Posted on

Alberta under heat warning for August long weekend


It’s going to be a scorcher across almost all of Alberta this August long weekend.

Environment Canada issued heat warnings Friday afternoon for almost the entire province, with the exception of Banff National Park and mountain areas to the south.

“A strong ridge of high pressure will bring above average heat for the long weekend,” Global Edmonton meteorologist Jesse Beyer said.

After a brief bit of relief on Thursday and Friday following several days of record-breaking temperatures, Environment Canada said hot daytime and overnight temperatures are expected to return Saturday and will persist through the weekend.

“Edmonton will be back into the 30 C [range] for most of the long weekend,” Beyer said.

Story continues below advertisement

Southern Alberta will see temperatures a few degrees higher than central and northern Alberta, but overall for the next three days, daytime temperatures are set to reach the high 20s to low 30s combined with overnight lows near 14 to 16 C. Temperatures are expected to return to seasonal numbers early next week.

Read more:
Heat warnings continue for B.C.’s Southern Interior, 40 C forecast for Grand Forks






New challenges in the heat as Edmonton nears 30 degrees Tuesday


New challenges in the heat as Edmonton nears 30 degrees Tuesday

People are advised to take the following precautions to protect themselves, their families and their neighbours:

  • Consider rescheduling outdoor activities to cooler hours of the day
  • Take frequent breaks from the heat, spending time in cooled indoor spaces where possible
  • Drink plenty of water and other non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages to stay hydrated
  • Check for your children or pets before you exit your vehicle. Do not leave any person or pet inside a closed vehicle, for any length of time
  • Monitor for symptoms of heat stroke or heat exhaustion, such as high body temperature, lack of sweat, confusion, fainting and unconsciousness.

“Make sure to plan outdoor activities accordingly,” Beyer said.

Story continues below advertisement

Read more:
COVID-19 is impacting ways Canadians can ‘beat the heat’

Environment Canada said special attention may be needed when it comes to people who are more susceptible to heat such as infants, children, seniors, and those with pre-existing lung, heart, kidney, nervous system, mental health or diabetic conditions, outdoor workers and those who are socially isolated.

Heat warnings are issued when very high temperatures are expected to pose an elevated risk of heat illnesses, such as heat stroke or heat exhaustion.




© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.





Source link

Posted on

India extends suspension of int’l flights till end of August


India on Friday extended the ban on international flights till Aug. 31, said an official statement Trend reports citing Xinhua.

However, travel will take place under the “travel bubbles” which the country has created with some countries like Germany, the United States and France, added the statement.

A statement issued by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said, “The government has decided to extend the suspension on the scheduled international commercial passenger services to/from India up to August 31. However, the restriction shall not apply to international cargo operations, and flights specifically approved by the DGCA.”

It further stated that to allow gradual movement of passenger traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic, transport bubble agreements have been signed with the United States, France and Germany.







India had suspended the scheduled international passenger flights on March 22 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.



Source link

Posted on

Coronavirus latest news: Leicester in the dark over local lockdown measures



Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday that he was confident a coronavirus flare-up in Sydney, the country’s biggest city, was under control, but he acknowledged a larger spike in cases in Melbourne remained a challenge.

The state of Victoria, whose capital Melbourne is under a reimposed six-week lockdown, reported a record 723 new infections on Thursday followed by 627 on Friday.

The state now accounts for more than half of the country’s 190 deaths from the coronavirus and about 60 per cent of the nation’s 16,304 cases.

The majority of Victoria’s fresh cases are in Melbourne, Australia’s second biggest city.

“The level of community outbreak and community transmission in Victoria is the great challenge down there,” Mr Morrison said on 2GB radio. “And there’s still a lot of work to do and we’re not on top of it yet.”

He said New South Wales, home to Sydney, had contained the spread of the virus from outbreaks at pubs, restaurants and aged-care homes thanks to better contact tracing than in Victoria.

“The key difference is that in NSW … there are no cases that have an unknown source. None,” he said, noting that Victoria has had around 50 cases a day with no known source.





Source link

Posted on

COVID-19 outbreak at USC fraternity row; at least 40 infected



USC is dealing with an outbreak of the coronavirus spread across the university’s Greek row.

The school has detected around 40 positive COVID-19 cases involving individuals living on 28th Street, where many fraternity groups associated with the university are based, chief student health officer Sarah Van Orman said.

“A significant number of the cases were associated with four fraternity houses,” Van Orman said. To date, around 150 USC students and employees have tested positive.

USC and other universities have adapted to the coronavirus in an effort to keep students, staff and local communities safe during the pandemic. Many schools, including UCLA and USC, have moved the vast majority of fall semester classes online and canceled events, limited the availability of on-campus housing to decrease density, added mask, social-distancing and symptom-checking measures, and regularly report infection data. Still, as students continue to return officially and unofficially, on-campus and off, universities face a daunting worry: Can the spread of COVID at colleges be stopped?

That answer depends on the decisions individuals make, Van Orman said, pointing out that USC’s recent outbreaks occurred at off-campus spaces not controlled by the university.

“Unless all of us understand that right now our only tools are physical distancing and wearing masks, we’re going to continue to have devastation, not only in terms of the economy, our learning, our academics, our jobs, but people dying,” she said. “Each of us have to decide what we stand for. Frats need to do that as well.” She said that although the outbreak affected fraternity houses, it wasn’t clear that the infection involved fraternity members, who often lease out rooms during the summer.

UCLA spokesman Steve Ritea agreed that the pandemic’s toll will be depend on community members’ choices.

“If you have three or four of our students who are living together in an off-campus apartment, all we can do is give them our best recommendation and the best knowledge. They have to make those decisions from there,” he said. Students living in official UCLA dorms face certain health restrictions imposed by the school, he added.

Coronavirus outbreaks have occurred in fraternity spaces at universities across the country, including the University of Washington and UC Berkeley. Van Orman attributed the spread in such spaces to the increased household exposure that comes with congregate living situations and social gatherings.

“When we think about the population size that they expose, it can quickly become quite large,” Van Orman said.

The outbreak among USC fraternities is mostly over, she said. The school first reported 15 positive cases on 28th Street through a July 9 press release. Continued testing and aggressive contact tracing allowed the university to identify exposed individuals and new positives. Mandatory quarantining ordered by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health helped stop the spread.

“We haven’t seen any more cases for the last week or so,” Van Orman said. The testing, tracing and quarantining are all parts of USC’s pandemic plan, which is laid out on the school’s website.

In the fall, outbreaks at USC could lead to more remote classes. Hotel space has been set aside for students infected in the future, Van Orman said. The university is encouraging undergraduates to not return, working to educate students about spread and is set to enforce strong policies blocking rule-breakers from the campus, she added. Keeping students from getting together in groups will play an important role in preventing future outbreaks.

