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UK spares key workers quarantine as staff shortages bite

UK spares key workers quarantine as staff shortages bite

Britain is easing coronavirus quarantine rules for essential workers including prison guards, veterinarians and garbage collectors in an attempt to end staff shortages that are hobbling parts of the economyBy JILL LAWLESS Associated PressJuly 27, 2021, 4:11 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleLONDON — The British government said Tuesday it will ease coronavirus quarantine rules for thousands more essential workers — including prison guards, veterinarians and garbage collectors — in an attempt to end staff shortages that are hobbling parts of the economy.About 26 million Britons have downloaded a health service phone app that tells them to self-isolate for 10 days if they come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. With the U.K. recently recording tens of thousands of new virus cases a day, the system has caused disruptive employee absences for restaurants and other businesses and led to gaps on some supermarket shelves.Starting Aug. 16, anyone who has been fully vaccinated in Britain will be able to take daily coronavirus tests rather than self-isolating. But many businesses are pushing for the change to happen sooner.Last week, the government said food and transport workers, border staff, police and firefighters could opt for the daily tests. Now it has expanded that system to more jobs, including refuse collectors, prison staff, veterinarians, tax collectors and defense workers.The government said 2,000 sites would be set up to meet the increased demand for tests.One person “pinged” by the app is Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had to self-isolate after Health Secretary Sajid Javid tested positive this month. Johnson’s 10-day spell in isolation ended at midnight Monday.Johnson said he understood people’s frustration, but urged them to “stick with the program.”“We do need to use the tools that we have. Self-isolation is the one that we’ve got. I urge people to do it,” he said.Those notified by the app aren’t legally required to self-isolate. And there have been reports that people have deleted the app from their phones. The app’s contact tracing function can also be turned off.Britain removed most remaining pandemic restrictions, including mandatory mask rules and capacity limits, on July 19, despite several weeks of rising infections driven by the highly contagious delta variant of the virus.Despite that easing, cases have fallen for seven straight days. On Tuesday, the U.K. reported 23,511 new confirmed cases, more than 1,000 fewer than the day before, and a seven-day total a third lower than the previous week. Scientists said the decline could reflect the end of the Euro 2020 soccer tournament, which drew crowds to games, pubs and parties, and the recent end of the school year for most pupils.Britain has also given 70% of adults both doses of a coronavirus vaccine.The number of people with COVID-19 being hospitalized and dying continues to rise, but they remain far fewer than was the case during previous peaks. The U.K. reported a further 131 deaths on Tuesday, the highest daily toll since March.But authorities caution that the impact of the end of restrictions on July 19 hasn’t yet been felt in the figures.Johnson said “it is very, very important that we don’t allow ourselves to run away with premature conclusions” about the infection rate.”People have got to remain very cautious, and that remains the approach of the government,” he said.———Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at:https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemichttps://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccinehttps://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

UK spares key workers quarantine as staff shortages bite

UK spares key workers quarantine as staff shortages bite

Britain is easing coronavirus quarantine rules for essential workers including prison guards, veterinarians and garbage collectors in an attempt to end staff shortages that are hobbling parts of the economyBy JILL LAWLESS Associated PressJuly 27, 2021, 1:32 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleLONDON — The British government said Tuesday it will ease coronavirus quarantine rules for thousands more essential workers — including prison guards, veterinarians and garbage collectors — in an attempt to end staff shortages that are hobbling parts of the economy.About 26 million Britons have downloaded a health service phone app that tells them to self-isolate for 10 days if they come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. With the U.K. recently recording tens of thousands of new virus cases a day, the system has caused disruptive employee absences for restaurants and other businesses and led to gaps on some supermarket shelves.Starting Aug. 16, anyone who has been fully vaccinated in Britain will be able to take daily coronavirus tests rather than self-isolating. But many businesses are pushing for the change to happen sooner.Last week, the government said food and transport workers, border staff, police and firefighters could opt for the daily tests. Now it has expanded that system to more jobs, including refuse collectors, prison staff, veterinarians, tax collectors and defense workers.The government said 2,000 sites would be set up to meet the increased demand for tests.One person “pinged” by the app is Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had to self-isolate after Health Secretary Sajid Javid tested positive this month. Johnson’s 10-day spell in isolation ended at midnight Monday.Johnson said he understood people’s frustration, but urged them to “stick with the program.”“We do need to use the tools that we have. Self-isolation is the one that we’ve got. I urge people to do it,” he said.Those notified by the app aren’t legally required to self-isolate. And there have been reports that people have deleted the app from their phones. The app’s contact tracing function can also be turned off.Britain removed most remaining pandemic restrictions, including mandatory mask rules and capacity limits, on July 19, despite several weeks of rising infections driven by the highly contagious delta variant of the virus.Despite that easing, cases have fallen for six straight days, with Monday’s figure of 24,950 confirmed infections down more than a third from the figure a week earlier. Scientists said the decline could reflect the end of the Euro 2020 soccer tournament, which drew crowds to games, pubs and parties, and the recent end of the school year for most pupils.Britain has also given 70% of adults both doses of a coronavirus vaccine.But authorities caution that the impact of the end of restrictions on July 19 hasn’t yet been felt in the figures.Johnson said “it is very, very important that we don’t allow ourselves to run away with premature conclusions” about the infection rate.”People have got to remain very cautious, and that remains the approach of the government,” he said.———Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at:https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemichttps://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccinehttps://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Ishiguro, Powers among contenders for fiction's Booker Prize

