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Quebec puts four more regions under alert as Legault warns of lockdowns


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QUEBEC — Premier François Legault hardened the tone Tuesday, slapping a COVID-19 pre-alert status on four more regions and warning parts of Quebec are close to the next more critical level, which will mean closing bars and restaurants.

Warning there is a now “a real risk” of a second wave that would mean the return of various levels of lockdowns, Legault said he does not understand why some people are still ignoring warnings — even holding fall barbecues and corn boils with large groups or gathering in restaurants.

In the long run, the community virus spread that ensues will mean more hospitalizations, more overcrowding, more disruptions in people’s lives and ultimately more deaths.

“The situation is critical, it is worrisome,” Legault said at a pandemic news conference as the National Assembly resumed sitting.

“Today I am making an appeal for the solidarity. Please think of vulnerable people, think of those waiting for surgery, think of those working in the health system, think of our children.



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Alberta justice minister warns Edmonton and Calgary not to comply with calls to ‘defund the police’


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“As minister of municipal affairs, (Madu) was very keen on scrubbing down our budgets,” Iveson said. “Now, as minister of justice, to suggest that we should not be looking at our largest cost centre — which is policing — seems a bit ironic to me.”

Iveson’s office did not respond to emailed follow-up questions about Madu’s specific comments by press time.

Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee-Madu: “An adequately funded police service is essential to ensure that all citizens are able to live safe and secure lives in our communities.” Photo by David Bloom/Postmedia/File

On Thursday, Calgary city council met with the police commission and Calgary police management about the state of policing in the city; the day before, the Calgary Police Service released a document detailing its commitment to anti-racism and equality.

The force argued there needed to be new policing models and would favour reallocating some funding — amounts are not specified — to other community agencies.

“We are in agreement with the community that better models of systems integration involving health, social services, justice, and policing could produce better outcomes and reduce demand on police,” the report reads.

In Edmonton, council voted in June to remove $11 million from the 2021 police budget of around $389 million and approved 20 proposals to reform policing in the city.

In his letter, Madu argues “an adequately funded police service is essential to ensure that all citizens are able to live safe and secure lives in our communities.”

“This is particularly true of racialized members of our communities, including Indigenous Albertans, who are often overrepresented as victims of crime,” he writes.



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Staying off school would cause more damage to children than Covid-19 itself, English Chief Medical Officer warns – Channel 4 News


It’s all a balance of risks.

The long term risks to children if they miss even more time at school – versus the risks of re-opening classrooms again – and the huge challenge faced by teachers and parents in trying to keep them safe.

A new study by Public Health England has suggested the chances of transmission within schools is low – but teaching unions want the Government to come up with a Plan B if there’s another wave of infections.

 



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Deborah Birx warns Covid-19 now ‘extraordinarily widespread’ in US – live | US news










Trump campaign adviser says election will not be delayed

















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‘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. 



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U.N. Warns Cybercrime Up 600% During COVID-19 Pandemic (VIDEO)


As the world relies more and more on the internet during the pandemic, crime is increasing online.

The United Nations warned on Friday that cybercrime is up 600% during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

U.N. disarmament chief Izumi Nakamitsu says the pandemic has caused an increase of technological innovation. And as the world relies more on the internet, online crime is also rising.

It’s estimated there’s an attack every 39 seconds. Many have been against health care and medical research facilities. 

Earlier this month, an announcement from U.S. and U.K. officials warned that hackers are targeting organizations with phishing scams to steal usernames and passwords.

Some attacks have been blamed on military intelligence. In March, the U.S. and others blamed Russian agents for cyberattacks against sites in the nation of Georgia. 

In April, the U.N. released data showing that one-third of nations lack laws to protect citizens’ online privacy. Nakamitzu said the U.N. is working to combat cybercrime by developing 11 voluntary norms for responsible state behavior related to technology.

Additional reporting by Edith M. Lederer of The Associated Press.





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First nurse in Ontario dies of COVID-19, province warns of new symptoms in kids


Ontario has lost its first nurse to COVID-19 and is amending the definition of the disease to include symptoms of a serious inflammatory syndrome that causes persistent fever and abdominal pain in children.

The registered nurse, Brian Beattie, worked at the Kensington Village long-term-care home in London, Ont. which declared an outbreak in early April and has lost five of its 78 residents to the highly contagious virus.

