UK extends Covid vaccine booster program to all adults

UK extends Covid vaccine booster program to all adults
A photograph released by the UK Parliament’s Christmas tree being erected at Westminster Hall in London. Adults in Britain will be able to get 3rd Covid jab, a government body said, as concerns mount about the Omicron variant’s spread. (AFP)
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Updated 09 December 2021

UK extends Covid vaccine booster program to all adults

UK extends Covid vaccine booster program to all adults
  • The move, approved by Health Secretary Sajid Javid, comes as the UK government said it needed to react swiftly to the new variant
  • Until now, only adults aged 40 and over were eligible for a booster dose six months after their second

LONDON: All adults in Britain will now be able to get a third Covid jab, a government scientific advisory body said Monday, as concern mounted about the spread of the new Omicron variant.
The move, approved by Health Secretary Sajid Javid, comes as the UK government said it needed to react swiftly to the new variant, which was first detected in South Africa.
“We’re advising that the booster program should now be extended to adults aged 18 to 39 years old,” said Wei Shen Lim, of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI).
Until now, only adults aged 40 and over were eligible for a booster dose six months after their second.
At the same time, the advisory body also recommended second doses of vaccine for children aged 12 to 15.
Since last week, the government in London has slapped a travel ban on 10 southern African countries, including South Africa, to try to control the spread of Omicron.
It has also reintroduced compulsory testing for travelers, and mandatory mask-wearing in shops and public transport in England, as well as self-isolation for contact cases.
The JCVI approved the government’s proposed expansion of the rollout of booster jabs of Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech to include more people within a shorter time.
Britain is one of several countries to have announced cases of the new variant on their soil, including Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.
Six cases of the new strain were detected in Scotland on Monday, two of them in the largest city of Glasgow. Five others were confirmed in England, Javid told parliament.
“We expect cases to rise over the coming days,” he added.
“In this race between the vaccines and the virus the new variant may have given the virus extra legs,” he told MPs.
“So our strategy is to buy ourselves time, and to strengthen our defenses,” he said of the extension of the booster program.
Britain, currently chair of the G7 group of nations, on Monday hosted an emergency meeting of health ministers to discuss the Covid crisis.
The ministers said in a joint statement that the Omicron variant was highly transmissible and needs “urgent action.”


Monkeypox can be contained if we act now, WHO says

Monkeypox can be contained if we act now, WHO says
Updated 27 May 2022

Monkeypox can be contained if we act now, WHO says

Monkeypox can be contained if we act now, WHO says
  • "We think that if we put in place the right measures now we probably can contain this easily," said Sylvie Briand, WHO director for Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness
  • So far, there are about 300 confirmed or suspected cases in around 20 countries

GENEVA: Countries should take quick steps to contain the spread of monkeypox and share data about their vaccine stockpiles, a senior World Health Organization official said on Friday.
“We think that if we put in place the right measures now we probably can contain this easily,” Sylvie Briand, WHO director for Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness, told the UN agency’s annual assembly.
Monkeypox is a usually mild viral infection that is endemic in parts of west and central Africa.
It spreads chiefly through close contact and until the recent outbreak, was rarely seen in other parts of the world, which is why the recent emergence of cases in Europe, the United States and other areas has raised alarms.
So far, there are about 300 confirmed or suspected cases in around 20 countries where the virus was not previously circulating.
“For us, we think that the key priority currently is trying to contain this transmission in non-endemic countries,” Briand told a technical briefing for member states.
Needed measures included the early detection and isolation of cases and contact tracing, she added.
Member states should also share information about first generation stockpiles of smallpox vaccines which can also be effective against monkeypox, Briand said.
“We don’t know exactly the number of doses available in the world and so that’s why we encourage countries to come to WHO and tell us what are their stockpiles,” she said. A slide of her presentation described global supplies as “very constrained.”
Currently, WHO officials are advising against mass vaccination, instead suggesting targeted vaccination where available for close contacts of people infected.
“Case investigation, contact tracing, isolation at home will be your best bets,” said Rosamund Lewis, WHO head of the smallpox secretariat which is part of the WHO Emergencies Programme.


