Tag Archives: britain

Uber drivers’ entitled to worker’s right – Top British Court rules.

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Uber insisted that the drivers were self-employed since they choose their own hours and place of work, and often find passengers through rival apps.

Britain’s top court on Friday ruled that ride-hailing giant Uber’s drivers are entitled to workers’ rights, in a judgement with huge implications for the “gig economy”.

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The Supreme Court ruling that the drivers were employees followed a years-long legal battle with the Silicon Valley taxi and delivery company.

“This has been a gruelling four-year legal battle for our members — but it’s ended in a historic win,” said Mick Rix, from the GMB trade union.

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“The Supreme Court has upheld the decision of three previous courts, backing up what GMB has said all along; Uber drivers are workers and entitled to breaks, holiday pay and minimum wage,” he added.

Uber said it respected the court ruling.

Lower courts ruled in 2016, 2017 and 2018 in favour of a group of 20 Uber drivers who argue they were entitled to employee status given the length of time they had been working through the Uber app, and the way that the company oversaw their work.

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Uber insisted that the drivers were self-employed since they choose their own hours and place of work, and often find passengers through rival apps.

The complainants can now ask an employment tribunal for compensation, and it could trigger further-reaching changes affecting all ride-hailing drivers.

“GMB will now consult with our Uber driver members over their forthcoming compensation claim,” said Rix.

The ruling could equally affect other online platforms behind the so-called gig economy in Britain — people doing short-term work without formal contracts, or working without guaranteed hours.

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Couriers for the Deliveroo food app are currently fighting in the Court of Appeal in London for the right to collective bargaining.

Uber claimed that it has changed the way it works since the legal action began.

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Drivers can now choose when and where they drive and can also access free health insurance as well as compensation for parental leave, it said.

Joint fund
Ahead of the court ruling, Uber vowed to increase protection for drivers while keeping them self-employed.

Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi on Monday presented a series of promises to European governments and trade unions.

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He said the aim was to offer a transparent and fair pay structure, and more benefits to drivers.

Uber is calling for companies in the sector to form a joint fund that would allow drivers who work for different apps to be able to access protections and benefits such as paid holidays.

Uber plans to replicate in Europe proposals it first made in California, after a court in the US state ordered the platform to classify its tens of thousands of drivers as employees.

But voters in November then backed Proposition 22, a measure designed by Uber and other gig companies that would mean drivers remained independent contractors while receiving some benefits.

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Friday’s decision is not expected to affect Uber’s right to operate in London, which has been subject to a separate dispute.

The platform last September regained the right in London for 18 months, after a court overruled a decision by city authorities to suspend its licence due to concerns over passenger security.

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#Newsworthy

British Human Rights Lawyer elected as ICC prosecutor in over 120 countries.

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Khan also served as counsel for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who is still being sought by the ICC on charges of crimes against humanity.

More than 120 countries elected British lawyer Karim Khan as the next prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), one of the toughest jobs in international law because the tribunal seeks justice for the world’s worst atrocities – war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

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Khan, 50, who led a United Nations probe into atrocities by the ISIL (ISIS) group, won on a second round of voting at the UN in New York on Friday with support from 72 nations, 10 more than the 62 needed.

His election on the second secret ballot by the 123 parties to the Rome Statute that established the court ends a drawn-out and divisive process to replace Fatou Bensouda when her nine-year term expires in June.

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Khan, who has specialised in international criminal law and international human rights law, was widely seen as the favourite to get the job. But neither he nor any of the other candidates garnered enough support to be appointed by consensus, prompting Friday’s election in the UN General Assembly Hall.

Reporting from the UN headquarters in New York, NoRM said it was the first time since the ICC started work almost 20 years ago that the 123 countries that are part of the court elected the new chief prosecutor after a candidate could not be agreed by consensus.

Although this is an independent legal position, Bays said, everything about the ICC “ends up being politically charged”.

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“A number of his early decisions are bound to be controversial, whichever course he takes.”

Addressing ‘shortcomings’
Following Khan, Fergal Gaynor of Ireland was second with 42 votes followed by Spain’s Carlos Castresana Fernandez with five votes and Francesco Lo Voi of Italy with three votes. One member did not vote.

Khan, who has the rank of a UN assistant secretary-general, has also worked as a prosecutor at the tribunal prosecuting war crimes in former Yugoslavia and crimes against humanity and genocide in Rwanda.

He is no stranger to the ICC, having acted as a defence lawyer for Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and persuading judges to throw out prosecution charges against his client. Gaynor acted as a legal representative for victims in the Ruto case, which focused on post-election violence.

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Khan also served as counsel for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who is still being sought by the ICC on charges of crimes against humanity.

“Karim Khan’s election as prosecutor is occurring at a time when the ICC is needed more than ever but has faced significant challenges and pressure on its role,” said Richard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch.

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“We will be looking to Mr Khan to address shortcomings in the court’s performance while demonstrating firm independence in seeking to hold even the most powerful rights abusers to account.”

While the Security Council has used its power under the Rome Statute to refer conflicts in Sudan’s western Darfur region and in Libya to the ICC, calls for the UN’s most powerful body to refer Syria, and more recently Myanmar, to the tribunal have failed.

‘An existential threat’
In the last several years, Bensouda had sought to broaden its reach beyond its early all-African focus including Afghanistan, Palestine, which is a party to the Rome Statute, and Georgia.

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The ICC is needed more than ever, Dicker said, “because of the proliferation of these horrific crimes”, but the court had faced “an existential threat” from former US President Donald Trump’s administration.

