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Indian variant ‘appears to affect children more’ – Singapore prepares to shut schools

The Indian Covid variant is set to become the dominant strain in the UK within days, say experts. The variant is said to be more transmissible than other strains and threatens to reverse moves to ease lockdown. In Singapore, all primary, secondary and junior colleges will shift to full home-based learning from Wednesday until the end of the school term on May 28 as it’s believed the variant is affecting more children than past strains.
The B1617 strain, which has been called the Indian variant, appears to affect children more, according to Singapore’s Health Minister One Ye Kung.

Speaking at a press conference on Sunday he said: “I did speak with him (Director of Medical Services, Kenneth Mak) before coming to this press conference.

“He did mention it will appear the B1617 strain appears to affect children more.

“So you’ll notice that for schools the response has been different compared to say last year.

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“So once we detect infection, but outside of school, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has been very fast actually to put the school on home-based learning for the next few days and test the entire school.

“So that is also a precaution that has been put in recently in view of the different behaviour of this strain of virus.”

Birmingham’s public health chief said there was emerging evidence to suggest the Indian variant posed a “significantly” greater threat to young adults than any previous variant, and the new variant could also be a greater threat to children.

Speaking at a council Health and Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee at the end of April, he said: “There are certainly disturbing images and information coming from India at the moment that suggest that the variant is a significantly greater threat to younger adults than any previous variants, so we are taking it very seriously.


“And it is very important that anyone that has returned from India or the surrounding regions takes the quarantine guidance incredibly seriously and takes the tests that are part of the quarantine protocol.”

He added: “I do fear the Indian variant, like the Brazil variant, is a vary clear and present danger to our current roadmap, and therefore we have to take it very seriously.”

There are now 2,323 confirmed cases of the Indian variant in the UK.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons: “There are now 86 local authorities where there are five or more confirmed cases.”

Bedford is fast becoming a hotspot for the variant.

But early data suggests the Covid vaccines still work against it.

A new study has shown the AstraZeneca vaccine to be 97 percent effective.

The Covid vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Modern appear to be effective against the Indian variant, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said last week.

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Health Feed
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Millions blocked from free online streams as popular movie site shut down for good

Millions of film fans hoping to settle down for a night of free entertainment are set to be sorely disappointed. That’s because one of the world’s most popular movie streaming sites has just been shut down for good. 123movies.la has been in operation since 2017 and in just four years has become a huge success with around 30 million people heading to the site each and every month.
That’s hardly a surprise considering that the platform was offering numerous blockbuster movies without anyone needing to sign up for a premium and expensive subscription plan. It even featured an easy way to filter films by genre, actor and box office collection.

With such a huge user base, this free way to stream Hollywood films hasn’t gone unnoticed with The Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) finally managing to track the owners and down and close the website.

ACE is backed by some of the world’s biggest film studios and media companies which include, Amazon, Fox, Netflix, MGM, HBO, Sky, Paramount and Disney.

ACE says that further to cease-and-desist communication and a settlement with the operator, the popular streaming website has shut down and the domain has been transferred to ACE.

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“The theft of online content is the single greatest threat to the global audiovisual community, harming both local and foreign films and businesses, threatening jobs, undermining investment, reducing tax contributions to governments, and stifling creativity,” the firm said in a post on its site.

“ACE will continue its efforts around the world to protect the rights of its members.”

This latest block comes as a number of UK Internet Service Providers were recently forced to ban a number of websites in the UK.

ISPs such as Virgin Media and Sky are now stopping customers from accessing platforms including www9.0123movies.com, w5.123movie.cc., 123moviesfun.is and wvw1.123movies.net.

Sky and Virgin Media are acting on a new ruling from the High Court which has asked Internet Service Providers to block users from visiting some sites.

The request came from the Motion Picture Association (MPA) who are trying to stop premium content from being viewed for free. The MPA represents five of the biggest Hollywood studios, Disney, Paramount Pictures, Universal, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros, as well as Netflix.

