Tag: United Kingdom

British legislators seeking to probe UK-enlisted firm in connection to Beirut blast
Middle East & Africa

British legislators seeking to probe UK-enlisted firm in connection to Beirut blast

On Friday, Two senior British parliamentarians called for a probe on a British-registered company likely connected to the Beirut blast last year. 

A lady listed as Savaro’s proprietor and sole head at Companies House, Marina Psyllou, informed Reuters that she was posing as an agent on account of another beneficial proprietor, whose name she couldn’t reveal.

“The individual who was and has consistently been the UBO’s proprietor of the organization was consistently the same, and we can’t reveal his name,” she added. She didn’t state why she was unable to tell his name. 

Savaro Ltd. is listed at a London address, and all British firms are required to register their owner’s name with Companies House. 

Global corporate administration rules characterize a UBO as someone who gets the advantages of an entity’s transactions that is at least 25% of its capital. 

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  1. Netanyahu  150x150 - British legislators seeking to probe UK-enlisted firm in connection to Beirut blast
  2. Beirut 150x150 - British legislators seeking to probe UK-enlisted firm in connection to Beirut blast

Margaret Hodge, a British official, who headed parliament’s public affairs advisory group from 2010-2015, called the failure to list Savaro’s definitive beneficiary outrageous. 

“The UK officials ought to examine this, given wrong data seems to have been documented. We need to challenge development specialists where it appears they may have acted improperly.”

John Mann, Britain’s House of Lords member who has probed the utilization of UK-enlisted companies in the illegal movement, stated the case indicated the requirement for more grounded authorization of Britain’s company disclosure laws. 

Last year’s report of Reuters on the Beirut explosion found that the huge shipment of ammonium nitrate fertilizer that detonated in Lebanon was held in Beirut while on the way to Mozambique. The Mozambican purchaser, FEM, recognized the company name as Savaro.

Investigating the shipment will help find out who is behind the Savaro company, stated Ben Cowdock, investigator of international corruption cases for Transparency International in London.

The effects of Brexit: products not allowed at the border and no fruit in many shops

The effects of Brexit: products not allowed at the border and no fruit in many shops

The effects of Brexit: Netherlands border agents confiscated yesterday all the ham and cheese sandwiches an English gentleman arriving by ship from the United Kingdom brought with him. The man asked why and the border officials explained that because of the Brexit, it is no longer allowed to import this type of product. “Sorry, sir. This is Brexit.” One of the agents said. That is an emblematic scene of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union effects. 

The agents strictly but correctly applied the new rules. Because from 11 pm on 31 December 2020, the UK officially left the European single market. And although Boris Johnson snatched a theoretically zero duty tariff-free trade agreement from the last, this still implies a huge number of customs declarations, up to tens of millions per year. But above all, some fresh products can no longer enter the European Union freely from the United Kingdom, now a non-EU country, even if you are a tourist, exactly, as it already happens at the US border. 

The rule applies above all to meat (whether fresh or cured) and cheeses and dairy products, for reasons of safety and health, as similar foods must be checked in advance by the authorities to avoid importing diseases. The United Kingdom, unlike the EU, still allows tourists and ordinary citizens to bring the ham, cheese, and in general dairy products and meats, if these come from the EU, also because however London cannot yet carry out such checks. So, barring a few misinformed British border agents, as the rules are, it is still possible to bring sandwiches, cold cuts, and cheeses from the EU to the UK, a rather common practice for many migrant workers and visitors.

Meanwhile, fruit and vegetables are starting to run out in an increasing number of UK supermarkets, as explained by an alarmed Daily Mail, one of the country’s most pro-Brexit newspapers. In Britain, the cause of the problem is the long lines of trucks seen in Dover in late December. When French President Emmanuel Macron closed the borders to stop the English coronavirus variant. The blockade and the long waiting discouraged many factories from shipping goods and merchandise at the Brexit beginning.

In Northern Ireland too, goods are starting to run out. The problem here is that, in turn, goods from Great Britain to and around Belfast have to undergo customs checks and declarations, although this takes place within the UK. According to the Brexit agreement between the Boris Johnson government and Brussels, London has to check many products before crossing the Irish Sea to Northern Ireland.

The latter remained in the customs union and EU single market. The decision came to avoid re-installing the border between the two Irish countries and to preserve peace between them. Therefore, all goods from the UK must be checked and selected as if crossing an EU country border.