It slapped sanctions on Bensouda and one of her top aides last year for continuing to investigate war crimes allegations against Americans, although the court was often criticised in the past for its focus on African crimes.

Last week, ICC judges angered Israel by saying the court’s jurisdiction extends to territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 war, potentially clearing the way for the prosecutor to open an investigation into Israeli military actions and the country’s construction of illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem.

While Palestinian rights groups welcomed the move, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the decision a “perversion of justice”.

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The selection process for the prosecutor and the alleged failure by the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties to conduct stringent background checks on the candidates to ensure they met the requirement of “high moral character” has drawn criticism from civil society groups that work with the court.

A diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of closed meetings said the fact that many of the meetings to discuss possible successors to Bensouda took place virtually made it difficult for member nations to discuss concerns during informal “corridor” meetings.

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#Newsworthy

Family of late British-Nigerian sues UK’s Transport agency.

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The case has now adjourned to return for trial at a later date.

The family of a British-Nigerian Bernard Ovu is suing UK’s London Underground Limited for negligence before the death of the IT expert.

Daily Mail reports that Bernard died at a Tube station where he laid undiscovered for more than six hours. The family is asking for more than £300,000 from the transport line.

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The 35-year-old was trapped in a stairwell at Canning Town station for nearly an hour before tripping down concrete steps leading off the escape bridge and suffering a catastrophic head injury, his family said.

Born in Aberdeen, Scotland, Ovu grew up in Nigeria before he moved to London in 2001 to live with his aunt and uncle.

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He fell before 3am on January 22, 2017, after straying into a staff-only area on his way home from a late-night wedding in Rotherhithe, south-east London.

Bernard’s mother Roselyn Aigbibo Ovu, has now launched a £300,000 damages claim against London Underground Ltd and accused the company of failing to ensure safe staffing levels that led to his stay in the station was detected before it was too late.

London Underground Ltd, however, denied the blame and claimed Ovu was ‘intoxicated’ and ‘trespassing’ in a restricted area when he he died.

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Their lawyers claim a toxicology report found that Ovu’s blood alcohol level was twice the driving limit, and also showed up traces of cannabis and cocaine.

His family suit said Ovu became ‘trapped’ in the staff-only area of the station after emergency gates through which he had passed were mistakenly closed, preventing him returning safely to the station platforms.

He ended up ‘trapped for a 50-minute period behind the emergency gates on a bitterly cold morning, before falling down stairs and suffering fatal injuries,’ the lawyers add.

Ovu was captured on CCTV at the top of the staircase leading down to the DLR platform at around 2.47am, and just two minutes later he clattered down the steps suffering fatal head injuries. His body was discovered at 8.45am – six hours after his fall.

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Barrister Guy Watkins, for London Underground, said Mr Ovu was ‘heavily intoxicated’ when he left the wedding venue, and his blood alcohol level was twice the driving limit.

Toxicology reports also showed up traces of cannabis and cocaine, the barrister stated.

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Ovu had been ‘trespassing in a non-public area’ at the time and was “behaving erratically and was obviously unsteady on his feet,” Watkins claimed.

He had earlier tried to open the glass automatic doors on the Jubilee Line at Canada Water station and attempted to open a fire door on the platform, the barrister said.

Their lawyers also dispute that Ovu was owed any legal duty of care at the time, since he was trespassing in a restricted area. The case has now adjourned to return for trial at a later date.

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The first stage of the trial will focus on the ‘preliminary issue’ of whether or not that duty of care existed.

An inquest in November 2017 heard that the sole member of staff on duty, on January 22, failed to check when Ovu set off an alarm by accidentally going through an emergency door.

The inquest heard that safety procedures were ‘inconsistent and unclear’.

“The fall itself was due to Bernard’s physical state rather than environmental factors,” the inquest said. “Once the fall had occurred, it is unlikely that Bernard’s death could have been prevented.”

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In a narrative verdict, a jury at Walthamstow Coroner’s Court found: ‘Processes that were known in the event of an emergency door trigger were not followed.

Had this process been carried out, it is possible that Bernard may have been located earlier.’

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#Newsworthy

Helen Grant MP, First British-Nigerian to become trade envoy to Nigeria

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Helen Grant is the second Trade Envoy since the programme launched in 2012, succeeding John Howell MP.

The British Prime Minister, Mr Boris Johnson has confirmed the appointment of Helen Grant MP, a British-Nigerian, as the new trade envoy to Nigeria.

Grant’s role will be to provide support to the UK Government’s trade and investment priorities in Nigeria through high-level engagement with Nigerian Ministers by leading trade delegations, engaging key businesses in the market and promoting bilateral trade.

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Her duties will also include promoting trade for UK businesses in selected high-growth and developing markets around the world, and support the activities of the UK’s Department of international trade.

Born in London to a British mother and a Nigerian father, Grant is married with two sons. She is a graduate of law from the University of Hull, and set up her own legal practice, specialising in family breakdown and domestic violence before becoming the first female Anglo-African Conservative Member of Parliament, when she was elected MP for Maidstone and The Weald in 2010, winning three consecutive elections since then.

Grant’s impressive political career includes serving as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice and for Women and Equalities, under former Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition Government, and later, Minister of State for Sport and Tourism.

She also served as Conservative Party Vice Chairman for Communities, focusing on issues concerning diversity, inclusion, equality, social cohesion, racism and discrimination under former Prime Minister Theresa May’s government.

