A Government Minister Says The UK Is Entering A “Period Of Particular Concern” Amid A Surge In Coronavirus Cases
4 min read
Robert Jenrick has warned the UK is entering a “period of particular concern” following a fresh surge in coronavirus cases.
The housing secretary said there was a “big burden” on people to follow social distancing rules or risk returning to stricter lockdown measures.
On Sunday, the UK recorded 2,988 new cases of the virus, the highest level since May, with a further 2,948 cases reported in the 24 hours up to 9am on Monday.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Jenrick insisted the government’s local lockdown approach was keeping the virus at bay, but admitted the rise was “very concerning”.
“The coronavirus is still with us so we all need to take great care. There is a concerning rise in cases and it reminds us that we have to keep following the guidance,” he said.
“Although we are encouraged to return to the workplace to support jobs, cafes and so on, we need to do so responsibly.”
He added: “As we approach the autumn and winter there is going to be even more responsibility on all of us to keep following the guidelines.
“Nobody wants to see a return to full national restrictions of the kind we had earlier this year.”
His comments come after warnings from three of the government’s scientific advisers that tougher restrictions might have to be reintroduced if cases continue to rise.
On Monday, England’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van Tam, said the figures proved “people have relaxed too much”.
“Where case numbers rise initially in the younger parts of the population they do in turn filter through and start to give elevated rates of disease and hospital admissions in the older age groups, and we know that then becomes a serious public health problem,” he said.
“The fact that 17 to 21-year-olds are not becoming ill means they are lucky, but they also forget because the disease is not severe for them that they are potent spreaders.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock had already warned young people that flouting social distancing rules could lead to a second wave of the virus, saying: “Don’t kill you gran by catching coronavirus and then passing it on”.
But Professor John Edmunds, who also sits on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said the figures showed the virus was already “increasing exponentially”.
“We can see the epidemic is taking off again. So I don’t think we’ve hit that sweet spot where we’ve been able to control the epidemic and allow the economy to return to some sort of normality,” he told ITV’s Robert Peston.
“I’m quite worried that schools have just returned, cases are increasing now exponentially. They are increasing exponentially now, From a relatively low level. But they are increasing,” he added.
“Schools have gone back. Universities are high risk. They are going back in the next couple of weeks.
“And the government is trying to get us back into work and back on the tube and buying our sandwich from Pret a Manger, and things like that. And that will have an epidemiological effect.”
Meanwhile, Professor Andrew Hayward, of University College London said the virus could potentially “get out of hand” during the winter months as people return to work and begin socialising in larger number.
“Generally it is local outbreaks, but there is also very worrying national increases in cases, particularly in the last few days.
“I think that is what we are keeping a close eye on, the extent to which it moves away from these localised outbreaks to broader community transmission,” he told the BBC’s Today programme.
“What we saw in the last few days from the surveillance data is this worrying increase in cases, which can as we know from the first wave of the pandemic, potentially get out of hand if we don’t be very serious about the control measures.”
He added: “We very much have to balance our return to normality. The thing that concerns me is that we know respiratory infections spread most effectively in the winter, and would normally peak over the winter months.
“But we also know that everything in terms of returning to normality seems to be coming on itself very quickly.
“We have the return of schools, we’ve got the returning of universities, we are encouraging people to return to office work, this will increase the use of public transport, we are encouraging people to shop more, people are going to pubs and restaurants more and socialising more, there is more intergenerational mixing that there was before and shifting has lifted.
“So, what we are seeing is all of these restrictions are being lifted, which is of course really important for getting the economy back, at the same time of year as we expect to see high levels of transmission.”
US election 2020: Fact-checking Trump and Biden’s final week
After months of bitter campaigning – and plenty of spin and distortion of the facts – the US election is drawing to an end.
We’ve been fact-checking the candidates throughout, and here is our selection from the final week of the campaign.
Donald Trump has been far more active on the campaign trail over the past few days, with a punishing schedule of rallies in key states.
There’s been no let-up of his repetition of false claims about the pandemic, his record in office and the integrity of postal voting.
Mr Biden has appeared in public far less, but he’s also presented fact-checking challenges and often misrepresented the economy under President Trump.
Trump: You can change your vote in “most states”
Verdict: This is not correct. Only in a few states can you change your vote after you’ve submitted a postal ballot.
There are just a handful of states – including Michigan, Connecticut, Minnesota, New York and Wisconsin – where your postal vote can be cancelled after it has been submitted.
In these states, you can then either request a new postal ballot or vote in person.
Most states will allow you to vote in person if you’ve been sent a postal vote but haven’t returned it. Some of these ballots have to be counted last to make sure no-one votes twice.