“Gatherings are a huge issue. Whether that’s at a church or a fraternity, that’s what we’re seeing: People get together, and if you have 20 or 30 people in the room you can quickly have half of them infected in one gathering,” Van Orman said.

On Wednesday, UCLA’s COVID total was similar to USC’s. The university reported 153 individuals have tested positive and reported their diagnosis to the university since testing began. 52 cases have been reported since June 15. Ritea said the data include self-reported cases from out-of-state students and that the Westwood campus is not experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak. UCLA isn’t seeing abnormal spread involving conjugal living spaces, he added.

UCLA has its own COVID procedures written up online too. The intentionally that’s gone into preparing makes Ritea feel better about the school’s outlook.

“When you’re talking about a global pandemic where there’s no vaccine yet, I would never say that any of us feel good about any number of cases,” he said. “But what I do feel good about is that our leadership has taken this so seriously. There’s been so much thought and care and planning that goes into how we’re doing this,” he said. He noted, however, the planning can only go so far.

“The best we can do is minimize the risk as much as we can,” Ritea said.

Both schools’ student populations are full of young people, who Van Orman acknowledged COVID-19 typically hits less hard. She said no one infected at USC has been hospitalized yet. But young people aren’t immune to the virus’s worst consequences, she added.

“We still see young, healthy people who contract the virus, who have severe disease, who are hospitalized and even die,” she said.

She added that a developing understanding of the virus’s long-term effects should concern young people, along with the fact that they can pass on the virus to more vulnerable people.

“They’re exposing their parents and their grandparents, they’re exposing the person that’s working in the store,” she said.





Source link

Posted on

Old Brewery Missions’s Matthew Pearce will retire in September


Article content

Matthew Pearce, president and chief executive officer of the Old Brewery Mission since 2008, will retire from his post and step down in September, the organization announced on Thursday.

In a statement, Eric Maldoff, chair of the Mission’s board, praised Pearce for having “led the Old Brewery Mission through a period of significant growth and phenomenal transformation that have inspired other organizations to adopt the Mission’s approaches to end chronic homelessness. … He will be missed.”

During Pearce’s time as executive director, the Mission underwent significant changes that included:

Establishing new supportive housing models and programs adapted to the needs of specific homeless populations.

• The creation of  a research department in partnership with McGill Universityto gain greater knowledge of the root causes of homelessness.

• Opening a triage and referral centre for first-time shelter arrivals to shorten their homelessness experience and ensure they are adequately housed and reintegrated into the community.

• Transforming the emergency shelter into a 24/7 resource centre that allowed residents to remain onsite and fully connected to counselling staff and services.

Pearce will be replaced by James Hughes, who was the Mission’s director-general from 2004 to 2008.

More On This Topic



Source link

Posted on

‘I’m worried about a second wave’: Matt Hancock warns wave of infections is ‘rolling across Europe’ 


Matt Hancock today warned of a second coronavirus wave ‘starting to roll across Europe’ towards Britain and hinted that more holiday destinations on the continent could soon face UK quarantine restrictions.

The Health Secretary also confirmed the Government is ‘looking at’ plans to tell people who test positive for coronavirus to stay at home for ten days – up from the current seven-day self-isolation period.

Mr Hancock also hinted that more European countries could be added to the UK’s quarantine list to stop Covid-19 getting a stranglehold in Britain again.

He told Sky News: ‘I am worried about a second wave. You can see a second wave starting to roll across Europe. We have to do everything we can to prevent it reaching these shores. It’s not just Spain, there are other countries too where the number of cases is rising, and we are absolutely determined to do all we can to keep this country safe.’ 

He also said that increasing the isolation period for coronavirus symptoms from seven to 10 days in line with World Health Organisation guidance ‘something that we’re looking at’.

The quarantine period for people returning to the UK from foreign countries such as Spain would be pared back to 10 days from 14 days under the same plans.

His warning came after Boris Johnson admitted he was ‘extremely concerned’ about the possibility of a second spike and claims that the UK could be a fortnight behind Europe, where cases are rising again.

The rolling average of daily cases has been rising since earlier this month, while there have been fresh restrictions in Oldham, Greater Manchester, and localised outbreaks in Stone, Staffordshire, and Wrexham, north Wales. 

Leicester, the first place in the UK to have a mini-lockdown imposed, will have its shutdown reviewed today – two days earlier than expected. 

In other coronavirus developments: 

  • Oldham has overtaken Leicester to have the second highest Covid-19 infection rate in England, official figures revealed. A decision on whether to extent Leicester’s local lockdown will be made today;
  • Ministers signed a multi-million pound deal with pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur for 60million doses of another potential Covid-19 vaccine;
  • Scientists have been given £4.3 million to investigate why black and Asian people are more likely to die from Covid-19;
  • Ten people have caught the coronavirus linked to a Staffordshire pub where 200 drinkers were crammed into beer garden ‘like sardines’. 
Patients who are confirmed to have Covid could be told to stay at home for 14 days under a change to the rules. Pictured: People queue up at a walk-in Covid-19 testing centre at Crown Street car park in Stone, Staffordshire after nearby Crown and Anchor pub saw outbreak of the disease

Patients who are confirmed to have Covid could be told to stay at home for 14 days under a change to the rules. Pictured: People queue up at a walk-in Covid-19 testing centre at Crown Street car park in Stone, Staffordshire after nearby Crown and Anchor pub saw outbreak of the disease

Boris Johnson, pictured on a visit to Nottingham, expressed fears over a second Covid-19 onslaught within weeks

Boris Johnson, pictured on a visit to Nottingham, expressed fears over a second Covid-19 onslaught within weeks

Isolation rules have previously caused confusion as those confirmed to have the virus via a test have been told to isolate for seven days, whereas their ‘close contacts’ faced 14 days. The disparity was due to the time taken to develop symptoms of the virus.

The Government has at times been accused of ‘mixed messaging’ over the rules.

Patients who are confirmed to have Covid or who have a cough, fever or loss of sense of smell or taste are currently told to stay at home for seven days.

The increase brings the self-isolation period closer to the 14 days for those who are a ‘close contact’ of a confirmed case or for people arriving back from a country under quarantine rules.

Belgium and Luxembourg could be removed from the safe travel list as early as tomorrow and Croatia could also be at risk. Luxembourg has the highest incidence of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in Europe

Belgium and Luxembourg could be removed from the safe travel list as early as tomorrow and Croatia could also be at risk. Luxembourg has the highest incidence of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in Europe

The Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance warned No10 on Monday that Britain could be just two or three weeks behind Spain’s second wave trajectory, according to The Times. 

And adopting a 10-day self-isolation period would be following World Health Organisation guidelines and bringing Britain into line with many countries around the world.

