A new national lockdown in England may have to last longer than the planned four weeks if coronavirus infection rates don’t fall quickly enough, a senior government minister said Sunday.
The lockdown announced Saturday by Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to run from Thursday until Dec. 2.
Johnson says it's needed to stop hospitals from becoming overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients within weeks.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove said it was the government’s “fervent hope” that the lockdown would end on time, but that could not be guaranteed.
Under the new restrictions, bars and restaurants can only offer take-out, non-essential shops must close and people will only be able to leave home for a short list of reasons including exercise. Hairdressers, gyms, golf courses, swimming pools and bowling alleys are among venues that must shut down, and foreign holidays are barred.
Unlike during the U.K.’s first three-month coronavirus lockdown earlier this year, schools, universities, construction sites and manufacturing businesses will stay open.
Britain has the worst virus death toll in Europe, with more than 46,700 dead. It passed 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases on Saturday and confirmed another 23,254 new infections on Sunday.
Like other European countries, virus cases in the U.K. began to climb after lockdown measures were eased in the summer and people began to return to workplaces, schools, universities and social life. In recent weeks, new infections have been soaring across the continent, especially in Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Spain and the U.K.
Johnson had hoped regional restrictions introduced in October, mostly in northern England, would be enough to push the numbers of new infections down. But government scientific advisers predict that on the outbreak’s current trajectory, the demand for hospital beds will exceed the capacity by the first week of December, even if temporary hospitals are set up again.
A government program that has paid the wages of millions of furloughed employees during the pandemic has been extended during the new lockdown. Many businesses say that is not enough, especially in the arts, where most people work as freelancers.
Mark Davyd, chief executive of the Music Venue Trust, urged the government to offer the live events industry further financial support, as has been done in France and Germany.
“We look forward to urgent details from ministers on the financial package that will protect businesses and livelihoods in this vital, world-leading British industry,” he said.
Also Sunday, the government and Transport for London struck a deal to keep buses and subways running in the capital, where passenger numbers have collapsed because of the pandemic. The mix of grants and loans worth 1.8 billion pounds ($2.3 billion) is earmarked to keep the system operating until the end of March.
Under the new restrictions, places of worship can stay open for private prayer and funerals, but not for communal services. That has drawn criticism from England’s top two Roman Catholic clergy, Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Archbishop Malcolm McMahon, who say the suspension would cause “deep anguish."
The restrictions will apply to England. Other parts of the U.K. govern their own public health measures, with Wales and Northern Ireland already effectively in lockdown and Scotland under a set of tough regional restrictions.
A Greek Orthodox priest was shot Saturday while he was closing his church in the French city of Lyon, and authorities locked down part of the city to hunt for the assailant, police said.
The priest, a Greek citizen, is in a local hospital with life-threatening injuries after being hit in the abdomen, a police official told The Associated Press. The attacker was alone and fired from a hunting rifle, said the official, who was not authorized to be publicly named, reports AP.
Police cordoned off the largely residential neighborhood around the church and warned the public on social networks to stay away. As night fell on Lyon, an Associated Press reporter saw police tape and emergency vehicles throughout the neighborhood. National police tweeted that “a serious public security incident” was under way.
The reason for the shooting was unclear. It happened two days after an Islamic extremist knife attack at a Catholic church in the French city of Nice that killed three people, and amid ongoing tensions over a French newspaper’s publication of caricatures mocking the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.
French anti-terrorist authorities were not investigating Saturday’s shooting, although the interior minister activated a special emergency team to follow the case while the gunman was still at large.
Prime Minister Jean Castex reiterated government promises to deploy military forces at religious sites and schools. He said French people can “count on the nation to allow them to practice their religion in full safety and freedom.”
Seeking to calm tensions and to explain France’s defense of the prophet cartoons, President Emmanuel Macron gave an interview broadcast Saturday on Arabic network Al-Jazeera. Macron also tweeted that “our country has no problem with any religion. They are all practiced here freely! No stigmatization: France is committed to peace and living together in harmony.”
A major earthquake struck off Turkey's Aegean coast, north of the Greek island of Samos, officials said on Friday.
The tremor of up to 7.0 magnitude struck off the coast of Turkey's Izmir province, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said, and was felt as far away as Athens and Istanbul, reports BBC.
There was no word on casualties but images from the city of Izmir showed buildings that had collapsed.
Turkey and Greece both sit on fault lines and earthquakes are common.
Reports said Friday's quake was also felt on the Greek island of Crete.
A video on social media showed people searching through the rubble of collapsed buildings but the footage could not be verified.
Witnesses said people in the city poured into the streets when the earthquake struck.
A young Tunisian man armed with a knife and carrying a copy of the Quran attacked worshippers in a French church and killed three Thursday, prompting the government to raise its security alert to the maximum level hours before a nationwide coronavirus lockdown.
The attack in Mediterranean city of Nice was the third in less than two months that French authorities have attributed to Muslim extremists, including the beheading of a teacher who had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in class after the images were re-published by a satirical newspaper targeted in a 2015 attack.
Thursday’s attacker was seriously wounded by police and hospitalized in life-threatening condition after the killings at the Notre Dame Basilica. The imposing edifice is located half a mile (less than a kilometer) from the site where another attacker plowed a truck into a crowd on France’s national day in 2016, killing dozens.
President Emmanuel Macron said he would immediately increase the number of soldiers deployed to protect schools and religious sites from around 3,000 to 7,000.
France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor said the suspect is a Tunisian born in 1999 who reached the Italian island of Lampedusa, a key landing point for migrants crossing in boats from North Africa, on Sept. 20 and traveled to Bari, a port city in southern Italy, on Oct. 9. Prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard did not specify when he arrived in Nice.
