to get vaccinated.
“We know two jabs do not give you enough protection against Omicron so whether it is your first, second or booster jab I urge you to book an appointment now,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a tweet on Monday.
He also urged the people to act cautiously given the rising number of Omicron cases.
“Most importantly I urge everyone to get their first, second or booster jab without delay to protect yourselves and your loved ones,” Johnson added.

UK universities to probe illegal use of study drugs by students, work out new rules

London [UK]: Universities UK, an organization comprised of 140 British higher education institutions, said that next year it will investigate the use of so-called “study drugs” among students to enhance their academic performance, and develop a new set of regulations on the issue.
“Only limited evidence is available about the use of cognitive enhancers, so-called ‘study drugs’, by UK students. However, Universities UK is launching a major study of illicit drug use in universities at the beginning of 2022. This will include research into the supply, demand and use of drugs by students and will result in a new framework and guidance for universities by the end of next year,” the organization told The Times newspaper in a report released on Monday. According to the findings of the media outlet, students regularly resort to modafinil sleeping pills, ritalin and dexamfetamine against attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, among other drugs, as a way to boost their academic performance. The medications are rather simple to obtain online for about 2 pounds ($2.68) each, the outlet said, citing students.
The universities have not officially banned the use of the drugs, which have not been properly studied for side effects, raising concerns over possible health risks. The authorities might make possession of certain of these pills obtained without prescription a criminal offense, according to the newspaper.

Scientists advise UK Government to toughen COVID-19 restrictions until late March

London [UK]: The United Kingdom can significantly reduce COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations if tougher restrictions are introduced and kept until the end of March, a group of Warwick University pandemic experts said in a consensus statement for the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).
On December 8, UK Prime Minister announced so-called Plan B restrictions in England, including mandatory face masks and health certificates. British media said tougher restrictions can be considered as Omicron cases soared. The Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, Operational sub-group (SPI-M-O) has carried out modelling to assess effects of the potential return to so-called Step 2 restrictions, which were part of last year’s four-step anti-coronavirus roadmap, if introduced for a period of two weeks, four weeks or three months.
“Step 2 has a much larger effect, reducing the number of deaths up to 31st May by 39 per cent (24-54 per cent) if kept in place from 28th December until 28th March, and 18 per cent (12-27%) if kept in place until 15th January,” the SPI-M-O said in a report released on December 22.
The introduction of Step 2 restrictions will reduce peak pressure on hospitals by about 50 per cent than if only Plan B were to be kept, the experts said.
The UK cabinet has yet to respond to the report.

UK reports more than 120,000 daily coronavirus cases for first time

London [UK]: Britain has reported another 122,186 coronavirus cases in the latest 24-hour period, exceeding 120,000 daily cases for the first time since of the start of the pandemic, according to official figures released Friday.
It brought the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 11,891,292. The country also reported a further 137 coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 147,857, with 8,240 COVID-19 patients still in hospital.
Another 23,719 Omicron cases have been confirmed in Britain, the biggest daily increase since the COVID-19 variant was detected in the country, taking the total Omicron cases found in the country to 114,625, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said Friday.
However, experts said there are likely to be hundreds of thousands of infections per day, with many being missed by the system.
The latest figures came as data showed that around one in 20 people in London had COVID in the week to Dec. 19, the highest proportion for any English region.
The Office for National Statistics said its headline results of a national survey showed the British capital had the country’s highest rate of the virus. The result was based on data gathered between Dec. 13 and 19.
In England, ONS said an estimated 1,544,600 have had COVID-19 in the past week, with 2.83 percent of the population testing positive. It equates to 1 in 35 people across England having the virus, added ONS.
More than 89 percent of people aged 12 and over in Britain have had their first dose of vaccine and around 82 percent have received both doses, according to the latest figures. More than 56 percent have received booster jabs, or the third dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States have been racing against time to roll out coronavirus vaccines.

Record 1.7 million people in UK tested positive for COVID-19 last week

London [UK]: Over 1.7 million people across the United Kingdom had COVID-19 from December 13-19, which is the highest number of infections during the pandemic, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said on Friday.
According to the new data, last week 1,544,600 people in England tested positive for COVID-19. The infections increased in all age groups. “In England, COVID-19 infections have increased in all regions except the South West in the latest week; the highest rates are in London where around 1 in 20 people had COVID-19 and lowest in the North East where around 1 in 55 people had COVID-19,” the ONS said.
COVID-19 infections with the Omicron variant also increased across England with the highest rates observed in London and the lowest in the North East.
In Wales, 70,000 people tested positive for COVID-19 last week. About 44,900 people in Northern Ireland had COVID-19 during the same period. In Scotland, 79,200 people were infected from December 13-19.
The United Kingdom has faced a surge in COVID-19 cases ahead of Christmas. The country has been breaking records for several days in the number of registered infections. The Ministry of Health has predicted that the number of Omicron infections in the country may exceed a million by the end of December.
On December 8, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the country would move to the so-called plan B. The British are now encouraged to work from home whenever possible and required to wear a face covering. In addition, a COVID-19 pass confirming vaccination is now mandatory for visiting crowded places. Daily testing is required for those who may have come into contact with carriers of the coronavirus.

UK to offer COVID-19 Pfizer shots to at-risk children aged 5-11

London [UK]: The UK Health Security Agency allowed on Wednesday the use of smaller doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines in children aged 5 to 11 who are at a higher risk from COVID-19.

“Children aged 5 to 11, who are in a clinical risk group or who are a household contact of someone (of any age) who is immunosuppressed, should be offered a primary course of vaccination,” it said.
The regulator said a third of the adult dose will be administered twice with an interval of eight weeks.

The agency also recommended giving booster shots to teenagers aged 16 to 17 and at-risk children aged 12 to 15 in a bid to ramp up the revaccination campaign.

The UK’s daily cases soared to over 90,000 on Tuesday as the Omicron variant continued to spread across the country, just days before Christmas. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said no new restrictions were forthcoming. (ANI/Sputnik)

UK’s Johnson says no new restrictions before Christmas despite Omicron surge

London [UK]: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tuesday that the government has no plans of issuing tougher COVID-19 restrictions despite a surge in cases of the Omicron variant.
“We don’t think today that there is enough evidence to justify any tougher measures before Christmas,” Johnson said in a video address published on his Twitter page. The government will continue to closely monitor the data related to the spread of the Omicron strain and make efforts to “protect public health,” including a possible toughening of restrictions after Christmas, he added.
The prime minister also urged citizens to follow health rules and get vaccinated given the “uncertainty” of the situation.
In recent weeks, the daily average of infections has exceeded 90,000 cases. As of Tuesday, the authorities have confirmed 90,629 new cases and 172 fatalities.
In this regard, the government announced earlier in the day an allocation of $1.3 billion to assist businesses hit by a new wave of the virus.

UK records biggest daily jump of Omicron cases

London [UK]: Another 12,133 Omicron cases have been recorded in Britain, the biggest daily increase since the COVID-19 variant was detected in the country, taking the total Omicron cases found in the country to 37,101, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said Sunday.
Meanwhile, Britain reported 82,886 coronavirus cases in the latest 24-hour period, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 11,361,387, according to official figures released Sunday. The number of confirmed cases is down again on Saturday’s figure of 90,418. However, figures are generally lower over the weekend. On Friday, Britain reported a record high of 93,045 confirmed cases.
The country registered a further 45 coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 147,218, with 7,611 COVID-19 patients still in the hospital.
The latest figures came as British Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the new variant is spreading “very, very quickly”, even more so than the figures suggest.
The “actual number of infections will be significantly higher than case numbers suggest” because not everyone will be taking a test and there is a lag for people to get their test results back, he said.
Meanwhile, the British government’s advisory scientists have warned extra restrictions are needed “within days” to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed by Omicron.
The Omicron coronavirus variant has been reported in 89 countries and the number of cases is doubling in 1.5 to three days in areas with community transmission, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.
More than 89 percent of people aged 12 and over in Britain have had their first dose of vaccine and more than 81 percent have received both doses, according to the latest figures. More than 48 percent have received booster jabs, or the third dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

London Mayor declares ‘major incident’ over spread of Omicron variant

London [UK]: London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced on Saturday an emergency over the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
According to the official, the city logged the largest number of new cases since the start of the pandemic, over 26,000. “I’ve taken the decision, in consultation with our partners, to declare a major incident today,” Khan said in a Sky News broadcast.
Last week, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced switching to Plan B of the strategy for fighting the virus this winter amid growing concerns about the latest coronavirus strain, which includes imposing new COVID-19 restrictions in England.
The United Kingdom has confirmed over 90,000 new cases over the last 24 hours, bringing the national total to 11,279,428.

UK signs trade agreement with Australia to shape post-Brexit economic relations

              

London [UK]: The UK has signed a trade agreement with Australia that will shape the post-Brexit economic relations between London and Canberra, the UK Department for International Trade said.

“The UK has signed a historic trade agreement with Australia, our first from scratch since leaving the EU, setting new global standards in digital and services and creating new work and travel opportunities for Brits and Aussies,” the department said in a statement on late Thursday.
The prime ministers of the two countries reached an agreement on the deal in June, and all the chapters of the document have been already finalised.

“The final deal was signed in a virtual ceremony by International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan on Thursday night, and will now be laid in Parliament for a period of scrutiny,” the statement reads.

