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Muslims were caught off guard last week, when the UK government suddenly announced local lockdowns in a slew of areas in northern England where cases have spiked. The announcement came just hours before Eid al-Adha, one of the holiest festivals in Islam.

The restrictions — published late last Thursday evening — banned people in the named areas from mixing with other households.

Local politicians and Muslim leaders criticized the timing of the announcement.

“The timing … it focused people’s minds [on Muslims],” Rabnawaz Akbar, a Labour Party councilor in Manchester, told CNN.

The government “have done it on the eve of Eid,” leading people to think “it must be the Muslim community’s fault,” Akbar said. “You see how people would have come to the assumption. [The government] have done it without thinking but of course, they’re highlighting a particular demographic. And people are angry and now that anger is focused on a particular community.”

A Downing Street spokesperson said in a statement to CNN: “Decisions on lockdowns are based solely on scientific advice and the latest data. Where there are local outbreaks, our priority will remain taking whatever steps are necessary to protect people.”

Akbar also criticized Craig Whittaker, a Conservative MP who suggested that England’s ethnic minorities were not adhering to pandemic guidelines.

“What I have seen in my constituency is that we have areas of our community … that are just not taking the pandemic seriously enough,” Whittaker said Friday, when asked about the local lockdowns during an interview with LBC radio.

When asked if he was talking about the Muslim population, Whittaker replied: “Of course.”

“If you look at the areas where we’ve seen rises and cases the vast majority — not, by any stretch of the imagination, all areas — but it is the BAME [Black, Asian, and minority ethnic] communities that are not taking it seriously enough,” he added.

Whittaker’s comments were met with an outcry and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was asked about them at a press briefing on Friday.

The British leader did not condemn the MP, and said: “Well, I think it’s up to all of us in government to make sure that the message is being heard loud and clear by everybody across the country, and to make sure that everybody is complying with the guidance.”

The UK's troubled coronavirus response becomes more complicated

This week, the Downing Street spokesperson told CNN: “At Friday’s press conference the Prime Minister apologized to all those who could not celebrate Eid in the way they had wished, and thanked the work of mosques and imams in getting the message out about the importance of following safety guidance.

“And he set out in his Eid message that he is hugely grateful to the Muslim community for their efforts and sacrifices throughout this pandemic.”

Tell MAMA, a group which monitors anti-Muslim incidents in the UK, has called on Whittaker to apologize for his comments.

“To single out one community this way is wholly wrong, stigmatizing and unbecoming of an MP,” the group said in a statement.

Following the controversy, Whittaker said his evidence was based on data from local officials at Calderdale Council in West Yorkshire.

“Calderdale Council has not only identified a causal correlation between the locations of a high concentration of our ethnic Asian residents and that of COVID 19 infections, but has also formed the opinion that behaviour in these areas needs to be addressed through engagement in order to reduce the infection rate in these communities,” Whittaker said in a statement on his website.

“In an age where authenticity is a behaviour scarcely exhibited by public figures, I am glad that I have chosen open, honest and frank discussion over political expediency and … I make no apology for my comments,” he added.

Tell MAMA director Iman Atta told CNN that far-right extremists had been blaming Muslims for the pandemic since the beginning of the UK’s lockdown in March.

“In March, April, May, we saw a lot of conspiracy theories floating around,” she said. “The far right were sharing photos of Muslims congregating and flouting the rules at mosques which were, in reality, shut down and not functioning. The photos were from last year,” she said.

“And they have spread rumors online about how BAME communities are the ones spreading the virus, so [people] should not be interacting with them.”

Atta’s findings are echoed by those of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), which represents several UK mosques and Muslim organizations.

Earlier in the lockdown “there were theories spreading that Muslims would gather secretly during Ramadan, that mosques were secretly open — none of that was true and there was no evidence,” Zainab Gulamali, a spokesperson for the organization, told CNN.

Gulamali added that she was disappointed that Johnson and his Conservative Party colleagues had failed to condemn Whittaker’s comments on BAME people.

The UK has an Islamophobia problem. Muslims want to know what Boris Johnson is going to do about it

Johnson himself has repeatedly been accused of Islamophobia. He drew sharp rebukes from Muslim communities in 2018 over an article he wrote about Muslim women wearing burqas. The politician said women who wore the veil resembled “letter boxes” and “bank robbers.”

He later offered a partial apology, saying: “In so far as my words have given offense over the last twenty or thirty years when I’ve been a journalist and people have taken those words out of my articles and escalated them, of course, I am sorry for the offense they have caused.”