Strongly Trending (Google) since immediately after the second debate is CAN I CHANGE MY VOTE? This refers changing it to me. The answer in most states is YES. Go do it. Most important Election of your life!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 27, 2020
Biden: “Donald Trump crashed the economy that Barack and I left him. Like everything else he’s left and inherited, he squandered it.”
Verdict: Only after the onset of the pandemic did economic growth take a nose-dive. It has subsequently experienced a strong recovery.
The latest numbers show economic output surged by an annualised 33% in the third quarter of 2020, following a record fall as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the economy has not yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels.
Prior to the pandemic, during President Trump’s first three years in office,
The last three years of the Obama administration saw a similar level of growth (2.3%).
Mr Trump has said the recent recovery in growth is “the biggest in the history of our country by almost triple… that’s bigger than any nation”.
This isn’t right. Over the third quarter period (July-September) this year, the economy grew by 7.4% in the US (33.1% is the annualised figure). This is less than Germany, Italy and the eurozone as a whole.
If you look at economic growth from the start of the pandemic to the present, the US has done better than Europe but “worse that China and some other Asian economies” such as South Korea, says Neil Shearing, chief economist at Capital Economics.
Biden: “It’s estimated that if we wore masks the next few months, by his own experts in the CDC and other agencies… we’d save 100,000 lives.”
Verdict: The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) does not make this projection, nor do others.
Mr Biden may have been referring to a projection, not by the CDC, but from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.
However, the 100,000 figure Mr Biden quotes is significantly above the IHME’s latest estimate that 62,000 lives would be saved by the end of January 2021, if mask-wearing was almost universal.
The CDC recommends that people wear masks in public settings, events and gatherings, to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
Trump: Joe Biden ending cash bail would free “400,000 dangerous criminals”
Verdict: This needs context. Joe Biden does want to end the cash bail system, but Mr Trump is wrong about its impact.
Joe Biden has pledged to end cash bail – the deposit a defendant pays to avoid being kept in detention while awaiting trial.
His website says: “The cash bail system incarcerates people who are presumed innocent.”
There are about 450,000 individuals currently detained before trial. However, a significant proportion of these are not given the option of bail – in particular those charged with serious crimes.
So Mr Trump’s figure of 400,000 is too high, say experts. And it’s also not correct to call all the people who can’t afford to pay bail “dangerous criminals”.
“Cash bail results in detention based on inability to pay. As a result, a low-risk indigent person may be detained and a high-risk wealthy person may be released,” says Prof Crystal Yang at Harvard University.
Biden: “91 of the top corporate companies in America paid zero federal income tax.”
Verdict: This is true, according to a study.
The context for this claim is that Mr Biden has criticised big cuts in taxes under the Trump administration that have led to companies and wealthy individuals paying substantially less.
In 2018, 91 of the top 500 companies in the US effectively paid no tax, according to a report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
Despite making almost $80bn in pre-tax income, some companies paid no taxes, as the US corporate tax code “lowers the bar for the amount of tax avoidance it takes to get you down to zero”, according to the Institute.
The companies paying zero tax included Amazon and Starbucks.
Why Amazon and Reliance are fighting for Future Retail in India
What’s at stake is strategic access to a network of popular grocery stores and retail shops in India — something both Amazon and Reliance want to either have for themselves, or to prevent the other from acquiring.
“If someone backs down, it will give the impression that one has lost and the other has won, when the fight has just started,” said Counterpoint Research analyst Tarun Pathak.
Amazon has 31.2% market share in India’s e-commerce industry, just behind Walmart-owned Flipkart’s 31.9%, according to a recent report from market research firm Forrester. But Ambani has made no secret of his ambitions to upend the market with JioMart, which is part of his sprawling conglomerate.
Then Covid-19 hit. India enforced one of the strictest nationwide lockdowns, ordering shops to shutter and millions of people to stay indoors for months.
A legal dispute
The announcement took industry watchers by surprise.
“Everyone knew Amazon had a stake in Future Retail, and the deal didn’t mention what would happen to Amazon’s stake,” said Satish Meena, analyst at research firm Forrester.
Amazon responded by filing a complaint to the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC).
Indian companies and foreign companies operating in India often agree to settle disputes in Singapore because “it’s a neutral jurisdiction with high integrity and international standards,” according to Ashish Kabra, a lawyer who heads the International Dispute Resolution & Investigations Practice for Nishith Desai Associates in Singapore.
The arbitration process is confidential and none of the submissions are public.