The new agreement is expected to increase the UK-Australian trade by some 10.4 billion pounds (USD 13.8 billion) as well as will fully eliminate tariffs on the UK exports.

The UK completed its withdrawal from the European Union in 2020 and is now re-shaping its trade relations with other countries. (ANI/Sputnik)

UK PM says 1 person died after contracting Omicron COVID strain

London [UK]: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that at least one person died after contracting the Omicron coronavirus strain, local media reported on Monday.
“Sadly, yes Omicron is producing hospitalisations and sadly at least one patient has been confirmed to have died with Omicron,” said Boris Johnson during a visit to a vaccination clinic in west London, as quoted by Sky News. This is the first death reported among those infected with the Omicron strain. This comes hours after the UK coronavirus (COVID-19) alert level increased from Level 3 to Level 4 amid the surge in the Omicron variant cases.
The UK Department of Health and Social Care on Sunday had said that transmission of COVID-19 is already high in the community, mainly still driven by Delta, but the emergence of Omicron adds additional and rapidly increasing risk to the public and healthcare services.
“Early evidence shows that Omicron is spreading much faster than Delta and that vaccine protection against symptomatic disease from Omicron is reduced. Data on severity will become clearer over the coming weeks but hospitalisations from Omicron are already occurring and these are likely to increase rapidly,” the UK Health Department statement said.
On Sunday, the UK had reported 1,239 new confirmed cases of the Omicron variant.

UK hikes virus alert level as Omicron variant surges

London [UK]: UK COVID-19 alert level raised to second-highest tier amid increasing Omicron cases on Sunday.
Britain’s COVID alert level has been increased from Level 3 to Level 4 “in light of the rapid increase in Omicron cases”, British chief medical officers said in a joint statement, reported Xinhua. In the statement, the four chief medical officers and the National Health Service (NHS) England national medical director said the emergence of Omicron “adds additional and rapidly increasing risk to the public and healthcare services.”
“Early evidence shows that Omicron is spreading much faster than Delta and that vaccine protection against symptomatic disease from Omicron is reduced,” said the statement, reported Xinhua.
The statement suggested people should continue to “take sensible precautions including ventilating rooms, using face coverings, testing regularly and isolating when symptomatic.”
Level 4 means the virus is “in general circulation” and “transmission is high and direct COVID-19 pressure on healthcare services is widespread and substantial or rising.”
Another 1239 Omicron cases have been found in Britain, the biggest daily increase since the COVID-19 variant was detected in the country, taking the total cases found in the country to 3,137, the UK health security agency (UKHSA) confirmed.
Britain reported 48,854 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 10,819,515, according to official figures released Sunday.
The country also reported a further 52 coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 146,439, with 7,413 COVID-19 patients still in the hospital.
More than 89 per cent of people aged 12 and over in Britain have had their first dose of vaccine and more than 81 per cent have received both doses, according to the latest figures. More than 40 per cent have received booster jabs or the third dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
Moreover, the medical chiefs recommend raising alert from 3 to 4 on 5-point scale as Israel placed UK on ‘red’ list; top level indicates authorities think health system about to be overwhelmed, reported The Times of Israel.

UK records highest daily coronavirus cases since early January

London [UK]: Britain reports 58,194 new coronavirus cases, reaching levels not seen since early January, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 10,719,165, according to official figures released Friday.
The country also reported a further 120 coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 146,255, with 7,413 COVID-19 patients still in the hospital. The latest data came as another 448 cases of the Omicron COVID variant have been reported in Britain, taking the total cases found in the country to 1,139.
According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), 443 cases were discovered in England, one case was found in Scotland and four in Wales. No further Omicron cases were found in Northern Ireland.
The Omicron variant is growing “rapidly” in all regions of England and it is spreading faster than Delta, the latest data from UKHSA has revealed. Omicron is expected to be the dominant variant in Britain by the middle of this month, it said.
Meanwhile, experts also estimate that if it continues to grow at the current rate, Britain could see up to 1 million cases in total by the end of the month.
More than 89 per cent of people aged 12 and over in Britain have had their first dose of vaccine and more than 81 per cent have received both doses, according to the latest figures. More than 38 per cent have received booster jabs or the third dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States have been racing against time to roll out coronavirus vaccines.

UK records more than 51,000 new coronavirus cases

London [UK]: Britain registered 51,342 new COVID-19 infections bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 10,610,958, according to official figures released Wednesday.
The country also reported a further 161 coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 145,987, with 7,317 COVID-19 patients still in the hospital. The vast majority of these infections are likely to be the Delta variant, although Omicron cases are climbing also.
Earlier Wednesday, a further 131 cases of the new Omicron COVID variant have been reported in Britain, taking the total to 568, British health authorities confirmed.
Scientists have called on the government to take more action and are urging people to be more cautious as Omicron cases continue to rise in the country.
More than 89 per cent of people aged 12 and over in Britain have had their first dose of vaccine and more than 81 per cent have received both doses, according to the latest figures. More than 37 per cent have received booster jabs, or the third dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States have been racing against time to roll out coronavirus vaccines.

Omicron in UK: Over 100 new cases of Omicron COVID variant, alert sounded

London [UK]: Britain reported 101 new cases of the Omicron COVID variant taking the total cases to 437, British health authorities confirmed Tuesday.

The early indications are that the Omicron variant of coronavirus is more transmissible than Delta, said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he updated his team of ministers on the latest COVID-19 situation at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
Scientists have called on the government to take more action and are urging people to be more cautious as Omicron cases continue to rise in the country.

Britain registered 45,691 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 10,560,341, according to official figures released on Tuesday.

The country also reported a further 180 coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 145,826. These figures only include the deaths of people who died within 28 days of their first positive test.

Nearly 89 per cent of people aged 12 and over in Britain have had their first dose of vaccine and more than 81 per cent have received both doses, according to the latest figures. More than 36 per cent have received booster jabs, or the third dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States have been racing against time to roll out coronavirus vaccines. (Xinhua)

Omicron cases in UK rise by 50 per cent in one day

London [UK]: A further 86 cases of the Omicron COVID variant have been reported in Britain, taking the total to 246, British health authorities confirmed Sunday.
This compares with a total of 160 on Saturday, an increase of more than 50 per cent, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). Britain registered 43,992 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 10,464,389, according to official figures released on Sunday.
The country also reported a further 54 coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 145,605. These figures only include the deaths of people who died within 28 days of their first positive test.
The latest data came as British Health Secretary Sajid Javid said all international arrivals to Britain, including children over the age of 12, will need to take a pre-departure test from 0400 GMT on Tuesday. He added that they must be taken a maximum of 48 hours before departure.
In addition, from 0400 GMT on Monday, Dec. 6, Nigeria will be on the red travel list. It joins several southern African nations which were put on it after the Omicron variant was first detected late last month.
“I think it’s too late to make a material difference to the course of the Omicron wave if we’re going to have one,” professor Mark Woolhouse, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M), told the BBC when asked about the new travel rules.
More than 88 per cent of people aged 12 and over in Britain have had their first dose of vaccine and nearly 81 per cent have received both doses, according to the latest figures. More than 35 per cent have received booster jabs or the third dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States have been racing against time to roll out coronavirus vaccines.

UK records more than 50,000 new coronavirus cases

London [UK]: Britain registered 50,584 new COVID-19 infections bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 10,379,647, according to official figures released Friday.
The country also reported a further 143 coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 145,424, with 7,373 COVID-19 patients still in hospital. The latest data came as the country confirmed 22 cases of the Omicron variant in England, 29 in Scotland and one case in Wales.
A meeting of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) subgroup on Sars-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.529 concluded that, if introduced into Britain, the variant would be able to initiate a new wave of infections.
Meanwhile, British officials said that more than half the confirmed cases of the new Omicron variant in Britain have occurred following at least two vaccination doses.
According to a new technical briefing from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), 12 of the 22 known cases up to Nov. 30 had been fully vaccinated.
The UKHSA has also released a risk assessment of the Omicron variant, giving the highest “red” alert against the virus for its theoretical ability, based on its mutations, to evade both vaccine and naturally-acquired immunity. It also warns that it could reduce the effectiveness of monoclonal antibody treatments.

US, Australia, UK sign agreement for exchange of naval nuclear propulsion information

Washington [US]: In a bid to enhance trilateral security partnership called “AUKUS”, the US, Australia and the United Kingdom have engaged in an 18-month consultation period to seek an optimal pathway for delivery of nuclear-powered submarines, United States President Joe Biden said a White House statement on Wednesday (local time).
The agreement for the Exchange of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information among the three countries would permit parties to communicate and exchange Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information and would provide authorization to share certain Restricted Data. “Pursuant to the enhanced trilateral security partnership called “AUKUS” announced earlier this year, our three governments are engaging in an 18-month consultation period to seek an optimal pathway for delivery of nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy at the earliest achievable date. The Agreement would permit the three Parties to communicate and exchange Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information and would provide authorization to share certain Restricted Data as may be needed during trilateral discussions, thereby enabling full and effective consultations,” the statement issued by Joe Biden read.
Biden also said that the agreement among the US, Australia, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the UK) has met all statutory requirements.
“I have determined that the United Kingdom and Australia, by participating with the United States pursuant to international arrangements, are making substantial and material contributions to the mutual defence and security. The United Kingdom is a party to the North Atlantic Treaty, and Australia is a party to Australia, New Zealand, and United States Security Treaty,” he said urging for Congress’ favourable consideration to the agreement.

