Don’t cut foreign aid, Malala Yousafzai urges UK

Don’t cut foreign aid, Malala Yousafzai urges UK
Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai has urged Britain not to cut overseas aid, ahead of a major announcement by the country’s finance minister on Nov. 25, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 25 November 2020

Don’t cut foreign aid, Malala Yousafzai urges UK

Don’t cut foreign aid, Malala Yousafzai urges UK
  • The British finance minister is expected to suspend a legal commitment to spend 0.7 percent of gross national income on international development

LONDON: Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai has urged Britain not to cut overseas aid, ahead of a major announcement by the country’s finance minister on Wednesday.
Rishi Sunak is expected to suspend a legal commitment to spend 0.7 percent of gross national income on international development.
Reports suggest he will cut the level of aid to 0.5 percent in his Spending Review, as the government seeks to support the coronavirus-ravaged economy and looks for savings from an aid budget worth £15 billion ($20 billion, EUR17 billion).
In a tweet late on Tuesday, Yousafzai reminded Sunak and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the 0.7 percent pledge, renewed in last year’s Conservative election manifesto.
“When you announce spending priorities... I hope you’ll deliver on that promise,” she wrote.
The Pakistani education campaigner wrote that leaders must “prioritize education” as “Covid-19 could force 20 million more girls out of school.”
Her plea came as five former prime ministers also opposed the planned cut.
Among them was former Conservative leader John Major, quoted by The Times newspaper on Wednesday as saying the spending cut was “morally wrong and politically unwise.”
Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair said on Saturday that Britain’s overseas aid budget had an impact “measured literally in millions of lives.”
David Cameron, whose coalition government enshrined the 0.7 percent in law, has said abandoning it would be a “moral, strategic and political mistake.”
Johnson’s government has repeatedly committed to maintaining the spending and his Conservatives made it a key plank of the election manifesto last year.
The government also promised not to grab ring-fenced aid money when it merged the foreign and development ministries earlier this year.
But Sunak on Sunday told Sky News the UK was under “enormous pressure and stress” and faced an “economic shock.”
Any cut — even a temporary one — is likely to trigger a battle with Conservative MPs.
Tom Tugendhat, who chairs parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote in The Times: “If we cut aid we’ll fall behind.”
He retweeted Yousafzai’s message, saying the UK needs “others to join us” as other G7 nations spend less on foreign aid.
The leaders of 187 charities including Save the Children, Greenpeace UK and Christian Aid on Friday urged Johnson not to cut the aid budget.


UK scientists warn too early to tell if new COVID-19 variant more deadly

UK scientists warn too early to tell if new COVID-19 variant more deadly
Updated 52 min 50 sec ago

UK scientists warn too early to tell if new COVID-19 variant more deadly

UK scientists warn too early to tell if new COVID-19 variant more deadly
  • PM Boris Johnson had previously said evidence showed higher mortality rate 
  • Top medics have said it is “too early” to say whether the variant carries with it a higher mortality rate

LONDON: The discovery of a new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) variant in the UK should not alter the response to the pandemic, scientists say, despite fears that it could prove more deadly.
Top medics have said it is “too early” to say whether the variant, thought to be up to 70 percent more transmissible, carries with it a higher mortality rate.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed there was “some evidence” the variant had “a higher degree of mortality” at a press conference on Friday, Jan. 22, with the UK’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, adding it could be up to 30 percent more deadly. 
That came after a briefing by the UK government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) said there was a “realistic possibility” of an increased risk of death.
Prof. Peter Horby, Nervtag’s chairman, said: “Scientists are looking at the possibility that there is increased severity ... and after a week of looking at the data we came to the conclusion that it was a realistic possibility.
“We need to be transparent about that. If we were not telling people about this we would be accused of covering it up.”
But infectious disease modeller Prof. Graham Medley, one of the authors of the Nervtag briefing, told the BBC: “The question about whether it is more dangerous in terms of mortality I think is still open.
He added: “In terms of making the situation worse it is not a game changer. It is a very bad thing that is slightly worse.”
Dr. Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling for the UK government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said he was “quite surprised” Johnson had made the claim.
“I just worry that where we report things pre-emptively where the data are not really particularly strong,” he added.