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Speaking on her appointment as the UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Nigeria, Grant said, “I am absolutely delighted with my appointment. Both countries are close to my heart, my father being Nigerian and my mother English. Now, I have an opportunity to employ my rich dual heritage to help magnify an already strong UK–Nigerian relationship for our mutual prosperity.”

She added: “As the largest and fastest growing economy on the African continent, the potential for trade and investment with Nigeria is stunning. I will do my utmost to help develop that as part of our nation’s collective drive towards an outward looking global Britain.

“As a champion of inclusivity and human rights, in and outside of politics, Grant has also lent her voice to bringing businesses together with people of diverse and under-represented backgrounds as former Chair of the Government’s Apprenticeship Diversity Champions Network, and as a former Trustee of both the Social Mobility Foundation and the Human Trafficking Foundation.”


#Newsworthy…

EndSARs: ICC begins probe into protesters massacre in Nigeria

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For weeks crowds of peaceful protesters gathered in streets in major towns of the country to demonstrate against police brutality, leading to a crackdown.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has disclosed that it’s conducting a preliminary investigation into the recent #EndSARS protests in Nigeria, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported on Wednesday.

In a statement, the office of the ICC prosecutor had earlier said it had received information on alleged crimes.

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The examination will “assess whether the legal criteria for opening an investigation under the Rome Statute are met.”

Rights group Amnesty International said security forces opened fire on protesters, killing and injuring a number of people. Both the police and the army have rejected Amnesty’s allegation.

The ICC said it would make findings of the preliminary examination public.


#Newsworthy…

EndSARs: Singer, Burna Boy promote petition to restrict Nigerian Gov’t from U.K

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The singer who is currently in the UK urged British citizens and residents, to sign the petition, urging other people in America and Asia to the same.

Award-winning singer, Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu popularly known as Burna Boy is promoting a new petition in the United Kingdom to sanction the federal government and public officials for human rights abuses over the #EndSARS movement.

The petition on the UK government and parliament website accused the government and the police of violating the rights of agitators protesting against police brutality.

It urged the UK to implement sanctions that allow “individuals and entities that violate human rights around the world to be targeted.”

“Deploying sanctions would provide accountability for and be a deterrent to anyone involved in violations of human rights,” it read.

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He wrote, “I am in London and I’m doing my best to make sure sanctions are imposed against Nigerian Government Officials. I need all citizens of all European countries, America, Asia EVERYWHERE to please Do the Same. THEY MUST ALL PAY!!”

The page noted that the petition, created on Tuesday and which can only be signed by British citizens and residents, will be considered in the UK parliament when it reaches its target of 100,000 signatures.

73,517 individuals have so far signed a petition as at the time of filing this report.

This is coming after multiple reports of massive shootings of #EndSARS protesters by security agents at the Lekki Toll Gate on Tuesday evening.


#Newsworthy…

United kingdom sets deadline for ‘Free Trade’ deal with EU.

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Post-Brexit trade talks have stalled over the UK’s push for autonomy over state aid and fishing rights.

The United Kingdom has set a deadline of October 15 to strike a free-trade deal with the European Union, and if none is agreed, both sides should “accept that and move on”, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will say on Monday.

The UK left the EU on January 31, but there has been little progress on a new trade deal after a status-quo transition arrangement ends in December. Failure to reach a deal could result in the imposition of trade tariffs and customs controls for goods moving between the UK and EU.

Talks, which have stalled over the UK’s insistence that it has full autonomy over state aid and fishing, are due to resume in London on Tuesday.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said an agreement on trade needed to be reached urgently and he blamed the stalemate on the UK’s attitude.

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Johnson will say there is no sense in thinking about timelines beyond October 15.

“If we can’t agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us, and we should both accept that and move on,” he will say, according to comments released by his office.

If no deal is agreed, the UK would have a trading relationship with the bloc like Australia’s, which would be “a good outcome”, Johnson will say.

The EU has been negotiating a trade agreement with Australia since 2018 but has yet to conclude a deal.

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‘Full control’
“As a government we are preparing, at our borders and at our ports, to be ready for it,” Johnson will say. “We will have full control over our laws, our rules and our fishing waters.”

The United Kingdom’s government is preparing legislation that could undermine a potential free trade agreement with the European Union, according to the Financial Times [File: Henry Nicholls/Reuters]

In that case, the UK would be ready to find sensible accommodation with the bloc on practical issues such as flights, lorry transport or scientific cooperation, according to the excerpts.

The Financial Times newspaper reported that the British government is planning legislation that will override key parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, risking the collapse of trade negotiations with Brussels.

Sections of the internal market bill, due to be published on Wednesday, are expected to “eliminate the legal force of parts of the withdrawal agreement” in areas including state aid and Northern Ireland customs, the newspaper said, citing three people familiar with the plans.

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A source told the newspaper that the move could “clearly and consciously” undermine the agreement on Northern Ireland – a part of the UK – that Johnson signed last October to avoid a return to a hard border with the neighbouring Republic of Ireland.

The UK’s Brexit negotiator David Frost said on Sunday that the British government was not scared of a no-deal exit at the end of the year.

Johnson will say there is still a deal to be had based on a standard free trade agreement if the EU is ready to rethink its current position.

“But we cannot and will not compromise on the fundamentals of what it means to be an independent country to get it,” he will say.


#Newsworthy…

Birmingham stabbing: One lose to death – Police.

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Police said a murder inquiry had been launched but there was no suggestion that this was a ‘terror-related’ attack.

One man was killed and two people critically injured during a “random” stabbing attack in Britain’s second city of Birmingham, West Midlands Police said on Sunday.