It’s not known how Beattie contracted the illness, which has also infected a handful of other staff at the home.

“He was the definition of dedication, and he considered his colleagues and residents to be his ‘other family,’” Ontario Nurses’ Association Vicki McKenna said Wednesday.

“While there will be much discussion about Ontario’s pandemic preparedness and protection of nurses and other health-care workers, this is not the time for speculation,” she added, noting the Ministry of Labour has been contacted to investigate the death.

More than 3,000 health-care workers, the majority of them in nursing homes, have contracted COVID-19, and several personal support workers have died from the illness. As of Tuesday, 180 nursing homes across the province were dealing with outbreaks.

Overall, the novel coronavirus has sickened more than 22,000 in Ontario since it first emerged here in late January and killed just over 1,800, including at least 1,239 long-term care residents.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said doctors are being advised to watch for a condition that is similar to Kawasaki Syndrome in children.

“Recent reports in Canada and internationally indicate that there may be an increase in multisystem inflammatory vasculitis, a rare but serious …illness that impacts children who have been diagnosed with COVID-19,” she said in a statement.

U.S. media have been reporting on this as an atypical presentation of the illness in children, which has appeared in a number of states.

Aside from the persistent fever and abdominal pain, symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and a rash.

“Parents should contact their health care providers immediately if their children are having these symptoms,” Elliott said, acting on the advice of chief medical officer Dr. David Williams.

While recent data suggests the majority of COVID-19 infections in children are mild, the province will begin tracking this new condition. The Ministry of Health said people under 19 account for five per cent of coronavirus cases and none are known to have died.

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Labour leadership: Clive Lewis warns party only has ‘very slim’ chance of winning next general election without alliances



Labour leadership hopeful Clive Lewis has warned his party only has a “very slim” chance of winning the next general election unless it embraces alliances with other parties at Westminster.

As he battles to secure the required number of nominations from colleagues in the parliamentary party to remain in the contest, the left-wing candidate will today also launch his “transform to win” manifesto. 

The document focuses on radical democratic reform, including proposals for abolishing the House of Lords and replacing it with an elected chamber, introducing proportional representation at national elections, and a vow not to block a second Scottish independence referendum. 


It includes a number of measures aimed at tackling the climate crisis, with a net-zero emissions by 2030 target, the opposition of any future airport expansions, and introducing duties for individuals taking multiple flights per year.

In an interview with The Independent, Mr Lewis warned, however, that Labour must put aside tribal differences and be open to forming pacts with progressive parties, or risk a fifth defeat in a row at the ballot box. 

Asked about the probability of Labour securing victory at the next general election, he replied: “On the current trajectory that we’re on with the current policies, the current strategy we’re using of not collaborating with other political parties – not embracing progressive alliance, not embracing working with others, I think it is very slim.

“And I don’t think it’s necessarily that just my opinion – I think the historical context shows that for Labour in the post-1945 period. The only time that Labour has convincingly come from opposition to win has been in 1997 in the post-war period. And to do that we had to tack quite substantially to the right.” 

Mr Lewis’s manifesto – to be released on Sunday – states that Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) should be given the option to decide if “they will stand down in favour of a better-placed candidates with the same values”. 

It adds: “We must be open to creating alliances of progressive and socialist organisations on a local level, particularly given the undemocratic electoral system face”. 

It is a significant break with Jeremy Corbyn, who repeatedly dismissed attempts throughout his leadership to form so-called “progressive alliances” with Liberal Democrat and Green candidates in order to thwart Conservative candidates’ chances of success at the ballot box. 

Pressed on what his leadership manifesto would concentrate on, Mr Lewis added: “Democracy. Democracy within the party, democracy in the country. The fact that we have a crisis of democracy, a crisis of social democracy that unless we accept this a longer term malaise, unless we understand that people need to have a sense of power, and agency in their lives.

“That this is in part what has seen the collapse… or a big part of the problem for Labour Party over the last century and in particular the last 40 years, then that is going to have be at the heart of what we do.” 

“From that you begin to see the possibilities – the whole thing about the climate crisis or about any policy we implement is making sure it’s not from the top down, what I’m saying is the reason that democracy runs through everything I’m doing is because I actually want to give people a say to feel empowered and I actually think we’ll get better policies coming from that.” ​

The left-winger urged the party to put aside ‘tribal differences’

As it stands, however, Mr Lewis, a former BBC journalist and army reservist, is struggling to convince his colleagues he has what it takes to be Labour’s next leader, with nominations so far from just three MPs. In order to reach the second stage of the contest, leadership hopefuls must secure the backing of at least 22 MPs or MEPs. 