Fears of a resurgence of infections come as scientists at The University of Cambridge found that the reproduction rate of the virus is almost at one in large parts of the UK – nearing the crucial threshold above which growth is exponential. 

The experts at the Cambridge MRC Biostatistics Unit linked the rise to an easing of lockdown, reported the Daily Telegraph. 

Despite the warnings, Boris Johnson was urged not to panic over fears of a summer surge. Former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said ministers should continue efforts to get the economy moving by urging more workers to return to the office. He said: ‘The message from the Government is still really fearful, it needs to be much more nuanced.

‘They must say, ‘Look, this is a disease that by-and-large affects those with co-morbidities. Protect the vulnerable but the rest of you should be getting back to work’.’ Sir Iain added: ‘We seem to have lost the ability to balance risk.’

Meanwhile, health leaders said there were ‘very high’ levels of concern about a fresh spike. Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, told the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus that non-Covid productivity in NHS trusts was currently at about 60 per cent.

He called for an ‘Amazon-style’ way for health and care workers to order personal protective equipment where it arrives the next day. Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the council of the British Medical Association, said another spike should not be seen as an ‘inevitability’ and it was time to be ‘more robust’ about mitigating the threat.

He also called for more concise public messaging over measures people can take to stop the spread of the virus.

‘If I look even at something as simple as our messages on social distancing we’re told that social distancing is still two metres, or one metre plus,’ he said.

‘Do you think any member of the public understands what one metre plus means? What does the plus mean? Many don’t really understand this because it’s not clear and they’re not social distancing.’

Britain’s coronavirus cases rise 14% in a week as experts urge ministers not to panic and say the UK needs to ‘learn to live’ with the disease – while officials announce 83 more Covid-19 deaths 

Covid-19 cases in Britain have risen again with the average number of infections jumping by 14 per cent in a week as scientists urged ministers not to panic and said the UK needs to ‘learn to live’ with the disease.  

Department of Health chiefs announced another 763 people tested positive for the virus, taking the rolling seven-day average to 726. In comparison, the rate was 697 yesterday, 638 last Wednesday and has been on the up for a fortnight amid fears of a resurgence. 

And the rate is 33 per cent higher than the four-month low of 546 recorded three weeks ago on July 8, just days after top experts warned of an inevitable spike prompted by the relaxation of strict lockdown rules. 

Professor James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, argued that the UK has never been free from infection and warned ‘the number of cases measured today are not comparable to March’.

Business leaders reacted warily to the threat of tighter restrictions being introduced over the rise in cases, with top firms saying it is ‘vital’ crippled economies get the chance to recover this summer.

The most up to date figures show the number of new cases is rocketing upwards in Spain. It announced 6,361 new cases over the weekend, up from 4,581 the previous weekend. France announced 2,551 new coronavirus cases on Monday

The most up to date figures show the number of new cases is rocketing upwards in Spain. It announced 6,361 new cases over the weekend, up from 4,581 the previous weekend. France announced 2,551 new coronavirus cases on Monday 

OLDHAM OVERTAKES LEICESTER WITH THE SECOND HIGHEST COVID-19 INFECTION RATE 

Oldham has overtaken Leicester to have the second highest Covid-19 infection rate in England, official figures revealed.

NHS statistics showed Oldham recorded 54.3 coronavirus cases for every 100,000 people between July 20 and 26.

The weekly infection rate for the Greater Manchester town has risen by 191 per cent. In comparison, Leicester’s outbreak has dropped slightly to 53.2.

Only Blackburn with Darwen is currently being hit worse than Oldham, with the area recording 85.9 cases per 100,000 people in the past week. 

Local officials have pleaded with locals to abide by tough restrictions implemented yesterday, in a desperate bit to prevent a full-blown lockdown.

Council bosses have now urged all of the borough’s 235,000 residents to not let any visitors into their home for at least two weeks.

It puts Oldham at odds with the rest of England, after lockdown rules were relaxed earlier this month to let people to stay overnight with loved ones.

Everyone living in the Greater Manchester borough has also been asked to keep two metres apart from friends and family when seeing them outside.

Current government advice for the rest of the nation recommends a one metre-plus rule — but people should keep two metres apart where possible. 

Katrina Stephens, the director of public health in Oldham, said the spike was not due to more testing but a ‘genuine increase’ in transmission, Manchester Evening News reported.

The central and western districts have mostly been affected, and there are ‘increasingly’ cases in the younger population, particularly among 20 to 40-year-olds, Ms Stephens said at a media briefing yesterday.

A significant proportion of recent cases involve multiple individuals testing positive within a household.

Councillor Arooj Shah confirmed they had seen a rise in cases among Oldham’s Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, which account for up to two thirds of overall new cases, New Post Leader reported.

Around 20 per cent of Oldham’s population are from Bangladeshi and Pakistani heritage, compared to the 2.8 per cent average in England and Wales.

 Officials noted the new guidelines would be ‘particularly tough’ for the Muslim community who were preparing to celebrate Eid on Friday.

Meanwhile, a further 83 more coronavirus deaths were recorded in Britain — taking the official number of victims to 45,961. But no fatalities were posted in Scotland or Northern Ireland. 

Around 66 people are succumbing to the illness each day, on average. But the fatality curve is no longer flattening as quickly as it was, with the rate having barely changed in the past 10 days. It can take patients several weeks to die, meaning any spike in deaths won’t be immediately apparent in government figures. 

Government statistics show the official size of the UK’s outbreak now stands at 300,692. 

But the actual size of the outbreak, which began to spiral out of control in March, is estimated to be in the millions, based on antibody testing data. 

The deaths reported by the Department of Health cover those in all settings, including hospitals and care homes. 

The data does not represent how many Covid-19 patients died within the last 24 hours — it is only how many fatalities have been reported and registered with the authorities.

And the figure does not always match updates provided by the home nations. Department of Health officials work off a different time cut-off, meaning daily updates from Scotland as well as Northern Ireland are always out of sync.

And the count announced by NHS England every afternoon — which only takes into account deaths in hospitals — does not match up with the DH figures because they work off a different recording system.

For instance, some deaths announced by NHS England bosses will have already been counted by the Department of Health, which records fatalities ‘as soon as they are available’. 

NHS England posted 14 deaths in hospitals across the country. These include victims who were both confirmed and suspected to have the virus, while the Department of Health only records lab-confirmed Covid-19 deaths.

Wales reported five deaths in all settings after two days of zero fatalities. The country has reported zero deaths on 13 days this month as the virus slowly fizzles out. 

Department of Health figures showed almost 100,000 tests were either carried out or posted yesterday. The number includes antibody tests for frontline NHS and care workers. 

The head of the British Medical Association, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, warned that the UK was not doing enough to prevent a second wave of the epidemic.