After the UK scare, coronavirus lands in Antarctica

After the UK scare, coronavirus lands in Antarctica

Coronavirus lands in Antarctica: The first passengers to arrive from the United Kingdom landed in Calais, France, after the French Minister of Transport Jean-Baptiste Djebbari announced last night that air, sea, and rail connections would resume this morning. To travellers over 11 years old is required to show, upon arrival, a negative Covid-19 test. The first ferry to leave Dover, the ‘Cotes des Flandres’ arrived in Calais at around 3.30 am local time, followed shortly after by another ferry. Arrivals from the UK to France were suspended from Sunday, following the new British variant of the coronavirus discovery, which generated panic and concerns among other nations.

The coronavirus pandemic is not under control in France. A new blockade must remain an option, Karine Lacombe, head of the infectious disease unit at Saint-Antoine hospital in Paris, said Wednesday. “On the epidemiological front, the epidemic is not at all under control,” Lacombe told BfmFm TV. Medical experts expressed concern that holiday season could lead to a resurgence of cases in France and Europe. Data released Tuesday showed that France reported an additional 802 related deaths in the past 24 hours and 11,800 new cases.

In addition to France, Belgium and the Netherlands also partially reopen their borders with the UK. The decision arrived to allow their compatriots to return and unblock the traffic of goods. Germany extended the closure of the borders, with both Great Britain and South Africa, the two countries where outbreaks of the new most contagious coronavirus strain have developed, until 6 January. Spain, as well, suspended inbound flights until January 5 and Ireland until the end of the year. Germany recorded over 24,000 cases of coronavirus, and 962 deaths, in the last 24 hours. According to the Robert Koch Institute, whose president Lothar Wieler urged the Germans to give up traveling on holidays to stem the infections.

Singapore authorities have also blocked the arrivals or transit of passengers from the UK following the new variant of the coronavirus’ discovery. The Singapore Ministry of Health has specified that passengers who have been in the UK in the past 14 days will not be allowed to enter the country until further notice. The decision will have consequences, especially for people bound for Australia who stopover in Singapore.

While the White House emergency officer announced her resignation, the virus has landed in Antarctica, the only continent that has so far had no case. The presence of the virus has been recorded on all seven continents. The Chilean military has reported 36 cases of Covid-19 at its Bernardo O’Higgins research station in the Antarctic Peninsula. The infected, including 26 military and ten maintenance workers, were moved back to Chile. The news comes a few days after the Chilean navy confirmed three coronavirus contagions on a ship that had brought supplies and personnel to the research station. The Sargento Aldea ship arrived at the station on 27 November and returned to Chile on 10 December. Three crew members had tested positive on their return to the Talcahuano base. Chile is the sixth most affected country in Latin America, with over 585,000 COVID-19 confirmed cases.

Johnson and Macron held talks over phone to resolve the ban on cargo amid a new virus strain

Johnson and Macron held talks over phone to resolve the ban on cargo amid a new virus strain

The Ban on Cargo: On Monday, British PM Boris Johnson conversed with French President Emmanuel Macron over the telephone about the closure of France’s borders to cargo from Britain. Johnson personally requested Macron to set aside his anxiety over the strain caused by the variant of the Covid-19 virus. 

“I have recently spoken to President Macron and we both understand each other’s situations and we both desire to resolve these issues as quickly as possible,” Johnson stated in a press conference. 

France is among the 40 nations that have suspended trains and flights from the UK, but on Thursday night, Paris went further by forcing a 48-hour ban on freight entering Britain. In a discussion with President Macron, Boris Johnson stressed the necessity to reopen the supply chains between them. 

I need to emphasize that we in the UK completely comprehend the anxiety of our counterparts about the new Coronavirus mutation strain yet it is also true that we think the dangers of transmission by a single driver sitting alone in a lorry or taxi is exceptionally low. 

Johnson also addressed other world leaders to reassure them of the UK’s quick response to detect the mutation of Covid-19. 

After a discussion on the phone with the Johnson on Tuesday morning, there is hope that France will reopen borders to the UK but only to its own nationals, French occupants, and experts, for example, drivers would have to go through fresh PCR swab test, France’s public broadcaster reported. 

Other non-French nationals with a permanent home in France will have the option to return, however, the border is set to stay shut to all non-French residents in the UK. According to The Guardian, the UK is expecting to counter the new variant of Covid by setting up new measures. 

The UK home secretary, Priti Patel, stated on Tuesday that the administration was conversing with the French authorities about testing all drivers leaving Britain to permit cargo and travelers to visit once more. 

She affirmed that more than 1,500 lorries were stranded in Kent on Tuesday morning. The queue formed as France imposed a ban on cargo to enter from Britain.

Patel told the BBC that the transport secretary is having discussions with France at this moment. The UK and French officials are working towards finding a solution to reopen borders. 