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Life and Style Feed
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Jersey electricity: What’s happening in Jersey? France threatens to shut off power

Anyone who followed the EU/UK divorce saga will remember fishing rights were one of the final and biggest sticking points of the Brexit agreement. While fishing is a minuscule section of the economy for the UK and the European Union, it carries hugely significant political weight. Regaining control over UK waters was a key part of the Vote Leave campaign in 2016, backed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Cabinet Minister Michael Gove. The deal that was agreed to, by both sides, on Christmas Eve last year contained an entire section and several annexes dedicated entirely to fisheries. Both the UK Government and EU have agreed 25 percent of the former’s fishing rights in UK waters be transferred to the UK fishing fleet over a period fo five years.
This is known as the ‘adjustment period’ and is designed to give EU fleets ample time to get accustomed to the new arrangements.

The EU wanted the adjustment period to surpass five years, while the UK wanted a shorter timeframe, and under plans outlined in the deal European fishing quotas in UK waters will reduce 15 percent in the first year and 2.5 percentage points each year after.

By 2025, UK boats are predicted to have access to an extra £145million of fishing quotas every year.

When the adjustment period ends on June 30, 2026, there will be annual talks to set the amount that EU fishing fleets can catch in UK waters.

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What is happening in Jersey?

The French Government has warned it could cut electricity to Jersey amid a rapidly escalating disagreement over fishing rights after Brexit.

France’s Maritime Minister Annick Girardin told parliament in Paris that new rules governing access to Channel Islands waters were unacceptable, saying France was “ready to use retaliatory measures”.

Ms Girardin added: “I am sorry that it has come to this [but] we will do so if we have to.”

Jersey, the biggest of the Channel Islands, gets the vast majority (95 percent) of its electricity through three underwater cables coming in from France.

A spokesperson from the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said: “We are clear that Jersey is responsible for its own territorial waters.”

On Friday last week, the Jersey Government granted 41 permits to French fishing boats that are equipped with GPS technology.

But the French government claims the list of approved ships came with further demands that “were not arranged or discussed, and which we were not notified about”.

Ms Girardin said the new rules dictated “where the ships can go and cannot go” as well as limiting the number of days fisherman can spend in the area.

The French fishing minister added: “This is absolutely unacceptable, and if we accept this for Jersey, it would imperil our access everywhere.”

Last week, France’s Europe Minister Clément Beaune accused Britain of blocking fishing rights in general, saying the EU could respond with “reprisals” in an array of financial services.

At the same time, British seafood exporters have been slapped with an EU ban on UK exports of live shellfish such as mussels, oysters, clams, cockles and scallops.

The UK has also failed to strike a new fishing agreement with Norway, threatening to prevent British trawlers from catching cod in Norway’s sub-Arctic territory.

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: World Feed

Charing Cross station evacuated: Police shut down all trains after 'emergency incident'

In a post on Twitter, Southeastern Railway said: “Because of emergency services dealing with an incident, Charing Cross station is being evacuated.

“There will be no services to/from Charing Cross until further notice. Some services will be diverted to other London terminals.

“Because of the incident at London Charing Cross there are also currently no trains to/from Waterloo East. The Underground stations in the area are not affected at this time.

“London Underground are accepting tickets at no extra cost on reasonable routes because of the incident at London Charing Cross

“We have now been advised that the underground station at London Charing Cross is also being evacuated, and trains will not stop there.

More to follow.

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: UK Feed

Southbound I-35 shut down near Parmer Lane after person hit by cars, police say

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Department of Transportation shut down the southbound Interstate 35 main lanes just south of Parmer Lane in north Austin early Wednesday morning due to a deadly crash.

According to the Austin Police Department, several people called 911 around 4 a.m. to report a man in the middle of the road who appeared to be trying to be hit by traffic. APD said several vehicles did hit the man, leading to his death.

The closure is expected to last several hours, APD said, which means the morning commute will be affected by the crash. Avoid the area and find another way to get where you’re going.