Ishiguro, Powers among contenders for fiction's Booker Prize

Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro and Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Powers are among 13 authors in the running for the prestigious Booker Prize for fictionBy JILL LAWLESS Associated PressJuly 26, 2021, 11:04 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleLONDON — Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro and Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Powers are among 13 authors in the running for the prestigious Booker Prize for fiction.Britain’s Ishiguro, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017, is on the longlist announced Tuesday for the 50,000-pound ($69,000) prize with “Klara and the Sun,” a novel about love and humanity narrated by a solar-powered android. It is the fourth Booker nomination for Ishiguro, who won the prize in 1989 for “The Remains of the Day.”American author Powers is nominated for “Bewilderment,” about an astrobiologist and his neurodivergent son. Powers won the Pulitzer for fiction in 2019 for eco-epic “The Overstory,” which was also a Booker Prize finalist.Other previous Booker contenders on this year’s list include South Africa’s Damon Galgut for his story of racism and reckoning, “The Promise”; British writer Sunjeev Sahota for “China Room,” which travels between England and India; and Canada’s Mary Lawson for her tale of life in a northern town, “A Town Called Solace.”Founded in 1969, the Booker Prize has a reputation for transforming writers’ careers, and was originally open to British, Irish and Commonwealth writers. Eligibility was expanded in 2014 to all novels in English published in the U.K.Two American first novels are among this year’s contenders: Patricia Lockwood’s social media-saturated story “No One is Talking About This” and Nathan Harris’ best-seller “The Sweetness of Water,” set in the U.S. South at the end of the Civil War.The list also includes “Great Circle” by American writer Maggie Shipstead, British novelist Francis Spufford’s “Light Perpetual,” British/Somali author Nadifa Mohamed’s “The Fortune Men,” British/Canadian writer Rachel Cusk’s “Second Place,” South African novelist Karen Jennings’s “An Island” and “A Passage North” by Sri Lankan writer Anuk Arudpragasam.Historian Maya Jasanoff, who is chairing this year’s judging panel, said many of the novels “consider how people grapple with the past — whether personal experiences of grief or dislocation or the historical legacies of enslavement, apartheid, and civil war.”“Many examine intimate relationships placed under stress, and through them meditate on ideas of freedom and obligation, or on what makes us human,” she said. “It’s particularly resonant during the pandemic to note that all of these books have important things to say about the nature of community, from the tiny and secluded to the unmeasurable expanse of cyberspace.”A six-book shortlist will be announced Sept. 14, and the winner will be crowned Nov. 3 during a ceremony in London.

UK set to irk EU with bid to change post-Brexit trade rules

UK set to irk EU with bid to change post-Brexit trade rules

Tense post-Brexit relations between Britain and the European Union are facing further strainBy JILL LAWLESS Associated PressJuly 21, 2021, 8:37 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleLONDON — Tense post-Brexit relations between Britain and the European Union face further strain on Wednesday, when the U.K. calls for major changes to trade rules agreed on by both sides.Brexit minister David Frost will set out proposals for smoothing out trade arrangements for Northern Ireland, the only part of the U.K. that has a land border with the 27-nation bloc. The divorce deal agreed before Britain’s departure means customs and border checks must be conducted on some goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K.The regulations are intended to keep an open border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland, a key pillar of Northern Ireland’s peace process. But they have angered Northern Ireland’s British unionists, who say they amount to a border in the Irish Sea and weaken ties with the rest of the U.K.Britain accuses the EU of taking a “purist” approach to the rules that is causing unnecessary red tape for businesses, and has called for the bloc to show “pragmatism.”The U.K. has threatened to unilaterally suspend parts of the agreement if changes aren’t made, in what would be a major escalation of the dispute, though it isn’t expected to take that step this week.Frost said Monday that the agreement “isn’t sustainable in the way it’s working at the moment.”“All options are on the table,” he said.The EU says Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government knew full well that there would be checks when it signed the Brexit deal.“Britain decided itself to leave the single market of the European Union, to apply trade rules, to apply red tape to its goods that are leaving Britain, to goods that are coming into Britain,” Irish European affairs minister Thomas Byrne said.Last month, the two sides gave themselves breathing time by delaying until the end of September a ban on chilled meats such as sausages from England, Scotland and Wales from going to Northern Ireland.The “sausage war” has been the highest-profile element of the U.K.-EU dispute, raising fears that Northern Ireland supermarkets may not be able to sell British sausages, a breakfast staple.Archie Norman, chairman of food and fashion chain Marks and Spencer, said that the new rules meant there would be “gaps on the shelves” in Northern Ireland at Christmas.“This Christmas, I can tell you already, we’re having to make decisions to delist product for Northern Ireland because it’s simply not worth the risk of trying to get it through,” he told the BBC.

