Londoners outraged as Underground trains packed despite coronavirus outbreak

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London’s transport authorities have been criticized after Underground trains were packed with people on Monday morning, despite government calls for people to stay at home, social distance and avoid using public transport. (Reuters)
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London’s transport authorities have been criticized after Underground trains were packed with people on Monday morning, despite government calls for people to stay at home, social distance and avoid using public transport. (Reuters)
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London’s transport authorities have been criticized after Underground trains were packed with people on Monday morning, despite government calls for people to stay at home, social distance and avoid using public transport. (Reuters)
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London’s transport authorities have been criticized after Underground trains were packed with people on Monday morning, despite government calls for people to stay at home, social distance and avoid using public transport. (Reuters)
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Updated 23 March 2020

Londoners outraged as Underground trains packed despite coronavirus outbreak

  • TfL urged Londoners not to travel unless their journey was “absolutely essential.”

LONDON: London’s transport authorities have been criticized after Underground trains were packed with people on Monday morning, despite government calls for people to stay at home, social distance and avoid using public transport during the coronavirus outbreak.

People took to social media to call the current transport situation in the UK capital “dangerous” and “unacceptable,” highlighting the increased exposure risk for the nation’s key workers.

Images and videos of the chaos led social media users to speculate that Londoners were not following government instructions issued in prime minister Boris Johnson’s daily briefings.

Transport for London (TfL) announced last week that 40 of its rail stations would close and a reduced service would be running with 15 trains per hour on its rail networks through central London.

It also urged Londoners not to travel unless their journey was “absolutely essential.”

There were also reduced services on national rail services coming into London for commuters who live outside the capital. 

But with many businesses remaining open for their staff and key healthcare workers in the UK capital needing to use the TfL network to travel to work, commuters have been forced to stand close to each other on packed trains exposing themselves to greater risk of contracting the virus.

Underground drivers also expressed anger at the amount of people still using the Underground during rush hour, according to Underground union bosses.

TfL said it had reduced its services in a hope of deterring people from using its services and wanted to limit the risk for their staff and drivers.

Despite the dire situation depicted in the images, TfL said on Friday there had been a 70 percent fall in the number of passengers on the Underground and a 40 percent reduction in passengers on its bus network.

A spokesperson from the Mayor of London’s office said: “Londoners should not be travelling by any mode of transport unless it is absolutely necessary, and only critical workers should be using public transport. The number of journeys on the Tube is down significantly compared to the same time last year, with an 87 percent reduction this weekend. 

“But we need Londoners to stop travelling. TfL will continue to do everything it can to provide a safe service but like many organisations it is dealing with rising absence levels and needs Londoners’ cooperation in these challenging times.”


India says it will ‘peacefully resolve’ border stand-off with China

Updated 38 min 32 sec ago

India says it will ‘peacefully resolve’ border stand-off with China

  • Development follows US President’s mediation in the dispute
  • Stand-off began in the first week of May when a scuffle broke out near Pangong Tso Lake

NEW DELHI: After weeks of a border stand-off between Indian and Chinese soldiers in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, New Delhi on Thursday announced it would resolve the matter diplomatically.

“India is engaged with China to peacefully resolve the matter. At the same time we remain firm in our resolve to ensuring India’s sovereignty and national security,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The development follows US President Donald Trump’s mediation in the dispute. In a Twitter post on Wednesday, Trump said, “We have informed both India and China that the United States is ready, willing and able to mediate or arbitrate their now raging border dispute.”

The stand-off began when a scuffle broke out near Pangong Tso Lake in the first week of May. According to Indian reports, Chinese troops set up dozens of tents on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

A few days later, a Chinese patrol was stopped by Indian guards near the Nathula Pass in the Indian state of Sikkim. A troop build-up in the Ladakh and Sikkim areas followed the incidents. Reports suggested that 10,000 Chinese soldiers were sent to the border.

While New Delhi was still blaming China last week for “hindering” Indian patrols at the border, its Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday that “the two sides have established mechanisms both at military and diplomatic levels to resolve situations which may arise in border areas peacefully through dialogue and continue to remain engaged through these channels.”

Foreign policy experts say that in the absence of any concrete information it is difficult to comment on whether any resolution is actually taking place.

“The whole region of Ladakh is undefined, there is no agreed LAC, in some areas they respect each other’s position, and in some areas they don’t, which is the crux of the problem,” Prof. Srikanth Kondapalli, of Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, told Arab News.

“Geopolitical interests of both countries are at the center of the conflict,” Kondapalli said, “For India Ladakh is linked to its sovereignty. India has so many ongoing projects in that area. For China its ambitious China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes not far away from the region and connect to the Gwadar port in Pakistan. Besides, once American troops leave Afghanistan and a new regime takes over Kabul this might have its implications in the region.”

Manoj Kewalramani, of the Bangalore-based think tank The Takshashila Institution, said that from a geopolitical perspective both sides need stability at this time and the current situation on the border is not helping either of them.

“Beijing is facing challenges on many fronts, an economic slowdown, tensions with the US, international anger amid the pandemic, protests in Hong Kong, etc.,” he said. “Likewise, New Delhi’s interests lie in managing the COVID-19 outbreak at home and focusing on reviving the economy.”