UK foreign minister warns Russia against ‘any action’ against Ukraine ahead of NATO talks

London [UK] : The United Kingdom will use all economic and diplomatic means at its disposal to prevent the Russian incursion into Ukraine, and such move by Moscow would be strategically wrong, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Tuesday.
“We will support Ukraine and stability in the Western Balkans, to safeguard their security and build their economic resilience … Any action by Russia to undermine the freedom and democracy that our partners enjoy would be a strategic mistake,” Truss said in a statement issued by her office ahead of NATO foreign ministers meeting in Latvia scheduled from Tuesday through Wednesday. In response, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that London out-shadows Moscow in terms of strategic failures.
The event meeting should further unite NATO allies in the face of “continued destabilizing actions by Russia and Belarus,” the statement added.
“We do not encroach on strategic mistakes – this is the historical prerogative of Britain,” she wrote on her Telegram channel.
The alliance is set to gather top diplomats of its countries in Riga to discuss the alleged amassing of Russian troops near the border with Ukraine, Belarus-Poland border migration crisis, Afghanistan, as well as “the situation in the region with NATO’s close partners Georgia and Ukraine.”
Ahead of the meeting, Truss visited the UK troops stationed in Estonia within the framework of NATO enhanced presence in the Baltic region, including Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.

UK’s parliamentary group report pulls apart Islamabad’s complicity, culpability in crimes against minorities

London [UK]: The United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Pakistani Minorities has severely criticized the role of Islamabad in a steadily deteriorating human rights situation of minorities in the country.

A 67-page report, which called the human rights situation in Pakistan a national and international tragedy, highlighted all forms of atrocities that the minorities of Pakistan were being subjected to on an everyday basis.
It said that even after over seventy years of independence, abductions of minority girls, their forced conversions and subsequent marriages was a widespread phenomenon in Pakistan.

And calling them a heartrending issue, the report noted that successive governments in Pakistan had failed to take any effective action to prevent this tragic and inhuman practice.

Based on the written submissions and the oral evidence presented before an Inquiry conducted by the APPG, it was confirmed that Hindu and Christian communities were specifically being targeted by Islamic fundamentalists.

The inquiry revealed that the issue of abductions, forced conversions, and forced marriages of religious minority women and girls is a serious issue for the vulnerable and marginalised Hindu and Christian communities in Pakistan.

The report read “Provisional estimates in a study ‘Forced Marriages and Forced Conversions in the Christian Community of Pakistan’ suggest that up to 1,000 religious minority women and girls face this fate every year.”

“However, the true numbers may never be ascertained. All these cases meet with impunity. Usually, after the abduction, the victim’s relatives plead with the local police to file a First Information Report.”

The report also said that police had more often than not dragged their feet in such cases and instead of apprehending the criminals, handed conversion certificates to the parents saying they had changed their religion voluntarily.

“In court, the issue is often portrayed as a religious issue and the perpetrators’ lawyers appeal to the religious sentiments of judges, by suggesting that the girls have voluntarily converted to Islam. In the majority of these cases, the decisions will go in favour of the perpetrators and the girls lose all contact with their families,” the report read.

The report further stated the reasons behind a steady spike in such cases in specific Pakistani areas.

“One reason why this practice is flourishing in the Sindh and Punjab provinces is because of the many actors playing their part in keeping the practice alive. For example, the clerics play a key role in the conversion process and marry the victims and the perpetrators within a short time after. In the volatile politics of Pakistan any efforts to apprehend any religious leader can be construed as an attack on Islam. For this reason, such practices of the clerics are tolerated by government officials and politicians, as confrontation could bring about further conflict amongst the wider public,” it read.

The report urged the UK government to raise the issue at bilateral engagements too in order to help those who have been the subject of brutality for decades.

While calling out the Pakistan government’s failure at addressing the issue and the provincial government’s apathetic attitude towards minorities, the APPG urged the UK government to intervene in order to protect minority women from the vicious cycle of illiteracy, poverty and early marriages.

It is pertinent to note that the state machinery has been found complicit at some level or the other in many cases of harassment, exploitation and outright brutality against the minorities.

Also, there are numerous cases of the state brazenly defending those who have been involved in heinous crimes against minorities and going after the victims. And it is because of such a state of affairs in Pakistan that a number of experts around the world have said that Pakistan is the most unsafe country for women under the sun. (ANI)

Scotland confirmed 6 cases of Omicron coronavirus variant

London [UK] : Six cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant have been confirmed in Scotland, taking the total for the United Kingdom up to nine with the previous three infections detected in England, the Scottish health authorities reported on Monday.
“Six cases of the COVID-19 omicron variant have been identified in Scotland. Four cases are in the Lanarkshire area and two have been identified in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area,” the Scottish semiautonomous government said in a statement, with Scotland’s Health Secretary Humaz Yousaf adding that “all will receive expert help and support and Public Health Scotland will undertake enhanced contact tracing in all cases.” According to Yousaf, this will be a worrying time for the six people now identified as having the new variant. All will receive expert help and support and Public Health Scotland will undertake enhanced contact tracing in all cases.
He warned that since there was still much to learn about this new variant of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 regarding its severity, transmissibility and response to treatments and vaccines, people must be cautious and do everything they can to minimize the risk of spreading infection.
On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) identified the new strain of the coronavirus, Omicron, as one of concern, since it may be more transmissible and dangerous. Cases of the new variant have already been confirmed in multiple countries and governments rushed to suspend travel with southern African nations in order to prevent the spread of the new strain.
In the United Kingdom, face coverings will be mandatory on public transport and in shops and other closed settings including banks, post offices and hairdressers from Tuesday, when isolation rules will return for international arrivals until they receive a negative PCR test for COVID-19.
The UK also convened an urgent meeting of the Group of Seven health ministers on Monday to discuss the Omicron variant.

Omicron variant might spread among fully vaccinated people, says PM Johnson

London [UK]: As the new COVID-19 variant ‘Omicron’ has caused worry among governments around the world, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday said that there are chances that the new strain could spread among people who are double vaccinated.
“I must stress this, as always with a new variant, there are many things that we just can not know at this early stage. But our scientists are learning more hour by hour. And it does appear that Omicron spreads very rapidly and can be spread between people who are double vaccinated,” Johnson said during a press conference. PM’s remarks came after the United Kingdom reported the first two cases of the Omicron variant.
UK’s Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced on Saturday that the two cases were discovered on Friday, one in Chelmsford and another in Nottingham. Both cases “are linked,” Javid added, stating that both patients are currently isolating at home.
Besides the Uk, Germany has also reported its first two cases of the Omicron variant.
WHO identified the new South African strain as one of concern, as it is reported to carry a high number of mutations — 32 — which possibly makes it more transmissible and dangerous. The WHO has dubbed it Omicron, the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet.
Following the reports about the new variant, the United States, the European Union, Canada, Israel, Australia and other countries have restricted travel from several southern African nations over the health concerns.

UK to increase global military presence under ‘Future Soldier’ plan

London [UK]: The United Kingdom is determined to step up its military presence in the world, according to a plan, released by the UK defence ministry on Thursday.
“More of the Army will be deployed across the globe, more of the time. Greater forward deployment will improve our ability to anticipate crises and be ready to compete beneath the threshold of open conflict. It will prevent conflict by reassuring allies and partners and deterring adversaries,” the “Future Soldier” modernization plan read. The UK defence ministry also announced an additional investment in military equipment, worth 8.6 billion pounds (USD 11.46 billion), during the next decade. This will raise the total investment to 41.3 billion pounds for the same period.
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Future Soldier is reinforced by the ambition outlined in the Defence Command Paper to transform the Army into a more agile, integrated, lethal, expeditionary force.”
“We have underpinned this generational work with an extra £8.6bn for Army equipment, bringing the total investment to £41.3bn,” he added.
A total of over 100,000 soldiers will serve in the British Army by 2025, according to estimates of the ministry, as the UK regular army is expected to include 73,000 soldiers, and the number of reservists will stand at 30,000.
One of the most substantial innovations is a new Ranger Regiment, which will start operating from December 1, 2021. As a part of the Army Special Operations Brigade, the regiment “will be routinely deployed alongside partner forces around the world to counter extremist organisations and hostile state threats.”
“Our Army will operate across the globe, equipped with the capabilities to face down a myriad of threats from cyber warfare through to battlefield conflict,” Wallace said.