He demanded ministers lay out a coherent strategy for how they plan to prevent a Covid-19 resurgence from battering the UK in the winter, when other illnesses are rife and the NHS is vulnerable to being overwhelmed.

Dr Nagpaul told a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on coronavirus: ‘At the moment we’re not doing everything we should in trying to contain the virus. 

‘If I look even at something as simple as our messages on social distancing: we’re told that social distancing is still two metres, or one metre plus.

‘Do you think any member of the public understands what one metre plus means? What does the plus mean? Many don’t really understand this because it’s not clear and they’re not social distancing.’

Dr Nagpaul slammed ministers for not enforcing mask-wearing, saying it risked sending the message they were optional.

He added: ‘If you want to suppress a virus you don’t just make an announcement and then leave people with free will whether to wear them… you then follow that up with a very systematic approach to make sure that happens.

‘What I mean by suppressing is you take an attitude that says: we want to do absolutely everything to make sure the infection doesn’t spread. That needs a much more robust approach.’

Oldham overtook Leicester to have the second highest Covid-19 infection rate in England, with 54.3 coronavirus cases recorded for every 100,000 people between July 20 and 26. In comparison, Leicester's outbreak has dropped slightly to 53.2. Only Blackburn with Darwen is currently being hit worse than Oldham, with the area recording 85.9 cases per 100,000 people in the past week

Oldham overtook Leicester to have the second highest Covid-19 infection rate in England, with 54.3 coronavirus cases recorded for every 100,000 people between July 20 and 26. In comparison, Leicester’s outbreak has dropped slightly to 53.2. Only Blackburn with Darwen is currently being hit worse than Oldham, with the area recording 85.9 cases per 100,000 people in the past week

£4MILLION FUNDING TO INVESTIGATE BAME AND COVID-19 LINK 

Scientists have been given £4.3million to investigate why black and Asian people are more likely to die from Covid-19.

UK Research and Innovation and the National Institute for Health Research have funded six new research projects which will examine the link between coronavirus and ethnicity.

Emerging evidence suggests BAME (black and minority ethnic) people are nearly twice as likely to die of Covid-19 than those who are white, after taking into account the age of the individuals and other sociodemographic factors.

The six projects are:

  • One will explore the impact of Sars-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, specifically on migrant and refugee groups.
  • Another will look for ways to create targeted, digital health messages with help from key voices within BAME communities.
  • The £2.1 million UK-Reach project, which received the largest proportion of the fund, will calculate the risk of contracting and dying from Covid-19 for ethnic minority healthcare workers. 
  • One of the research projects will seek to determine the risk of infection and death from Covid-19 in individual ethnicity groups, combining more than 40million patient GP records in England to create one of the largest Covid-19 cohorts in the UK.
  • Another project will use data from the UK Biobank, which contains biomedical information of 500,000 individuals, to examine whether the increased risk of developing severe Covid-19 in minority ethnic groups can be explained by differences in health status, lifestyle behaviours such as physical activity, and environmental factors such as social inequality.
  • The final research project aims to help enable the designers of clinical trials to consider the factors that may reduce the inclusion of BAME participants, such as culture, or trial information and procedures. 

He warned: ‘The point is that I’m not sure that sense of clear, single-minded determination to do everything we can is being done and that’s what I mean by suppressing.

‘To really take the attitude that yes, we can resume normal living – you can go out, you can do things, but make sure that we have very clear messages about what is expected of both the public and workers to stop the spread.

‘There are measures that can be taken and at the moment I think I see too many examples of potential spread, just walking out into the High Street and peering through shop windows. 

‘If a hair dresser wears a visor without a mask, that’s not going to suppress the virus. Has that message gone to all employers as to what needs to be done to stop the spread of the virus?

‘If you look at the figures at the moment, the last ONS figures from last Friday, the weekly figures, the infection rate has increased.

‘We’re now seeing about 2,700 new cases a day compared to 2,500 the week before. And so I think now is the time we must be much more robust and rigorous about how we mitigate the spread.’

It comes after Boris Johnson warned there are ‘signs of a second wave’ of Covid-19 in Europe as the Prime Minister defended the UK’s decision to reimpose quarantine rules on Spanish travel.   

Leading experts insisted that ministers don’t need to panic yet about rising coronavirus cases in Britain, after it was revealed that Boris Johnson fears a second wave could start within a fortnight.

A senior government source told the Mail the Prime Minister was ‘extremely concerned’ by outbreaks ‘bubbling up’ both at home and across Europe. A spike in infections have been recorded in Spain, triggering a last-minute decision to place the holiday hotspot on the UK’s travel quarantine list, Germany and France.

A Downing Street source said: ‘The PM is extremely concerned by what he’s seeing abroad and fears we could be seeing the same thing here in a fortnight.

‘People have got to realise we are still in the middle of a pandemic. He wants to go further on opening things up and getting people back to work, but he knows it’ll be his head on the block if things go wrong.’

But Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease specialist at the University of East Anglia, moved to reassure the nation and said: ‘Give us a couple of weeks before we start panicking.’ 

He told MailOnline cases in the UK are drifting up but not escalating quickly and revealed it was possible ‘we could last out August’ without the need to adopt any blanket measures to prevent another crisis.

One scientist warned the spike ‘was to be expected’ because of lockdown being eased earlier this month, when millions of Britons flocked to pubs to celebrate ‘Super Saturday’ on July 4. 

Professor James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, said: ‘The UK has never been free from infection, we have had 100’s of cases per day every day since March. However, the number of cases measured are not comparable to March.

‘The increase in cases was to be expected, as the lockdown eases, the opportunity for the virus to spread will increase.

‘The government intervention that will make the most difference in keeping the lid on this flare up, is the isolation of positive cases.

British Medical Association chief says the Government is NOT doing enough to stop a second wave and is sending out ‘mixed messages’ about masks and social distancing 

The UK Government is not doing enough to stop a second wave of coronavirus, the head of the British Medical Association warned amid fears the virus is making a comeback.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul told MPs that mixed messaging around key preventative measures including mask-wearing and social distancing was behind infections spiking by nearly 30 per cent last week.

He demanded ministers lay out a coherent strategy for how they plan to prevent a Covid-19 resurgence from battering the UK in the winter, when other illnesses are rife and the NHS is vulnerable to being overwhelmed.

Dr Nagpaul told a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on coronavirus: ‘At the moment we’re not doing everything we should in trying to contain the virus. 

‘If I look even at something as simple as our messages on social distancing: we’re told that social distancing is still two metres, or one metre plus.

‘Do you think any member of the public understands what one metre plus means? What does the plus mean? Many don’t really understand this because it’s not clear and they’re not social distancing.’

Dr Nagpaul slammed ministers for not enforcing mask-wearing, saying it risked sending the message they were optional.

He added: ‘If you want to suppress a virus you don’t just make an announcement and then leave people with free will whether to wear them… you then follow that up with a very systematic approach to make sure that happens.