This is a developing news situation, we will update when more information is available.

Chrissy Mazzone
This article originally appeared on KXAN Austin

Senate passes bill to curb Texas governor’s power to shut down

The Texas Senate passed a constitutional amendment Tuesday that would substantially reign in the power of the governor during emergencies like this past year’s coronavirus pandemic.

The Senate action, which must still be approved by the House, would require the governor to call a special session in order to declare a state emergency that lasts more than 30 days. The special session would give lawmakers the chance to terminate or adjust executive actions taken by the governor, or pass new laws related to the disaster or emergency.

The Legislature did not meet last year, as the pandemic swept the state, so Gov. Greg Abbott addressed the largely unprecedented situation with executive orders and declarations spanning several months, citing the Texas Disaster Act of 1975.

Abbott issued what essentially amounted to a statewide shutdown order last year, and he kept in place some level of capacity limitations for businesses until early March of this year. In July, he mandated that Texans wear masks in public. He also used executive authority to lift other state regulations to help businesses struggling during the pandemic, such as allowing restaurants to sell groceries and mixed drinks to go.

But, many state lawmakers say the Legislature should be the government body to make decisions that affect businesses and livelihood of Texans.

“Early on, people understood [business closures] because they’re like, ‘we don’t know what this is,’” Sen. Brain Birdwell, R-Granbury, said on the Senate floor. But as the pandemic and business closures wore on, Birdwell said the anger grew as the mandates continued.

Birdwell said if the governor believes the situation is dire enough that businesses need to close, then he needs to get the Legislature involved.

The resolution now heads to the House, where another proposal to check executive powers received a hearing but has not yet made it out of committee.

Birdwell and others have said the law is not intended to be an indictment of Abbott’s handling of the pandemic. But both Democrats and Republicans have been critical of how the governor wielded his power throughout the crisis.

Over the past year, Democrats and some public health experts have urged the governor to issue tighter restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 or give authority to county officials to impose local measures on top of statewide rules. On Tuesday, some Democratic senators expressed concerns the Legislature would not be able to act quickly enough to take necessary steps to address a disaster.

“I don’t see this Legislature being able to convene fast enough to answer…in the kind of disasters I have seen and expect the state to see in the future,” said Sen. Sarah Eckhardt, D-Austin, who used to serve as Travis County judge.

Meanwhile, a priority bill filed in the House would carve out future pandemics from how the state responds to other disasters.

That bill, HB 3, has not yet made it out of committee, but would allow the governor to suspend state laws and require local jurisdictions to get approval from the secretary of state before altering voting procedures during a pandemic.

Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, previously told the Texas Tribune that the proposal was meant as a starting point to map out responses in the event of another pandemic.

“HB 3 was trying to set structures, predicting the disaster or the emergency,” Birdwell said. “What I did was set a baseline…It is impossible to predict the disaster.”

Abbott lifted the statewide mask mandate and reopened businesses at 100% capacity in late February and has signaled he is aware lawmakers, even within his own party, are interested in curbing his power.

In his State of the State speech earlier this year, he promised to “continue working with the Legislature to find ways to navigate a pandemic while also allowing businesses to remain open.” In media appearances afterward, he signaled openness to reforming the governor’s emergency powers, telling the Tribune that his office is “offering up some legislation ourselves on ways to address this going forward.”

Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the resolution.

Kate McGee
This article originally appeared on The Texas Tribune: Main Feed

The C.D.C. director says Michigan needs to shut down, not get extra vaccine, to slow its virus outbreak.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Monday that Michigan needed to enact shutdown measures in response to its worst-in-the-nation surge of coronavirus infections, rebuffing efforts by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to secure an extra supply of vaccine doses.

“The answer is not necessarily to give vaccine,” the director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said at a White House news conference. “The answer to that is to really close things down, to go back to our basics, to go back to where we were last spring, last summer, and to shut things down, to flatten the curve, to decrease contact with one another, to test to the extent that we have available to contact trace.”