Asked who he would back if didn’t make the second round of the contest to succeed Mr Corbyn, he said:  “What I would do is I will have to look and see who says what. I have heard so little from the other candidates. 

“I haven’t heard anything of significance yet. From my mind I want to hear who is going to have a radical programme of democratising not just our party – so we can transform to win – but also who is going to deal with the climate issue, who is going to deal with democracy crisis.” 

But while he said he would want to “hear what Jess Phillips is saying” in the contest, he added it was “highly unlikely” he would back her leadership “and the wing of the party that she comes from”.

For the deputy leadership position, Mr Lewis said he would nominate Dawn Butler, the shadow women and equalities minister, if she has not managed to secure sufficient support before the first round of the contest ends on Monday. “I want to see,” he added. “If she gets over the line then I can look around because there are other Bame candidates. There’s Rosena Allin-Khan.” 



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General election 2019: Labour facing long haul, warns McDonnell


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Media captionJohn McDonnell says it’s time for him to step aside as shadow chancellor

Labour faces a “long haul” as it attempts to gain power following its fourth election defeat in a row, shadow chancellor John McDonnell has warned.

He rejected claims that leader Jeremy Corbyn had been responsible for the result, instead blaming “the overwhelming issue” of Brexit.

But some current and ex-MPs have said Mr Corbyn’s unpopularity contributed to Labour losing dozens of seats.

Boris Johnson’s Conservatives won on Thursday with a Commons majority of 80.

The outcome, far more positive for the Tories than most opinion polls had predicted, has prompted much soul-searching within Labour, which last won a general election under Tony Blair in 2005.

Mr Corbyn has announced he will stand down in the near future and Mr McDonnell, one of his closest allies, said he had been “the right leader” for the party.

But Labour MP Phil Wilson, who lost the seat of Sedgefield which he had held for 12 years, said “so many people said to me on the doorstep, Phil, if you had a different leader, I’d vote for you, there wouldn’t be a problem”.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionFormer Labour MP: Corbyn lost me my seat

Asked whether Mr Corbyn lost him his seat, Mr Wilson replied: “Yes.”

For many of his constituents, he said: “The one thing that was holding them back from voting Labour was the current leadership of the Labour Party.”

He added: “For every one person who raised Brexit with me on the doorstep, there would be five people who raised Jeremy Corbyn.”

Image caption

Phil Wilson had been the MP for Sedgefield since 2007

Meanwhile, Labour’s Helen Goodman, who lost her Bishop Auckland seat to the Conservatives on Thursday, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “the biggest factor was obviously the unpopularity of Jeremy Corbyn as the leader”.

And Dame Margaret Hodge, Labour MP for Barking, east London, said she felt “anger because this is an election we should have won”.

She added that, under Mr Corbyn’s leadership – during which Labour has faced criticism for its handling of anti-Semitism allegations among its membership – voters had come to see it “as a nasty party”.

Asked whether M Former Labour MP Phil Wilson, who lost the seat of Sedgefield which he had held for 12 years, said “so many people said to me on the doorstep, Phil, if you had a different leader, I’d vote for you, there wouldn’t be a problem”.

Wes Streeting, Labour MP for Ilford North, said the party’s “far-left” manifesto had alienated much of the electorate.

However, Labour’s ex-Welsh secretary, Lord Hain, insisted the party must not embrace a “wishy-washy centrism” in the wake of its defeat.

Lord Hain, a cabinet minister under both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, said the “Corbyn project” had some “very searching self-examination” to do, but it was important to offer “a clear alternative to the Tory project”.

Mr McDonnell disagreed with personal criticism of his leader, saying: “The overwhelming issue was Brexit and the Labour Party was caught on the horns of a dilemma.

“We had a party which was largely supportive of Remain, but many of us represented Leave constituencies.”

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Image caption

Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are longstanding allies

In the election, Labour’s number of Commons seats fell to 203, its lowest since 1935.

Mr Corbyn, leader since 2015, ran for prime minister on a promise to hold a second referendum on Brexit, saying that during any campaign he would remain neutral – in contrast to Mr Johnson’s promise to take the UK out of the EU by 31 January.