It’s in the interest of both the nation, to ensure that we have a smooth course as many European haulers are waiting to return home.

Rod McKenzie, the managing director of the Road Haulage Association told BBC, there are serious concerns about the well-being of drivers that were stuck across the Channel. One trade organization stated that they were provided with one oat bar each during the 24 hours.

We need to look into the issue of fewer washroom facilities, health, and cleanliness concerns. In these difficult conditions of getting stuck at the border, we are not treating the lorry drivers well by feeding them one oats bar, McKenzie added.

COVID-19 immunization program brings hope to the NHS staff, Businesses, and UK citizens

COVID-19 immunization program brings hope to the NHS staff, Businesses, and UK citizens

COVID-19 immunization program: The United Kingdom began the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech immunization program on Dec 8. The NHS is giving top priority to citizens that are above 80 years of age, care home workers, and frontline healthcare workers, BBC reports.

The UK has secured 800,000 doses of vaccine; however, officials say it will take time to bring back life to normal. Following the immunization program, businesses are hopeful that people will be resuming work gradually. 

A worldwide inoculation program that is relied upon to pick up pace as more serums win the medical approval. 

The first phase of the U.K’s. immunization program on 8 Dec would be known in history as ‘V-Day’

May Parson, an NHS nurse who had vaccinated Keenan on Tuesday, stated that it was a “great honor” to be the first in the nation to administer the Pfizer vaccine to a patient.

“The recent months have been very tough for us all working in the NHS, yet now it seems like there is a ray of hope due to the arrival of the covid-19 vaccine,” Parson added. Parson is originally from the Philippines and she has been working for the NHS for 24 years.

‘Bill’ William Shakespeare, 81, was the second person to receive the vaccine in the University Hospital in Coventry in the Midlands. The photograph of ‘Bill’ Shakespeare receiving the injection went viral on social media, with comments, such as ‘The Taming of Flu’ and ‘The Two Gentlemen of Corona’

An older citizen of Britain, Hari Shukla, a retired teacher along with his wife, Ranjan, 83, was vaccinated at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle. Shukla stated that when he received a call about the vaccine, he was very excited to have gotten the opportunity to participate in this.″. “So we are very excited and thrilled as well,″ The Telegraph reported.

His Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth, 94, and Prince Philip, 99, are expected to be among the first to get the immunization. 

While the U.K. has a very well-organized framework for delivering the vaccine, it is all set to vaccinate pregnant ladies, school kids gradually reaching the whole population. 

Public health authorities around the world are observing Britain’s vaccine rollout as they plan for the remarkable undertaking of immunizing billions of people, a big step towards ending the coronavirus pandemic.

PM Boris Johnson stated on 8 Dec: The historic day marks a tremendous step forward in the UK’s battle against the coronavirus pandemic. As the program rolls out, it is as significant as could be expected to keep to the Covid winter plan – observing the guidelines in your region and recall the essentials protocols of sanitizing hands, covering the face, and maintaining social distance.”

Why Should EU Be Vehement Of UK Emergency Vaccine Authorisation Move?

Why Should EU Be Vehement Of UK Emergency Vaccine Authorisation Move?

EU Be Vehement Of UK: The European counterparts are not happy with the way Britain has become the first western country to have fast tracked licensing of a Covid-19 virus vaccine. They feel the country has prioritized speed over the authenticity and efficacy of the vaccine, without taking into consideration public opinion.

According to EU European Medicines Agency, UK has not won the public confidence, and gone through the speedy approval route (emergency authorization), something even the European Union could have also adopted.  But “we worked on the premise that the idea is not that we’re the first to give to the world a vaccine, but the idea is to have safe and effective vaccines in the pandemic and that we can create confidence, and nothing is more important than confidence with respect to vaccines,” said German Health Minister  Jens Spahn.

UK has approved of the Pfizer and BioNTech led vaccine candidates to be rolled out into the market from next week.  Ironically, the second one has been developed in Germany itself, which holds the stance that in solidarity of being with the EU, all the nations believe in ‘moving together in unity’. 

The EU bloc isn’t happy with the way UK is calling this a win for the UK only because of their Brexit decision. They are also turning away their faces from claims that this is an historic win for the UK itself. Alok Sharma, the UK business secretary, might have carelessly claimed that the emergency authorisation was a British success story. “In years to come, we will remember this moment as the day the UK led humanity’s charge against this disease,” he said.

German Ambassador to UK, Andreas Michaelis, in a re-tweet had to set the record straight when he said, “Why is it so difficult to recognise this important step forward as a great international effort and success? I really don’t think this is a national story. In spite of the German company BioNTech having made a crucial contribution, this is European and transatlantic.”