Chief Superintendent Steve Graham said a murder inquiry had been launched but there was “no suggestion at all that this was terror-related.

“It does appear to be a random attack,” he added.

Police had earlier said there was a “major incident” after reports surfaced of a number of people injured in stabbings early on Sunday.

“We can confirm that at approximately 12:30am today [Sunday], we were called to reports of a stabbing in Birmingham city centre,” police said in a statement.

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“A number of other stabbings were reported in the area shortly after and “this has been declared a major incident”, the statement added.

Footage aired on British television news channels showed large areas of the city centre cordoned off as police officers wearing forensic suits worked at the scene.

Noble Reporters Media said the incidents occurred near the area known as the Gay Village in the centre of Birmingham, where many people had been seated at outdoor tables eating and drinking.

“Work is still going on to establish what has happened, and could take some time before we are in a position to confirm anything,” West Midlands Police said earlier on Sunday.

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“At this early stage, it would not be appropriate to speculate on the causes of the incident.”

West Midlands Police say it is too early to speculate on the causes of the incident [Phil Noble/Reuters]

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said it was “a very serious incident. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”

He said he had no information suggesting the stabbings were related to terrorism.

Emergency services were at the scene to ensure the injured received medical care. Police said the response would continue “for some time” and urged people to stay away from the area.

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Cara Curran, a club promoter, said she saw multiple people fighting in the street.

“It was one group of boys against another group of boys,” she told Noble Reporters Media‘s known Media, adding that “racial slurs” were being thrown.

Meanwhile, West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said the series of incidents in the Hurst Street area of the city centre appeared to be related but the motivation for them was not yet understood.

He urged people “to not speculate about the incident” and to “remain calm but vigilant.”


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Over 10% of shops in Britain ‘remain vacant’

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The UK’s retailers were struggling with high rents and online competition even before coronavirus lockdowns struck.


More than one-in-ten British shops now stand empty, reflecting recent widespread closures which are partly the result of the coronavirus crisis, a report on Thursday showed.

Researcher Springboard said the vacancy rate rose to 10.8 percent in July, from 9.8 percent in January 2020, reaching its highest level since January 2014 as Britain’s store-based retail sector, outside of food, was hit by a lockdown to counter the pandemic.

Already weak players such as Laura Ashley, Debenhams, Oasis Warehouse, Cath Kidston and Monsoon/Accessorize have all gone into administration, with the loss of thousands of jobs, while other large retailers, including Marks & Spencer, Boots and John Lewis, are also closing stores.

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Britain’s store groups were already struggling with high rents and business taxes, tight margins and online competition before the pandemic took a grip on the country’s economy.

Springboard said vacancies rose in six out of 10 areas, but by far the greatest increase was in Greater London, where the vacancy rate rose by nearly two-thirds.

“This result brings into sharp focus the difficulties faced by large cities in attracting customers back and the impact of this on our bricks and mortar retail landscape,” Springboard director Diane Wehrle said in a statement.

Springboard said that although shopper numbers improved in August for the third consecutive month, they were still down 30.8 percent from the same period in 2019.


#Newsworthy…


COVID-19: Britain to enforce quarantine on arrivals from Jamaica, Switzerland

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Britain said on Thursday it will reimpose quarantine for travellers from the Czech Republic, Jamaica and Switzerland, but ease restrictions on arrivals from Cuba in a bid to keep coronavirus infection rates down.

The decision, which will come into effect from 0300 GMT on Saturday, will require travellers from those three countries to self-isolate for 14 days following spikes in cases.

“Data shows we need to remove the Czech Republic, Jamaica and Switzerland from our list of #Coronavirus Travel Corridors to keep infection rates DOWN,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wrote on Twitter.

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“Data also shows we can now add Cuba to those countries INCLUDED in Travel Corridors,” he added, warning that people thinking of travelling abroad should be prepared for the advice to change at short notice.

Quarantine was imposed last week on Croatia, Austria, and Trinidad and Tobago, following France, the Netherlands and several other countries on the list as governments across Europe grapple with fears of a second wave of virus infections.

Britain, which has been the hardest-hit European country by COVID-19, registering more than 41,000 deaths to date, has itself seen its number of confirmed cases creeping up in recent weeks.

Officials announced more than 1,500 new cases on Thursday, its highest total since mid-June, although hospital admissions and death rates remain low.

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The UK had no quarantine measures in the early stages of the pandemic but in June imposed a blanket self-isolation requirement on all arrivals.

Weeks later it carved out “travel corridors” which exempted travellers from certain countries from quarantine.

However, the measures were reintroduced for arrivals from Spain in late July, catching airlines by surprise — as well as thousands of Britons leaving for their holidays.

The country’s struggling tourism sector has criticised the quarantine policy as overbearing and called for more targeted testing at ports of entry.


#Newsworthy…

As school resumes: Britain reverse face mask policy.

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The government has reversed policy on wearing facemasks in schools in England, sparking fresh criticism about its handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

Ministers had insisted face coverings were not necessary when children go back to school from next week after nearly six months out of the classroom amid concern about a rise in infections.

But in new guidance late Tuesday, the British government advised that secondary school students and staff should wear face coverings in corridors and communal areas.

The change is being seen as another U-turn, just weeks after ministers were forced to scrap the use of an algorithm which gave 17- and 18-year-olds lower-than-expected exam grades.

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Teaching unions have been calling for English schools to follow guidance in Scotland, which has a separate education system, that requires pupils to cover their nose and mouth between lessons.