The comments put the Biden administration in direct contradiction with the governor[1], a strong ally of the president, who has recently resisted ordering more restrictive measures in her state after facing intense political blowback over previous moves to shut down businesses and schools. Last week, Ms. Whitmer asked residents of the state to take more “personal responsibility”[2] to slow the outbreak, a position that satisfied Republicans in the state who had been fierce critics of her handling of the pandemic.

“Policy change alone won’t change the tide,” Ms. Whitmer said[3] on Friday, as she asked — but did not order — that the public take a two-week break from indoor dining, in-person high school and youth sports. “We need everyone to step up.”

During previous surges in Michigan, Ms. Whitmer shut down businesses and schools as she saw fit, drawing intense protest from Republicans in the state, who viewed her as an avatar of government overreach. The state still has a mask mandate in place and strict capacity limits on a number of activities.

Dr. Walensky said on Monday that because it takes weeks for full protection for vaccines to kick in, the effects of sending extra vaccines to the state would take time and not be the most practical approach to containing spread. Someone is not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after the second dose of the vaccines made by Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech, or the single-dose shot made by Johnson & Johnson.

“I think if we tried to vaccinate our way out of what is happening in Michigan we would be disappointed that it took so long for the vaccine to work, to actually have the impact,” she said. “Similarly, we need that vaccine in other places. If we vaccinate today, we will have, you know, impact in six weeks, and we don’t know where the next place is going to be that is going to surge.”

Ms. Whitmer has pleaded with the White House to send extra doses, even as her state has used just 78 percent of those delivered so far, according data reported by the C.D.C.[4] She said on the CBS program “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the White House should reconsider its refusal to alter its distribution plan[5] — currently based on population — so that localities that face flare-ups could get extra doses.

“I made the case for a surge strategy. At this point that’s not being deployed, but I am not giving up,” Ms. Whitmer said last week[6], describing a Thursday evening call with the president. “Today it’s Michigan and the Midwest. Tomorrow it could be another section of our country.”

Ms. Whitmer has emphasized demand for Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine, which will be extremely limited until federal regulators[7] approve production at a Baltimore manufacturing plant that recently contaminated up to 15 million doses in a factory mixup.

Andy Slavitt, a White House pandemic adviser, said on Monday that instead of playing “whack-a-mole” with vaccines, the federal government was working to help Michigan more efficiently administer the doses it has now and “rebalance” its supply.

“We know there are appointments available in various parts of the state, and so that means that we have excess vaccine in some parts of the state,” he said.

Mr. Slavitt said that the federal administration had also offered to send Michigan extra supplies of monoclonal antibody treatments and testing, and that there was a team from the C.D.C. in the state, in addition to 140 new vaccinators from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Elizabeth Hertel, the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said last week that she was optimistic that the continued rollout of vaccines and the governor’s new recommendations would help bring case numbers down. But if that did not happen, she said, more restrictions were possible.

Noah Weiland

'No one has the right to tell us to shut up' – Lewis Hamilton blasts anti-activism critics

Lewis Hamilton says no one has the right to silence his views anymore after admitting last year’s push for diversity and equality in the sport was one of the bravest things he’s ever done.
Hamilton, Formula One’s only black driver, led pre-race anti-racism demonstrations last year, taking a knee on the grid with t-shirts supporting the course which were worn by all drivers.

It came after the global outcry following the death of unarmed black man George Floyd at the hands of US police.

“I would argue that last year was the bravest,” Hamilton explained to Sky Sport F1’s Rachel Brookes.

“For one of the very few people of colour within our sport, to be able to voice out your feelings and be open about experiences you’ve had, not be sure of the criticism or backlash that might come from that if it’s interpreted that way.

“I’m sure you can empathise as a woman in a male dominated sport, I mean I can only imagine the challenges you have faced and you for sure, will have had to have been quiet when you’ve taken certain flack or whatever it might have been.