Study finds COVID infection risk rises after second vaccine dose

London [UK] : A new study has found a gradual increase in the risk of COVID-19 infection from 90 days after receiving a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Results confirm that protection wanes with time and suggest a third (booster) dose might be warranted. The findings of the study were published in the journal ‘BMJ’.
The study was carried out by the Research Institute of Leumit Health Services in Israel. Israel was one of the first countries to roll out a large scale covid-19 vaccination campaign in December 2020, but it has seen a resurgence of infections since June 2021.
The findings confirm that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine provided excellent protection in the initial weeks after vaccination, but suggest that protection wanes for some individuals with time.
Across the world, large scale covid-19 vaccination campaigns are helping to control the spread of the virus, but even in countries with high vaccination rates, breakthrough infections can occur, which scientists think is due to a gradual loss of immunity over time.
Examining the time elapsed since vaccination and the risk of infection could provide important clues about the need for a third injection and its preferred timing.
To do this, the researchers examined electronic health records for 80,057 adults (average age 44 years) who received a PCR test at least three weeks after their second injection and had no evidence of previous covid-19 infection.
Of these 80,057 participants, 7,973 (9.6 per cent) had a positive test result. These individuals were then matched to negative controls of the same age and ethnic group who were tested in the same week.
The rate of positive results increased with time elapsed since a second dose. For example, across all age groups, 1.3 per cent of participants tested positive 21-89 days after a second dose, but this increased to 2.4 per cent after 90-119 days; 4.6 per cent after 120-149 days; 10.3 per cent after 150-179 days; and 15.5 per cent after 180 days or more.
And after taking account of other potentially influential factors, the researchers found a significantly increased risk of infection with time elapsed since a second dose.
Compared with the initial 90 days after a second dose, the risk of infection across all age groups was 2.37-fold higher after 90-119 days; 2.66-fold higher after 120-149 days; 2.82-fold higher after 150-179 days; and 2.82-fold higher after 180 days or more.
The researchers acknowledge that interpretation of their findings is limited by the observational design, and they cannot rule out the possibility that other unmeasured factors such as household size, population density, or virus strain may have had an effect.
However, this was a large study of people who all received the same vaccine, and the researchers were able to carry out a detailed analysis of the data, suggesting that the results are robust.
As such, they conclude that in individuals who received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, protection seemed to decrease over time, and the risk of breakthrough infection increased progressively compared with the protection provided during the initial 90 days.
The results suggest that consideration of a third vaccine dose might be warranted, they added.

Sikhs for Justice farce ‘Referendum’ on Khalistan exposed

London [UK] : Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), fake “Referendum” on the creation of Khalistan – for a separate Sikh nation was exposed in a raid by UK police that said that very few people participated.
According to certain reliable inputs emerging from the Indian community in the UK, especially the Sikh community-based in London, the UK Metropolitan police carried out a raid on the office of Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) located on the First floor of Sadda Superstore, 356 Bath Road, Hounslow, UK on November 15, reported dailysikh. The police took away all electronic devices and documents pertaining to the so-called ‘Referendum’ held by the SFJ recently. While the ‘Referendum’ turned out to be a farce with very few people participating, there was speculation that SFJ members were using various electronic devices to create fake Identity cards and relevant documents pertaining to bogus voters in order to push up the voting numbers during the ‘Referendum’.
Police had received information regarding nefarious activities being carried out by SFJ representatives at their office. Significantly, police detained an individual ostensibly with links to Pakistan.
The recent ‘Referendum’ by SFJ was totally rejected by the over eight hundred thousand Sikh diasporas living in the UK. The only ones who came to vote were a select group of Khalistanis and some neutral individuals with no particular leanings, who were lured to the polling booths on some pretext or the other, reported dailysikh.
Since the farmer issue in India had strong sentiments among a large section of the Sikh community, SFJ members falsely convinced many members of the Sikh community to vote in the Referendum as it apparently had a direct impact on the farmer issue.
The British Sikh community are generally aware of the latest developments including the search having been carried out at the SFJ address and are relieved that finally, the law is taking its course in controlling the activities of SFJ.
The majority of members of the Sikh community consider the SFJ and other Khalistanis as nothing short of “nuisance value” whose only agenda is to raise funds and use Khalistan for their personal economic benefits, reported sikhdaily.
The community has been angry over the years for such elements have tried to create a rift within the British Sikh community and among Sikh and British Hindus.
There is thus a broad consensus among the Sikh community that UK law enforcement authorities should take strict action against the “hate campaign” being carried out by certain elements in the name of Khalistan which is spoiling the name of peace-loving British Sikhs, reported sikhdaily.

UK demands Beijing provides further evidence of tennis player Shuai’s safety

Moscow [Russia] : The United Kingdom is concerned for the safety of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, who temporarily disappeared after accusing a senior Chinese politician of sexual assault, and demands that Beijing allow her to speak out without fear of repercussions, the country’s foreign ministry told RIA Novosti.
“We are extremely concerned at the apparent disappearance of Peng Shuai, and are following the case closely. The Chinese authorities should urgently provide verifiable evidence of her safety and whereabouts. Everyone should be allowed to speak out without fear of repercussions. All reports of sexual assault, anywhere in the world, should be investigated,” the ministry said. Peng disappeared from public view after publishing on November 2 a statement on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform, accusing the former Chinese vice-premier, 75-year-old Zhang Gaoli, of sexually assaulting her. The post was immediately deleted, Peng’s accounts were removed from the Chinese social networks and the athlete stopped communicating, raising concerns for her safety.
Several countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, have demanded that Beijing provide verifiable evidence of Peng’s safety and whereabouts. The global tennis community also joined the demands and called for a full and impartial investigation into the allegations of sexual assault against the former vice-premier.
On Sunday, the tennis star finally appeared in public for the first time in several weeks at the opening ceremony of a teenage tennis match final in Beijing. She later had a video call with Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee, confirming she was safe and well.

Britain invites ASEAN to G-7 meeting, signifies ‘growing Indo-Pacific tilt’

London [UK] : Ministers from the Group of Seven (G-7) industrialised nations are set to participate in a meeting that will take place in Britain’s Liverpool next month.
The G-7 meet, under the presidency of Britain, will commence from December 10 and will continue for three days, stated the UK government. Britain will be hosting this year’s G-7 meet and has for the first time invited the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), signifying a “growing Indo-Pacific tilt”, reported Kyodo News, citing UK government sources.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno addressing a press conference in Tokyo on Monday stated that the invitation to ASEAN nations portrays UK’s “willingness to strengthen its involvement in the Indo-Pacific region.”
The British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office mentioned that G-7 will look into global issues, including economic resilience in the post-COVID times, global health and human rights, reported Kyodo News.
“I want us to build a worldwide network of liberty that advances freedom, democracy and enterprise and encourages like-minded countries to work together from a position of strength,” the agency quoted Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi is most likely to represent Japan at the meeting.
Meanwhile, the central Japan city of Nagoya today declared its bid to host the G-7 summit at the Nagoya Congress Center in 2023, reported Kyodo News.

UK ‘must try to engage’ with ‘Islamic Emirate’ in Afghanistan

London [UK] : Amid the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that Britain must engage with the current Taliban government to tackle the existing crisis in the country.
Johnson made the remarks in response to a question UK lawmaker in the parliament, TOLOnews reported. Stating that Afghanistan looks like ‘hell on earth’, Labor Party member Sarah Champion asked Johnson “how and when” will aid that has been pledged by the UK be provided to the people of Afghanistan.
Johnson explained that the UK had no other choice but to engage with the current Afghan government to assist the overcoming of crisis in the troubled nation.
“There is no point in the UK just standing on the sidelines and failing to engage with the Taliban,” he said.
“They may not speak for all Afghans, far from it, but they are some kind of authority – even if a very imperfect authority. The UK must try to engage, for the sake of the people that you’re talking about,” Johnson said.
The “Islamic Emirate” welcomed Britain prime minister’s statement, TOLOnews reported.
“We welcome the remarks of the British Prime Minister. The official engagement will definitely make Afghanistan’s relations better with the world. The gates of understanding and negotiations are opened by the Islamic Emirate. If there is any challenge, it can be solved via this path,” said Inamullah Samangani, deputy spokesperson for the “Islamic Emirate” of Afghanistan.
This comes as experts in the region believe that the world’s engagement with Afghanistan will help overcome the existing crisis in the country.

UK admits it faces “severe” terror threat after two violent incidents

London [UK] : The United Kingdom has raised its level of threat from Islamist terrorism to “severe” after two violent incidents in Liverpool and Essex in the last one month, a Canada-based think tank reported.
International Forum For Rights And Security (IFFRAS) citing counter-terror experts reported that more future threats are expected in the United Kingdom, adding that however, no Islamist group has come forward to accept responsibility for the attacks so far. British security minister Damien Hinds suspected the incident could be the result of online radicalisation – the latest aspect of Islamist terror to threaten Europe. Hinds revealed “the security services had disrupted more than 30 late-stage plots in the last few years”, IFFRAS reported.
A suicide bomber blew himself up with an explosive device near a maternity hospital in Liverpool on November 15.
According to MI5, a British domestic counter-intelligence agency, the Islamist terrorist threat to the country is real.
“Terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq, including Al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), possess both the intention and the capability to direct attacks against the West. The UK is a high-priority target for Islamist extremists and they pose a significant threat to our country and to our interests and citizens abroad. Despite the current main focus on terrorism originating from Syria and Iraq, the threat of terrorism also emanates from other parts of the Middle East and regions such as North, East and West Africa, South and South-East Asia,” the website said.
British home secretary Priti Patel said the UK’s terror threat level has been raised from substantial to severe, meaning another attack was “highly likely”.
On October 15, Conservative Member of Parliament Sir David Amess was stabbed to death outside his constituency surgery in Essex. He had been stabbed multiple times as he was returning to the surgery. He succumbed to his injuries.
The priority of British counter-terrorism agencies is to identify all the people in the UK who may have been radicalised in recent months or years, according to IFFRAS.
“There are several thousand individuals in the UK who support violent extremism or are engaged in Islamist extremist activity. Some British nationals travel overseas to train with extremist groups and return to the UK with the view to plan attacks, but increasingly the terrorist threat from within the UK emanates from individuals radicalised by individuals and material online,” MI5 said.
According to a House of Commons report on “Terrorism in Great Britain: the statistics”, the number of terrorism-related arrests made in the UK since 2001 reached a peak in 2017-18 with 447 arrests. In 2020-21, out of 166 terrorism-related arrests, 27 per cent resulted in charges, and of these, 82 per cent were terrorism-related charges.

