Rise in UK coronavirus cases stoke concerns over 3rd wave

Rise in UK coronavirus cases stoke concerns over 3rd wave
The U.K. has authorized the use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Approval of the single-dose shot comes amid growing concerns about a rise in the new Indian variant. (AP)
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Updated 28 May 2021

Rise in UK coronavirus cases stoke concerns over 3rd wave

Rise in UK coronavirus cases stoke concerns over 3rd wave
  • Latest authorization comes amid growing speculation new Indian variant may prompt British government to delay its next planned easing of restrictions
  • Government figures showed 4,182 new cases were reported across the U.K., the highest daily since April 1

LONDON: The number of new coronavirus infections in the U.K. hit a near two-month high Friday as British regulators authorized the use of the single-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.
The latest authorization, which takes the number of vaccines in the U.K.'s armory to four, comes amid growing speculation that the new variant of the virus first identified in India may prompt the British government to delay its next planned easing of lockdown restrictions in England.
Government figures showed that another 4,182 new confirmed cases were reported across the U.K., the highest daily figure since April 1. The cases bring the total number of confirmed infections reported over the past seven days to 20,765, a 24% increase from the previous week. The rise prompted scientists to say the U.K. is now in the midst of a third wave of the pandemic.
The number of cases remains well below the daily high of nearly 70,000 recorded in mid-January, during the peak of the second wave, but the upward trend has raised questions about the U.K. government's plan to lift all remaining social restrictions on June 21. The government, which has lifted restrictions in stages and allowed pubs and restaurants to resume indoor service last week, has said it will make a decision on the next planned easing on June 14.
The variant identified in India is believed to be responsible for up to 75% of new cases in the U.K. and more transmissible than the previously dominant strain of the virus.
Critics argue that the Conservative government is to blame for the variant's seeding in the U.K. They say officials acted too slowly to impose the strictest quarantine requirements on everyone arriving from India, which is in the midst of a catastrophic resurgence of the virus.
Many scientists say the increase in cases is no surprise but that the rapid rollout of vaccines will provide a firewall in a country that has seen Europe's highest virus-related death toll at more than 127,500. While the most vulnerable people should have vaccine protection, there are worries the virus could spread widely among younger adults.
As of Friday, 58% of the British population has received at least one vaccine dose and around 35% have gotten two shots. The U.K. vaccination program started with the oldest age groups and aims to have offered a jab to all adults by the end of July.
“It seems almost certain that we will face a third episode of rising COVID-19 infections," said James Naismith, a professor of structural biology at the University of Oxford. “It seems likely that the Indian variant will mostly confine itself to the unvaccinated younger population. It is much less likely to cause serious disease in this group. However, less likely is not the same as zero. With large enough numbers of infections, appreciable numbers will get seriously ill.”
Also Friday, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said the vaccine by Johnson & Johnson met "the expected standards of safety, quality and effectiveness." The regulator previously authorized the two-dose regimens developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, and Moderna.
The regulator said the vaccine developed by J&J subsidiary Janssen has been shown to be 67% effective overall in preventing COVID-19 infection and 85% effective in preventing severe disease or hospitalization. It can be stored at refrigerator temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (36 to 47 F), which the regulator said makes it “ideal for distribution to care homes and other locations."
Details of which groups will get the vaccine have yet to be determined. There was speculation it might only be administered to older adults after it was linked to reports of rare blood clots.
The Johnson & Johnson's vaccine looks set to be used as part of the country's planned booster program in the fall. The British government has amended its order from last year of 30 million J&J doses to 20 million.
“As Janssen is a single-dose vaccine, it will play an important role in the months to come as we redouble our efforts to encourage everyone to get their jabs and potentially begin a booster program later this year," Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.


Muslims in Southend, southeast England condemn ‘brutal’ murder of British politician

Muslims in Southend, southeast England condemn ‘brutal’ murder of British politician
Updated 16 October 2021

Muslims in Southend, southeast England condemn ‘brutal’ murder of British politician

Muslims in Southend, southeast England condemn ‘brutal’ murder of British politician
  • A statement issued by Southend mosques said that Sir David’s killing was “an indefensible atrocity”
  • The MP was praised for his “warmth, selflessness and kindness”

LONDON: The murder of MP Sir David Amess has been strongly condemned in a joint statement issued by all of Southend’s mosques as a “brutal and senseless killing.”

The statement said that Sir David’s killing was “an indefensible atrocity” committed in the name of “blind hatred, and we look forward to the perpetrator being brought to justice.”

Veteran Conservative MP David Amess, 69, was talking with constituents at a church in the small town of Leigh-on-Sea, east of London, when he was stabbed to death on Friday.

Police said they arrested a 25-year-old suspect and were investigating “a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism.”

The fatal stabbing has “been declared as a terrorist incident, with the investigation being led by Counter Terrorism Policing,” the police said in a statement.

The MP was described as a “tremendous force for good and pillar of support for our community” by the Joint Secretary of Essex Jamme Masjid Ruhul Shamsuddin.