Canada police shoot man in Toronto seen with rifle near school

Canada police shoot man in Toronto seen with rifle near school
Police in Canada’s largest city Toronto on Thursday fatally shot a man armed with a rifle. (Reuters)
Updated 27 May 2022

Canada police shoot man in Toronto seen with rifle near school

Canada police shoot man in Toronto seen with rifle near school
  • Bystanders alerted police to the man’s presence in an eastern neighborhood of Toronto

MONTREAL: Police in Canada’s largest city Toronto on Thursday fatally shot a man armed with a rifle, local media reported, in an incident that forced several schools into lockdown just two days after a deadly assault on a US primary school.
Bystanders alerted police to the man’s presence in an eastern neighborhood of Toronto, and the circumstances of what transpired next were not immediately clear.
But city police chief James Ramer told reporters that the suspect, described as a man in his late teens or early 20s, was dead after he had “confronted” responding officers, without elaborating.
The police force’s Twitter account said that after officers located the man, a “police firearm” was “discharged.”
A spokeswoman for the Special Investigations Unit told the CBC that preliminary evidence showed that two police officers had fired their weapons, and the suspect was pronounced dead at the scene.
It was not clear if the man was holding the weapon when police shot him.
Ramer said he was unable to offer more details, as the incident was under investigation.
“There’s no threat to public safety,” he said.
“Due to the proximity to a school, I certainly understand the trauma and how traumatic this must have been for staff, students and parents, given recent events that have happened in the United States,” the chief added.
On Tuesday, a shooting at a Texas elementary school left 21 dead — 19 children and two teachers.


Home Office says a quarter of migrants crossing English Channel fleeing Afghanistan

Home Office says a quarter of migrants crossing English Channel fleeing Afghanistan
Updated 26 May 2022

Home Office says a quarter of migrants crossing English Channel fleeing Afghanistan

Home Office says a quarter of migrants crossing English Channel fleeing Afghanistan
  • Iranians and Iraqis combined make up almost a third of those seeking a better life in the UK
  • The BBC reported 1,094 Afghans made the dangerous crossing in the first three months of 2022

LONDON: One in four migrants crossing the English Channel in the first quarter of the year are people fleeing Afghanistan, according to figures released by the UK Home Office.
The BBC reported 1,094 Afghans made the dangerous crossing in the first three months of 2022, almost as many as the 1,323 Afghans that attempted the crossing in the entirety of 2021.
Iranians made up the next highest demographic at 16 percent, with Iraqis the third highest at 15 percent.
While the figures claim 90 percent of Afghans who made it to the UK were granted asylum, they do not include the UK’s two resettlement schemes set up in the wake of the Taliban takeover of the country in August.
The plans have faced criticism from politicians and sections of the public for leaving thousands of UK translators and others who worked for coalition forces behind after the UK withdrawal.
Compounding that failed operation, the numbers of non-Afghan refugees awaiting an asylum decision in the 12 months to March almost doubled from 66,000 to 109,000.
Refugee Council CEO Enver Solomon said: “Increased numbers waiting for a decision is desperately worrying, and it leaves thousands of vulnerable men, women and children trapped in limbo.
“Adults, banned from working, living hand to mouth on less than £6 ($7.55) and left not knowing what their future holds; this simply is not good enough,” he added.
Amnesty International has pointed the finger of blame for the backlog in asylum decisions at the UK’s Home Secretary Priti Patel, accusing her of a “disastrous leadership” over a department that has become “a byword for backlogs and dysfunction”.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said it had “helped thousands” of people fleeing Ukraine, Afghanistan and Hong Kong.