‘What I mean by suppressing is you take an attitude that says: we want to do absolutely everything to make sure the infection doesn’t spread. That needs a much more robust approach.’

He warned: ‘The point is that I’m not sure that sense of clear, single-minded determination to do everything we can is being done and that’s what I mean by suppressing. 

‘To really take the attitude that yes, we can resume normal living – you can go out, you can do things, but make sure that we have very clear messages about what is expected of both the public and workers to stop the spread.

‘There are measures that can be taken and at the moment I think I see too many examples of potential spread, just walking out into the High Street and peering through shop windows. 

‘If a hair dresser wears a visor without a mask, that’s not going to suppress the virus. Has that message gone to all employers as to what needs to be done to stop the spread of the virus?

‘If you look at the figures at the moment, the last ONS figures from last Friday, the weekly figures, the infection rate has increased.

‘We’re now seeing about 2,700 new cases a day compared to 2,500 the week before. And so I think now is the time we must be much more robust and rigorous about how we mitigate the spread.’

‘I remain concerned that not enough effort has been put into isolation measures. Its self-defeating to vilify young people who are infectious but otherwise well for not wanting to keep making disproportionately heavy financial and life sacrifices.’

He added: ‘What I fear is that if we fail to check this flare up, we will head into the winter months with a high level of circulating virus.

‘With the normal winter illnesses and greater indoor living, we could then see a return to exponential growth in Covid-19 cases that overwhelms the NHS and requires complete lockdown. Many scientists have consistently emphasised that we have only short time to get our systems ready to prevent this.’ 

Ministers have been warning of a potential second wave of the pandemic this winter but now fear it could come sooner. On a visit to Nottingham yesterday, Mr Johnson — who earlier this month played down the prospect of another national lockdown — said Britons must not drop their guard.

He added: ‘The most important thing is for everybody in all communities to heed the advice, to follow the advice, not to be spreading it accidentally and get it right down and we’ll be able to ease the restrictions across the country.

‘But clearly we now face, I’m afraid, the threat of a second wave in other parts of Europe and we just have to be vigilant.’ 

But a video of a Staffordshire pub showing some 200 people crammed into a beer garden ‘like sardines’ in a clear breach of coronavirus rules suggests some Britons have, indeed, dropped their guard. 

The market town is  fighting a coronavirus outbreak linked to the local pub where at least ten people were infected.

Punters and staff who were at the Crown and Anchor in Stone between July 16 and 18 are now being told to urgently get swabs done, as well as anyone who has been in close contact with visitors to the pub.

A new testing centre has been set up 350 yards away at a car park, and people who were out in Stone on one of those nights who have since displayed symptoms despite not going to the pub should also now get a test.

Local resident Ayrron Robinson, who has lived opposite the pub in Stone for four years, filmed the clip from his window after becoming concerned about an apparent lack of social distancing.

He said: ‘If we do have to go into local lockdown then the pub has a lot to answer for.’  

Several places in England are under the careful watch of health officials who are trying to squash cases after a recent spike, including Leicester, Oadby and Wigston, Blackburn and Darwen, and Luton. 

Oldham overtook Leicester to have the second highest Covid-19 infection rate in England, with 54.3 coronavirus cases recorded for every 100,000 people between July 20 and 26.

The weekly infection rate for the Greater Manchester town has risen by 191 per cent. In comparison, Leicester’s outbreak has dropped slightly to 53.2.

Only Blackburn with Darwen is currently being hit worse than Oldham, with the area recording 85.9 cases per 100,000 people in the past week. 

Local officials have pleaded with locals to abide by tough restrictions implemented yesterday, in a desperate bid to prevent a full-blown lockdown like that seen in Leicester currently. 

Two thirds of new Covid-19 cases in Oldham are among Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, the council said, and a significant proportion of recent cases involve multiple individuals testing positive within a household. 

It comes as scientists are given £4.3million to investigate why black and Asian people are more likely to die from Covid-19.

UK Research and Innovation and the National Institute for Health Research have funded six new research projects which will examine the link between coronavirus and ethnicity.

Emerging evidence suggests BAME (black and minority ethnic) people are nearly twice as likely to die of Covid-19 than those who are white, after taking into account the age of the individuals and other sociodemographic factors. 

Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England and head of the National Institute for Health Research, said: ‘With evidence showing that people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are more severely affected by Covid-19, it is critical that we understand what factors are driving this risk to address them effectively.

‘The diverse range of projects funded will help examine this association in detail, so that new treatments and approaches to care can be developed to target the ethnicities most at risk.

‘This research will have embedded patient and public involvement with black, Asian and minority ethnic groups at all stages of the research.’

In other developments in the battle against Covid-19, a multi-million pound deal has been struck in the UK for 60million doses of another potential Covid-19 vaccine – the fourth so far.

Number 10’s agreement with pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur mean the UK has access to a total of 250million doses — enough to allow everyone in Britain to have four each, if they work.

Scientists have yet to trial GSK/Sanofi’s vaccine on humans and studies to prove it works won’t begin until September. Other contenders purchased by Number 10 have already shown signs of promise in tests.

The Government’s deal with GSK/Sanofi allegedly costs £500million, The Sunday Times reported earlier this month, which will be paid in stages as the vaccine progresses through clinical trials.

It is not expected to reach phase 3 trials — the last phase of testing before it can be approved for use on humans — until December. 

Europe had 50% ‘excess mortality’ at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak – with Spain seeing a 155% increase compared to Germany’s 11%

Europe experienced a 50 per cent rise in excess mortality at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak, according to data released by France’s Insee statistics agency.

The figures show that over the course of one week, between March 30 and April 6, European countries saw more than 33,742 excess deaths.

Excess mortality is the number of deaths in a given period over and above what would normally be expected and is a measure widely used to estimate how many people died due to Covid-19. 

Spain experienced the highest excess mortality in that week, with 155 per cent, after recording 12,545 excess deaths.

It was followed by Italy, Belgium and France during this period which was ‘the peak of excess mortality… linked to the COVID-19 epidemic’ in Europe, according to Insee. 

Europe experienced a 50 per cent rise in excess mortality at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak, according to data released by France's Insee statistics agency. Spain experienced the highest excess mortality, between March 30 and April 6, with 155 per cent

Europe experienced a 50 per cent rise in excess mortality at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak, according to data released by France’s Insee statistics agency. Spain experienced the highest excess mortality, between March 30 and April 6, with 155 per cent

Germany, western Europe’s most populated country, had a comparably much lower excess mortality rate across the same period.  

The study did not mention data from Britain, which has Europe’s highest coronavirus death toll, as it is no longer a member of the European Union.

But previous figures from the Office for National Statistics placed England and Wales among the worst effected countries across a similar period.

