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COVID-19: Ban on all arrivals from South America and Portugal over Brazilian coronavirus variant | Politics News

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COVID-19: Ban on all arrivals from South America and Portugal over Brazilian coronavirus variant | Politics News

Travel to the UK from every country in South America, as well as Portugal, has been banned due to fears over the coronavirus variant first identified in Brazil.

The government’s COVID-19 operations committee met at lunchtime to discuss the issue – and the ban will come into effect from 4am on Friday.

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Boris Johnson says the UK is ‘taking steps’ to ensure the Brazil variant does not enter the country.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tweeted that arrivals from the following South American countries would be banned: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Travel form Portugal is also suspended “given its strong travel links with Brazil”, but there is an exemption for hauliers travelling from there to allow the transport of essential goods.

The measure also does not apply to British and Irish nationals and third country nationals with residence rights – but passengers returning from these destinations must self-isolate for 10 days along with their households.

Mr Shapps later announced that Madeira and the Azores would be removed from the travel corridors list from 4am on Friday to try and reduce the spread of the variant.

In addition, people arriving into England from Qatar and the Caribbean islands of Aruba, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba from 4am on Saturday will have to quarantine for 10 days.

Mr Shapps said the UK had acted because it does not want to “trip up at this late stage” in the pandemic as the vaccine rollout continues.

“We’re so close now and we want to make sure we do everything possible to give us the best chance of beating this virus, which is why it’s so important that we do act quickly on these things,” he said.

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Minister defends travel testing delay

The transport secretary added that ministers did not expect there to be a large number of Britons who will now need to return home.

“We don’t expect a large number of Brits to have jaunted off to South America and we’re not expecting to see a big repatriation issue as a result,” Mr Shapps said.

“Certainly people should have been very aware before travelling anywhere. Please don’t travel at the moment. You should be staying at home, we’re under a lockdown and that applies across the country.”

The transport secretary said he could not provide an idea of how long the ban will last for – and did not rule out Spain joining Portugal on the list due to its links with the continent.

“With Spain, there’s already restrictions, which includes, for example, quarantine and the necessity from this weekend to make sure that you’ve taken a test before leaving. We’ll keep these things constantly under review.”

Travel bans have previously been introduced for those coming from Denmark and South Africa, in response to other new variants that have been detected in those countries.

The discovery of another variant in the UK prompted many countries around the world to introduce travel bans for arrivals from the UK in the run-up to Christmas.

Home Office minister Victoria Atkins earlier told Sky News the government had “acted decisively” in the past following the development of new variants in other parts of the world.

Asked why travel between Brazil and neighbouring countries to the UK had not yet been closed off, she said: “Of course, people flying into the UK, whether from South America or elsewhere are required to have a 10-day quarantine period when they land in the UK. That is mandatory.

“In terms of the decision on travel measures, it takes a little bit of time.

“What we need to ensure is that when we make these very, very important decisions that have a huge impact on people’s personal lives, but also businesses, we have got to have a little bit of time to let that bed in.

“The prime minister was clear that measures will be taken, we have acted decisively in the past with both the Denmark and South African variants, so I wouldn’t want to speculate further at this stage.”

At Christmas, Brazil was among a number of countries to suspend all flights from or via the UK due to the emergence of a new COVID variant in Britain.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday told MPs that the government was “concerned” about the new Brazilian variant.

Mr Johnson said there were “lots of questions” over the Brazil variant, including whether it is resistant to COVID vaccines.

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Meanwhile, the government is also under pressure after it delayed the introduction of pre-departure testing requirements for all international travellers to England.

People arriving in England from abroad will now have to prove they have tested negative for coronavirus from Monday and not Friday as originally planned.

Arrivals will still have to quarantine for 10 days regardless of their test results.

Mr Shapps said the delay was to “give international arrivals time to prepare” after the full guidance was only published on Wednesday.

This is despite the Department for Transport having announced the plans for new testing requirements last week.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper, the chair of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, posted on Twitter: “No guidance out with 2 days to go. And now delays.

“What on earth are they doing?”

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Donald Trump issues flurry of pardons as he leaves office | US News

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Donald Trump issues flurry of pardons as he leaves office | US News

Former White House adviser Steve Bannon and rapper Lil Wayne are among the people being pardoned or granted clemency by Donald Trump in the final hours of his presidency.

The outgoing president granted clemency to 143 people on Wednesday.

Wayne pleaded guilty last month to possessing a loaded, gold-plated handgun on a private flight in 2019. He faces a sentence of up to 10 years in prison at a hearing next week.

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‘We pray for the new administration’

The president met the rapper during his election campaign last year, with the artist later praising some of Mr Trump’s policies such as proposed justice reforms.

Controversial former White House adviser Bannon, who was fired by Mr Trump, has also been granted clemency.

“Bannon has been an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen,” the White House said in a statement.

