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British Council engages CSO’s on SDG’s, introduces ACT programme



The Nigerian British Council have engaged Civil Society Groups (CSO’s) across Lagos State in the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), to deepen capacity and strengthen external relationships.

(Editing by Peter Ejiofor)


British study suggests minorities more likely to die from coronavirus



People from ethnic minority groups in Britain are up to twice as likely to die after being infected with coronavirus as members of the white majority, a government report said on Tuesday.

Allowing for demographic differences in age, class, income, and region, “people of Bangladeshi ethnicity had around twice the risk of death,” Public Health England reported.

The agency said that the death rate was up to 50 per cent higher for “people of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, other Asian, Caribbean, and other black ethnicity” compared with white British people.

The British Medical Association (BMA), a trade union for doctors, said the report did not offer any insights into which actions could be taken to protect ethnic minorities and “missed the opportunity for looking at occupational factors.”

The health researchers were “not able to include the effect of occupation” in their analysis.

Many of the nearly 200 British health staff who have died after coronavirus infections were from ethnic minorities.

“It is a statistical analysis, which while important, gets us no closer towards taking action that avoids harm to BAME communities,” said Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA council.

BAME is an acronym used by the British government and other organisations for Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic people.

“More specifically, the report fails to mention the staggering higher proportion of BAME healthcare workers who have tragically died from COVID-19 – with more than 90 per cent of doctors being from BAME backgrounds,” Nagpaul said.

“Families are living in fear… The government must take urgent action to protect at-risk groups,” tweeted Labour’s David Lammy, one of Britain’s most prominent black politicians.

Edited by  Emmanuel  Yashim

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British parliament resumes physical voting amid COVID-19 fears



Britain’s elected main house of parliament, the Commons, on Tuesday approved the government’s plan to end temporary electronic voting, introduced as a safety measure during the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives tabled a motion to resume in-person voting, requiring lawmakers to walk through lobbies and potentially flout social-distancing rules.

Following a fierce debate, lawmakers in the 650-seat house approved the motion by 261 to 163 in a traditional lobby vote that included some proxies.

The Conservatives hold a working majority of 87 in the Commons.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, Johnson’s Commons leader, said the government wanted to end temporary “hybrid proceedings,” in which small numbers of lawmakers had sat in parliament while most participated via video links and voted electronically.

Many opposition lawmakers, and some Conservatives, argued that it was too early to resume normal conduct.

Britain has recorded Europe’s highest death toll of almost 40,000 linked to coronavirus and has only just begun to relax its near-lockdown.

Labour lawmaker Peter Kyle accused the government of “bending the rules” on voting to fit its own purpose.

“The rationale of returning to physical proceedings is a straightforward one,” Rees-Mogg said, claiming it would help parliament to work more efficiently and allow greater public scrutiny.

“Lots of people are going back to work and we have a role as leaders within the country and within the community to do that,” he said.

He said the hybrid arrangement had been a “stop-gap (and) necessary compromise” during the coronavirus’ peak in Britain.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the government-funded Equalities and Human Rights Commission, said it “cannot be right” for parliament to proceed without any provision for remote participation.

“Disabled people have felt like an afterthought throughout this pandemic and it is therefore vital that the government looks again at the proposed return to physical participation,” Conservative lawmaker Robert Halfon, who has cerebral palsy, and Labour lawmaker Vicky Foxcroft said in a joint statement.

“Although the hybrid arrangements were not perfect, Parliament has already shown its ability to ensure that everyone’s needs can be accommodated,” Halfon and Foxcroft said.

“We must lead by example, not disenfranchise members and their constituents.”

Rees-Mogg promised to introduce a second motion on Wednesday to allow members who “for medical grounds” cannot attend parliament to join debates remotely, but not vote.

Social-distancing rules mean voting “will take a little longer,” he added, suggesting that concerned lawmakers could try to hold fewer votes.

Parliament’s unelected upper house, the Lords, plans to continue using remote votes.

Edited by  Emmanuel  Yashim

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Two British scientific advisers warn it’s too soon to lift lockdown



Two scientific advisers to the British government have warned that COVID-19 is still spreading too fast in the country to lift the lockdown, with one describing it as a political decision.

England’s lockdown will ease slightly on Monday, with groups of up to six people allowed to meet outside and primary schools re-opening to certain year groups.

The government has said it hopes that a “test and trace” regime, where contacts of known cases are asked to self-isolate, will contain the virus and help the country start to reopen.

But Jeremy Farrar, Director, Wellcome Trust and a member of Britain’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said he agreed with his colleague John Edmunds that “COVID-19 is spreading too fast to lift lockdown in England’’.

TTI (test, trace, isolate) has to be in place, fully working, capable dealing any surge immediately, locally responsive, rapid results and infection rates have to be lower and trusted,’’ he said on Twitter.

John Edmunds, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a member of SAGE, said on Friday that “we are taking some risk here’’ with an “untested” test and trace system, describing it as a political decision.

“The government here in Westminster clearly made a decision that this is the sort of level of incidence that they’re willing to tolerate.

“The level of incidence here in the UK is significantly higher than similar countries around Europe,’’ he told the BBC.

