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COVID-19: England Put On Four-week Lockdown

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a second national lockdown for England to prevent a “medical and moral disaster” for the NHS.

He said Christmas may be “very different” but he hoped taking action now would mean families can gather.

Pubs, restaurants, gyms and non-essential shops will have to close for four weeks from Thursday, he said.

But unlike the restrictions in spring, schools, colleges and universities can stay open.

After 2 December, the restrictions would be eased and regions would go back to the tiered system, he said.

Mr Johnson said: “Christmas is going to be different this year, perhaps very different, but it’s my sincere hope and belief that by taking tough action now we can allow families across the country to be together.”

The prime minister told a Downing Street news conference that he was “truly, truly sorry” for the impact on businesses, but said the furlough system paying 80% of employee wages will be extended through November.

“No responsible prime minister” could ignore figures which suggested deaths would reach “several thousand a day”, with a “peak of mortality” worse than the country saw in April, Mr Johnson said.

He said hospitals even in the south-west of England, where cases are among the lowest, will run out of capacity in weeks.

“Doctors and nurses would be forced to choose which patients to treat, who would get oxygen and who wouldn’t, who would live and who would die,” Mr Johnson said.

Under the new restrictions:

  • People are being told to stay at home unless they have a specific reason to leave, such as work which cannot be done from home and education
  • People are allowed to exercise outdoors alone, with their household or with one other person
  • Meeting indoors or in private gardens will not be allowed
  • Pubs, bars, restaurants and non-essential retail across the nation will close but takeaways and click-and-collect shopping can remain open
  • Leisure and entertainment venues, including gyms, will also close
  • Construction sites and manufacturing workplaces can remain open
  • People are still allowed to form support bubbles
  • Children can move between homes if their parents are separated
  • Clinically vulnerable people are asked to be “especially careful” but people are not being asked to resume shielding

Mr Johnson, who chaired a cabinet meeting on Saturday afternoon, will make a statement to Parliament on Monday.

The UK recorded another 21,915 confirmed coronavirus cases on Saturday, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 1,011,660.

Another 326 people were reported to have died within 28 days of a positive test.

The UK is the ninth country to reach the milestone of a million cases – after the US, India, Brazil, Russia, France, Spain, Argentina and Colombia.

But the true number of infections is expected to be higher due to a lack of widespread testing at the start of the pandemic.

Prof Neil Ferguson, whose modelling was crucial to the decision to impose the first lockdown, said keeping universities and schools open meant infections would decrease more slowly this time.

He said the new restrictions could reduce cases by anywhere between 20% and 80%, adding that he hoped larger groups of people would be able to gather by Christmas “if only for a few days”.

Mr Johnson had previously resisted pressure to introduce nationwide restrictions, saying they would be “disastrous” for the UK’s finances and opting instead for a three-tiered system targeting local areas in England.

Ahead of the news conference, school and university unions called for education institutions to be closed and for teaching to move online in another national lockdown.

The National Education Union said it would be “self-defeating” to ignore how schools helped to spread the virus.

And “the health and safety of the country is being put at risk” by the insistence on keeping in-person teaching on campuses, the University and College Union said.

Europe

CGTN Kicked Out Of United Kingdom For Promoting Communism

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Chinese news network CGTN has been kicked out the United Kingdom because its state-backed ownership structure flouted British law.

“Following careful consideration, taking account of all the facts and the broadcaster’s and audience’s rights to freedom of expression, we have decided it is appropriate to revoke the licence for CGTN to broadcast in the UK,” the British government Office of Communications (Ofcom) said in a statement.

The English-language satellite broadcaster has long faced criticism for parroting the Communist Party line in its global broadcasts.

Ofcom added, “We have given CGTN significant time to come into compliance with the statutory rules. Those efforts have now been exhausted.”

Ofcom added that it would conclude an ongoing investigation into alleged breaches by CGTN of impartiality, fairness and privacy requirements “shortly”.

On Thursday,the UK’s broadcast regulator revoked the licence of Chinese news network CGTN after finding its state-backed ownership structure flouted British law, and warned of punishment ahead after it aired an alleged forced confession.

