TENSIONS IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA

The Express reports: China sent two vessels into the waters near the Senkaku islands as it bids to spread its territorial claims. The islands have been claimed by both China and Japan over the years and have long been disputed.The operation comes as China enacted the new Coast Guard Law, which allows the country’s sea forces to use weapons. In this instance, Japanese media claimed one of the Chinese vessels was armed with a cannon. The two vessels joined two other ships today in a threat to Japan’s sovereignty. The Japanese government has now lodged a complaint with China over the incursions and demanded the ships leave the area immediately.

 

IRAN AND RUSSIA LAUNCH JOIN NAVAL DRILLS  IN INDIAN OCEAN

From the Express: Iran and Russia have launched joint-naval drills in the Indian Ocean, with China and India also taking part, as the two countries practice military operations for three days.The Iranian army and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) joined Russian Navy ships in the northern region of the Indian Ocean on Tuesday. Iranian state television network IRNA claimed the three-day drills, named Maritime Security Belt, will cover about 17,000 square kilometres of the Indian Ocean.It marks the second joint Russian-Iranian naval exercise since December 2019, where they and China held maritime drills in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman. The Indian Navy also requested and joined the exercise with a select group of vessels, according to the military official.

 

MORE VULNERABLE PEOPLE ASKED TO SHIELD fOR LONGER

The Guardian reports that nearly 2 million more people in England will be asked to shield and  800,000 of those offered priority vaccination as a result of new modelling that has identified adults at higher risk from Covid-19 because of a combination of health factors and their circumstances, including ethnicity and low income. Until now the NHS identified those most at risk on the basis usually of a single underlying health condition, such as specific cancers, together with age. But a more sophisticated modelling tool developed by the University of Oxford has shown that the shielding list should nearly double, adding 1.7 million people on the basis of multiple risk factors. Among the issues the model takes into account are ethnicity and postcode, which will give a measure of economic deprivation. There have been higher rates of death  among people from black, ethnic minority and Asian communities and also people from poorer neighbourhoods  with cramped housing. Body mass index will also be factored in, because obesity is known to increase the risk of severe illness.

 

JAB  CERTIFICATES FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVELLERS IF REQUIRED

Reuters reports that Britain will provide vaccine COVID-19 certificates for its residents if they are required by other countries, although it is not planning to introduce them for use at home, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Tuesday. “If other countries will require a vaccine certificate, then I think it’s right that we facilitate it”, Zahawi told the BBC in an interview. “We’re not looking at the domestic use of vaccine passports, that’s not in our planning. As the prime minister described, it’ll be the national vaccination programme combined with rapid testing that I think is the way forward.”

 

SCOTLAND FLIES THE EU FLAG

The Express reports that Nicola Sturgeon has been slated after she requested the EU flag to be flown above all Scottish Government buildings. In the Scottish Government’s flag flying guidance 2021 approved by the First Minister, it was requested that the EU flag be flown on a daily basis. The guidance said: “The First Minister has instructed that the European flag is flown from Scottish Government buildings on a daily basis except for specific flag flying dates. Alongside this, the post-Brexit guidance states the Union flag may only be flown once a year on Remembrance Sunday. Dean Lockhart MSP, Scottish Conservative Constitution spokesman told  the Express The UK has left the EU so Nicola’s Sturgeon’s personal decision to order the flying of the EU flag on Scottish Government buildings makes no sense.”

 

SCHOOLS BACK IN SCOTLAND ON  MONDAY

The Daily Mail reports that Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that Scottish schoolchildren will return to class from next Monday, a full fortnight before their English counterparts. Scotland’s  First Minister said that a phased reopening of schools will begin from February 22 – but dashed the hopes of Scots dreaming of a foreign summer holiday this year.The move heaps pressure on Boris Johnson to confirm classes in England will begin again on March 8. He is widely expected to confirm this when he unveils a ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown next Monday, but questions remain over how many children will immediately return.

 

FREE SPEECH TO BE GUARANTEED AT UNIVERSITIES

From The Times: Universities have ceded control of guest talks to violent protesters, the education secretary has said as he announced plans to compensate no platformed speakers. Gavin Williamson said that some universities and student unions had imposed security costs on student groups who invited controversial speakers, leaving them at the mercy of protesters. Revealing proposals to impose a statutory duty to guarantee freedom of speech on universities, he said student unions had “inappropriate” levels of control over visiting speakers and universities had introduced codes limiting freedom of speech. Speakers, students who faced disciplinary action for their views, staff or event organisers would all be able to seek compensation under the new legislation, should their right to freedom of speech be breached.