But while welcoming the change, critics including the main opposition Labour party said ministers had shirked their responsibility by leaving enforcement to individual schools.

Labour’s education spokeswoman Kate Green slammed a “half-baked U-turn”. “The government should have given clear guidance and a plan to deliver it,” she said.

Under-fire Education Secretary Gavin Williamson had insisted masks were not required in schools and Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said there was no plan to review the policy.

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But Williamson, widely blamed for the furore over exam results, on Wednesday said the government would now follow World Health Organization advice for children aged 12 and over to wear masks.

“Outside of local lockdown areas face coverings won’t be required in schools, though schools will have the flexibility to introduce measures if they believe it is right in their specific circumstances,” he said on Wednesday.

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

“I hope these steps will provide parents, pupils and teachers with further reassurance.”

Some 41,500 people have died in the coronavirus outbreak in Britain — the worst death toll in Europe — and the government response to the pandemic has been criticised.

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Ministers were accused of not reacting quickly enough, failing to ensure enough protective equipment for frontline health and social care workers, and over the testing regime.

London reversed policy on the wearing of facemasks in shops in England after initially saying they were not necessary, and was forced to backtrack on a planned reopening of primary schools in July.

Education is a devolved issue for regional governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Older students in Northern Ireland will be asked to wear face coverings outside classrooms from next week. The Welsh Assembly in Cardiff is due to make its decision on Wednesday.


#Newsworthy…

Indian hero, Gandhi’s iconic glass sold for £340,000 in Britain.

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A pair of gold-plated glasses worn by Indian independence hero Mahatma Gandhi has sold in Britain for £260,000 (about 288,000 euros, $340,000), the auction house said.

“We found them just four weeks ago in our letterbox, left there by a gentleman whose uncle had been given them by Gandhi himself,” East Bristol Auctions wrote on Instagram after the sale late Friday.

“An incredible result for an incredible item! Thanks to all those who bid.”

Gandhi was known for giving out old or unwanted pairs to those in need or those who had helped him.

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The non-violent protestor gave the glasses to the vendor’s uncle while he was working for British Petroleum in South Africa during the 1920s or 30s, said the auction house.

A handout picture released by East Bristol Auctions on August 19, 2020 shows a pair of glasses that once belonged to Indian independence icon Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi photographed at the action house in Bristol head of their sale. EAST BRISTOL AUCTIONS / AFP

The sale price smashed the original estimate of around £15,000.

Auctioneer Andrew Stowe said earlier this month that the vendor had told him: “If they’re no good, just throw them away.”

When he suggested they might be worth £15,000, “I think he nearly fell off his chair.”


#Newsworthy…

Top Story: Britain’s govt debt surpasses £2tr

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British government debt has exceeded £2.0 trillion for the first time following large state borrowing as the coronavirus pandemic pushed the UK economy deep into recession, official data showed Friday.

At the end of July, total accumulated debt hit £2.004 trillion ($2.61 trillion, 2.2 trillion euros), the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement.

The debt increased by £227.6 billion compared with July 2019.

“This crisis has put the public finances under significant strain as we have seen a hit to our economy and taken action to support millions of jobs, businesses and livelihoods,” finance minister Rishi Sunak said in a separate statement.

“Without that support things would have been far worse.”

UK borrowing last month alone was estimated at £26.7 billion, the ONS said.

#Newsworthy…

Britain ‘highly committed’ to EU trade – Irish PM, Michael Martin.

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Ireland’s prime minister Michael Martin said Thursday that his British counterpart Boris Johnson was “very committed” to reaching a trade agreement with the European Union, after they met in Belfast.

It was the pair’s first face-to-face meeting since Martin was elected Taoiseach in June.

“We both agreed on the absolute necessity for a free trade agreement that would be tariff-free, quota-free,” Martin told reporters after the “wide-ranging” meeting.

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“That’s the best possible outcome for the European Union, for the United Kingdom, for businesses in the island of Ireland in terms of jobs and certainty.”

Martin added that Johnson was “very committed to reaching a comprehensive agreement with Europe”.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) greets Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheal Martin (L) with an elbow touch as a safety measure because of the novel coronavirus pandemic on the steps of Hillsborough Castle in Belfast on August 13, 2020. Brian Lawless / POOL / AFP.

The British prime minster’s office later said Johnson had told Martin that Britain would “continue to take pride in high environmental, animal welfare and labour standards outside the European Union”.

“Our priority remains protecting Northern Ireland’s place in our United Kingdom and preserving the huge gains from the peace process,” added his Downing Street office.

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Johnson was also scheduled to meet Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’ Neill during the visit.

Ahead of his trip, Johnson said Britain would “stand side-by-side” with Northern Ireland.

Britain formally left the European Union on January 31 — after voting to leave in a 2016 referendum — but is currently in a standstill transition period until the end of 2020 as it tries to negotiate a new trade deal with the European Union.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) greets Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheal Martin (L) on the steps of Hillsborough Castle in Belfast on August 13, 2020. (Photo by Brian Lawless / POOL / AFP)

Talks are ongoing between London and Brussels to try and find a mutually acceptable deal.

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The stalled talks are set to continue until October but fears are growing that almost half a century of economic integration with Europe and increasingly frictionless travel will end abruptly, without a deal, on December 31.

Also on Thursday, Britain’s senior Brexit negotiator, David Frost, tweeted that round seven of negotiations would begin in Brussels next week.

“Our assessment is that agreement can be reached in September and we will work to achieve this if we can,” wrote Frost.