He was charged last year with swindling Trump supporters over an effort to raise private funds to build the US-Mexico border wall, and pleaded not guilty.

Bannon was appointed chief executive of Mr Trump’s successful presidential campaign in 2016, leaving his role at conservative website Breitbart News.

Lil Wayne
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Lil Wayne is also among a raft of 11th-hour pardons and commutations

He became chief strategist for Mr Trump after his inauguration, but clashed with others in the White House and was pushed out in August 2017.

Bannon was recently banned from Twitter after he called for the beheading of top government doctor Anthony Fauci and FBI director Christopher Wray.

Others reportedly among the dozens of people being pardoned are Kodak Black – a rapper also sentenced over weapons charges, and former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick who is seven years into a 28-year sentence for corruption and racketeering.

Mr Trump has previously pardoned several of his closest confidantes such as Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser who lied to the FBI, and commuted the prison term for Roger Stone – who was convicted of lying to Congress during its probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

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Super Bowl LV: First woman official chosen for showpiece American Football game | US News

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Ms Thomas will be a down judge at the Tampa game next month

A woman will officiate at next month’s Super Bowl for the first time, the NFL has announced.

Sarah Thomas, 47, will be a down judge at the world’s biggest annual sporting event.

“Her elite performance and commitment to excellence has earned her the right to officiate the Super Bowl.

“Congratulations to Sarah on this well-deserved honor,” said NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent.

Ms Thomas became the league’s first full-time female official in 2015, making her regular season debut in September that year.

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Ms Thomas will be a down judge at the Tampa game next month

She will join a male-dominated staff of officials for the big game in Tampa, Florida, on 7 February.

Home town side Tampa Bay Buccaneers are due to play Green Bay Packers for a place in the game, while their opponents will be either Buffalo Bills or defending champions Kansas City Chiefs.

NFL bosses have yet to reveal how many fans will be able to attend due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Reports have suggested it could be around 20%, with fans sitting in groups and having to wear masks.

The half-time show comes from Canadian singer The Weeknd.

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US says China is committing genocide against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities | World News

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Mr Pompeo and his top aides are rushing to complete actions they believe will cement their legacy

The US State Department has declared that China is committing genocide and crimes against humanity in a campaign targeting Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. 

In a statement, outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uighurs by the Chinese party-state.”

The designation was made in the dying hours of the Trump administration. But the incoming Biden team had previously voiced its support for such a definition, labelling the repression of Uighurs genocide in August last year.

And although Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has pledged to reverse a host of President Trump’s foreign policy measures, he said that he agreed with Mr Pompeo’s determination.

In his determination of crimes against humanity, Pompeo cited “the arbitrary imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty of more than one million civilians, forced sterilisation, torture of a large number of those arbitrarily detained, forced labour, and the imposition of draconian restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement”.

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Mike Pompeo said he believed the genocide was ongoing

Beijing is likely to react furiously. At a press conference held last week in the Chinese capital, Communist Part official Xu Guixiang said: “This utterly untethered fabrication of ‘genocide’ regarding Xinjiang is the conspiracy of the century.”

Analysis: Condemnation of China might be the only point of consensus between Biden and Trump

The US labelling China’s treatment of Uighurs and other minorities as genocide is the most significant intervention on the issue. It might get lost in the pageantry of today’s inauguration, and the pressing domestic concerns of the US, but it will reverberate for months and years to come.

China’s reaction is guaranteed to be apoplectic. But it will seek to portray the genocide designation as motivated by politics, the last gasp of an outgoing administration and the personal vendetta of Mike Pompeo – public enemy number one in Chinese propaganda.

Critics elsewhere might agree with some of that. The Trump administration was not well known for its protection of minorities and human rights, whether at home or abroad. The US ignored calls to declare Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya as genocide, for example.

And President Trump previously sidestepped human rights issues in his dealings with China, preferring initially to focus on trade. His former national security adviser John Bolton alleged that in July 2019 President Trump told Chinese President Xi Jinping that he was correct to build detention centres for Uighurs.

The designation isn’t too much of a curveball for the Biden administration, which has voiced its agreement – perhaps the only point of consensus between two vastly different administrations. For all the division in the US, it is united on China.

But it might make things more difficult for America’s allies. The British government narrowly defeated an amendment to legislation that would have added a genocide clause to trade bills, a clause aimed squarely at China. And the EU has recently concluded its own massive trade deal with China. The Biden administration may take a dim view of all that, and the genocide designation adds more moral heft.

In practical terms, the designation legally allows the US to take some new measures, although none of those are massive. The power is in the symbolism. And that symbolism may be most apparent in a year’s time, when the 2022 Winter Olympics begin in Beijing.

It’s hard to imagine Team USA competing in a country the US government accuses of ongoing genocide. Would other countries join that boycott?

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