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A New Britain Outside Europe’s Customs Union

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2021 is an unforgettable year for Britain after successfully walking out of Europe’s Customs Union and single market bringing an end to almost fifty years of corrosive relationship with her neighbours.

“We have our freedom in our hands and it is up to us to make the most of it,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson as his country ushered in the New Year.

This entire move means EU rules have become invalid and the free movement of more than 500 million people between Britain and the 27 EU states has suddenly ended.

The EU has lost 66 million people and an economy worth $2.85 trillion, but Brexit, with its appeal to nationalist populism, also triggered fears other disgruntled members could follow suit.

As well as ensuring tariff- and quota-free access to the EU’s 450 million consumers, Britain has recently signed trade deals with countries including Japan, Canada, Singapore and Turkey.

It is also eyeing another with India, where Johnson plans to make his first major trip as prime minister next month, and with incoming US president Joe Biden’s administration.

However, Fear of disruption at the ports has stoked concerns about food and medicine shortages, as well as delays to holidaymakers and business travellers used to seamless travel in the EU.

The British government said some border controls will not be implemented for months as part of Britain’s staged plan, and it was not expecting much disruption around the ports until next week, with traffic light due to the holiday period.

However, it also warned that around 50 percent of small and medium exporters might not yet be ready for the new trading arrangements.

British fishermen are disgruntled at a compromise to allow continued access for EU boats in British waters.

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Europe

Pope’s Reforms Take Effect To Fix Corruption In Roman Catholic Church

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Pope Francis on Saturday approved the new Statute of the Financial Information Authority (FIA), which will henceforth be called the Supervisory and Financial Information Authority [ Autorità di Supervisione e Informazione Finanziaria (ASIF)].

He issued a “chirograph” to approve the new Statute that comes into effect immediately on Saturday, December 5. A chirograph is a form of a papal document with legal force circulated among the Roman Curia.

“In the overall reform desired by Pope Francis for the Holy See and the Vatican City State, aimed at greater transparency and the strengthening of controls in the economic-financial field, the Holy Father has approved the new Statute of the Financial Information Authority, which, from today’s date, will be called the “Supervisory and Financial Information Authority” (ASIF),” said the Holy See Press Office in a release on Saturday.

The change of name had been hinted at earlier in July when FIA published its annual report.

Following the Pope’s approval of the ASIF Statute, FIA President Carmelo Barbagallo, who now becomes ASIF’s president, explained some of its important features.

As part of the Pope’s overall reform of the Holy See and the Vatican City State, he said, it is regarding “transparency and strengthening of controls in the economic-financial field”.

In this context, the most important changes are regarding the governance and organizational structure of the Authority.

Supervisory role

The word “supervisory” that has been integrated, Barbagallo said, is “not just a name change” but allows the Authority “to be aligned with the tasks actually assigned to it”.

He pointed out that since 2013, in addition to its original task of intelligence to combat money laundering and financing of terrorism, the Authority has also been exercising “prudential” regulatory and supervisory functions on institutions providing financial services on a de facto professional basis, such as to IOR (Institute for Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican Bank).

“This is the reason behind the addition of the term ‘supervisory’, which of course, is to be understood in the financial field,” he said.

Distribution of Roles

The Press Office said that the “main changes include a renewed distribution of roles between the Chairman and the Management – of a strategic nature for the former, aimed at effectiveness and operational efficiency for the latter – and the establishment of a new unit, dedicated to ‘Regulation and Legal Affairs’”.

Commenting on this, Barbagallo said that while confirming the governing Council’s role, the new Statute also underscores the President’s proactive role in the development of the Authority’s strategy, reinforcing his responsibility regarding supervision.

“At the same time, the role of the management, namely the Director and the Deputy Director, has been consolidated in order to ensure the effectiveness and operational efficiency of the Authority.”

Barbagallo also spoke about changes in the internal organization of the Authority.  “In line with international best practice,” he said, “the Regulatory and Legal Affairs Office has been set up to deal with all legal issues, including regulation.”

Thus, “the tasks of setting the rules have been separated from those of exercising control”.  This divides the Authority’s activities into three units: “Supervision”, “Regulation and Legal Affairs” and “Financial Information”.

 

Source:  Vatican

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