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UK Prime Minister imposes harsh lockdown as new Covid-19 variant spreads

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson reimposed a lockdown in England on Monday as a more transmissible variant of Covid-19 fuels a surge in infections and hospitalizations in the country.

“It is clear that we need to do more to bring this new variant under control,” Johnson said. “That means the government is once again instructing you to stay at home.”

During his televised address to the nation, Johnson reimposed measures seen during the first lockdown last spring, including closures of secondary and primary schools to all except the children of key workers and vulnerable children. He added that this means it will not be “possible or fair for all exams to go ahead this summer as normal,” and alternative arrangements are being put in place.

People will be allowed to leave their homes for limited reasons like shopping for essentials, exercise, and medical assistance. Johnson also said people could still leave home “to escape domestic abuse” — an issue that arose earlier during the pandemic, as isolation and lockdown conditions exacerbated barriers to escape for victims of domestic violence.

International departures are now limited to those who have “a legally permitted reason,” such as work.

Outdoor sports venues will have to close. But unlike spring’s lockdown, nurseries will not be shuttered, elite sports can go ahead, and places of worship will remain open on the basis that attendees adhere to social distancing rules.

The lockdown is expected to remain in place at least through the middle of February.


His announcement follows that of Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who announced a lockdown that will begin on midnight, Tuesday, local time. Wales and Northern Ireland — the other nations of the UK — are already in lockdown.The UK is back in crisis mode as new daily Covid-19 cases soared above 50,000 cases for nearly a week, and hospitalizations exceed April’s peak.

According to Johnson, there were 30% more Covid-19 patients in hospitals in England on Monday than a week earlier. The health ministry has said the country would move to the highest Covid-19 alert level, reflecting concern that the rising number of hospitalizations could overwhelm country’s National Health Service (NHS) in coming weeks.

“Many parts of the health systems in the four nations are already under immense pressure. There are currently very high rates of community transmission, with substantial numbers of COVID patients in hospitals and in intensive care,” UK Chief Medical Officers said in a statement on Monday.

“We are not confident that the NHS can handle a further sustained rise in cases and without further action there is a material risk of the NHS in several areas being overwhelmed over the next 21 days,” UK Chief Medical Officers said, adding that the new variant, believed to have originated in the UK, has led to rising cases “almost everywhere.”

Vaccine hopes

The UK government is pinning its hopes for a route out of this disaster through its Covid-19 vaccination program, which began last month. Yet the country is long way from vaccinating the millions in the top priority groups mentioned by Johnson, including people “over the age of 70, all frontline health workers and everyone who is clinically vulnerable.”

Johnson suggests those groups are expected to have been offered their first doses by mid-February. But since the beginning of December, when the UK became the first in the world to administer the clinically approved Pfizer/BionTech vaccaine, more than 1 million people have received the immunization,according to a government press release.

On Monday, the first doses of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine were administered in the UK. “The vaccine means everything to me, to my mind it is the only way to get back to normal life,” Brian William Pinker, 82, said after receiving the first shot.

But optimism over the rollout of that vaccine — described as a “real pivotal moment” by UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock — was drowned out by the announcement of the new lockdown measures.

“Thanks to the miracle of science, not only is the end in sight, but we know exactly how we will get there. But for now we must, I am afraid, stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives,” Johnson said as he concluded his speech on Monday.

Mounting anger

Thanks Johnson’s announcement follows mounting calls from public health experts, teachers’ unions and lawmakers for a more stringent lockdown.

British teachers unions criticized the “chaotic reopening” of schools this week, “while the rate of infection is so high is exposing education sector workers to serious risk of ill-health and could fuel the pandemic,” six unions with members in the education sectors said in a joint statement.

Students in the UK were due to return to school from the Christmas break on Monday. But less than a week ago, the government announced the return to school would be delayed by two weeks for almost all high-schoolers and some primary (elementary) school children. Learning will move online.

UK opposition leader Keir Starmer impored Johnson to take tougher measures to tackle the surge “ideally today,” he told CNN affiliate ITV News, adding that Britain’s tiered system approach to restrictions “isn’t working.’

Ruling Conservative party lawmaker Jeremy Hunt, who was the former health secretary, said it was “time to act” ahead of Johnson’s speech. “We need to close schools, borders, and ban all household mixing RIGHT AWAY,” he wrote.

While the lockdown announcement was met with relief by many, education unions furthered their call for school staff to be prioritized for vaccinations, according to PA Media. Others complained about the lack of notice provided to parents over the immediate closure of schools.

“This is beyond chaos. How can learning go online tomorrow when teachers were told to spend the last two weeks planning for reopening?” the shadow foreign secretary from the opposing Labour Party, Lisa Nandy, wrote on Twitter.