“But we’ve obviously decided that we can tolerate that level of incidence, or the government has.’’

More than 48,000 people have died with COVID-19 in the UK, making it one of the worst-hit countries in the world.

According to a survey by the Office of National Statistics, there are an estimated 54,000 new COVID-19 infections per week in England.


Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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COVID-19: Nigerian-British bilateral relationship remains strong – envoy



The Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) has commended Nigeria’s commitment to the removal of fuel subsidy, tackling  forex regime and reforming the power sector.

The British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ms Harriet Thompson, made the commendation  in a report  on Thursday.

The report made available to newsman in Lagos stemmed  from the Bilateral Trade Webinar with the theme: ”Nigerian-British Bilateral Relationship Post COVID-19”.

Thompson said that the focus of the British Government in Nigeria was to  support economic development and grow the private sector which, she noted, had become more relevant to ameliorate the impact of COVID-19.

She, however, noted that in spite of the steady rise of Nigeria in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, nagging issues still existed.

The envoy listed the issues to include movement of goods to and from ports and within the country, access to foreign exchange, bureaucracy and land registration.

The deputy high commissioner commended  the steps the nation had taken to tackle the spread of the coronavirus which, she said, came  at a heavy economic cost.

“Allowing movement of goods within the country would help businesses and the most vulnerable to mitigate the impact of the virus.

“In addition, a great opportunity exists to implement reforms such as the Single Window which the Federal Government has committed to.

UK is also still highly active in supporting these reforms by providing technical assistance to organisations such as the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council  and other programmes that are supporting infrastructure, agriculture, market skills, and the technology sector,” she said.

On the commitments made at the UK-Africa Investment Summit held in January, Thompson said that many of the initiatives had yet to take off because of the pandemic.

“There had, however, been slow but steady progress on the collaborations including the £37 Million Growth Gateway Programme of business support services for trade and investment across Africa.

The British Government is supporting innovation and local production of Personal Protective Equipment, facilitating  understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on the technology sector and seeking ways to support the growth of digital healthcare in Nigeria,” she said.

According to Thompson, the UK Export Finance (UKEF) also provides funding for export or import of UK products.

“However, despite a recently expanded appetite for risk finance in Nigeria, the current portfolio is only about three per cent of total UKEF exposure, and UKEF would like to significantly increase the portfolio.

“This will benefit small and medium enterprises aiming to expand and diversify their operations by exporting,” she said.

Prince Bimbo Olashore, Vice President, NBCC, noted the effect of COVID-19 on the Nigerian capital market.

Olashore said that the outlook was highly positive as the stock market was dominated by companies in infrastructure, telecommunications and banking.

“The doomsday conspiracy seems to be receding, which means we are not expecting much damage.

“Nigeria’s main issue has always been diversification; Nigeria is not an oil and gas economy because this sector barely contributes up to 12 per cent to the gross domestic product.

“What we have to do is to stimulate all the other areas with an increased focus on agriculture, information technology and other emerging sectors,’’ he said.

Edited By: Kamal Tayo Oropo/Ijeoma Popoola (NAN)

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EU court annuls Commission ban on British telecoms takeover



An EU court has overturned a 2016 European Commission ban on a planned takeover of Telefonica’s O2 mobile operator in Britain by CK Hutchison Holdings, which owns the network Three.

The European Union’s General Court found on Thursday that the EU executive had not sufficiently proven there would be negative consequences for British consumers, and that its ban was unjustified.

In a 2016 assessment, EU officials had argued that the fusion of the two companies would reduce competition in the British market, and risked driving up prices and affecting quality for consumers.

O2 is the second-largest mobile operator in Britain
by revenues and the largest by subscribers. Combined with Three, it would control more than 40 per cent of the market.

The commission, which acts as the competition watchdog for the EU single market, now has two months to appeal the decision at the bloc’s highest court, the European Court of Justice.

For Hutchison, however, the decision could come too late.

The Spanish telecommunications group Telefonica recently announced that it now wants to transfer its mobile phone business in Britain to a joint venture with the U.S. media and telecommunications company Liberty Global.


Edited By: Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)


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Roundup: Hint of post-COVID budget as British PM faces his toughest grilling yet from committee of key lawmakers




As more politicians in Britain joined the chorus demanding the resignation of the under-fire senior advisor at 10 Downing Street, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made it clear Wednesday he was standing by his top aide.

Johnson faced a tough round of questions from the powerful House of Commons liaison committee, made up of the chairpersons of all select committees.

Johnson called on the politicians to draw a line under the row generated by his advisor Dominic Cummings and instead rally around the battle against coronavirus.

Dozens of questions were fired at Johnson during a grueling 95-minute session, called to discuss the Conservative government’s response to the pandemic.

The row over Cummings erupted when media reports revealed that during a national lockdown he made a long journey from London to the northeast of England, with his 4-year-old son, and sick wife, to ensure his child could be looked after by family members if he was struck down by COVID-19.

During several exchanges with committee members, Johnson was accused of ducking the questions.

Although he did not apologize directly for Cummings’ actions, Johnson did express regret for the situation caused to many families by lockdown.