Crime figures suggest that the UK has become a more hostile place for Muslims in recent years. Despite accounting for less than 5% of the UK’s 66 million-strong population, 52% of religious hate crime offenses committed in England and Wales between 2017 and 2018 targeted Muslims.

Much of the recent blame placed on Muslims appears to be driven by the fact that Covid-19 has hit the country’s ethnic minorities hard.

According to Public Health England (PHE), those of Bangladeshi heritage who tested positive for coronavirus were twice as likely to die as their white counterparts. PHE found that the discrepancy was caused by a complex of range of factors, including the fact that BAME people were more likely to live in overcrowded and urban areas, and to work in jobs that put them at risk of catching Covid-19.
People wearing face masks have their temperatures checked before being allowed to go into Manchester Central Mosque on July 31.
In June, an academic paper considered by the government’s scientific advisers warned that an earlier local lockdown in the city of Leicester had caused a rise in racial tension. The city has a large British Asian population.

“There is extensive racist commentary on social media,” the researchers wrote. “Videos have also been circulated on social media showing the South Asian community flouting social distancing in an attempt to stir conflict.”

“We don’t want to sweep under the carpet the issues that [Muslim communities] do face,” Rabnawaz Akbar said.

“A lot of people live in densely-populated terraced housing,” he said, explaining that many Muslims “live with their parents or their grandparents, so you have multigenerational households. A lot of people work in low income and frontline jobs — they’re taxi drivers or health care [workers] … they’re inevitably going to be at risk of catching the virus.”

“But rather than blame them, the solution is that local and central government should work with the communities to take extra precautions,” he said.

Muslims are far from alone in shouldering increased racial resentment during the Covid-19 crisis.

Coronavirus has fueled xenophobia against those of East Asian descent worldwide, and lockdown measures have triggered an explosion of online anti-Semitic hate incidents.

For many minorities the new threat of the pandemic has only intensified the age-old danger of bigotry.

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Australia’s coronavirus lockdown strategy worked. Could this be a model for the US?

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But Andrews — a Labor Party politician who has run Australia’s second-largest state since 2014 — has remained popular with Victorians throughout the lockdown, local polls show. And this week, his hardline approach was thoroughly vindicated.
On Sunday, Victoria recorded just 11 new coronavirus cases, down from over 670 at the height of the most recent outbreak last month. Next week, Melbourne will begin lifting some restrictions if new cases remain below a fortnightly average of 50 per day. A nightly curfew is slated to remain in effect until October 26.
“We can do this,” Andrews tweeted Sunday, echoing his words at the beginning of the lockdown: “We are Victorians — and we will get through this as Victorians. With grit, with guts and together.”
And while it may have provoked outrage from some elements of the Australian media, and criticism from Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Victoria’s experience shows once again that targeted lockdowns are effective in containing the coronavirus: driving down infections, relieving pressure on hospitals and medical staff, and creating space for contact tracing and mass testing.
This was first shown in China, where the government imposed an intense lockdown on Wuhan, the city where cases of the virus were first detected late last year. Wuhan spent 76-days under lockdown, which was finally lifted as the daily caseload slowed to a trickle.
That was back in April, and now Wuhan is basically back to normal, even able to host massive water park raves without much concern. And the model has been successfully applied to other cities across China, including the capital Beijing, suppressing new spikes as they appear and keeping national figures down.

“The Covid-19 epidemic in our country has gone through four waves,” Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said Saturday. “Besides the first wave (in Wuhan), the other epidemic waves were clusters that were regional and small-scale and were effectively controlled.”

For some lockdown skeptics, China’s experience was easy to dismiss: the country is an authoritarian, one-party state, and its methods could not necessarily be applied in democracies.

But the situation in Victoria proves that the lockdown strategy does work elsewhere, and that, given the proper information and reassurances, people are willing to make the sacrifices required to contain the virus.

With the outbreak in Victoria contained, the number of cases throughout the rest of Australia has continued to trend down. On Sunday, New South Wales, which includes Sydney, reported four new cases, while Queensland state reported just one.

New Zealand too, which on Monday began reducing social distancing regulations after daily cases dropped to zero, has seen positive results from lockdowns, enabling the country to return to relative normality far faster than nations which did not take such measures.

Elsewhere, however, lockdown strategies have been less successful, with partial closures bringing with them the misery of a full lockdown while not actually containing infections. This could make it far more difficult to introduce further restrictions in future, such as when infections spike in winter months, as most experts believe will happen.
There is also considerable political resistance to lockdowns, or even partial shutdowns, in some countries, particularly the United States, where last week Attorney General William Barr said a nationwide closure would be the “greatest intrusion on civil liberties” in history “other than slavery.”
Potential lockdowns have also provoked backlash in the European Union and United Kingdom in recent days, despite a spike in case numbers across the continent.