Lewis Hamilton wrestles with ‘positive’ reason he ‘could quit’ F1

He continued: “It doesn’t come easy. I think naturally people probably work hard to make things maybe look, or they appear easier than they are.

“But with great difficulty, and I’ve got a great team around me, but I would say I’m a lot busier than any drivers’ ever been.

“And finding the right balance is probably the hardest thing. You never want to arrive and people say, oh the reason you didn’t perform is because you’re too distracted by all these other things, which is an easy cop out for people to attack you with.

“If you look at along the way, all of the different things I’ve done, when I was in New York doing a fashion show, and then I flew over, everyone – even Niki [Lauda] was like you can’t do that.

“And then I put in that qualifying lap which kind of breaks that mould and everyone was like actually, oh yes you can. It’s what I really think it’s about, breaking the mould.

“I care to do the job, I wouldn’t be able to do all of these other things if it wasn’t for racing.

“There’s so much I want to do, but it almost feels like there’s not enough time, even though there is time. But like everyone they want everything now.

“You’ve just got to plan it out and be patient.”

Hamilton, the only active F1 driver to be knighted, also explained how it feels to now be a Sir, after receiving the highest honour on the Queen’s New Year’s list last year.

“I think I’m weird. It’s the same thing as when I got home, and I think my dad told me we’d got a call from Ron Dennis asking to sponsor [me] at 13 and I just went up to my room to do my homework,” Hamilton laughed.

“I think it’s definitely overwhelming, if you really think about it, and then you forget about it and then I walk around and don’t remember that I’m a sir. I think it’s more from the outside what it looks like.”

And when asked what he’d like to see after his name, away from his Formula One achievements, he continued: “I don’t really know, I haven’t really thought about it.

“Maybe game changer or voice for equality or something like that.”

PS3 Store closing: Last date before PS Vita PlayStation Store shut down confirmed

The PlayStation Store is ending support for purchasing video games from the PS3 and PSP, and PS Vita consoles.

The news was leaked earlier in 2021 but has now been official confirmed by Sony, along with the final date.

The good news is that gamers who are still buying and playing games from the older consoles still have some time before support is removed.

It won’t be until Summer 2021 before Sony closes the PS3 Store support, leaving a few months before the end date.

Here is what support will be disappearing later in 2021 for the PSP, PS Vita and PS3 consoles:

You will no longer be able to purchase PS3, PS Vita and PSP digital content, including games and video content.

This also means that you will no longer be able to make in-game purchases through games on PS3, PS Vita and PSP, and you won’t have the option of redeeming PSN wallet fund vouchers (e.g. gift cards) on PS3, PS Vita or PSP devices once PlayStation™Store and purchase functionality for these devices are closed.

The good news is that PSN wallet funds will remain in your PSN account, but you will only be able to use your wallet funds to purchase PS4 and PS5 products on the PlayStation Store.

With the bad news out of the way, here is what Sony will not be removing this Summer:

You will still be able to re-download and play previously purchased game titles.

You will still be able to access previously purchased video/media content.

You will still be able to redeem game and PlayStation Plus vouchers.

You will still be able to re-download and play claimed game titles through PlayStation Plus as long as you remain a member of the service.


According to Sony, the PlayStation Store on PS3 will be closing on July 2, 2021.

For gamers still using Sony’s handheld consoles, support will be ending on PlayStation Vita devices on August 27. Additionally, the remaining purchase functionality for PSP (PlayStation®Portable) will also retire on July 2.

For those who are not planning on upgrading to a PS4 or PS5 console can ask for a refund in PSN Wallet funds, but Sony is warning gamers who top up their accounts before the closure date to only do so by the minimum amount required to buy the desired content.

A further statement from Sony on PlayStation Store support adds: “You will still be able to download and stream owned video content following the closure of PlayStation Store and purchase functionality on PS3, PS Vita and PSP devices.

“Video content that you own can be streamed on PS3, PS4 or PS5 through the My Videos app, or on mobile devices through the PlayStation Video app.”