Indeed the EU isn’t happy with the way Britain is siding for its own. But then, they should let go off Britain, as quickly as Boris Johnson has resumed a new identity and is taking all the steps he must to ensure the welfare of his own turf. 

Coronavirus infection spread: Symptomatic vs Asymptomatic, What do we know?

Coronavirus infection spread: Symptomatic vs Asymptomatic, What do we know?

Coronavirus infection transmission rate and the potency of infection spread from asymptomatic patients is still “unknown”, World Health Organization clarified on Tuesday. This was after Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’S COVID-19 technical lead said on Monday that infection spread from asymptomatic cases is “very rare”. The fact that this observation was based on a small study group, makes it not reliable.

Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, Dr. Michael Ryan said that undoubtedly there is transmission of infection from asymptomatic sources and that he was “absolutely convinced” about it. Just the question left is that “how much” infection spread rate is from patients displaying no symptoms.

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, who is also the WHO’S Head of Emerging Diseases clarified the distinctive features between three categories of coronavirus patients/ carriers.

  • Asymptomatic patients – these are the ones who never develop any symptoms to infection, and therefore sometimes might go undetected.
  • Pre-symptomatic – These patients do not have any symptoms when they are tested positive, but they develop them later on.
  • Mild symptomatic – These people have very mild or common (atypical) symptoms and they usually do not realize they have the infection, and go undetected.

These minor differences between categories, which are seldom not mentioned in the reports, along with small sample size for study make it significantly difficult to draw any conclusions regarding carriers and spread of coronavirus infection.

But Dr. Van Kerkhove suggested that available evidences indicate lower infection spread instances from patients who never develop the symptoms or are asymptomatic, when compared to patients with mild or moderate-severe symptoms.  

According to studies conducted by the WHO in various random sample groups of asymptomatic cases, when contact tracing was done it was discovered that there were very low secondary infection cases among people who came in contact with asymptomatic patients.

WHO published in “guidance on wearing masks” on weekend, based on the study concluding “The available evidence from contact tracing reported by member states suggests that asymptomatically-infected individuals are much less likely to transmit the virus than those who develop symptoms.”

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) in UK after consistent sample testing of patients concluded that only 29% of positive tested patients of COVID-19 reported “any evidence of symptoms” when they were tested positive, or previous or following visits.

Symptomatic patients – highest risk carriers

 Contact tracing sample studies in many countries provides evidence that “true asymptomatic” cases “rarely transmit” infection. But the studies also indicate that there can be infection transmission before or on the day symptoms appear when they are mild in severity, stated Prof. Babak Javid who is an Infectious Diseases Consultant at the University of Cambridge.

Around three days before the patients first develop symptoms, there can be a detectable load of virus present in their system, which is capable of transmission relatively higher just before or on the day of symptoms appearance.

The asymptomatic cases can transmit the infection, but the relative high infection spread by symptomatic patients provides suitable evidence that they are the “highest risk” category of carriers.

The evidence collected through studies suggests – a positive case doesn’t directly indicate the transmission capacity of the patient or how much virus is in their system, also known as “Viral Load”. But when a patient displays symptoms like sneezing and coughing and the amount of contact he has with other people, directly influences how likely he can transmit the infection. It has been substantially determined that coronavirus mainly “passes through infectious droplets”. This determines that when a patient sneezes or coughs, he is most prone to pass on the infection, pointed out Dr. Van Kerkhove.

UAE sent 6.6 tonnes of medical material to UK, boosting PPE production
Middle East & Africa

UAE sent 6.6 tonnes of medical material to UK, boosting PPE production

In the context of international cooperation in the fight against COVID-19, the United Arab Emirates has delivered today 6.6 tonnes of medical material to the United Kingdom that will enable the country to produce millions of items of personal protective equipment, PPE.

The shipment arrived at Heathrow Airport on a special chartered flight on Friday morning and was made up of 6.6 tonnes of melt blown fabric, an essential component of surgical face masks. According to UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) there is currently a global shortage of the material and its export is restricted from the UAE.

This shipment will enable the UK to manufacture millions of face masks to protect millions of medical professionals as they work to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The UAE Ambassador to the UK, Mansoor Abulhoul, said: “We are delighted to be able to assist Britain, one of our closest friends and allies. The UAE is committed to helping fight COVID-19 wherever it can and has donated aid to 63 countries around the world.”