UK, Poland sign agreement on plans to cooperate on creating Air Defense System

London [UK] : The United Kingdom and Poland have signed an agreement on the intention to create a new air defense system, the UK Ministry of Defense said.
The agreement was reached during the visit of UK Defense Minister Ben Wallace to Poland where he held talks with his Polish counterpart, Mariusz Blaszczak “A first for the UK-Poland relationship, the Statement of Intent will see the two countries share pioneering technology to develop NAREW, Poland’s future Ground-Based Air Defence System, which is anticipated to have a multi-billion-pound budget. The agreement will provide enhanced security and defence development for both countries, while developing and sustaining critical skills across the missile sector in Poland and the UK” the ministry said in a statement on late Thursday.
“In the UK, MBDA’s Common Anti-air Modular Missile (CAMM) family has been confirmed for the NAREW programme. Flying at supersonic speeds, CAMM missiles can destroy modern air threats including stealth aircraft and high-speed missiles. Each CAMM family missile is equipped with an advanced active radar seeker that can see even the smallest, fastest and stealthiest targets through the worst weather and the heaviest electronic jamming,” the statement added.

UK extends COVID-19 booster vaccine to people over 40 years old

London [UK]: The UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) on Monday announced that people over 40 years old living in the United Kingdom will now be eligible to receive a booster COVID-19 vaccine six months after having their second dose, as a new study showed that boosters give over 90% protection in adults over 50.

“JCVI has previously advised booster vaccination for all adults aged 50 years and over and those in a COVID-19 at-risk group. The offer has now been broadened to include those aged 40 to 49 years,” the committee said in a statement.
The booster vaccines to be offered to this new age group are Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the same mRNA-type vaccine that is being used since September in people over 50 and at higher risk from the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. So far, more than 12,6 million people in the UK have had the third dose.

According to a study released on Monday by the UK Health Security Agency, two weeks after receiving a booster dose, protection against symptomatic infection in adults aged 50 years and over was 93.1% in those who first had AstraZeneca as their primary vaccine and 94.0% for Pfizer-BioNTech.

The JCVI also advised that all 16- to 17-year-olds who are not in an at-risk group should be offered a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine 12 weeks or more following the first vaccine dose. (ANI/Sputnik)

Leaders must deliver on limiting global warming, Climate action can deliver sustainable future for all

Glasgow [UK] : New Climate action can be the driver for a green and equitable future for all, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed has said while urging people everywhere to demand that leaders deliver on their promise to limit global warming.
Speaking ahead of the Amina Mohammed, which wraps up this weekend in Glasgow, Scotland, Mohammed underlined the need for greater funding and commitment, as well as solidarity. “Climate change doesn’t pause, and neither must we,” she said in her address to the TED Countdown Summit in her recently live-streamed TED Talk held recently in nearby Edinburgh and live-streamed globally.
Mohammed, who is from Nigeria, recalled her childhood walks along the shores of Lake Chad, one of the largest lakes in Africa, with some 30 million people in four countries relying on its bounty.
Back then, the lake was more like an ocean to her as it seemed to go on forever. Today, it is a mere fraction of its size.
“Ninety per cent of this fresh-water basin has dried up – and with it – millions and millions of livelihoods: farmers, fisherfolk and our market-women”, she said. “Climate change takes yet another victim”.
This loss is further compounded by the damage caused by the Harmattan, she added, which in the past was just a short three-month season of dust and wind.
The dust storms are now coming earlier and bigger each year. The human and ecological fallout has been devastating, with job loss, hunger and displacement.
Mohammed described this as a “perfect storm” for crushing poverty and violence, which has provided fertile ground for extremism to take root, wreaking havoc on peace.
“Sadly, touch down anywhere in the world and you’ll hear more tragic stories of climate devastation. Drought, floods, wildfires – lives and livelihoods in jeopardy – tipping towards catastrophe”.
Even in the face of the mounting climate crisis, the UN deputy chief still has hope in the “human family”, and its unwavering drive to survive against all odds.
It is this spirit which that led countries to adopt the Paris Agreement on climate change, which aims to keep global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Digitised records uncover forgotten British Indian soldiers who fought in WWI

London [UK] : As the UK and the world observes Remembrance Sunday on November 14, some of the names and other details of half a million World War One (WWI) soldiers are finally coming to light, providing new information about the allied war effort and valuable information about British Indian Army troops from undivided Punjab.
The records of hundreds of thousands of Indian Army soldiers from Punjab, a region now divided between India and Pakistan, which had lain in a forgotten archive, are being made available to people for the first time, UK Punjab Heritage Association (UKPHA) said in a release. Punjabis of all faiths – Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs – made up around a third of the British Indian Army though they accounted for less than eight per cent of the population of British India at the time.
“That equates to one-sixth of all the Empire’s overseas forces hailing from Punjab making their contribution larger than that of Australia. And yet until now, very little was known about them, in most cases, not even their names,” the UK Punjab Heritage Association said.
When World War I concluded in 1919, the then Punjab Government compiled a series of registers listing the names of every man that had served in the Army. “The resultant records have remained unresearched for almost a century.”

Comprising some 26,000 pages, listing more than 300,000 individual names, the ‘Punjab Registers’ provide village-by-village data on the war service and pensions of Punjabi recruits, as well as information on their family background, rank and regiment.
“They offer a detailed breakdown of the recruiting practices of the Indian Army a century ago and into the individual soldiers revealing insights into their occupational, social, political and faith backgrounds. In some cases, they also detail the awards they received and the far-flung theatres of war that they served in, and from which at least 15,000 did not return,” the release said.
It said the Punjab Registers offer new information on colonial casualties and help to correct the omissions in the historical record identified by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC).
“They also help us to understand why Punjab was so badly affected by the influenza pandemic which raged across the globe from 1918 and which was largely brought back by returning soldiers. The Registers have been tracked down and are being painstakingly digitised by volunteers from the UK Punjab Heritage Association (UKPHA). The project is a collaboration with the University of Greenwich which has also helped fund a new website www.punjabww1.com,” UKPHA said.
The heritage association said it secured access to the records of some 320,000 wartime service personnel after years of correspondence and relationship-building with the Lahore Museum in Pakistan.
A future project aims to eventually make available the entire database of hitherto largely unknown archival material.
This initial pilot project will make records available from three districts – Jalandhar and Ludhiana both now in independent India, and Sialkot now in Pakistan. These have now been uploaded on the site which utilises google maps technology to pin soldier records to the place of recruitment.
“It also enables the curious to search for soldiers by name, region, regiment or unit. The records can also be searched on a village-by-village basis allowing individuals to search for their ancestors or others from their familial place of origin,” the release said.
It said these newly rediscovered records have already allowed a number of British Punjabis to piece together details of the roles of their ancestors or others from their native villages in the Great War.
“Former Conservative Party Chair Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and Labour shadow minister Tanmanjit Dhesi learnt that their family villages provided soldiers who served in various theatres of war from the Western Front, the Middle East and even East Africa. In the case of Warsi, she also discovered that one man also served on the North-West Frontier with Winston Churchill. Dhesi has uncovered definitive proof of his great-grandfather’s war including the fact that he was wounded in action,” the release said.

Speaking before the launch UKPHA Chair Amandeep Madra said Punjab was the main recruiting ground for the Indian Army during World War I, making its contribution as significant as that of Australia.
“Often referred to as the sword arm of British India, its importance in fighting the Great War cannot be overstated. And yet the contribution of its men has largely been unrecognised. In most cases we didn’t even know their names until now,” he said.
“In digitising these records we’re allowing the global Punjabi diaspora, as well as researchers and academics worldwide, access to a rich seam of data which helps tell the stories of men of all backgrounds who fought alongside one another and other British and allied troops in the trenches of the Western Front, at Gallipoli and in the deserts and heat of Africa and the Middle East.
“Equally we hope that descendants of those who served can fill in some of the gaps and help us build up a richer picture of Punjab’s contribution. Their recollections, family archives and ephemera are of vital importance in telling the full story of the war and of individual men. Together we can do justice to the collective service of the fighting men of Punjab in what we hope is just the first stage in creating a proper archive of Punjab and World War One,” he added.
Dr Gavin Rand of the University of Greenwich said the registers provide a unique and granular record of Punjab’s role as the Raj’s principal recruiting ground, offering unparalleled insight into the rank-and-file colonial soldiers who fought on behalf of the British Empire in the First World War.
“There are an estimated one million Sikh, Muslim and Hindu Britons of Punjabi origin in the UK and 102 million globally – many hailing from areas which were heavily recruited during the First World War. While there is immense interest from the Punjabi community in their histories, the personal and family histories of Punjab’s First World War volunteers are largely unknown, even to many descendants. Few Indian veterans left written records of their service, and many Punjabi family histories are dominated by the upheavals and migrations which followed Punjab’s partition in 1947,” he said.
“Whereas the ancestors of British and Irish soldiers can easily search public databases of service records, no such facility exists for the descendants of colonial soldiers. By making some of the unique data recorded in the registers widely available for the first time, the project will provide the basis for extensive engagement with the Punjabi community in and beyond the UK by allowing them to access records of their ancestors’ wartime service, as well as providing unique insights into the villages of pre-partition Punjab,” he added.
The release said that successful completion of the pilot project and the positive uptake of the website by the people will lead to a larger, more ambitious, project encompassing the release of the registers for a further 25 districts comprising some 275,000 soldiers’ records.
Other aspects planned include interactive roadshow events across the UK, as well as educational resources for schools, the release said. 