Mr McDonnell said: “If we went one way, to Leave, we would have alienated a lot of our Remain support. If we went for Remain, we’d alienate a lot of our Leave support.

“We tried to bring the country together. It failed. We have to accept that, take it on the chin. We have to own that and then move on.”

Mr McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington in west London, said Labour now needed to have “a constructive debate” about its future, discussing “what went right and what went wrong” during the election campaign.

He argued that Mr Corbyn, who has received criticism from some Labour figures for not standing down immediately, was right to stay on “for a couple of months”.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionJeremy Corbyn: “There is no such thing as Corbynism”

It was necessary because of the “expertise” required to deal with issues such as Brexit and the forthcoming Budget, he said.

Discussing Mr Johnson’s government, Mr McDonnell said: “My fear is that we’re in for a long haul now, possibly five years.

“The two issues that we face are still there – huge, grotesque levels of inequality and, the issue that never really emerged in the campaign, which was climate change, this existential threat that must be our priority.

“Brexit, well, we’ll see what the government brings back in terms of its negotiations. The people have decided we need to implement that, but we’ve got to get the best deal to protect jobs and the economy.”

He added: “My fear is five years of a fossil fuel-backed government under Boris Johnson means we’ll miss this five-years opportunity of saving our planet.”

At the 2017 general election, Mr Corbyn’s first as Labour leader, the party won 40% of votes and gained 30 MPs, denying Theresa May’s Conservatives a majority.

But on Thursday it received 32% of the vote and lost 59 seats, including several of its traditional strongholds in the north of England.

Mr Corbyn said that, during the election campaign, he had done “everything I could” and that he had “pride” in the party’s manifesto.

The Labour leader’s sons, Tommy, Seb and Benjamin, tweeted a tribute to their father, calling him an “honest, humble and good-natured” figure in the “poisonous world” of politics.



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China can shut off the Philippines’ power grid at any time, leaked report warns


Lawmakers called for an urgent review of the arrangement this month after the report claimed that only Chinese engineers had access to key elements of the system, and that power could in theory be deactivated remotely on Beijing’s orders.

There is no history of such an attack on a power grid by China, nor has any evidence been presented to suggest that any was imminent, only that it was theoretically possible in future.

The report, prepared by a government body and provided to CNN by a source who requested confidentiality, warned that the system was currently “under the full control” of the Chinese government, which has the “full capability to disrupt national power systems.”

“Our national security is completely compromised due to the control and proprietary access given by the local consortium partner to the Chinese government,” the report warned.

In a statement, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said “China’s State Grid Corporation participates in projects run by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines as a partner of local companies.”

“The Philippines is a neighbor and important partner of China’s. We support Chinese companies conducting business in the Philippines in accordance with laws and regulations to expand mutual benefits and win-win cooperation,” the statement added. “We hope certain individuals in the Philippines view such bilateral cooperation with an open mind as well as an objective and fair attitude. They shouldn’t over-worry or even fabricate things out of thin air.”

CNN has reached out to NGCP and TransCo — which owns but does not operate the power grid — for comment on this story.

‘With a single switch’

Concerns over the power grid arrangement were raised by senators during a debate over the 2020 energy budget this month. Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, representing the government, said that electricity could potentially be shut off remotely, or by foreign actors.

“I was advised by the president of TransCo that they have studied this type of possibility. I was advised that manual operation of transmission lines is possible. A takeover can happen, but TransCo, with their technical capability, can then manually take over,” Gatchalian said Tuesday, without referencing China explicitly.

“With a single switch, no electricity would be transmitted to any of our homes, our businesses, (or) any of our military facilities,” said Gatchalian, who is chair of the Senate Energy Committee. In such an instance, it would take between 24 and 48 hours to get the grid back up and running, he added.

As US and China spar, the rest of Asia risks being stuck in the middle

Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros said China’s co-ownership of the NGCP brought with it “serious national security concern given China’s recent behavior and hegemonic aspirations.”

“As long as the system operations are controlled and managed by Chinese engineers (they have) an enormous power” over the country’s energy supply, said Hontiveros. “This would pose a great risk to public infrastructure and national security.”

Gatchalian said he shared Hontiveros’ concerns and promised the government would improve supervision and monitoring of the power grid to ensure control “remains in the hands of Filipinos.”

“The (grid) is probably one of the most vital facilities in our country,” said Gatchalian.