However, he added: “The UK’s sovereignty, over our laws, our courts, or our fishing waters, is of course not up for discussion and we will not accept anything which compromises it.”


#Newsworthy…

Britain moves into recession as Economy shrinks.

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Britain’s economy contracted by a record 20.4 percent in the second quarter with the country in lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed Wednesday.

“It is clear that the UK is in the largest recession on record,” the Office for National Statistics said.

… more to come


#Newsworthy…

Just in: Nobel peace prize winner, John Hume, 83, rest on

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John Hume, the Northern Irish politician who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998 for his role in the British province’s peace process, has died aged 83, his family announced Monday.

Hume, the former leader of the mainly Catholic Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), shared the Nobel with David Trimble of the pro-British Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) after the pair helped forge the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement.

“We are deeply saddened to announce that John passed away peacefully in the early hours of the morning after a short illness,” his family said in a statement.

“John was a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather and a brother. He was very much loved, and his loss will be deeply felt by all his extended family.”

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The statement noted that Hume had been suffering from dementia and in the care of a nursing home in Londonderry.

The ex-SDLP leader helped to end three decades of bloody strife in Northern Ireland between the largely Catholic nationalist community who want to unify with Ireland and Protestant unionists who want to remain part of Britain.

In this file photo taken on November 27, 2013 former Northern Ireland politician and Joint 1998 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, John Hume, attends the funeral service for Irish priest Father Alec Reid at Clonard Monastery in Belfast, Northern Ireland. PETER MUHLY / AFP

A moderate voice during a conflict that had killed almost 3,600 people, Hume helped lead the cross-community peace process that culminated in the landmark Good Friday deal reached by Belfast, Dublin, London.

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said it was “impossible to properly express the scale and significance of John Hume’s life”.

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“He was one of the towering figures of Irish public life of the last century,” he said on Twitter. “His vision and tenacity saved this country.”

The SDLP said: “We all live in the Ireland he imagined — at peace and free to decide our own destiny.”

In this file photo taken on May 21, 1998 British Prime Minister Tony Blair (C) talks to the press after a meeting with and Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble (L) and SDLP leader John Hume to encourage a Yes vote for Friday’s peace referendum. GERRY PENNY / AFP

Hume’s family said his funeral would be arranged in accordance with current government regulations severely limiting the number of attendees due to the risk of spreading coronavirus.

“We realise this will mean that many will be unable to join us, and we will arrange a memorial service and a celebration of his life in due course,” they said.


#Newsworthy…

British Airways pilots back job loss deal

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British Airways pilots have overwhelmingly voted to accept a deal cutting wages by 20 percent with 270 jobs lost, according to aviation union BALPA.

The deal, announced Friday, comes as the airline struggles with the economic impact of the coronavirus which has seen it propose lay-offs of 12,000 staff, more than 1,200 of those pilots.

Salaries will initially be reduced by 20 percent, then by eight percent over two years, after which there will be no more wage cuts, said BALPA.

It also prevents, said the union, an unpopular “fire and rehire” scheme where staff would have been handed new contracts on different conditions and which had led to strike threats.

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“Our members have made a pragmatic decision in the circumstances but the fact that we were unable to persuade BA to avoid all compulsory redundancies is bitterly disappointing,” said BALPA general secretary Brian Strutton.

British Airways employs 4,300 pilots.

The deal was backed by 85 percent of pilots, said BALPA, and the turnout was 87 percent.

Earlier this week, BA criticised the British government for placing quarantine rules on all travellers returning from Spain, claiming it would have an “impact on an already troubled aviation industry”.


#Newsworthy…

Britain urges France to get tougher in move to stop migrants

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Britain on Saturday urged France to get tougher on stopping migrants using the Channel to reach the UK, with one minister saying the crossings were “unacceptably high”.

The call came after Border Force figures showed 96 migrants were intercepted by police on Friday.

Twenty four hours earlier, official figures showed at least 202 migrants managed to cross to Britain in 20 boats, a single-day record.

“The number of illegal small boat crossings we are seeing from France is unacceptably high,” said immigration compliance minister Chris Philp

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“And migrants continue to arrive in Calais to make the crossing. The French have to take tougher action.”

Earlier this month, the interior ministers of France and Britain signed an agreement to create a new joint police intelligence unit to combat migrant traffickers and reduce the number of illegal Channel crossings.

Reports claim that more than 3,400 people have made the crossing so far this year.

In 2019, 2,758 migrants were rescued by the French and British authorities while trying to make the crossing — four times more than in 2018, according to French officials.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Britain stops further reopening

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Britain on Friday “put the brakes on” easing lockdown measures and imposed new rules on millions of households in northern England, following concerns over a spike in coronavirus infections.

The reopening of high-risk activities such as casinos, bowling alleys and skating rinks, which was meant to begin on Saturday, will be delayed until at least August 15, as will the reintroduction of indoor performances and pilot schemes of larger crowds at sporting events, Boris Johnson announced.

“I have said our plan to reopen society and the economy is conditional.. that we would not hesitate to put the brakes on if required. Our assessment is that we should now squeeze that brake pedal,” the Prime Minister said in a Downing Street briefing.

Johnson, who earlier this week warned of a “second wave” of cases in Europe, added that Britain “cannot be complacent” about increasing infection numbers.

Increase in new infections
His announcement came hours after the government increased regional lockdown measures — under which people from different households are banned from meeting indoors — for some four million people across Greater Manchester and parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire.

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the restrictions were being brought in because people were “meeting and not abiding to social distancing”.

Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock/ AFP

“We take this action with a heavy heart, but we can see increasing rates of COVID across Europe and are determined to do whatever is necessary to keep people safe,” Hancock said on Twitter.

Government data released Friday showed there was “some evidence that the incidence of new infections has increased in recent weeks” in England.

However, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said “I don’t think it is helpful” to talk yet of a second wave sweeping across Europe.

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The local measures came into effect at midnight (2300 GMT Thursday), just hours after being announced.

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Manchester, backed the measures due to an increase in infections.

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Britain’s main opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer speaking during Prime Minister’s Question time (PMQs) in the House of Commons in London on July 22, 2020.
JESSICA TAYLOR / PRU / AFP

“The picture in Greater Manchester has changed over the last seven days,” he told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media).

“We have a rise in nine out of the 10 boroughs, the reality on the ground is changing.”

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Scots should avoid Manchester
But the new measures have come under criticism from the opposition Labour party for being announced late at night.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said on Twitter: “Announcing measures affecting potentially millions of people late at night on Twitter is a new low for the government’s communications during this crisis.”

They also come into force just as celebrations of the Muslim festival Eid al-Adha begin. Areas affected by the latest lockdown have significant Muslim populations.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned her citizens against travelling to the affected areas.

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“To… minimise risks of onward transmission here, @scotgov is STRONGLY advising against non-essential travel between Scotland and these parts of the north of England,” she wrote on Twitter.

A handout image released by 10 Downing Street, shows Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson attending a remote press conference to update the nation on the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic inside 10 Downing Street in central London on July 31, 2020. Andrew PARSONS / POOL / 10 Downing Street / AFP

It is not the first local lockdown to be put in place — England has lifted most of its restrictions nationally but imposed store closures around the central city of Leicester at the end of June.

Hancock said Leicester would now follow the same ban on meetings between different households being applied to Manchester and parts of West Yorkshire and East Lancashire.

Britain’s official virus death toll stands at 45,999 but is believed to be as high as 65,000 if excess deaths are used as a guide.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Boris Johnson pronounces ‘Boris Bikes’ all over Britain.

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The British government promised Monday to build thousands of miles of new bike lanes to get people moving and healthy after months of coronavirus lockdown.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pledge comes on the heels of a plan to force restaurants to display calories on menus as part of a broader effort to win the battle of the bulge.

Government data show two-thirds of UK adults are above a healthy weight. Some studies suggests that the virus is especially deadly to people who are obese.

“To build a healthier, more active nation, we need the right infrastructure, training and support in place to give people the confidence to travel on two wheels,” Johnson said.

Britain’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson’s plan envisions more Briton’s biking and walking to work in the long term. (Photo by Rui Vieira / POOL / AFP)

“That’s why now is the time to shift gears and press ahead with our biggest and boldest plans yet to boost active travel — so that everyone can feel the transformative benefits of cycling.”

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Johnson introduced a bike sharing programme in London during his spell as the British capital’s mayor from 2008 to 2016.

But the so-called “Boris bikes” stood largely untouched during a months-long lockdown that still sees swathes of central London stand empty during working hours.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, talks to the owner of the Cycle Lounge, Rodney Rouse, a bicycle repair shop in Beeston, central England, on July 28, 2020, during an event to launch the government’s new cycling intuitive to help get people, fitter. – (Photo by Rui Vieira / POOL / AFP)

The government’s efforts to tease people out of lockdown and into their old spending habits that can give shops and restaurants a boost are complicated by Britain’s inability to safely reopen its schools.

Polls show people are also worried about using public transport. Many trains and buses are running half-empty during morning and evening commutes.

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Johnson’s plan envisions more Briton’s biking and walking to work in the long term.

It promises to build “thousands of miles of protected cycle routes in towns and cities” as part of a £2 billion ($2.6 billion, 2.2 billion euro) “cycling and walking revolution”.

The government has also promised to start releasing the first batch of £50 “bike repair vouchers” to help people get old cycles fixed.

The British government promised Monday to build thousands of miles of new bike lanes to get people moving and healthy after months of coronavirus lockdown. (Photo by Rui Vieira / POOL / AFP)

Britain’s official virus death toll of 45,759 is the highest in Europe.


#Newsworthy…

Deadly Stabbing Spree named ‘Terrorism’ in Britain

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British police said Sunday they were treating a stabbing spree in which a lone assailant killed three people in a park filled with families and friends in Reading as “terrorism”.

The police said three people were also seriously injured and a 25-year-old resident of the historic town 60 kilometres (35 miles) west of London was detained.

Local and counter-terror police made no reference to reports that the man was a Libyan refugee who has been granted asylum in Britain.

Footage showed what appeared to be a large number of counter-terror police performing a controlled explosion at the suspect’s presumed residence shortly after the Saturday evening attack.

“This morning, I can formally confirm that this has been declared a terrorist incident,” counter-terror police chief Neil Basu said.

“Although the motivation for this heinous act is far from certain, Counter Terrorism Policing South East has taken on responsibility for leading this investigation.”

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “appalled and sickened” by the bloodshed at Forbury Gardens — a popular park situated next to the ruins of the 12th-century Reading Abbey.

“If there are lessons that we need to learn about how we handle such cases, about how we handle events leading up to such cases, then we will learn those lessons, and we will not hesitate to take action when necessary,” Johnson said in televised comments.

A Black Lives Matter protest took place at the park earlier but police said there was no indication the two were linked.