 

NO CASH FOR BRITONS SAYS ROMANIAN MEP

The Express reports that a Romanian MEP has warned his anti-Brexit colleagues to focus on funding Europeans instead of dishing out cash for Britons to participate in EU schemes. Cristian Terhes, of the European Conservatives and Reformists group, said some in the European Parliament had let their anti-Brexit agendas get in the way of doing their real jobs. His remarks come after more than 100 MEPs signed a letter calling for the European Commission to invite British students to participate in the EU’s Erasmus student exchange programme. Boris Johnson decided against rejoining the scheme after Brexit because the bloc’s offer did not offer good value for British taxpayers. Renewing our membership would’ve cost around £2billion, according to the Department for Education. But this didn’t stop a number of anti-Brexit MEPs, including EU Parliament Brexit chief and German Reintke, from calling on Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen to invite Scottish and Welsh students to the scheme. But Mr Terhes insisted his colleagues should instead focusing on providing opportunities for students from EU member states.

 

DOMESTIC FIRES DANGEROUS SOURCE OF AIR POLLUTION

The Times reports: the growing popularity of wood-burning stoves has helped make domestic fires the biggest source of the most dangerous type of air pollution, government data shows. Emissions of fine particles from domestic wood burning more than doubled between 2003 and 2019, from 20,000 to 41,000 tonnes, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) reported. Burning wood on home fires accounted for 38 per cent of fine particles emitted in 2019, compared with 12 per cent from road transport. While tougher standards on exhaust emissions have helped reduce pollution from vehicles, the report says that the gains have been partly offset by continuing growth in fine particles from domestic fires.

 

GRETA THUNBERG DOCUMENTARY ON BBC

The Express reports that  BBC has been savaged for preaching to viewers after the broadcaster announced a new three-part documentary about Greta Thunberg’s fight for climate change will be released later this year. The programme will follow the Swedish activist’s mission to raise awareness about the need to drastically reduce carbon emissions. The 18-year-old will travel to different countries around the world to see how climate change is spiralling out of control, including coal mines in Europe and a trip to Canada’s oil industry. But the Defund the BBC campaign group criticised the broadcaster for using licence fee payers’ money to promote Ms Thunberg’s opinions. They tweeted: “You pay. They preach.”

 

GET OUT AND GET FIT SOON

The SUN writes that Government officials are reportedly looking to scrap the slogan: ‘Stay home, Protect the NHS, Save lives’ as the country takes its first steps out of lockdown. As part of the Prime Minister’s highly anticipated ‘roadmap’ it is understood people will instead be encouraged to take part in more small outdoor gatherings – and even sports – from as soon as March 8. Potentially before the end of March, outdoor leisure activities including golf and tennis will also be permitted.Officials reportedly believe that – as well as transmission risks being low as the sports are played outside – the public may be encouraged to get fit.

 

MORE SCANDAL FOR THE MET

The Daily Mail reports that victims of the Operation Midland scandal criticised the Government for appointing former Scotland Yard chief Lord Hogan-Howe to carry out an external review of a major police database blunder. The ex-Metropolitan Police Commissioner – in charge when officers raided homes of leading Establishment figures as part of the force’s disastrous VIP paedophile ring probe – was this month chosen by the Home Secretary to chair a review into a data-deletion incident. In January, it emerged that the entire criminal records of more than 15,000 people were accidentally deleted from the Police National Computer.  More than 200,000 offence details were lost, including fingerprints and DNA records, putting entire investigations at risk and creating ‘huge dangers’ for public safety, according to Labour politicians. Home Secretary Priti Patel and Policing Minister Kit Malthouse have appointed Lord Hogan-Howe to conduct an external review to ensure lessons are learned to avoid similar incidents in the future.

 

AND FINALLY

The Daily Star reports that a new poll has revealed that many Brits do not intend to go back to the habits they had before the coronavirus pandemic took hold, and has revealed a list of things they’ll not do. Millions of adults believe they will never again share a drink, snog a stranger or try on someone else’s glasses as the coronavirus  pandemic changes our social habits forever, according to a poll. A study of 2,000 adults found moving forward, eight in 10 will consciously try not to share items with other people, while 73% will now always maintain a social distance from those they don’t know. One-quarter of adults won’t reach into someone else’s crisp bag for a handful and a third will no longer sneak a bite out of another’s sandwich. Using make-up samples in a store, borrowing someone else’s lip balm and standing close to someone in a queue are also things Brits will avoid.

 

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