“This was senseless violence against a truly wonderful man. It’s an honour to say I’ve known him my whole life. I’ve lost not just a community leader, but a family friend and mentor, Shamsuddin said. 

The Imam of UKIM Southend Mosque Iftikhar Ul Haq and its president, Dr Arshad Ghori, praised Sir David for being “always reachable“ and for his “great compassion for communities.”

They added: “He will be greatly missed by us at UKIM Southend Mosque and the community in Southend. We strongly condemn this brutal murder and hope the perpetrator be swiftly brought to justice.”

The statement paid tribute to Sir David’s “warmth, selflessness and kindness,” adding that he had joined the local Muslim community as it celebrated its achievements over the years. 

“He graced us with his presence at the opening of the Essex Jamme Masjid in 2008 and 2014. He took part in the launch of Southend-on-Sea’s first Muslim Scout group,” it added.

“He shared in our happiness, by attending our weddings and functions and he was there for us in our times of need. We will all miss him dearly.”


6 combatants, 2 workers killed in fresh violence in Kashmir

6 combatants, 2 workers killed in fresh violence in Kashmir
Updated 16 October 2021

6 combatants, 2 workers killed in fresh violence in Kashmir

6 combatants, 2 workers killed in fresh violence in Kashmir
  • Police blamed militants fighting against Indian rule for the Saturday attacks in the region’s main city and a village in southern Kashmir
  • Following the spate of killings last week, authorities have detained over 1,000 people in a sweeping crackdown across the Kashmir Valley

SRINAGAR, India: Assailants fatally shot two non-local workers in two targeted attacks in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Saturday night, police said, days after five people were killed in a similar fashion in the disputed region.
The killing comes hours after police said government forces killed four suspected militants in the last 24 hours and claimed three of them were involved in last week’s killings of three members of minority communities.
Police blamed militants fighting against Indian rule for the Saturday attacks in the region’s main city and a village in southern Kashmir and called the killings “terror attacks.”
In a first incident in Srinagar, police said militants fired at a Hindu street vendor from India’s eastern state of Bihar. He died on the spot, police said.
An hour later, a Muslim worker from northern Uttar Pradesh state was shot and critically wounded in southern Litter village of Pulwama district. Police said he later died at a hospital.
Last week, assailants fatally shot three Hindus, a Sikh woman and a local Muslim taxi driver in the region in a sudden rise in violence against civilians that both pro- and anti-India Kashmiri politicians widely condemned.
Also Saturday, two militants were killed in a gunfight with government forces in southern Pampore area, police said. Another two rebels were killed in two separate gunbattles with Indian troops in Srinagar and southern Pulwama district on Friday.
Police said three among the slain rebels were involved in the killings of prominent local Hindu chemist and two schoolteachers of Hindu and Sikh faiths.
Following the spate of killings last week, authorities have detained over 1,000 people in a sweeping crackdown across the Kashmir Valley.
Meanwhile, the Indian army said the death toll in a gunfight with rebels that raged on Thursday in a forested area of southern Mendhar town climbed to four as troops Saturday recovered the bodies of two soldiers missing in action.
On Monday, five Indian soldiers were killed in the deadliest gunbattle with militants this year in contiguous forested area of Surankote town.
Lt. Col. Devender Anand, an Indian army spokesman, said troops continued with search operations in both the areas.
India and Pakistan claim the divided territory of Kashmir in its entirety.
Rebels in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir have been fighting New Delhi’s rule since 1989. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
India insists the Kashmir militancy is Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris consider it a legitimate freedom struggle. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.


16-year-old charged over fatal stabbing of Afghan teen in London 

16-year-old charged over fatal stabbing of Afghan teen in London 
Updated 16 October 2021

16-year-old charged over fatal stabbing of Afghan teen in London 

16-year-old charged over fatal stabbing of Afghan teen in London 

LONDON: A 16-year-old boy has been charged with murder over the fatal stabbing of an Afghan teenager in London, the Metropolitan Police said.

Hazrat Wali, 18, succumbed to his injuries in hospital on Tuesday after being stabbed that afternoon. 

He reportedly arrived in Britain two years ago as a refugee and attended London’s Richmond-upon-Thames College. 

The 16-year-old is expected to appear at Westminster Magistrates Court. The police specialist crime command are investigating the murder. 


Macron condemns ‘inexcusable’ crackdown on 1961 Paris protest of Algerians

Macron condemns ‘inexcusable’ crackdown on 1961 Paris protest of Algerians
Updated 16 October 2021

Macron condemns ‘inexcusable’ crackdown on 1961 Paris protest of Algerians

Macron condemns ‘inexcusable’ crackdown on 1961 Paris protest of Algerians
  • Macron told relatives and activists on the 60th anniversary of the bloodshed that ‘crimes’ were committed on the night of October 17, 1961
  • Macron acknowledged that several dozen protesters had been killed, ‘their bodies thrown into the River Seine’ and paid tribute to the memory of the victims