INTERVIEW: LDP heavyweight Amari reaffirms importance of ties with Middle East

INTERVIEW: LDP heavyweight Amari reaffirms importance of ties with Middle East
Updated 26 May 2022

INTERVIEW: LDP heavyweight Amari reaffirms importance of ties with Middle East

INTERVIEW: LDP heavyweight Amari reaffirms importance of ties with Middle East
  • Amari says Saudi Arabia and UAE are “two irreplaceable countries for Japanese people’s lives and industrial activities”
  • Japan imports almost the same amount of oil from Saudi Arabia and the UAE

TOKYO: Veteran ruling-party politician Amari Akira says Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are “two irreplaceable countries for Japanese people’s lives and industrial activities.”
Amari is the Honorary Chairman of the Parliamentary Friendship Council and has close ties with the Middle East. He has played a key role in Japan’s energy policy, and he emphasized the importance of those ties.
“Japan imports almost the same amount of oil from Saudi Arabia and the UAE; it’s around 35 percent, and the total from both countries amounts to over 70 percent,” he stated. “They are two irreplaceable countries for Japanese people’s lives and industrial activities. A stable energy supply is the lifeblood of Japan. In that sense, the Middle East is connected to this lifeline.”
Amari recalled chairing an international conference in Saudi Arabia.
“I met with current Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, both in Japan and Saudi Arabia when he was deputy minister of Oil,” he said.
“When I was eating with him, I said: “I heard that the starry sky seen in the desert in Saudi Arabia is very beautiful since the air is so clean. I heard it’s as wonderful as to see the stars falling, so I want to see it someday.”
Minister Abdulaziz replied: ‘The next time you come, I will set up a tent in the desert, so please come and let’s see the starry night sky together.’
“I replied to him that it is a good plan, but I can’t eat sheep’s brains, but Minister Abdulaziz told me not to worry. He said, when he is in Japan, he eats everything, so why not try Saudi food; it would not be good manners not to. Of course, he was joking. Through such casual exchanges, I feel that the Middle East is close to me.”
Amari was a key backroom player behind the political success of Prime Minister Kishida, Secretary General Motegi, Foreign Minister Hayashi and the Secretary General of the Upper House and is keen for them to lead Japan forward.
“What we need to do now is to lead a new team once again to make a Japan with innovative power,” he said. “I am doing university reform, which is the source of basic research. I also created a 10 trillion yen fund to promote university reform. We will also create an area in Tokyo for international start-ups representing Asia.”
Amari also talked about his visit 15 to 17 May to the UAE where he was the special Envoy of the Prime Minister of Japan to officially pay respect to the people of the UAE on the passing of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan, the former president of the UAE.
“I was honored to be able to pay my respects to such an important country as a special envoy to the prime minister. President Sheikh Khalifa pushed the UAE forward under the influence of his founding father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan. When Sheikh Khalifa was Crown Prince in 1970, he visited the Osaka Expo, and since then the bond between Japan and the UAE has deepened. Also, UAE is a country with a special relationship that supports Japan’s energy.”


Tokyo government reaffirms connections to Islamic countries

Tokyo government reaffirms connections to Islamic countries
Updated 26 May 2022

Tokyo government reaffirms connections to Islamic countries

Tokyo government reaffirms connections to Islamic countries
  • Japan and the followers of Islam have long enjoyed friendly relations in various fields
  • Forty-nine Islamic countries and regions were invited and 27 attended the meeting

TOKYO: Diplomats from Islamic countries and regions took part in a Tokyo policy briefing and discussion meeting at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office on Wednesday.
Tokyo Gov. KOIKE Yuriko, who has strong ties with Arabic and Islamic countries, made the opening remarks.
“It is a great pleasure and honor to welcome you to the ‘Tokyo Networking.’ I am very pleased to have you here in person this year after two years of cancelations due to COVID-19.
“These two years have been a long battle against the virus. Through regular communication with you, we have been able to keep it from spreading extensively. Thank you everyone for your enormous cooperation,” Governor Koike said.
“Japan and the followers of Islam have long enjoyed friendly relations in various fields. It is my sincere hope that good relations with your countries will continue.”
Forty-nine Islamic countries and regions were invited and 27 attended the meeting.
Palestinian Ambassador Waleed Siam made a speech as a representative of the diplomats.
“Today, we are here to participate and support the Tokyo Metropolitan Initiative for improvement of the environment for the multi-faith community,” he said. “The Muslim community is an important and large part of society as a whole.
“Thanks to Gov. Koike’s efforts who started Iftar in Tokyo 15 years ago, it has since been held every year (except during the pandemic).”