He told the group of senior politicians, “Of course, I am deeply sorry for all the hurt and pain and anxiety that people have been going through throughout this period. This country has been going through a frankly most difficult time.

“We are asking people to do quite exceptionally tough things, separating them from their families.”

Conservative MP Simon Hoare told Johnson he feared any future lockdown rules would be less rigorously adhered to as a direct result of the activities of his senior advisor.

Johnson also insisted he was not putting his political priorities over public health, insisting his priority was the national interest.

Asked why Britain had a 2-meter distancing rule when other countries opted for a meter or 1.5 meters, Johnson said Britain’s response was based on scientific advice, but that was continually being looked at.

“My hope is that when we make progress we will be able to reduce that distance,” he said.

He also told the committee that the government would not be blown off course by the virus from the commitments it made in its election blueprint last December when Johnson was handed an 80-seat majority in the House of Commons.

“We are going to meet all of our manifesto commitments,” he told the committee.

He told the MPs the government at some stage would be bringing forward to MPs a post-COVID package.

It raised the prospect that Johnson and the Chancellor Rishi Sunak were already thinking of some form of budget when the pandemic was over. Johnson hinted that he remained opposed to raising taxes.


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Tunisian defense minister, British ambassador discuss Libyan crisis




Tunisian Defense Minister Imed Hazgui received on Wednesday British Ambassador to Tunisia Louise De Sousa at the ministry’s headquarters in the capital Tunis, reported Tunis Afrique Presse (TAP).

The meeting focused on ways to strengthen military cooperation between the two countries as well as developments on the regional scene.

The Tunisian minister stressed the need to promote military cooperation and to diversify its components in an atmosphere of mutual trust.

Hazgui reiterated Tunisia’s position which calls for a rapid and comprehensive solution to the crisis in Libya via national dialogue and within the framework of respect for international legitimacy.

“The solution to the Libyan crisis should be based on the agreement of all its factions away from any foreign interference,” TAP quoted the minister as saying.

For her part, the British diplomat hailed Tunisia’s success in confronting the coronavirus pandemic.

She affirmed her country’s readiness to strengthen the capacities of the Tunisian army in all areas and to promote cooperation between the two countries.


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Interview: A community with shared future the only right choice in COVID-19 fight: British business leader




China has remained consistent in building a community with a shared future for mankind, which is fully reflected in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Stephen Perry, chairman of Britain’s 48 Group Club, said recently.

“Despite the pressure internationally, China‘s diplomatic policies remain consistent, which impress me most,” Perry, a recipient of the China Reform Friendship Medal in 2018 for his outstanding contributions to improving China-Britain ties, told Xinhua.

He made the remarks after Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi held a news conference on China‘s foreign policy and foreign relations on May 24 on the sidelines of the third session of the 13th National People’s Congress, China‘s top legislature.

China‘s interest lies in the alignment of its interest with its global philosophy, which is about nations working together,” Perry said.

China supports the understanding of the virus and has managed it in a very practical way, he said, adding that China has shared information with relevant countries and regions and helped other countries to fight COVID-19.

By attaching great importance to openness, transparency and responsibility, China has acted as a responsible country and its actions are completely aligned with the concept of a community with a shared destiny, he said.

“Coronavirus is a global crisis that no country is immune from. It has proved that building a community with a shared future for mankind is the only right choice to win the battle,” he noted.

In Perry’s eyes, the concept of a community with a shared future has also been reflected in China‘s support implementing the Belt and Road Initiative. “China has helped Asia to become a continent that can link to Europe, Africa and the Middle East by land,” he noted.

“At the same time, it is promoting economic development with good infrastructure through these new opening areas of the world,” he said.

In addition, Perry said, if the global economy moves away from the trend towards globalization and multilateralism, it may fall into a prolonged recession.

The year 2020 marks the 45th anniversary of diplomatic ties between China and the European Union (EU). Regarding the China-EU cooperation, Perry said the two sides have broad consensus in terms of international trade order, responding to climate change, and maintaining multilateralism.

They have also demonstrated healthy cooperation in the fight against COVID-19, he added.

“In the post-epidemic era, a stronger cooperation between the two sides is required to facilitate a quick economic recovery,” Perry said.


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Senior British official defends PM aide over lockdown row




British Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove on Tuesday defended Prime Minster Boris Johnson’s chief aide’s travels during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Gove told local media that Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings’ account of his actions was “exhaustive, detailed and verifiable.”

“Most people will understand he was under pressure, and sought to put the health of his wife and son first, and took care to ensure they as a family unit were not in danger of infecting other people,” he said.

The latest development came one day after Cummings made a public explanation over why he drove in March from London to County Durham, some 250 miles away, as the country was under COVID-19 lockdown.

Cummings on Monday defended his actions during his first public appearance since a major row erupted over reports that he “broke” Britain’s lockdown rules.

During a news conference in the rose garden of Downing Street, Cummings told reporters that he had behaved “reasonably”.

Critics say Cummings has failed to apologize for his actions, while opposition parties continue calls for him to be sacked.

Johnson has publicly backed Cummings.


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