In Tunisia, the anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office said an investigation was being opened on the “suspected commission of a terrorist crime by a Tunisian ... outside national borders,,” the official TAP news agency quoted the prosecutor’s office as saying.
The French prosecutor said the attacker was not on the radar of intelligence agencies as a potential threat.
Video cameras recorded the man entering the Nice train station at 6:47 a.m., where he changed his shoes and turned his coat inside out before heading for the church, some 400 meters (yards) away, just before 8:30 a.m.
Ricard said the attacker was carrying a copy of Islam’s holy book and two telephones. A knife with a 17-centimeter blade used in the attack was found near him along with a bag containing another two knives that were not used in the attack.
He had spent some 30 minutes inside the church before police arrived via a side entrance and “after advancing down a corridor they came face-to-face with (the attacker) whom they neutralized,” Ricard said.
Witnesses heard the man crying ”Allahu Akbar” as he advanced on police. Police initially used an electric gun then fired their service revolvers. Ricard said 14 bullet casings were found on the ground.
Ricard detailed a gruesome scene inside the church where two of the victims died. A 60-year-old woman suffered “a very deep throat slitting, like a decapitation,” he said, and a 55-year-old man also suffered deep, fatal throat cuts. The third victim, a 44-year-old woman, managed to flee the church alive but died at a nearby restaurant.
Laurent Martin de Fremont, of the police union Unité SGP Police said the man was a sacristan at the basilica.
.The three were killed “only because they were in the church at that moment,” Ricard told reporters. He said investigators are looking for potential complicity in the “complex” probe.
An investigation was opened for murder and attempted murder in connection with a terrorist enterprise, a common term for such crimes.
The attack in Nice came amid a fierce debate in France and beyond over the re-publication of the Muhammad caricatures by satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
The French consulate in the Saudi city of Jiddah was also targeted Thursday, a man claiming allegiance to an anti-immigrant group was shot and killed by police in the southern French city of Avignon, and scattered confrontations were reported elsewhere, but it is unclear whether they were linked to the attack in Nice.
France’s national police chief had ordered increased security at churches and mosques earlier this week, but no police appeared to be guarding the Nice church when it was attacked, and Associated Press reporters saw no visible security forces at multiple prominent religious sites in Paris. French churches have been ferociously attacked by extremists in recent years. Thursday’s killings come ahead of the Roman Catholic All Saints’ holiday.
It was the third attack since Charlie Hebdo republished the caricatures in September as the trial opened for the 2015 attacks at the paper’s offices and a kosher supermarket. The gunmen in that attack claimed allegiance to the Islamic State group and al-Qaida, which both recently called anew for strikes against France.
A verdict is planned for Nov. 13, the fifth anniversary of another series of deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.
The recent attacks come amid renewed outcry over depictions of Islam’s most revered prophet — whose birthday was marked in several countries Thursday — and the French government’s fierce defense of the right to publish and show them. Muslims have held protests in several countries and called for a boycott of French goods.
“With the attack against Samual Paty, it was freedom of speech that was targeted,” Prime Minister Jean Castex told lawmakers Thursday, referring to the teacher who was beheaded after showing his class caricatures of the prophet during a civics lesson. “With this attack in Nice, it is freedom of religion.”
Macron left for Nice almost immediately and, standing before the basilica, said, “Very clearly, it is France which is under attack.” He added that all of France offered its support to Catholics “so that their religion can be exercised freely in our country. So that every religion can be practiced. ”
In Avignon on Thursday morning, a man with a firearm was shot and killed by police after he refused to drop his weapon and a warning shot failed to stop him, a police official said. And a Saudi state-run news agency said a man stabbed a guard at the French consulate in Jiddah, wounding the guard before he was arrested.
While many groups and nations have been angered or frustrated by France’s position on the cartoons, several issued their condolences Thursday, as did France’s traditional allies.
The French Council of the Muslim Faith called on French Muslims to refrain from festivities marking the birth of Muhammad “as a sign of mourning and in solidarity with the families of victims and the Catholics of France.”
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry also strongly condemned the attack. “We stand in solidarity with the people of France against terror and violence,” the statement said.
Relations between Turkey and France hit a new low after Turkey’s president accused Macron of Islamophobia over the caricatures and questioned his mental health, prompting Paris to recall its ambassador to Turkey for consultations.
Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, said in a tweet: “We strongly condemn today’s terrorist attack in #Nice.” In an apparent reference to the caricatures, he tweeted that “This escalating vicious cycle -- hate speech, provocations & violence -- must be replaced by reason & sanity.”
The attack in Nice came less than two weeks after Paty, the teacher, was beheaded. In September, a man who had sought asylum in France attacked bystanders outside Charlie Hebdo’s former offices with a butcher knife.
French Jewish and Catholic sites have also frequently been targeted, including the killing of the Rev. Jaqcues Hamel, who had his throat slit while celebrating Mass in his Normandy church by Islamic militants and a plot to bomb Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral. Those attacks were claimed by the Islamic State group, which also is believed to have recruited a man now on trial for an unsuccessful plot to attack a church.
Favipiravir, a drug used to treat COVID-19, has received permanent registration in Russia, Russian Deputy Health Minister Viktor Fisenko said on Thursday, reports TASS.
No serious side effects of favipiravir recorded in Russia, Healthcare Ministry says.
"Following a sped-up procedure, we have greenlit circulation of prevention drugs (vaccines), antiviral therapy drugs - Favipiravir, Remdesivir, and a drug used to mitigate a cytokine storm - Levilimab," he said, adding that Favipiravir has received a permanent registration certificate.
Earlier, the Russian Federal Service for Surveillance in Healthcare informed that Russia had registered three drugs based on Favipiravir: Avifavir, Areplivir and Coronavirus.
The watchdog has not received any complaints of non-specific motor disorders during the use of the drugs.