Soon after the virus emerged the UAE retooled factories to produce PPE, the UAE was able to supply the material because of its internationally-recognised success in curbing the spread of COVID-19. Careful supply chain management also meant the UAE did not exhaust domestic supplies of melt blown fabric, which is used in the oil industry and is manufactured in the UAE.

Last April, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, donated 60 tonnes of urgent medical aid to the UK. The NHS has been given rent-free use of ExCel London; the conference centre owned by the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre which is currently NHS Nightingale.

The UAE undertaken numerous initiatives to globally combat the new coronavirus, delivering more than 716 tonnes of medical aid to 63 countries; more than 716,000 medical professionals have been assisted worldwide so far.This global approach on fighting the common enemy, called COVID-19, allowed to save millions lives around the world.

Brexit deal likely by autumn, EU says

Brexit deal likely by autumn, EU says

European Union leaders will intervene soon in order to bring the Brexit talks to a conclusion by autumn, according to Berlin’s representative in Brussels.

Following the United Kingdom’s statement last week that talks can’t go on forever and needed to be concluded before autumn, Germany’s ambassador to the EU Michael Clauss confirmed that the EU was working towards this. Political intervention was likely and inevitable, and this would be EU’s main focus in September and October along with arriving at a pandemic recovery package for the bloc.

Saying that no real progress has been made so far on the negotiations, he said that Ursula von der Leyen, the European commission president, Charles Michel, the president of the European council, and Boris Johnson would meet this month to take stock. This will help negotiators arrive at a conclusion about whether no-deal planning was necessary. The UK has made it clear that it is not willing to budge from its red lines and it is up to the EU to accept this and arrive at a reasonable compromise.

UK officials are already of the opinion that an autumn deal would be too late as it would not give British business enough time to prepare for the end of transition without the knowledge of what kind of trade agreement has been reached. In the last round of negotiations, there was stalemate across the board in access for European fishing fleets to UK waters, the role of European courts, return for a zero-tariff trade deal, and common environmental, social and labour standards. UK negotiators have been repeatedly calling for EU’s political leaders to intervene to break the stalemate.

EU has been saying that Britain cannot have a full sovereignty and full access to the internal market, but it would have to give away some sovereignty to secure free trade. A compromise would have to be reached with the objective of arriving at a deal at the European Council summit on 15 October. It can’t be much later, according to EU insiders, because it would then need to be ratified by the European parliament which would need some time.

In lieu of China imposing new law in Hong Kong, UK to offer “citizenship route” to HK citizens
Asia Pacific Focus

In lieu of China imposing new law in Hong Kong, UK to offer “citizenship route” to HK citizens

China has been facing criticism over the new law imposing on Hong Kong that would devoid the country of its “independent” status and freedom to “protest”, with HK coming directly under the jurisdiction of China mainland.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Times in an interview that UK would offer a route of citizenship to HK residents in case the security law by China is imposed on the country.

UK and other allies like U.S. and Australia are already discussing on the mode of action and change in relations with HK, if China imposes the new law on Hong Kong – in which case the same relations with HK would be unlawful as would be undermining Beijing’s authority.

On Wednesday, UK PM Boris Johnson confirmed that in case of law imposition, the Hong Kong citizens with BNO (British National Overseas) passports would be allowed to enter UK without any visa and allowed to stay up to a year, as against 6 months as per earlier laws. The passport holders would be further allowed to work in UK as an extension to immigration rights.

Approximately 350,000 Hong Kong citizens have a valid BNO passport and more than 2.6 million are eligible for it.

PM Boris Johnson clarified that if need be Britain would take this step for HK citizens willingly and would not “walk away”.

“If China proceeds to justify their fears, then Britain could not in good conscience shrug our shoulders and walk away; instead we will honour our obligations and provide an alternative,” PM Johnson told the Times.

Lord Patten, the last British governor to Hong Kong supported UK’s stand as being “politically and morally right.” He accused China of its continuous “bullying” tactics. He said that it is not against China but the fact that China’s communist regime cannot stand the HK’s policies – that is everything which President Xi Jinping dislikes.

He further said that this is the “era marking beginning of realism with China.”

Hong Kong had been the colony of Britain which was handed over to China in 1997. According to the terms of treaty, Hong Kong enjoys certain freedoms which are devoid in China mainland. These set of freedom policies are set in a mini-constitution known as Basic Law.

BNO passports were granted to HK citizens who were born before handover to China in 1997. These passports allow holders to enjoy many perks and protection from UK foreign policies, they are still not eligible to work or stay for more than 6 months in UK.

The proposed action under immigration and citizenship route by UK for Hong Kong citizens is believed to offer some respite and opportunities for people fearing China law implementation.

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