In U-turn, UK's Johnson to quarantine after COVID-19 contact

In U-turn, UK's Johnson to quarantine after COVID-19 contact

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will spend 10 days self-isolating after contact with a confirmed coronavirus caseBy JILL LAWLESS Associated PressJuly 18, 2021, 10:01 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleLONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will spend 10 days self-isolating after contact with a confirmed coronavirus case, his office said Sunday — reversing an earlier announcement that he would not have to quarantine.Johnson’s 10 Downing St. office said Sunday that the prime minister and Treasury chief Rishi Sunak were both alerted overnight by England’s test-and-trace phone app. He had a meeting on Friday with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday. Javid, who has been fully vaccinated, says he is experiencing mild symptoms.People who are notified through the app are supposed to self-isolate, though it is not a legal requirement. Contacts of positive cases usually are advised to self-isolate for 10 days.But Johnson’s office initially said the prime minister and Sunak would instead take a daily coronavirus test as part of an alternative system being piloted in some workplaces, including government offices.That plan was reversed less than three hours later after an outcry over apparent special treatment for politicians. Downing St. said Johnson would self-isolate at Chequers, the prime minister’s country residence, and “will not be taking part in the testing pilot.” It said Sunak also would self-isolate.Britain is experiencing rising coronavirus cases, and an associated “pingdemic” of hundreds of thousands of people being told to quarantine because they have been near someone who tested positive. Businesses including restaurants, car manufacturers and the London subway say they are facing staff shortages because of the self-isolation rules.Jonathan Ashworth, health spokesman for the opposition Labour Party, said earlier that many people would be angry that there is a special “VIP” lane to avoid self-isolation.“Waking up this morning to hear that there is a special rule, an exclusive rule, for Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, they will be saying that this looks like one rule for them and something else for the rest of us,” he told Sky News.Johnson was seriously ill with the coronavirus in April 2020, spending three nights hospitalized in intensive care.In a touch of irony, his spell in isolation comes as his government prepares to lift remaining lockdown measures on Monday. Nightclubs can reopen in England for the first time since March 2020, sports and entertainment venues can admits capacity crowds and face masks are no longer mandatory indoors.But the government is urging people to be cautious, as cases surge because of the highly transmissible delta variant of the virus first identified in India. More than 54,000 new infections were confirmed on Saturday, the highest daily total since January. Hospitalizations and deaths are also rising, but remain far lower than at previous infection peaks thanks to vaccination. More than two-thirds of British adults have had both shots of a vaccine.British officials are looking nervously at Israel and the Netherlands, both of which opened up society after vaccinating most of the population. Both countries have recently reimposed some restrictions after new infection surges.———Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at:https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemichttps://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccinehttps://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