The US, however, remains the worst hit country in the world, with more than 6.7 million coronavirus cases and almost 200,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. As those figures potentially rise through winter, and with less and less reason to go outside, some people may start to reconsider their anti-lockdown sentiment.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly suggested that authorities in Melbourne would consider lifting a nighttime curfew next week. The curfew is currently in effect until October 26.

CNN’s Angus Watson and Eric Cheung contributed reporting.



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Cruz: Ginsburg was ‘one of the finest Supreme Court litigators to have ever lived’

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“He obviously worked every day with Justice Ginsburg, and I will say he admired what a careful lawyer she was,” he said. “Consistently of the lawyers on the left, of the judges on the left. Chief Justice Rehnquist was always most willing to give an important opinion to Justice Ginsburg because she wrote narrow, careful opinions.”

Cruz also honed in on the importance of filling Ginsburg’s vacancy with a constitutionalist judge ahead of the November election. The senator had been on President Donald Trump’s shortlist of Supreme Court nominees.

“We’re one vote away from seeing our religious liberty rights stripped away, from our free speech stripped away, from our Second Amendment stripped away,” he added. “This election matters, and I think it is the most important issue in 2020 — electing presidents and a Senate who will nominate and confirm strong constitutionalists to the court.”

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Matt Hancock Says “Everybody” Should Report Their Neighbours If They Flout Coronavirus Rules

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Matt Hancock has urged people to shop their neighbours if they fail to follow coronavirus rules (Credit: PA)


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Matt Hancock has urged people to report their neighbours for flouting coronavirus rules as he announced heavy new penalties for those who fail to self-isolate when asked.

The health secretary said he would not hesitate to alert the authorities if he became aware of anyone breaking the new “rule of six” restrictions and that “everybody should” do likewise. 

It comes after the government revealed new legal powers to hand out £10,000 fines to people who do not quarantine if they test positive for the virus, rates of which are rising rapidly across the country.

The measures also include a £500 support payment for those on lower incomes who have to self-isolate and cannot work from home, and a penalty for employers who punish employers for doing so.

Mr Hancock said the UK was at a “tipping point” and could face tougher national restricions if people fail to heed new guidelines.

“I don’t want to see more measures but unfortunately if people don’t follow the rules that’s how the virus spreads,” he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge.

“Everyone faces a choice and it comes down to individual moments – should I go to that party where there might not be social distancing? 

“The answer is no, you should not.”

Mr Hancock said local lockdowns had brought cases “right under control” in parts of the country, as London Mayor Sadiq Khan warned the capital could be placed under additional curbs as soon as Monday.

And the health secretary said he would “not rule out” Londoners being asked to work from home, as he prepared to meet City Hall officials on Sunday.

He told Times Radio: “I’ve been talking to the Mayor of London over the weekend about what’s needed in London and that’s an example of local action in the same way that I was talking about the councils in the north east.  And then we took action in Lancashire…and we had to bring in more measures in Wolverhampton.

“The conversation is…an ongoing one with the mayor.”

PoliticsHome is maintaining a live map of local lockdown restrictions across the UK, which is viewable here.

A source close to the mayor said on Saturday: “It’s clear that cases in London are only moving in one direction, we are now just days behind hotspots in the North West and North East.

“We can’t afford more delay. Introducing new measures now will help slow the spread of the virus and potentially prevent the need for a fuller lockdown like we saw in March, which could seriously damage the economy once again.”

Mr Hancock promised the UK has “got the cavalry coming over the next few months; the vaccine, the mass testing and the improvement in treatments”.

“But we’ve got to all follow the rules between now and then to keep people safe,” he told the BBC.

Asked what he expected the death rate could be if people failed to do so, the health secretary said: “It’s unknowable, because it depends on the behaviour of every single person in this country.”

Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer warned new legal powers were not a “silver bullet” and urged ministers to fix the struggling test and trace programme.

He said Boris Johnson should apologise to the nation for the system’s failings and restart daily press briefings “so everybody knows what’s going on”.

“I don’t think a national lockdown is inevitable.  I think it’s more likely because testing is all over the place,” he told Sky News.

“I think one of the conerns I have and a lot of people have is because the government has lost control of testing, it doesn’t know where the virus is.”

He added: “We are in this position just when we need testing to be at its best.”

The Labour leader also called for schoolchildren to be prioritised for testing to avoid mass school closures, with tests and results offered within a 48-hour period.

 

 

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