UK confirms pledge for zero-emission heavy goods vehicle by 2040

New Delhi [India]: All new heavy goods vehicles (HGV) in the UK will be zero-emission by 2040, the UK government has confirmed on November 10, the British High Commission (BHC) said in a statement.
This, combined with the UK’s 2030 phase out for petrol and diesel cars and vans, represents a world-leading pledge to end the sale of all polluting road vehicles within the next two decades. The UK will become the first country in the world to commit to phasing out new, non-zero emission heavy goods vehicles weighing 26 tonnes and under by 2035, with all new HGVs sold in the UK to be zero-emission by 2040, BHC said.
This comes as new research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, commissioned by the UK COP Presidency and published today, shows the progress made in the passenger vehicle market, which includes 31 per cent of the global passenger vehicle market is now covered by vehicle manufacturer commitments to end sales of fossil-fuel-powered vehicles, up from a near-zero share of the market at the start of 2021.
The research also shows global sales of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) have grown dramatically since 2019 from 2.1 million to 5.3 million. “ZEVs are forecast to be 70% of all new car sales in 2040, with this projection having doubled in the last 5 years and 19 per cent of 2020 passenger vehicles sales were in countries that now have an internal combustion engine (ICE) phase-out date, up from 5 per cent in 2019.”
The British High Commission said that a group of ministers and industry leaders committed to working towards 100 per cent zero-emission new car and van sales by 2040 or earlier at Transport Day at COP26.
Twenty four countries, six major vehicle manufacturers (GM, Ford, Mercedes, BYD, Volvo, JLR), 39 cities, states and regions, 28 fleets and 13 investors all jointly set out their determination for all new car and van sales to be zero-emission by 2040 globally and 2035 in leading markets, BHC statement said.
“Also announced today, a number of emerging markets and developing economies have committed to work to accelerate the adoption of zero-emission vehicles in their markets, including India, Ghana, Kenya, Paraguay, Rwanda and Turkey,” it added.
According to the British High Commission, the UK government is also unveiling a new design for electric vehicle chargepoints, which could become as iconic as the Great British post box, London bus or black cab. “Showcased in the UK Pavilion at COP26 and designed together with the Royal College of Art and PA Consulting, the concept prioritises inclusivity and ease of use, designed with consumers, local government, accessibility groups and industry,” the statement said.
As one of the new Glasgow Breakthroughs launched by the UK Prime Minister at the World Leaders Summit, 30 countries have agreed to work together to make zero-emission vehicles the new normal by making them accessible, affordable, and sustainable in all regions by 2030 or sooner, the statement said.
This goal is guiding the Zero Emission Vehicle Transition Council (ZEVTC), which will today meet with distinguished representatives, including experts on the transition in emerging markets and developing economies, to discuss how international collaboration can support a global transition.
The council will launch its first annual action plan, which sets out areas for sustained international cooperation to accelerate the transition during 2022. Also announced today, the US will join the UK as co-chair of the ZEVTC, reflecting the council’s growing ambition over the coming years.
Several initiatives are being launched today to help ensure a global and equitable transition to ZEVs and support the acceleration of transport decarbonisation. This includes the World Bank’s Global Facility to Decarbonise Transport – a multi-donor trust fund that will mobilise US$200 million over the next 10 years to support the decarbonisation of road transport in emerging markets and developing economies in the Global South.
“Today, the UK announced a £4 million initial contribution to the fund, which will support these countries to accelerate the decarbonisation of transport and build greener and more resilient economies,” BHC said.
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “From our roads to the skies, the transition to zero-emission transport has reached a tipping point. We know that transport plays a key role saving the planet from warming above 1.5°C, which is why this is the COP that will kick start our ambition for zero-emission aviation and why I’m proud to be uniting world leaders to tackle climate change – creating new opportunities for clean growth, green jobs and improved air quality right across the globe.
“To support the transition to EVs, it’s integral that we have the infrastructure to support it. My vision is for the UK to have one of the best EV infrastructure networks in the world, with excellent British design at its heart.”
Eighteen states from across the world, representing over 40 per cent of global aviation emissions, have also today committed to work together to achieve an ambitious new aviation decarbonisation target through the International Civil Aviation Organization, as part of a new International Aviation Climate Ambition Coalition.
Together with the World Economic Forum and other governments, the UK is also leading efforts to accelerate the global uptake of sustainable aviation fuels, the BHC statement added.

UK’s Johnson’s rating down to lowest since taking Office

London [UK]: The rating of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson reached its lowest point since 2019 when the politician came to power, the UK Evening Standard newspaper reported on Monday, citing the poll by the Ipsos MORI market research company.
The poll showed that 55% of adult UK citizens disagree that Johnson possesses the traits that are necessary for a good prime minister, however, 34% have the opposite opinion. The ratio makes a net score of -21, which is the lowest since June 2019, one month before Johnson became the prime minister. Additionally, 62% of Britons said they are dissatisfied with Johnson’s actions, and it is the worst score since October 2020. The rating of Johnson’s party, the Conservatives, has dropped by 4 points to 35% since September, while the Labor Party stayed at the same level with 36%.
However, the Evening Standard suggests that the Labor Party and its leader, Keir Starmer, have not succeeded yet in winning over voters, despite the worsening results of Johnson and his party.
Almost a half of respondents assume that the government is not coping with the pandemic well, and the number of those unhappy with anti-COVID-19 policies rose by 12 points compared with September.
The survey involved 1,007 UK citizens aged 18 and more and was conducted by phone from October 29 until November 4.

UK To Recognise Covaxin For Inbound Travel From November 22

The UK will recognise India’s Covaxin jab as an approved Covid-19 vaccine for inbound travel from November 22, a move that is expected to benefit thousands of travellers from India.

Britain announced on Monday that it is adding Covaxin and China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm Beijing vaccines to its list of approved vaccines following their “emergency-use listing” by the World Health Organization (WHO). Around one billion doses of these three Covid-19 vaccines have been delivered worldwide.

The WHO issued an emergency-use listing for Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech, on November 3 and added the jab to a growing portfolio of vaccines validated by the health body for preventing Covid-19.

The listing followed an assessment of the quality, safety and efficacy of the vaccine and allows countries to expedite their own regulatory approval for the jab.

The UK also began recognising Covishield, the Indian version of the AstraZeneca vaccine, for inbound travel from October 4.

Britain also began accepting India’s vaccine certificates from October 11, ending a travel row that had resulted in UK nationals facing mandatory 10-day quarantine on arrival even if they were fully vaccinated.

Covishield and Covaxin are the two main vaccines being used for India’s immunisation programme.

British high commissioner Alex Ellis tweeted that the new announcement was part of “more good news” for travellers from India to the UK. “From November 22, travellers fully vaccinated with a #COVID19 vaccine recognised by @WHO for Emergency Use Listing, including Covaxin, will not have to self-isolate; so joining those fully vaccinated with Covishield,” he said.

In a statement issued on Monday night, the UK government said, “From 4am on Monday, November 22, the government will recognise vaccines on the World Health Organization’s Emergency-Use Listing (WHO EUL).”

The statement said, “As a result, Sinovac, Sinopharm Beijing and Covaxin will be added to our list of approved vaccines for inbound travel, benefitting more fully vaccinated people from countries such as the UAE, Malaysia and India.”

The UK said passengers who are fully vaccinated and have received their vaccine certificate from one of more than 135 approved countries and territories will no longer be required to take a pre-departure test, another test on the eighth day after their arrival, or self-isolate upon arrival. 

“Instead, passengers will just need to pay for a lateral flow test to take before the end of their second day, post-arrival,” the statement said.

The UK also further simplified travel rules for all inbound travellers under 18 years, who will now be treated as fully vaccinated at the border and exempt from self-isolation requirements on arrival, day eight testing and pre-departure testing. “They will only be required to take one post-arrival test and a confirmatory free PCR test if they test positive,” the statement said.

Britain’s transport secretary Grant Shapps said, “As we continue to recover from the pandemic and expand our recognition of international vaccines, today’s (Monday’s) announcements mark the next step in our restart of international travel.”

Ski tourism heading downhill due to climate change: Study

London [UK]: Staffordshire University graduate Rachael Carver and Professor Fiona Tweed have investigated the impacts of melting snow and ice on the future of tourism.

The findings of the study were published in the journal ‘Geography’.
The study is based on field research that Rachael undertook in the European Alps for her dissertation and highlights how resorts are introducing a range of measures to prolong the ski season including glacier blankets and artificial snow.

BSc (Hons) Geography graduate Rachael explained: “At university, I developed a passion for understanding human interaction with the environment and the importance of climate change.”