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday condemned as “inexcusable” a deadly crackdown by Paris police on a 1961 protest by Algerians whose scale was a taboo covered up for decades by French authorities.
Macron told relatives and activists on the 60th anniversary of the bloodshed that “crimes” were committed on the night of October 17, 1961 under the command of the notorious Paris police chief Maurice Papon.
He acknowledged that several dozen protesters had been killed, “their bodies thrown into the River Seine” and paid tribute to the memory of the victims.
The precise number of victims has never been made clear and some activists fear several hundred could have been killed.
Macron “recognized the facts: that the crimes committed that night under Maurice Papon are inexcusable for the Republic,” the Elysee said.
“This tragedy was long hushed-up, denied or concealed,” it added.
Macron, the first French president to attend a memorial ceremony for those killed, observed a minute of silence in their memory at the Bezons bridge over the Seine on the outskirts of Paris where the protest started.
His comments that crimes were committed went further than predecessor Francois Hollande, who acknowledged in 2012 that the protesting Algerians had been “killed during a bloody repression.”
However, as expected, he did not issue a formal apology. He also did not give a public speech, with the Elysee issuing only the written statement.
Papon was in the 1980s revealed to have been a collaborator with the occupying Nazis in World War II and complicit in the deportation of Jews. He was convicted of crimes against humanity but later released.


Mental illness may have triggered Norway bow-and-arrow attack

Mental illness may have triggered Norway bow-and-arrow attack
Updated 16 October 2021

Mental illness may have triggered Norway bow-and-arrow attack

Mental illness may have triggered Norway bow-and-arrow attack
  • Espen Andersen Brathen is believed to have acted alone when he killed four women and a man, aged between 50 and 70, in several locations in Kongsberg where he lived
  • While authorities said the attack bore the hallmarks of an act of terror, they seemed to be leaning toward the theory that it was the act of a mentally unstable person

KONGSBERG, Norway: A bow-and-arrow attack in Norway that left five people dead this week appears to have been motivated by mental illness, authorities indicated Friday, as the perpetrator was ordered to be kept in a medical facility.
Espen Andersen Brathen, a 37-year-old Danish citizen who converted to Islam and is believed to have been radicalized, has confessed to the Wednesday killings in police questioning.
He was in custody in a medical facility on Friday pending a psychiatric evaluation.
“The strongest hypothesis after the first days of the investigation is that illness is in the background,” police inspector Per Thomas Omholt told reporters on Friday.
Police were however keeping other possibilities open, and have investigated a range of motives including “anger, revenge, impulse, extremism, illness and provocation,” Omholt said.
The psychiatric evaluation, which could take several months, is necessary to determine whether Brathen can be held legally responsible for his actions.
“This indicates that things are not exactly as they should be,” his lawyer Fredrik Neumann said, referring to his client’s mental health.
“A complete judicial assessment will clarify that,” he told the Norwegian newspaper VG.
Omholt said Friday that Brathen had admitted to the acts but did not admit guilt.
While authorities said the attack bore the hallmarks of an act of terror, they seemed to be leaning toward the theory that it was the act of a mentally unstable person.
“There is no doubt that (it) appears as if it could be an act of terror, but it’s important that the investigation continues and that we establish the motive of the suspect,” the head of Norway’s intelligence service PST, Hans Sverre Sjovold, said Thursday.
“This is a person who has been in and out of the health system for some time.”
Four women and one man were killed and three people injured in the attack in the town of Kongsberg, and police said a bow and arrows and two other undisclosed weapons were used before he was arrested.
Brathan was known to PST, which is in charge of Norway’s anti-terrorism efforts, but few details have emerged about why. According to public broadcaster NRK, the first warning was in 2015.
“There were fears linked to radicalization previously,” police official Ole Bredrup Saeverud told reporters.
Those reports dated to last year or earlier, and police said they had followed up at the time.
Norwegian media reported that in 2018 the PST had warned that he could commit “a small-scale attack.”
It also said that Brathen was subject to two prior court rulings, including a restraining order against him regarding his parents after threatening to kill his father, and a conviction for burglary and purchasing narcotics in 2012.
Local media also unearthed a video Brathen allegedly posted on social media in 2017, in which he issued a “warning” and declared his Muslim faith.
Speaking anonymously, one of Brathen’s neighbors described him as a big person with a crew cut and a serious demeanour, who was always seen “alone.”
“No smile, nothing in the face. He was just staring,” the neighbor told AFP.
Brathen is believed to have acted alone when he killed four women and a man, aged between 50 and 70, in several locations in Kongsberg where he lived.
Flowers and candles were placed in front of the various crime scenes in Kongsberg, a town of 25,000 people still reeling from the attack.
Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store, who took office on Thursday following elections last month, visited the town on Friday.
“We stand together when crisis strikes. For those of who have political responsibility, the safety of our citizens is the most important thing,” he said in a speech.
Svein Westad, a 75-year-old pensioner wandered aimlessly on Hyttegata street, where two of his neighbors and close friends were killed in their homes.
“I’m totally broken into pieces, I cannot say anything more than that. I will never get over this,” he told AFP.
“They should have caught him immediately,” he said, referring to criticism against the police for arresting Brathen more than 30 minutes after the first reports came in.
Norway rarely experiences such violence, but 10 years ago Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in the country’s worst massacre since World War II.