“We had all left by the time this happened,” the Reading BLM event organiser Nieema Hassan said.

Britain’s terror alert level was kept at “substantial” — the third highest on a five-point scale.

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“There is no specific intelligence to suggest anyone else attending crowded places is at risk,” the counter-terror police chief said.

‘Shouted unintelligible words’
Witnesses reported seeing two air ambulances and several police cars rush to the park on Saturday evening.

One witness described a lone assailant walking through a park filled with people relaxing on the grass and stabbing them at random.

“The park was pretty full. A lot of people sat around drinking with friends,” Lawrence Wort told the Press Association.

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“One lone person walked though, suddenly shouted some unintelligible words and went around a large group of around 10, trying to stab them.”

Wort said he saw three people being stabbed “in the neck and under the arms”.

A local school cancelled Monday’s classes after its history teacher was identified as one of the dead.

Another witness told The Sunday Mirror that one group of people who were attacked were “just in a circle chatting”.

A third person who witnessed the arrest said the bloodied suspect looked dazed.

“He was just staring,” witness Amir Hadyoon told reporters.

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“He was just completely silent. He wasn’t even blinking. He looked really weird.”

Paramedic teams were seen trying to resuscitate the injured as they lay unresponsive on the ground.

“An horrific, dreadful incident,” policing minister Kit Malthouse tweeted.

The main opposition Labour party’s leader Keir Starmer said Britons were “united in their grief”.

“This is not a time for party politics,” the opposition leader said.

Britain has witnessed two terror-related attacks in the past year.

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A convicted jihadist out on parole after serving a sentence for terror offences was shot dead by police after stabbing five people — two fatally — by London Bridge in the heart of the British capital in November.

Police killed another assailant who injured three people in a London stabbing attack in February.

An overwhelming majority of Britain’s serious crimes are committed with knives and other stabbing weapons because of very strict gun-ownership laws.

Johnson’s Conservative government promised to toughen up penalties for terror-related crimes after winning a sweeping mandate in a December general election.


#Newsworthy…

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British motor racing legend dies at age 90.


British motor racing legend Sir Stirling Moss has died at the age of 90 after a long illness.

He is widely regarded as one of the greatest Formula 1 drivers of all time, even though he did not win the World Championship.


Moss retired from public life in January 2018 because of ongoing health problems.

“It was one lap too many, he just closed his eyes,” said his wife Lady Moss.


Moss previously spent 134 days in hospital after suffering a chest infection while on holiday in Singapore in December 2016.

He won 16 of the 66 F1 races he competed in from 1951 to 1961.


He became the first British driver to win a home grand prix in 1955 at Aintree.

Moss famously lost out on the F1 title in 1958 to compatriot Mike Hawthorn after vouching for his rival and preventing him being disqualified when he was accused of reversing on track in the late-season Portuguese Grand Prix.

Four times a runner-up in the F1 drivers’ championship, he was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1961 and was knighted in 2000.


#Newsworthy…

British PM Out Of Intensive Care After COVID-19 Treatment.


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday left intensive care after three days of treatment for COVID-19, his office said.

“The Prime Minister has been moved this evening from intensive care back to the ward, where he will receive close monitoring during the early phase of his recovery,” a statement said.

“He is in extremely good spirits,” it added.

The 55-year-old Conservative leader had received “standard oxygen treatment” after he was transferred to the intensive care unit at London’s St Thomas’s hospital on Monday, his spokesman said earlier.

While much of the focus in Britain has been on Johnson’s health, there is also concern over the numbers of people infected with the virus, with the government set to extend a lockdown implemented on March 23.

The government announced another 881 deaths on Thursday, taking the UK total to 7,978.


– ‘We’re not done yet’ –


Senior ministers discussed the strict social distancing measures, initially planned for three weeks, during a daily coronavirus response meeting.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is standing in for Johnson, warned that the lockdown, which was to end on Monday, was not likely to be lifted imminently, saying “we’re not done yet, we must keep going.

“Deaths are still rising and we haven’t yet reached the peak of the virus, so it’s too early to lift the measures,” he said.

“We don’t expect to be able to say more on this until the end of next week,” he added.

Greater Manchester Police said Thursday it had to break up 660 parties last weekend.

Asked if the British government might give police extra powers during the lockdown, the Downing Street spokesman said: “For now our focus is on ensuring that the steps that we already have in place are properly enforced”.


– ‘Protect the NHS’ –


Meanwhile, ministers warned the public to follow social distancing rules ahead of the Easter weekend when high temperatures are forecast.

“We’ll have to stay at home and the reason why we’re having to stay at home is in order to protect the NHS and save lives,” added Dowden.

Johnson was hospitalised Sunday over concerns he still had a cough and high temperature 10 days after being diagnosed with coronavirus.

He had spent the previous nine days in self-isolation in a flat above his Downing Street office.

He has received messages of support from around the world, with US President Donald Trump sending best wishes to his “very good friend”.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin said Johnson’s “energy, optimism, and sense of humour” would see him through.

The British government has been criticised for a slow response to the pandemic, initially refusing to follow other European countries in requiring people to stay home as the virus spread rapidly across the globe.

Johnson himself said in early March that he was still shaking hands with people — only for COVID-19 to sweep through the British establishment weeks later.

The government has insisted its coronavirus response has been led by medical and scientific evidence throughout.

Elsewhere in the UK, Southampton became the first top-level club to defer players’ wages amid a growing row about whether Premier League footballers — with an average salary of three million pounds ($3.7 million) — should give up some of their pay to help the nation.


#Newsworthy…