“I visited the Stubai Glacier in Austria on holiday and was intrigued by the fact that they were trying to conserve the ski industry. It left me asking lots of questions so I decided to go back and learn more,” Rachael added.

The site uses protective blankets to reduce ice melting and wind erosion. It is also slowly transitioning from winter to summer tourism with new attractions including playgrounds and viewing platforms.

Rachael surveyed tourists and, despite these environmental changes, 70 per cent said that they would return to the site if the glaciers were not there, citing mountains, scenery and hiking opportunities as reasons.

Resorts around the world are using similar strategies and many rely on snow machines. However, the use of most snow and ice generation and conservation measures are caught up in a loop of unsustainability, consuming energy that contributes to climate change.

Rachael said: “At the rate, we’re losing glaciers, doing nothing is not an option for these industries. There will be a lot of people adversely affected by the economic impact of not having this tourism.”

“It was interesting seeing different solutions to the issue. Most places understand that these practices aren’t a long-term solution, but it is buying them time. I think adaptation is key. Yes, they were designed as ski resorts but they can be turned into something else with a little bit of foresight and planning,” Rachael added.

Rachael believes that resorts should provide visitors with opportunities to explore mountain environments in different ways; for example, by introducing hiking routes, mountain bike trails, viewing platforms and educational attractions.

The study also explores more innovative solutions such as grass skiing which has been introduced by resorts in the Czech Republic where there is often only one month of reliable snow each year.

Fiona, Professor of Physical Geography, said: “It was a pleasure to collaborate with Rachael to get her undergraduate research published. I worked with her as I would any research co-worker; we drafted an outline plan together and had regular meetings to review progress and share ideas.”

“Climate change is the defining issue of our time with many far-reaching impacts and implications. Several students in Rachael’s year group did projects that had climate change at their core. We’re looking forward to equipping more students with the skills to work on climate change-related issues as part of our new BSc (Hons) Climate Change and Society degree,” Fiona added.

“Having my dissertation research published is something that I never imagined would happen! I feel really privileged to have had Fiona help me – she has been a great support and is the one who made me go for it. My lecturers also helped motivate me to do a Masters degree and supported me in applications for jobs which led to my current role at the Coal Authority,” she added. (ANI)

PL: Dominant City drub United 3-0 to claim derby victory

Manchester [UK]: Manchester City dished out a dominant performance as an Eric Bailly own goal and a Bernardo Silva strike earned the champions their first Manchester derby victory in five Premier League attempts over their local rivals at Old Trafford on Saturday.

The champions went ahead on seven minutes when Bailly diverted Joao Cancelo’s cross into his own net. United briefly rallied when Cristiano Ronaldo’s shot was saved by Ederson and Mason Greenwood scuffed the rebound wide.
David De Gea made five big saves in the first half to deny Gabriel Jesus, Kevin De Bruyne, Cancelo, twice, and a Victor Lindelof deflection before City beat the Spaniard’s resistance again on the stroke of half-time.

Cancelo earned his second assist with a cross which was turned in by Bernardo at the far post behind a hesitant Luke Shaw.

The hosts improved in the second half but also lost Shaw to a head injury. City, who move second with 23 points, almost scored again late on as Phil Foden clipped a post. A fourth consecutive home match without a win keeps United in fifth with 17 points. (ANI)

UK spy agencies sign deal with Amazon’s cloud computing arm

London [UK] : UK intelligence and security agencies have sealed a multimillion-dollar deal with Amazon to host classified information on the US internet giant’s on-demand cloud computing service, the Financial Times newspaper reported on Tuesday.
According to the media outlet, the contract was signed this year by the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), which is responsible for providing signals intelligence and information assurance to the UK government and armed forces, and sister spy agencies MI5 and MI6 and it is estimated to be worth £500 million to £1billion ($688,5 million to $1.3 billion). The deal is likely to spark a debate over UK sovereignty as the secret data will be hosted by a single US technological company, the Financial Times added, citing unnamed sources familiar with the discussions.
When approached for comments by Sputnik, the GCHQ press office said they “wouldn’t comment on claims about our relationships with tech suppliers.”

UK Conservative MP David Amess dies after being stabbed ‘multiple times’

London [UK]: UK Conservative MP Sir David Amess (69) has died after being stabbed multiple times while attending a constituency surgery at a church in Essex on Friday.
Essex Police have arrested a 25-year-old man at the scene on suspicion of murder after an incident at 12.05 pm (Local time), Sputnik reported citing Essex Police as saying. “A man has been arrested on suspicion of murder after a man was stabbed in Leigh-on-Sea. We were called to an address in Eastwood Road North shortly after 12.05 pm today (Friday 15 October). We attended and found a man injured. He was treated by emergency services but, sadly, died at the scene. A 25-year-old man was quickly arrested after officers arrived at the scene on suspicion of murder and a knife was recovered. He is currently in custody,” Sputnik said quoting the police.
A constituency surgery is a regular event at which MPs meet voters to help them with issues they have or to discuss things they want to be brought up in the Parliament.
A strong supporter of Brexit, Sir David has been the Tory MP for Southend West since 1997 and prior to that represent Basildon, also in Essex, since 1983, Sputnik reported.

Political Activism, British MPs operate from behind veil of charity

London [UK] : According to an expert, some British Parliamentarians are getting paid to frame the Kashmir issue during debates about the region. Italian political advisor Sergio Restelli in his writing for the news website InsideOver, claimed that British MPs get paid for spewing “venom” against New Delhi . They get paid either in terms of votes or sketchy donations or all-expenses-paid trips funded by the Pakistan government. Far from being hauled up for financial gain in exchange for pushing the agenda of their benefactors, Restelli stated that such behaviour is condoned and pushed under the carpet.
While naming British MP Debbie Abrahams, who was deported from India in 2011, the Italian political advisor explained that some British MPs deliberately bring up the rights issue of selective areas.
“Who can take exception to such high principles that the Hon. Abrahams espoused? The only problem is that for the MP in question, human rights are not universal.”
Since 2011, Abrahams has raised the issue of Kashmir on more than 20 occasions and in various formats in the British Parliament.
“But how many times has she spoken about the genocide of Uyghur Muslims in China or the horrible human rights situation in Balochistan where thousands have been killed and thousands more subjected to “enforced disappearances” by the Pakistani authorities? Restelli asked.
Following the deportation from India, Abrahams went on a fully-funded trip to Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK).
According to official papers, after the trip on March 20, 2020, she declared that the Pakistan High Commission paid £15,590 for her trip, along with two staffers.
“Interestingly, on exactly the same dates 6 more MPs who also visited PoK were part of the same delegation (all paid for by the Pakistan High Commission) and they declared that the total cost was £2290. The math does not make sense, does it?”
Predictably, four of the six MPs who visited PoK also “spouted venom against New Delhi” in the Kashmir debate.
The political advisor also named another British MP Angela Rayner, who is reportedly connected to a clear quid pro quo between the ‘donations’ made by British Pakistani businessmen with the Pakistani government and Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI.
Sergio Restelli asked why in the face of profuse evidence of Pak connection in buying influence in the UK is being tolerated by the British authorities?
He further asked why such “open purchase of MPs by Pakistan is being allowed so blatantly?”

700 passengers from UK arrive at Delhi airport, sent to mandatory 10-days quarantine

New Delhi [India]: Around 700 passengers, who landed at Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi on Monday from the United Kingdom, were sent to a 10-day mandatory quarantine after getting their RT-PCR test done at the airport in Delhi.

Passengers were sent to 10-day mandatory quarantine in view of the Indian Government’s fresh visa conditions under ‘reciprocal measures’ for UK nationals. The new visa conditions have been implemented from Sunday midnight onwards.

A senior government official confirmed that a total of three flights from the UK arrived at IGI airport till Monday afternoon that carried around 700 passengers, including UK nationals. As per the new rules, all passengers have to undergo a compulsory RT-PCR test followed by a 10-days quarantine at home or the destination address.

“A team of Delhi government is deployed at the airport to carry out the process. They are completing the formalities like getting the address of the passenger where he/she will be staying during their arrival in Delhi. Another team will be checking if the person is adhering to the quarantine rules or not,” said the official.

He added that all preparations were done to avoid any inconvenience to the passengers, especially to UK citizens.

As per the new rules, all UK nationals flying into the country will have to undertake an RT-PCR test 72 hours prior to their departure, irrespective of their vaccination status. They will also be required to take a Covid-19 test on arrival and ten days of quarantine period after landing.

India has already withdrawn the e-visas facility to the UK and Canadian nationals. They have to apply for a regular stamp visa to visit India. The steps were taken after these countries have posed restrictions on the entry of Indian nationals. (ANI)

India-UK Airfare goes up to Rs 4 lakh, IAS complains to govt.

New Delhi [India]: Alarmed at skyrocketing flight fares between India and the UK, a senior IAS officer has formally lodged a complaint with the Civil Aviation Ministry.
Sanjeev Gupta, a senior IAS officer of 1985 batch said the inflated fares come at a time when colleges in UK are beginning admissions. Parents and guardians of those who have been admitted to UK educational institutes have also expressed their dismay and frustration at the exorbitant flight fares.

“The APIs from Airlines being consumed by Travel Portals have issues in some cases. If economy class is not available, it automatically fetches business fare but shows economy only on travel portal. The basic point still remains Rs 1.2 lakh for one-way direct flight is still too high,” Sanjeev Gupta tweeted.