Amazon argued that the 2019 deal struck between it and the Future Group entity included a non-compete clause, a person familiar with Amazon’s perspective told CNN Business. The clause listed 30 restricted parties with which Future Retail and Future Group could not do business, and Reliance was on that list, the person said.
“The key question really is what’s the validity of contracts if you just ignore them,” said the person familiar with Amazon’s side.
“Are companies just going to ignore contracts and do what they please?”
Future Group had argued that if the deal with Reliance falls through, its retail unit will be forced into liquidation and 29,000 people will lose their jobs, according to Reuters, which cited the Singapore order. The order is not public, but the person familiar with Amazon’s perspective confirmed that Future presented this argument.
“We welcome the award of the Emergency Arbitrator. We are grateful for the order which grants all the reliefs that were sought,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement.
CNN Business contacted Future Group for comment, and received a statement from Future Retail.
Future Retail said it “is examining the communication and the order” from SIAC.
Reliance (RRVL) said in a statement that its deal with Future Retail is “fully enforceable” under Indian law.
“RRVL intends to enforce its rights and complete the transaction in terms of the scheme and agreement with Future group without any delay,” said the statement.
But in the past, Indian courts have usually followed the lead of orders passed by emergency arbitrators outside of India, according to Kabra, the lawyer.
“What parties have previously done, is they approach Indian Courts and ask for similar reliefs in India, while relying on the order of the Emergency Arbitrator. Indian Courts usually grant the same relief,” said Kabra.
A ‘clash of the titans’
For Reliance, which operates 11,000 stores throughout India, and Amazon, the No. 2 e-commerce player in the country, Future Retail’s 1,500 stores are not a must have, says one analyst.
“It’s not like without it you can’t have your ambitions, if you don’t have Future [Retail],” said Pathak, of Counterpoint Research.
This is “less about Future and more about the clash of the titans,” as well as “protecting your turf,” he added.
To compete with Amazon and Flipkart, Ambani’s JioMart has been growing its presence in India. It expanded to hundreds of cities across India earlier this year and plans to branch into electronics, fashion, pharmaceutical and healthcare soon. The company will also likely tap into Reliance Retail’s network of physical stores across the country to fulfill online orders, according to analysts.
The industry had expected Amazon and Reliance to forge some kind of deal in the future, because they need each other’s expertise, according to Meena, of Forrester. Amazon needs more shops to expand inventory and use retail spaces as storage and delivery hubs. And Reliance doesn’t have a lot of experience in e-commerce, according to Meena.
But any kind of partnership between Amazon and Reliance in the future “depends upon how much bad blood is between them now,” said Meena.
“It might end up becoming an ego battle between the CEOs of both the companies,” he said.
Ivory Coast elections: Voters go to the polls amid opposition boycott
Polls are set to open in Ivory Coast’s controversial presidential election.
At least 14 people have been killed since riots broke out in August after President Alassane Ouattara said he would run again following the sudden death of his preferred successor.
The main opposition candidates, Pascal Affi N’Guessan and Henri Konan Bédié, say it is illegal for Mr Ouattara to stand for a third term.
They are boycotting the vote and have called for civil disobedience.
What is it so controversial?
According to the constitution, Ivory Coast has a two-term presidential limit. Mr Ouattara – who has been elected twice – initially said he would stand down.
But, in July, the ruling party’s previous presidential nominee, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, died of a heart attack.
Mr Ouattara subsequently announced that he would run for president after all.
His supporters argued that a constitutional change in 2016 reset the clock and that his first term did not count.
His opponents do not share that view, arguing instead that it is illegal for Mr Ouattara to run for a third term.
What’s the background to the tension?
There has been a decades-long quarrel between some of the country’s leading political figures.
In 2010, Laurent Gbagbo, who was president at the time, refused to concede to Mr Ouattara following the election in that year and this sparked a bitter civil war.
More than 3,000 people were killed in the five months of violence.
Mr Gbagbo also put himself forward to stand in this year’s election but the electoral commission blocked him because he had been convicted in the Ivorian courts.
He was one of nearly 40 potential candidates who were turned down by the commission.
Who are the four presidential candidates?
- Alassane Ouattara, 78, an economist. Became president in 2011, serving his second term after years in opposition.
Party: Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP)
- Henri Konan Bédié, 86, career politician. Served as president between 1993 and 1999, deposed in coup. Party: Democratic Party of Ivory Coast (PCDI)
- Pascal Affi N’Guessan, 67, career politician. Served as prime minister between 2000 and 2003 under then-President Laurent Gbagbo. Party: Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) faction
- Kouadio Konan Bertin, 51, career politician, known as KKB, was once youth leader in the former ruling Democratic Party of Ivory Coast, is now an MP. Independent candidate
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