In previous years the number of deaths in Europe tend to decline from March onwards after the annual flu season.

But the Insee agency said that in 2020 the figure rose sharply based on data collected by EU agency Eurostat from 21 national jurisdictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.  

Italy had  awhere 7,669 excess deaths were recorded. where 7,669 excess deaths were recorded.

Italy had a 67 per cent increase in excess mortality rate with the country recording 7,669 excess deaths over the set week. Pictured: Medical staff treating coronavirus patients in the intensive care unit at the Papa Giovanni XXIII hospital in Bergamo, Italy

Compared to data for the years 2016 to 2019, Spain had the highest excess mortality in that week, with 155 per cent, after recording 12,545 excess deaths.

This was followed by 91 per cent in Belgium with 1,908 excess deaths and 67 per cent in Italy where 7,669 excess deaths were recorded. 

France was also amongst the worst hit with a 60 per cent increase in the excess mortality rate after reporting 7,327 additional deaths, said the Insee.

Germany had a comparably much lower excess mortality rate of just 11 per cent with 2,076 excess deaths across the same period.  

The study did not mention data from Britain but figures previously released by the ONS showed that in England and Wales there were 6,082 excess deaths across a similar time period – 59 per cent above average. 

Spain had the highest excess mortality in that week, with 155 per cent, after recording 12,545 excess deaths. Pictured: Temporary hospital for Covid-19 patients located at the Ifema convention and exhibition centre in Madrid, Spain, following the peak of the pandemic

Spain had the highest excess mortality in that week, with 155 per cent, after recording 12,545 excess deaths. Pictured: Temporary hospital for Covid-19 patients located at the Ifema convention and exhibition centre in Madrid, Spain, following the peak of the pandemic

The overall excess mortality rate for Europe was 48 per cent following 33,742 excess deaths.

The upward trend in excess mortality rates decreased progressively across Europe and all but disappeared by the beginning of May.

Over a longer period, from March 2 to April 26, the Insee said more than 80 per cent of the excess mortality jointly registered in 21 European countries was from Spain, Italy, Belgium and France. 

As a whole, more men than women died, the data showed, and these were mostly people aged 70 and older. 

It noted a series of marked differences in excess mortality between countries and even between regions within countries.

These were likely due to differences in population age and density, access to healthcare, the timing and method of lifting confinement measures, and the ability to work from home, according to the Insee, though it could not say which factors played the biggest role.

Lockdown free Sweden seeing ‘very positive’ downward trend in cases

Sweden is seeing a ‘very positive’ downward trend in coronavirus cases after its much-debated decision not to go into lockdown, its top epidemiologist says.

Anders Tegnell said the number of seriously sick patients was ‘close to zero’ with the curve of new virus cases also bending downwards.

Tegnell is also continuing to play down the effectiveness of face masks – saying there is ‘no point’ wearing them on public transport. 

Sweden recorded only 1,716 new cases last week, down from 9,094 just a month earlier, and deaths have also been on the decline.    

‘The curves go down, and the curves over the seriously ill begin to be very close to zero. As a whole, it is very positive,’ Tegnell said.  

 

Measured by cases per million people, Sweden now has a similar infection rate to the UK and a much better one than the US

Measured by cases per million people, Sweden now has a similar infection rate to the UK and a much better one than the US

Sweden became a closely-watched outlier in the spring after refusing to go into lockdown, with shops and restaurants staying open throughout the crisis. 

Large gatherings were banned along with visits to nursing homes, but primary schools stayed open even in hard-hit Stockholm. 

Citizens have largely complied with social distancing recommendations and the government says that its softer measures will be easier to maintain long-term. 

On Monday, Sweden announced just 398 new cases over the weekend, down from 767 the week before and 2,530 only a month ago. 

Measured by cases per million people, Sweden now has a similar infection rate to the UK and a much better one than the US.  

Only a handful of people are now being admitted to intensive care per week, down from as many as 45 per day at the height of the crisis. 

Sweden's top epidemiologist Anders Tegnell (pictured on Tuesday) said the number of seriously sick patients was 'close to zero' with the curve of new virus cases also bending down

Sweden’s top epidemiologist Anders Tegnell (pictured on Tuesday) said the number of seriously sick patients was ‘close to zero’ with the curve of new virus cases also bending down

Deaths have also fallen, with 56 fatalities announced in the last week compared to 101 in the previous seven days.  

However, Sweden’s death toll of 5,702 is well above that in Denmark, Norway and Finland, which have each seen fewer than 1,000 deaths. 

In addition, Sweden has found itself marginalised as European countries re-open their borders for summer holidays. 

The UK Foreign Office continues to advise against non-essential travel to Sweden, but has lifted that warning for the other Scandinavian countries.   

The mixed results have prompted Swedish officials to promise an investigation into the country’s coronavirus response. 

The commission has a broad mandate to look at how the virus arrived in Sweden, how it spread, the government’s response, and the effect on equality.  

The commission will report on elderly care at the end of November, although its final conclusions are not due until 2022, ahead of a national election. 



Source link

Posted on

Turkey deploys T129 attack helicopters to Azerbaijan


The Turkish Armed Forces have deployed T129 attack helicopters to Azerbaijan, according to the Ministry Of Defence Of Azerbaijan.

According to a recent service news release, a group of servicemen and the aircraft of the Turkish Armed Forces participating in the Azerbaijani-Turkish Live-Fire Joint Large-Scale Tactical and Flight-Tactical Exercises arrived in Nakhchivan.

During the solemn welcoming ceremony for the servicemen participating in the exercises, which took place at the military airfield of the Combined Arms Army, the national anthems of the Republic of Turkey and the Republic of Azerbaijan were performed.

– ADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW –

Military, attack and combat helicopters of the Turkish Armed Forces arrived on a military transport aircraft, are brought to a state of readiness for Live-Fire Flight-Tactical Exercises at the military airfield of the Combined Arms Army.

According to Army-technology.com, the T129 multirole attack helicopter is being developed jointly by AgustaWestland and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) for the Turkish Land Forces Command (TLF) under the attack and tactical reconnaissance helicopter (ATAK) programme. The helicopter is based on the AW129 and its predecessor the A129 Mangusta.

Nevertheless, Turkey deployed troops to Azerbaijan after an Armenian attack took place on Azerbaijan’s border on July 12.

The recent rise in tensions was triggered when the Armenian army attempted to attack Azerbaijani positions with artillery fire in the direction of the northwestern Tovuz border district, withdrawing after suffering losses following retaliation from the Azerbaijani military.

Twelve Azerbaijani soldiers, including a major general and a colonel, were killed and four others were injured in the recent border clashes.

Azerbaijan has blamed Armenia for the “provocative” actions, with Turkey throwing its weight behind Baku and warning Yerevan that it would not hesitate to stand against any kind of attack on its eastern neighbor.