The IAS officer shared multiple screenshots of several airlines which mentioned “price for one way Delhi to London flight of British Airways of Rs 3,95,306, and Air India showing of Rs 2,32,053 for one way for economy class.”

Responding to the IAS officer’s tweet, the national carrier Air India said, “Sir, we are trying to identify the source of these fares. The current fares available on our official website for Delhi London sector is approximately Rs 1.15 L.”

To this Gupta said: “Even Rs 1.15 lakh is exorbitant and unaffordable for most students seeking admission purely on merit and not on financial strength. I am able to identify perhaps a technical issue in display of those very high fares on travel portals & @GoogleTravel. Will write in some time.”

After the to and fro on Twitter, the Civil Aviation Ministry has asked private airlines to submit details about the airfares they are charging for flights between India and the UK.

A spokesperson for TATA-SIA Air Limited Vistara told ANI: “Pricing is always a function of supply and demand. There are only 15 flights a week allowed currently on the India – UK route for Indian carriers and when there is relaxation and more capacity allowed, it will automatically bring down prices.”

India has suspended international scheduled flights till August 31 amid the deadly COVID pandemic. All Indian and other international airlines are operating flights under the Air Transport Bubble Agreement.

On August 8, the United Kingdom said it will move India from the ‘red’ to ‘amber’ list, according to the information available on the UK government website. According to the amber list rules passengers are mandated to take a COVID-19 test 3 days prior to their travel to England.

“On your arrival in England, you must: quarantine at home or in the place you are staying for 10 days. Also, you must take a COVID-19 test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8,” said the UK government. (ANI)

Climate Change : UK’s COP26 head warns of global ‘catastrophe’ unless measures taken

London [UK]: The UK president of the COP26 Climate Change Conference, Alok Sharma, has warned that the world was on the brink of a “catastrophe” from climate breakdown, calling for urgent actions.

The remark, made in an interview with The Observer, came ahead of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s leading authority on climate science, set to be released on Monday. The paper on how close the world is to a potentially irreversible disaster due to extreme weather will be “the starkest warning yet that human behaviour is alarmingly accelerating global warming,” the official said.
“I don’t think we’re out of time but I think we’re getting dangerously close to when we might be out of time. We will see [from the IPCC] a very, very clear warning that unless we act now, we will unfortunately be out of time,” Sharma said late on Saturday, noting the consequences of failure would be “catastrophic.”

The UK minister in charge of the flagman UN climate talks noted that the impact of global warming was already evident across the world, citing deadly flooding in Europe and China, as well as wildfires and record high temperatures registered in parts of the world.

“I don’t think there’s any other word for it. You’re seeing on a daily basis what is happening across the world. Last year was the hottest on record, the last decade the hottest decade on record,” Sharma added.

Commenting on the upcoming reports, the official said that the paper would urge the international community — governments, businesses and individuals — to push for stronger action on greenhouse gas emissions at the COP26. (ANI/Sputnik)

Boris Johnson: All Covid-19 Restrictions To End In UK On July 19

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday (local time) confirmed that all virus restrictions in England will end on July 19.

Johnson told reporters that the move will eliminate mandates to wear masks in public places, social distancing rules, and work-from-home recommendations reported NHK World.

Johnson noted that vaccines help to prevent people with the coronavirus from developing serious symptoms.

He insisted that, while hospitalizations and deaths will continue to rise, they will likely be much lower than during the peak of the outbreak last autumn, reported NHK World.

He said, “we cannot simply revert instantly from Monday, July 19 to life as it was before COVID.”

Meanwhile, officials said the government recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded indoor areas. Some experts warned that eliminating restrictions when the virus is spreading will be risky, reported NHK World.

Britain has seen its daily case count top 30,000 in recent days, amid the spread of the Delta variant.

Johnson urged people to act with caution and personal responsibility, saying, “this pandemic is not over.”

PM Boris Johnson Announces Withdrawal Of UK Troops From Afghanistan

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Thursday the withdrawal of all British troops from Afghanistan, signalling the end of Britain’s military mission in a two-decade-long conflict.

“All British troops assigned to NATO’s mission in Afghanistan are now returning home,” Johnson told the House of Commons, the lower house of the British parliament.

The Prime Minister would not disclose the exact timetable of the departure for security reasons, but added that most of the 750 remaining British troops had already left, the Xinhua news agency reported.

Over the last two decades, 150,000 members of Britain’s armed forces served in Afghanistan, 457 of whom died, according to Johnson.

Britain’s move follows the announcement by US President Joe Biden in April that all US troops would leave Afghanistan before September 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that drew the United States into its longest war.

Johnson said that Britain will use “every diplomatic and humanitarian lever” to support Afghanistan’s development and stability, including over 100 million pounds (about $138 million) of development assistance this year, and 58 million pounds for the Afghan national security and defense forces.

Uk Reports 32,548 Coronavirus Cases; The Highest Daily Increase Since January

Britain has reported another 32,548 coronavirus cases in the latest 24-hour period, the highest daily increase since January, according to official figures released on Wednesday.

The total number of coronavirus cases in the country now stands at 4,990,916, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The country also recorded another 33 coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain to 128,301. These figures only include the deaths of people who died within 28 days of their first positive test.

More than 45.5 million people in Britain have received the first jab of Covid-19 vaccine and over 34 million people have received two doses, the official figures showed.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday that most Covid-19 restrictions are set to end on July 19 as part of the final step of England’s roadmap out of the lockdown.

This will be confirmed on July 12 following a review of the latest data by the British government.

The plans were greeted with mixed reactions.

Leader of the main opposition Labour Party Keir Starmer accused Johnson of putting the country on course for a “summer of chaos and confusion” with his plans, Sky News reported.

But when answering questions at the parliament, Johnson said that the government was taking a prudent approach by “moving away from self-isolation towards testing over the course of the next few weeks”, according to media reports.

To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Russia, the US as well as the European Union have been racing against time to roll out coronavirus vaccines.

UK Government Plans To Decrease The Gaps Between Two Doses Of Covid-19 Vaccinations

The UK government has ruled out plans to decrease the gaps between two doses of Covid-19 vaccinations, even as infections driven by the Delta variant are surging in the country.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation ruled out the three-week gap and recommended “an interval of 8 to 12 weeks between doses of all the available Covid-19 vaccines”, dashing hopes that the UK might be able to speed up the vaccination program by closing the gaps between doses, the Financial Times reported.

The advisory body said this gap would “avoid confusion and simplify booking, and will help to ensure a good balance between achieving rapid and long-lasting protection.”

Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the UK is “very likely” to ease lockdown measures on July 19. It was pushed back by four weeks from June 21 amid concern over the spread of the Delta variant.

Easing of lockdown measures could be a cause of concern as the country will not meet its target of ensuring two-thirds of adults with two jabs, FT cited people familiar with the UK vaccination programme.

Experts from the National Health Service (NHS) and scientists are concerned as only 63 per cent in the country are fully vaccinated, while more than 85 per cent received only the first dose of a Covid vaccine. At the same time latest data showed Covid-19 infections have jumped by 74 per cent week-on-week.

“We may have weakened the link between infections, hospitalisations and deaths but this significant increase in infections with the Delta variant raises serious concerns,” Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at Warwick Medical School, was quoted as saying.

“One risk was that, as the virus spread it would continue to generate new variants increasing the risk that one will pop up that is more vaccine resistant,” he added.

While some suspect that the decision to not reduce the gap between the two jabs is due to difficulty in accessing supplies. However, government insiders have denied supply constraints, the report said.

But, Prof Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the JCVI said: “regardless of supply constraints the minimum eight-week gap was preferable as it meant young people, who may not receive boosters in the autumn, had robust and long-lasting protection.

UK Reports Highest Daily Rise Of Covid-19 Cases Since Late January

Britain has reported another 26,068 coronavirus cases in the latest 24-hour period, the highest since January 29, according to official figures released on Wednesday.

The total number of coronavirus cases in the country now stands at 4,800,907. It was the third consecutive day that Britain has reported more than 20,000 daily cases. A total of 20,479 coronavirus cases were recorded on Tuesday, Xinhua reported.

The country also recorded another 14 coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain to 128,140. These figures only include the deaths of people who died within 28 days of their first positive test.

Earlier Wednesday, British Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he expects school “bubbles” to be removed as part of the final step of England’s roadmap for lifting Covid-19 restrictions.

Speaking in the House of Commons, the lower house of British Parliament, Williamson said that he wanted to see restrictions on schools and colleges, including the bubble system, removed “as quickly as possible along with wider restrictions in society”.

“Further steps will be taken to reduce the number of children who have to self-isolate, including looking at the outcomes of a daily contact testing trial, as we consider a new model for keeping children in schools and colleges,” he said.

The British government is under growing pressure to remove or alter the bubble system after figures showed the number of children off school due to COVID-19 in England is at its highest rate since schools reopened in March after the country’s third national lockdown, according to Sky News.

Official data showed more than 375,000 pupils, about one in 20, were out of school for coronavirus-related reasons, up by more than 130,000 in a week.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a four-week delay to the final step of England’s roadmap out of COVID-19 restrictions until July 19, amid a surge in cases of the Delta variant first identified in India.

More than 44.7 million people in Britain have received the first jab of COVID-19 vaccine and more than 32.8 million people have received two doses, the latest figures showed.

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