“What will replace exams? And since the PM was told by SAGE [the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies] that this would almost certainly be necessary on 22 December why is he so unprepared?” she added in regards to minutes released in December that showed scientists had informed ministers that schools should be closed.

 

CNN’s Niamh Kennedy contributed to this report.

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Don’t accept wike’s deceptive Financial bribe- IPOB warns IMO communities

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IPOB

The Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB has warned the people of Ohaji Local Government Area of Imo State against ceding their land to Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.

IPOB cautioned the people of Ohaji against accepting Wike’s alleged satanic and deceptive financial inducement.

Emma Powerful, the spokesman of IPOB, issued the warning in reaction to an alleged illegal and undocumented ceding of communities in Ohaji Local Government Area to Wike.

Powerful warned that ceding their communities to Wike would affect their children’s future; hence such a deceptive move should be rejected.

He urged the communities to treat whoever is persuading them to change their state of origin as a criminal.

Powerful noted that accepting to change their state of origin for the sake of N150,000 monthly is evil.

A statement by Powerful reads partly: “Following an illegal undocumented treaty to cede communities of Ohaji Egbema LGA from Imo State to Rivers State via a crooked financial inducement by current Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.

“We the global family and movement of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) under the command and leadership of our great leader Mazi Nnamdi KANU wish to warn that such project is called to a halt to avert inevitable consequences.

“We suggest to the communities that fall into this deceptive venture masterminded by Nyesom Wike to retrace their steps, considering that this singular act could attract futuristic destructive effects.

“IPOB was intimated with the information regarding Governor Wike’s plan, which includes conditional future promises and haven gone through these moves realized that Wike will abandon them in future because governor Wike cannot be in charge of Rivers State beyond his tenor as a current Governor.

“It is a known fact that the Imo State government failed in their obligations as it concerns the predicaments they are facing in that area, but they must forget Wike with his satanic offer. Wike’s deceptive offer would harm them and their children in the future as such may not be sustainable by successive governments. Moreover, the Biafra restoration approaches hastily.

“IPOB is advising them to retrace their steps and watch what God Almighty has in stock for them; changing God Almighty’s plans for children will harm the communities in the future, for God to have placed you where you are today does not mean that he has abandoned you.

“The communities or anybody persuading them to change their State of origin identity and be acquired like slaves with cash value of N150 (One Hundred and Fifty Naira Only) is evil and must be treated as criminal because we don’t see where old men and women, youths and educated people would allow such an undocumented territorial treaty due to hunger and abandonment.”


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2023 elections: Pastor David Ibiyeomie tells Nigerians who to vote

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Pastor David

Pastor David Ibiyeomieof Salvation Ministries has addressed Nigerians on those to vote ahead of the 2023 general elections

Ibiyeomie urged Nigerians to vote for politicians with a vision for the country and not a politician.

He gave the remark while addressing his members at the church’s headquarters in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

Pastor David Ibiyeomie noted that anyone who collects money to vote in the forthcoming election sold their conscience, stressing that electorates should vote for a statesman.

According to Ibiyeomie: “If you take money to vote, then you have sold your conscience. When we are shouting, you people will say I don’t shout. I am shouting now. Don’t collect bribes to vote, vote for your conscience.

“Don’t vote party again in Nigeria; vote for someone who has a vision. Nigeria is in the woods; she needs someone who has a vision.

“No politician should be voted; vote for a statesman instead. A statesman thinks of the next generation, a politician thinks only of the 2023 general elections.”


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Interpol arrests three Nigerians for international scam

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Interpol

The International Police (INTERPOL) has arrested three Nigerians over alleged global scam.

The trio were arrested in a sting operation conducted simultaneously in a Lagos suburb, Ajegunle and in Benin City, 300 km to the East of the commercial capital.

One of the scammers, Hendrix Omorume has been charged and convicted and now faces a 12-month prison sentence.

The three men, aged between 31 and 38, were each arrested in possession of fake documents, including fraudulent invoices and forged official letters.

The investigation was conducted in conjunction with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The operation is part of a global operation codenamed “Killer Bee” involving INTERPOL National Central Bureaus (NCBs) and law enforcement in 11 countries across Southeast Asia.

According to INTERPOL’s Director of Cybercrime, Craig Jones, the organisation had “to alert Nigeria to a serious security threat where millions could have been lost without swift police action.”

The laptops and mobile phones seized by EFCC during the arrests, were examined by the INTERPOL to help confirm the systematic use of “Agent Tesla” malware to access business computers and divert monetary transactions to their own accounts.


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