In U-turn, UK's Johnson to quarantine after COVID-19 contact

In U-turn, UK's Johnson to quarantine after COVID-19 contact

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will spend 10 days self-isolating after contact with a confirmed coronavirus caseBy JILL LAWLESS Associated PressJuly 18, 2021, 10:01 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleLONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will spend 10 days self-isolating after contact with a confirmed coronavirus case, his office said Sunday — reversing an earlier announcement that he would not have to quarantine.Johnson’s 10 Downing St. office said Sunday that the prime minister and Treasury chief Rishi Sunak were both alerted overnight by England’s test-and-trace phone app. He had a meeting on Friday with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday. Javid, who has been fully vaccinated, says he is experiencing mild symptoms.People who are notified through the app are supposed to self-isolate, though it is not a legal requirement. Contacts of positive cases usually are advised to self-isolate for 10 days.But Johnson’s office initially said the prime minister and Sunak would instead take a daily coronavirus test as part of an alternative system being piloted in some workplaces, including government offices.That plan was reversed less than three hours later after an outcry over apparent special treatment for politicians. Downing St. said Johnson would self-isolate at Chequers, the prime minister’s country residence, and “will not be taking part in the testing pilot.” It said Sunak also would self-isolate.Britain is experiencing rising coronavirus cases, and an associated “pingdemic” of hundreds of thousands of people being told to quarantine because they have been near someone who tested positive. Businesses including restaurants, car manufacturers and the London subway say they are facing staff shortages because of the self-isolation rules.Jonathan Ashworth, health spokesman for the opposition Labour Party, said earlier that many people would be angry that there is a special “VIP” lane to avoid self-isolation.“Waking up this morning to hear that there is a special rule, an exclusive rule, for Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, they will be saying that this looks like one rule for them and something else for the rest of us,” he told Sky News.Johnson was seriously ill with the coronavirus in April 2020, spending three nights hospitalized in intensive care.In a touch of irony, his spell in isolation comes as his government prepares to lift remaining lockdown measures on Monday. Nightclubs can reopen in England for the first time since March 2020, sports and entertainment venues can admits capacity crowds and face masks are no longer mandatory indoors.But the government is urging people to be cautious, as cases surge because of the highly transmissible delta variant of the virus first identified in India. More than 54,000 new infections were confirmed on Saturday, the highest daily total since January. Hospitalizations and deaths are also rising, but remain far lower than at previous infection peaks thanks to vaccination. More than two-thirds of British adults have had both shots of a vaccine.British officials are looking nervously at Israel and the Netherlands, both of which opened up society after vaccinating most of the population. Both countries have recently reimposed some restrictions after new infection surges.———Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at:https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemichttps://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccinehttps://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

UK's France curbs irk travelers; health chief tests positive

UK's France curbs irk travelers; health chief tests positive

LONDON — Tourists and the travel industry vented frustration and anger on Saturday after Britain reversed a plan to ease travel restrictions on France just two days after they were due to start, citing concerns about a variant of the coronavirus.The move comes despite the fact that France currently has lower rates of the virus than the U.K., where the highly contagious delta variant is driving a surge in infections. On Saturday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who is in charge of Britain’s coronavirus response, said he has tested positive for COVID-19 and is self-isolating while he awaits the results of a second test.Javid said in a video message that he has had both shots of a vaccine and “so far my symptoms are very mild.”Javid took over last month from Matt Hancock, who resigned after breaching social distancing rules. Hancock fell ill with COVID-19 early in the pandemic last year, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spent several days in intensive care with the virus in April 2020.Britain currently has higher rates of COVID-19 than France, with more than 51,000 new infections confirmed on Friday, the biggest number for six months. Hospitalizations and deaths are also rising, but remain far lower than at previous infection peaks.Despite the soaring cases, remaining restrictions are set to be lifted in England on Monday, though the government is advising people to remain cautious and continue social distancing. Face masks will still be required on London’s buses and subways and some other transit networks.In an announcement late Friday, the U.K. government said people arriving from France must self-isolate for 10 days on entering Britain, even if they are fully vaccinated. The announcement came just days after the government said fully vaccinated U.K. residents will no longer face quarantine starting Monday when arriving from dozens of countries classed as “amber,” or medium, on Britain’s traffic-light system of coronavirus risk. The amber list includes the United States, Canada and much of Europe.British health authorities say France is being singled out because of cases of the beta variant, first identified in South Africa, which is believed to be more resistant to vaccines than other strains of the virus. The beta variant accounts for about 10% of cases in France, but much less than 1% of cases in Britain. In both countries, the delta variant first identified in India is dominant.Epidemiologist John Edmunds, a member of the U.K. government’s scientific advisory group, said there is good evidence that beta “can evade the immune response generated by the AstraZeneca vaccine more efficiently.”The AstraZeneca shot has been used for a majority of British vaccinations.Before the pandemic, more than 17 million U.K. residents visited France every year. Gemma Antrobus from the Association of Independent Tour Operators said Friday’s announcement had taken the travel industry by surprise.“Nobody expected this to come,” she told the BBC. “So really the travel industry are in as much shock as the consumers are right now and really we would just have to pick up the pieces and deal with it and help our clients through this pretty terrible situation.”Georgina Thomas, a British nurse visiting her parents in western France, said she was “frustrated with the inconsistent approach the government are taking. It doesn’t all appear logical.”“If a quarantine is necessary then so be it, but I’m confident that my risk will be higher when I return to the U.K.,” she said.The government says easing restrictions is possible because almost 90% of British adults have received one dose of a vaccine, and more than two-thirds have had both doses. Health authorities say the vaccines used in Britain — made by AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — all offer strong protection against serious illness and death after two doses, though they don’t prevent all infections.Conservative lawmaker Jeremy Hunt, a former British health minister, said the number of hospitalizations was growing and the warning light for pressure on the health service “is flashing red.”“I think coming into September we are almost certainly going to see infections reach a new daily peak going above the 68,000 daily level, which was the previous daily record in January,” he told the BBC. “If they are still going up as the schools are coming back, I think we are going to have to reconsider some very difficult decisions.”———Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at:https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemichttps://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccinehttps://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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