London declares emergency over ‘out of control’ coronavirus

London declares emergency over ‘out of control’ coronavirus
Pedestrians walk along the embankment, near Tower Bridge, as Britain enters a national lockdown in London on January 5, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 08 January 2021

London declares emergency over ‘out of control’ coronavirus

London declares emergency over ‘out of control’ coronavirus
  • Khan said there were parts of London where 1 in 20 people had the virus
  • The pressure on the ambulance service, which was now dealing with up to 9,000 emergency calls a day, meant firefighters were being drafted in to drive vehicles

LONDON: London declared a major incident on Friday because its hospitals were at risk of being overwhelmed by a highly transmissible variant of the coronavirus racing "out of control" across the United Kingdom.
Britain has the world's fifth worst official death toll from COVID-19 at over 78,000, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has shuttered the economy and rushed out vaccines faster than its neighbours in a bid to stem the pandemic.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, from the opposition Labour Party, said hospital beds in the capital would run out within the next few weeks because the spread of the virus was "out of control":
"We are declaring a major incident because the threat this virus poses to our city is at crisis point."
London, which vies with Paris for the status of Europe's richest city, has a population of over 9 million.
The designation of "major incident" is usually reserved for attacks or grave accidents, notably those likely to involve "serious harm, damage, disruption or risk to human life or welfare, essential services, the environment or national security".
London's last "major incident" was the Grenfell Tower fire in a high-rise residential block in 2017, when 72 people died.
Khan said there were parts of London where 1 in 20 people had the virus. The pressure on the ambulance service, which was now dealing with up to 9,000 emergency calls a day, meant firefighters were being drafted in to drive vehicles, and police officers would follow.
The Office for National Statistics estimated that 1.1 million people in England had the coronavirus in the week to Jan. 2, the equivalent of one person in 50.
Britain, the first country to approve vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca, on Friday approved Moderna's shot, hoping to begin administering it this spring. It also agreed to purchase an additional 10 million doses.
However, transport minister Grant Shapps said there were fears that some vaccines might not work properly against a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus that has emerged in South Africa.
"This is a very big concern for the scientists," he told LBC radio.
A laboratory study by the U.S. drugmaker Pfizer, not yet peer-reviewed, indicated that the vaccine it is making, developed by Germany's BioNTech, does work against one key mutation in the new variants found in Britain and South Africa.


China: US military in South China Sea not good for peace

China: US military in South China Sea not good for peace
Updated 10 min 13 sec ago

China: US military in South China Sea not good for peace

China: US military in South China Sea not good for peace
  • China has repeatedly complained about US Navy ships getting close to islands it occupies in the South China Sea

BEIJING: The United States often sends ships and aircraft into the South China Sea to “flex its muscles” and this is not good for peace, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday, after a US aircraft carrier group sailed into the disputed waterway.
The strategic South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade flows each year, has long been a focus of contention between Beijing and Washington, with China particularly angered by US military activity there.
The US carrier group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt and accompanied by three warships, entered the waterway on Saturday to promote “freedom of the seas,” the US military said, just days after Joe Biden became US president.
“The United States frequently sends aircraft and vessels into the South China Sea to flex its muscles,” the foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, told reporters, responding to the US mission.
“This is not conducive to peace and stability in the region.”
China has repeatedly complained about US Navy ships getting close to islands it occupies in the South China Sea, where Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan all have competing claims.
The carrier group entered the South China Sea at the same time as Chinese-claimed Taiwan reported incursions by Chinese air force jets into the southwestern part of its air defense identification zone, prompting concern from Washington.
China has not commented on what its air force was doing, and Zhao referred questions to the defense ministry.
He reiterated China’s position that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China and that the United States should abide by the “one China” principle.
Biden’s new administration says the US commitment to Taiwan is “rock-solid.”
The United States, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan but is the democratic island’s most important international backer and main arms supplier, to China’s anger.