If you wish to report grammatical or factual errors within our news articles, you can let us know by using the online feedback form.



Source link

Posted on

Heads Of Amazon, Apple, Facebook And Google Testify On Big Tech’s Power : NPR


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (from left), Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos are scheduled to testify before a House Judiciary subcommittee.

Bertrand Guay, Tobias Schwarz, Angela Weiss, Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images


hide caption

toggle caption

Bertrand Guay, Tobias Schwarz, Angela Weiss, Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (from left), Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos are scheduled to testify before a House Judiciary subcommittee.

Bertrand Guay, Tobias Schwarz, Angela Weiss, Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images

Do Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple stifle competition? Not surprisingly, the tech giants’ chief executives will tell Congress: absolutely not. The concern that too much power is concentrated in too few companies is unfounded, they plan to testify Wednesday.

Amid a time of rising tensions with China, some of the powerful CEOs will suggest that too much regulation could provide an opportunity for Chinese tech firms to gain a global toehold, according to opening remarks from the tech leaders released by the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee.

“We believe in values — democracy, competition, inclusion and free expression — that the American economy was built on,” Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg will tell lawmakers, according to his prepared opening statement. “China is building its own version of the internet focused on very different ideas, and they are exporting their vision to other countries.”

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person who will be making his first-ever appearance in front of Congress, will bring in his personal story of being adopted by an immigrant father when he was 4 years old and spending his summers on his grandparents’ ranch in Texas, saying his upbringing instilled in him a work ethic that has helped Amazon prosper.

Amazon’s rise to becoming the largest online retailer, Bezos will say, is an achievement only made possible in America. But Walmart, he will point out, is still twice the size of Amazon.

“We did not start out as the largest marketplace — eBay was many times our size. It was only by focusing on supporting sellers and giving them the best tools we could invent that we were able to succeed and eventually surpass eBay,” Bezos says in his released testimony.

Watch the live stream here beginning at noon ET.

Google’s Sundar Pichai will steer attention to the other ways people navigate the online world, even though 90% of Internet searches happen on Google.

“People have more ways to search for information than ever before — and increasingly this is happening outside the context of only a search engine,” Pichai plans to tell the House panel. “You can ask Alexa a question from your kitchen; read your news on Twitter; ask friends for information via WhatsApp; and get recommendations on Snapchat or Pinterest.”

Apple’s Tim Cook will echo the appeals to patriotism raised among the other tech CEOs by touting how Apple’s strength, becoming the most valuable company in the world, represents success “only possible in this country.”

He will also join the other tech leaders by arguing that Apple has plenty of competition.

“The smartphone market is fiercely competitive, and companies like Samsung, LG, Huawei and Google have built very successful smartphone businesses offering different approaches,” Cook will say in his opening statement to lawmakers.

Whether members of the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee buy these arguments over the course of what is set to be an hourslong spectacle is another matter.

And it remains to be seen if the public will gain new insight into the tech companies, and whether lawmakers can pin down answers from the typically cautious technology executives.

The CEOs will be testifying via video at the same time, rather than one by one, a format seen as taking the heat off any individual executive and something the companies requested.

While the hearing centers on questions around market dominance, lawmakers are free to pepper the executives with questions about any topic.

The anything-goes format will likely divert the hearing away from antitrust and delve into issues like perceived anti-conservative bias on social media platforms, a common Republican refrain. And Democrats, often raising concern about foreign election meddling, may inquire about possible efforts to influence the vote online ahead of the November election.

More on-topic probing could involve issues like acquisitions that have grown the reach of Big Tech.

For instance, Facebook has acquired nearly 90 companies, including Instagram, WhatsApp and more recently, Giphy, a tool for creating animated images.

How ever it goes, one thing is certain: It will be a day for the history books.

The hearing is the first time all four technology leaders have testified together, as scrutiny over the companies’ nearly $5 trillion market power draws intensifying scrutiny in Washington.

The CEOs will be on the defensive as House lawmakers grill them about whether the business empire each company has created has resulted in monopoly-like dominance that distorts the marketplace in their favor.

After enjoying more than a decade virtually free of federal regulation, House lawmakers are expected to make the case that it’s time for the technology behemoths to be held to account.

The hearing caps a more than year-long House investigation into the Big Tech companies, which has probed whether the industry leaders box out competition, discourage innovation and pose larger threats to society and American democracy.

If Washington can keep the bipartisan focus on Silicon Valley, the hearing could set the stage for historic regulations, but the tech CEOs will be making the case to lawmakers that laws aimed at reining in the scale and power of each company are not necessary, contending that competition among rivals has not been squashed and that consumers have benefited from the technology sector’s success.

“You earn trust slowly, over time, by doing hard things well — delivering on time; offering everyday low prices; making promises and keeping them; making principled decisions, even when they’re unpopular,” Bezos will tell the subcommittee.

Unpopular among the four tech giants: the argument that the power each company has amassed over the years is being abused and needs to be held accountable by Washington.



Source link

Posted on

Your Wednesday Briefing – The New York Times


Newly declassified U.S. intelligence accuses Russia of spreading misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, as it tries to influence Americans with the November election approaching.

The English-language propaganda and disinformation pushed by the G.R.U., Russia’s military intelligence agency, includes the amplification of false Chinese arguments that the virus was created by the American military, as well as articles that say Russian medical assistance could bring about a new détente with Washington.

Many of the pieces were published on InfoRos, a site controlled by the Russian government, and OneWorld.Press, a nominally independent site that American officials said had ties to the G.R.U.

What this means: The campaign is a refinement of what Russia tried to do during the 2016 presidential campaign. The fake social media accounts and bots it used then are relatively easy to stamp out. It’s far harder to stop the dissemination of propaganda on websites that seem legitimate, experts say.

In any other year, Muslims undertaking the annual pilgrimage to Mecca would drink from a holy well and kiss the Kaaba’s Black Stone as they thronged the Grand Mosque. Before they left Mecca, they would collect pebbles to ritually stone the devil.

During the coronavirus edition of the hajj, which begins today, the Black Stone is off limits. The authorities in Saudi Arabia are issuing bottled water from the Zamzam well instead of letting people drink from the source. The pebbles hurled at the devil will be sterilized. And far fewer pilgrims will be there.

It’s not that this is disappointing. But there’s a certain level of déjà vu with NASA’s Perseverance mission, modeled so closely after the successful Curiosity rover in 2011. I have written a lot about the value of exploring Mars and the particularly Earthlike qualities that endear it to us. But even I can’t help but wonder what’s next in our quest to explore the solar system, and whether so many journeys to Mars are blocking other important science.

