Displaying items by tag: Government
Shortly after UK armed forces minister James Heappey had warned of an imminent terror attack, and had called on those queuing outside Kabul airport to move to safety, two explosions rocked the area on 26 August, leaving a number of casualties and throwing evacuation efforts into more turmoil, days before President Joe Biden's deadline for the USA to leave the country. At least 13 people including children were killed and many others were injured in what Taliban sources described as a suicide attack. Defence secretary Ben Wallace said a ‘better option’ for fleeing Afghans would be to travel across the land border. Christian charity CARE said that the current situation in Afghanistan is a recipe for a human trafficking disaster. Afghan women, fearful of life under new political leadership and aware of attacks on their rights, will want to escape oppression and may, in desperation, turn to illegal means of leaving the country. Many who are promised a better life will end up falling into modern slavery, whether that means commercial sexual exploitation, forced labour, or domestic servitude. See
Taiwan is administering its domestically developed Covid-19 vaccine, amid criticism that its approval was rushed. The Medigen vaccine had not completed phase three trials when it was granted emergency approval by regulators. Medigen said there were no major safety concerns, and antibodies created were no worse than AstraZeneca's vaccine. It is expected to complete the final round of trials being held in Paraguay later this year. Taiwan's vaccination efforts have been hampered by delivery delays and hesitancy amongst its population. President Tsai Ing-wen led the way in receiving the Medigen jab on 23 August. The objections have mainly come from the opposite political party, the Kuomintang, who say it is unsafe. More than 700,000 people have already signed up for the vaccine, which requires two doses 28 days apart. Less than 5% of Taiwan's population is fully vaccinated: around 40% have received just one dose.
Five people, including a three-year-old girl, were killed during a six-minute shooting spree by gunman Jake Davison on 12 August. Two others were injured during the incident before the 22-year-old turned the gun on himself. Tens of thousands of pounds have been raised online for the victims and their families. Pray for the community to have God’s comfort and peace as they pull together and support each other in these trying times; pray especially for the relatives and friends of the victims. Churches and schools are open, to give people opportunities to open themselves to God and to each other. Davidson’s gun licence was suspended following a criminal charge for assault, but it was returned to him in July. The Government has asked police forces to review procedures for issuing and returning firearms licences, and to check whether it is necessary to revoke any licences already issued.
The COP26 climate change summit will be held soon in Glasgow. Just a few hundred miles away in the North Sea, a particularly thorny problem is developing. Approval for developing the Cambo oilfield was given twenty years ago, and a regulator is due to give final approval, releasing approximately 800 million barrels of oil for Shell and Siccar Point Energy. Ministers and advisers insist that the approval of Cambo is entirely in the hands of the oil and gas regulator. But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is accusing Boris Johnson of delivering a cabaret of soundbites rather than the global leadership necessary to make the climate change summit a success. There is a near-impossible balancing act for the Government to protect its credibility while urging other countries to increase emission reduction.
In a letter to Boris Johnson, cabinet ministers and the NHS England chief executive, the NHS Providers group says demands on staff are rising. Many chief executives are saying that the overall level of pressure they are now experiencing is different in shape, but similar in scale to what they saw in January when the NHS was under the greatest pressure in a generation. The letter calls on the Government to make ‘the right decisions’ as it finalises NHS funding for the second half of the financial year. Hospital pressures include going ‘full speed’ to address the backlog of mental health and community care services, and record demands for urgent and emergency care. There are growing hospital admissions for Covid, along with more than a million cases of long Covid and people suffering poor mental health. Hospitals are currently running enhanced infection control measures, leading to ‘significant loss of capacity’, with staff self-isolating or suffering stress and mental health issues.
A £1.6bn strategy to improve the lives and opportunities of disabled people was announced by the Government. It aims to tackle shortages of suitable housing, inaccessible public transport and barriers to education and work. Work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey said the government was listening and consulting. The shadow minister for disabled people said the consultation process failed to consult properly with disabled people or organisations; many critical areas were ignored. Disabled Tory peer Lord Shinkwin said the plans did not go far enough. He said the document was a ‘broken promise’ and he did not believe it would prevent disabled people from being shut out of society. ‘The Department of Work and Pensions, which has led on the development of this strategy, does benefits but it doesn't do equality. It shows this government doesn't understand the desire and potential of disabled people to be seen as more than just recipients. We are contributors, we are all people.’
Health workers protested in July against a 1% pay rise which the Government insisted was all it could afford. 1% was rejected by unions representing the 1.2m NHS English personnel. Conservative MPs are worried that it made the government look ungrateful for frontline workers’ herculean efforts during the pandemic. Opinion polls suggested the public agreed, and health leaders warned that it would only increase the NHS’s debilitating problems in recruiting and retaining staff. The prime minister has now offered 3%. But unions called the offer an insult and are prepared to force an increase. The British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing, GMB and Unite are seriously considering taking action (work to rule or strike) by medics, including nurses and junior doctors, and are canvassing their members’ views on the offer.
Historic and spontaneous protests rocked Cuba on 11 July, taking the communist government and the international community by surprise by their intensity and numbers. Analysts say there will not be immediate changes to one-party communist rule, but it’s a watershed moment and they have put an enormous amount of pressure on the government to speed up reforms. Cubans experiencing food and medicine shortages, increasing Covid-19 cases, inflation, rising prices and long power cuts chanted ‘Freedom’ and ‘We want change’, while holding signs that read ‘Down with dictatorship’. Journalist Yoani Sánchez tweeted, ‘We were so hungry, we ate our fear.’ Dr. Teo Babun said dissent has been brewing in the church for months. Evangelicals and Catholics have been generating a tremendous amount of social media, demanding the government pay attention to the hurt taking place. Political changes depend on whether demonstrators continue the momentum that stunned so many on 11 July.
The High Court has found the government acted unlawfully when it gave a contract worth £560,000 to a company run by friends of the PM's former chief adviser Dominic Cummings. Ministers have denied any favouritism was shown towards the market research agency Public First. But the judge decided a failure to consider other firms could be seen as suggesting a ‘real danger’ of bias. Cummings wanted the contract to be given to a firm whose bosses, Rachel Wolf and James Frayne, were former colleagues of himself and Michael Gove.
Scientist and government advisor Prof Ravi Gupta sees signs of early stages of a third wave. Although new cases are ‘relatively low’, the Indian variant spreads faster than the winter variant. All waves start with low numbers grumbling in the background before infections explode. New infections with the Indian variant are rising daily in both the north and south of England. Very few hospital patients have had two jabs. See Also an evolved version of the Indian strain, 'Nepal' Covid, has so far been found in twenty Britons. It is closely related to the Indian variant, but has new mutations. The Nepal variant has also spread to several European countries. Its detection in Portugal could put their green-list status at risk. SAGE experts warn that the UK cannot panic every time it spots a new strain. The Government is waiting for more data before making a final decision on whether restrictions will be lifted in England on 21 June. That decision will be announced on 14 June.