Electric transformers seen at a power station in Cebu City, central Philippines on March 1, 2010.

Chinese controlled

The NGCP handles the distribution of electricity across the Philippines, linking power plants and consumers throughout the country, supplying almost 78% of households in the country of over 105 million, according to the internal report.

It was privatized in 2009, with China’s state Grid Corporation taking a major stake, as well as providing staff to help run the systems in the Philippines.

According to the report provided to CNN, the technology upon which the grid is based has increasingly been switched over to Huawei products, which the report claims are “completely proprietary” and can only be operated by Chinese engineers. During the Senate debate, Gatchalian acknowledged that Chinese engineers had control over certain systems and that some manuals were only provided in Chinese, against regulations.

In particular, the report warns the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system used to monitor substations, transformers and other electrical assets is completely dependent on Huawei technology. “None of the local engineers are train(ed) nor certified to operate the system,” the report said.

In a statement to CNN, Huawei said the claims in the report do “not reflect the facts.”

“Huawei has never provided any equipment for NGCP’s control systems,” a spokeswoman said. “As a leading global ICT solutions provider, Huawei has always strictly complied with all applicable laws and regulations of the countries where it operates. Huawei is committed to providing secure and reliable products and services to each of its customers.”

The company has been dogged this year by accusations that it poses a national security risk, with Washington largely blocking it from expanding 5G offerings in the US and pushing allies to do the same. Huawei has consistently said that it is a private company and does not give the Chinese government any access to or control over its technology.

Other systems within the Philippine national grid were also provided and largely operated by Chinese companies, the internal report said, including submarine cables linking power stations across islands, and key control apparatus, some of which are operated by engineers in China over the internet.

It described the system as “operated by foreign nationals (Chinese) at critical access levels,” adding that “critical system operations are all under the control of foreign nationals — locally and offshore.”

The report urged lawmakers to return control and oversight of the key power systems to the Philippine government.

Territorial dispute

While some senators downplayed the threat, with majority leader Juan Miguel Zubiri saying “as long as we’re not being invaded,” then potential Chinese control over the grid was not a problem, others remained concerned and urged the government to take action.

“There is obviously a national security concern here,” said Senator Richard Gordon. “We have given (partial) control of our grid to a foreign corporation that has interests that collide with our country in the West Philippines Sea.”

The West Philippines Sea is what Manila calls much of the South China Sea, where it is engaged in a long-running territorial dispute with Beijing. China claims almost the entire sea as its sovereign territory, and has spent recent years militarizing and building up sandbars and islets across the region.

In 2016, a tribunal in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines in a maritime dispute, concluding China has no legal basis to claim historic rights to the bulk of the South China Sea.

Chinese President Xi Jinping rejected the decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which is likely to have lasting implications for the resource-rich hot spot, which sees $5 trillion worth of shipborne trade pass through each year.

“China will never accept any claim or action based on those awards,” Xi said. China had boycotted the proceedings.

Under current President Rodrigo Duterte, however, Manila has pulled back on the issue and sought to cultivate closer ties with Beijing. In 2018, the two countries preliminarily agreed to cooperate on oil and gas exploration in the region.

Following a visit by Duterte to Beijing in September, Chinese state media quoted Chinese President Xi Jinping as saying the two nations could take a “bigger step” in joint offshore oil and gas exploration.

“As long as the two sides handle the South China Sea issue properly, the atmosphere of bilateral ties will be sound, the foundation of the relationship will be stable, and regional peace and stability will have an important guarantee,” Xi said.

Duterte said Xi had offered the Philippines a majority stake in the venture if Manila agreed to ignore the 2016 ruling, according to CNN Philippines.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying didn’t comment directly on the reported offer, but said the Philippines was “ready to expedite cooperation with China in the joint exploitation of oil and gas.”

“The two sides announced the establishment of an intergovernmental joint steering committee and a working group between relevant enterprises from the two countries on oil and gas cooperation,” she said.

Tensions remain, however, and some in the Philippines have been frustrated by Duterte’s apparent willingness to cozy up to Beijing at the cost of historical territorial claims.

In April this year, Manila filed a diplomatic protest with China over the presence of hundreds of Chinese vessels near a Philippine-administered island in the South China Sea. Duterte then threatened to send his troops on a “suicide mission” if Beijing didn’t “lay off” the island.



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