David W. Brown: There’s an entire solar system waiting to be explored. Since 2001, NASA has flown eight consecutive successful missions to Mars, including five landers. Humanity now has a library of Mars data sitting on servers that no one has had a chance to study. Data collected from brief encounters by spacecraft with the moons of Jupiter, on the other hand, or the ice giants, Uranus and Neptune, have been squeezed dry.

Rebecca: Meanwhile, as planetary scientists debated how to pay for their missions, some geologists salivate for a second look at Venus, the second planet from the sun. Venus is about the same size as Earth, it’s rocky, it has an atmosphere. And it orbits the sun in a zone where temperatures are just right for liquid water — and maybe life.

We know Mars had water at some point in its past, but it’s long gone. By contrast, Venus might have had oceans more recently and for longer periods, and may have been comfortably livable for billions of years.


That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Isabella


Thank you
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at
[email protected]

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about the battle over unemployment benefits in the U.S. Congress.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword puzzle, and a clue: Trail behind a boat (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Abrahm Lustgarten recently spoke with KGO about his Times Magazine article on climate migration.



Source link

Posted on

Myanmar’s Protection Bill falls Short of Addressing Violence against Women — Global Issues


Rights experts say that the Myanmar government “has long shown a lack of commitment to breaking the cycle of impunity for widespread sexual and gender-based violence”. This is a dated photo of women travelling on a crowded train in Myanmar. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS
  • by Samira Sadeque (united nations)
  • Inter Press Service

Myanmar is soon to see the latest version of its Prevention of and Protection from Violence Against Women (PoVAW) introduced in parliament. But the Global Justice Centre (GJC), an international human rights and humanitarian law organisation focusing on advancing gender equality, has pointed out that the legislation falls short of addressing violence against women.

According to GJC, the language used in the law borrows from Myanmar’s 1861 Penal Code and thus perpetuates antiquated understandings of rape, such as; considering rape as violence committed only by men, the definition of “rape” constituting only of vaginal penetration, and no acknowledgement of marital rape.

“The Myanmar government has long shown a lack of commitment to breaking the cycle of impunity for widespread sexual and gender-based violence, a problem that is exacerbated by broader structural barriers with respect to Myanmar’s military justice system, and a lack of robust domestic options for accountability,” the GJC analysis has claimed.

Last week, Khin Ohmar, an exiled human rights advocate from Myanmar and founder and chairperson of the advisory board of Progressive Voice — a participatory rights-based policy research and advocacy organisation rooted in civil society, with strong links to grassroots and community-based organisations throughout Myanmar — shared how sexual violence in the country is used in a “systematic pattern to target ethnic women and girls”.

Ohmar was speaking at the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on Sexual Violence in Conflict, where she further reiterated how the military in Myanmar has carried out “unspeakable crimes” against ethnic minorities in the country.

Meanwhile, GJC has also published a list of recommendations that leaders can follow to ensure the law is comprehensive as well as applicable in today’s time.

IPS had a conversation with Akila Radhakrishnan, president of GJC, on the issue. Some parts have been edited for clarity purposes.

Inter Press Service (IPS): The year is 2020. How is Myanmar only now introducing the Prevention of Violence against Women Law (PoVAW)?

Akila Radhakrishnan (AK): There’s been a couple of things – I think the lack of will is a starting point. This is something consistently being pushed for by women in civil society since about 2013.

It has been raised as an issue and a part of the reason it’s such a priority is because the original laws we’re talking about date back to 1861.

We’re really talking about laws that haven’t been updated so with the political transition there was a moment when women in civil society saw the opportunity to think it’s time we had a comprehensive law on violence against women, updating progressive positions in the penal code and bring in things like protective orders or a more robust categorisations of kinds of sexual and other types of violence.

And in some ways, the military continues to perpetrate mass sexual violence. Some of the key things that civil society has been pushing for is bringing the military under a mandate of the law, which is antithetical to the military’s interest as well.

IPS: Despite Aung San Suu Kyi being the leader of the country, why are there still discrepancies in the legislation?

AK: Aung San Suu Kyi is no feminist. She has certainly in the past made stronger statements on sexual violence than she currently takes on but she’s very much seen certain types of political reform as her priority. If you look at the trajectory of the laws that were initially passed through the transition, most of the laws were really wound around issues that enabled foreign investment, for example.

There were certain laws that were due to be changed around issues such as certain types of press freedoms, many of which have been regressing in recent times in any case. There was never kind of a feminist priority set from the leadership.

There were certainly some amazing feminists who got elected, including from local women’s civil society who were elected to parliament. They even felt they’ll have the power to set what are the priorities to be passed, to be considered to be looked at in the context of a country that has a range of reforms that need to be undertaken.

Another issue is that it’s been really slow going in the part of some of the agencies that are involved in this as well such as others, such as the attorney general’s office, department of social welfare. There’s a complicated range of actors involved in the development of the law and in the pushback against the law as well

IPS: Where would you say the PoVAW law lacks most glaringly and needs to be most urgently addressed?

AK: Probably the most urgent one is the places where they continue to cling to the penal code and not really think through how to amend it. They kind of cling to the penal code definition of rape itself – it refuses to let go of rape as it was defined in the 1861 penal code.

We detail a range of issues with that specific definition. And a major part of the impetus was to say our more modern definitions of rape, that are more inclusive, that are gender neutral and have better definitions of consent and at the end of the day you’re creating this whole process and you’re clinging to something that’s there.

And related to that is issues such as marital rape as a crime that is somewhat separate from rape, it’s a lesser crime, a lesser penalty and you know that also stems out of an antiquated mindset.

IPS: Is this legislation only for cisgendered women?

AK: There’s a little bit of a tension there. The law itself is a violence against women law and that’s in the framework it’s been developed over quite a bit of time, so there’s been tension wanting to certainly to try to make the law as inclusive as possible really thinking through how difficult it is to even bring this to fruition.

In this moment, it’s important to try to think of how you take an intersectional inclusive approach to this. But unfortunately we’re going to end up only with a VAW framework so we want to at least within that context — and this is really belying on the expertise of groups that do this work better than we do — to really think through how to make something like this as inclusive as possible.

IPS: There are many ethnic minorities in Myanmar, many who often flee the country. How are ethnic minorities targeted for violence and sexual violence?

AK: The military uses sexual violence as a tactic weapon in its conflict, as its violent actions against all ethnic minorities. It is a systematic pattern — one that is met with impunity which is why legal reforms and accountability are so important. 

IPS: What are your hopes for the steps ahead for the PoVAW law?

AK: The law is an important step forward but in order for it to be a meaningful step forward it actually needs to take into account — and through the process be amended — so it meets international standards, and addresses some of the key issues with the law itself. Otherwise you get kind of a patchwork law where a lot of time and energy has been put into it, but it’s not going to achieve what it could’ve achieved to actually come in line with international standards.

© Inter Press Service (2020) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

Where next?



Source link