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COVID-19: Demand for underground bunkers soars over fears of coronavirus pandemic | World News

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There are 575 Vivos bunkers in South Dakota. Pic: The Vivos Group

The coronavirus pandemic is fuelling a rise in the sales of underground bunkers and survival equipment.

One US company, which runs what is billed as the “world’s largest bunker survival community”, is reporting a 500% increase in the last year, with a 2,000% surge in enquiries.

Vivos now has nearly one million members around the world – and at least 1,000 in the UK.

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Tom Soulsby lives in one of 575 Vivos bunkers in South Dakota. Pic: The Vivos Group

It comes as Britons have increasingly turned to survival supply sellers who cater for “preppers” – a broad term used to describe people who prepare for worst-case scenarios.

Crime in the UK and many parts of the world has declined over the course of the pandemic – but that hasn’t reassured concerned preppers.

Some of Vivos’ clients have even gone so far as to move into their bunkers.

When Atlanta locked down in March, Tom and Mary Soulsby relocated to a shelter in South Dakota, which was originally built by the government on a former military base.

Mr Soulsby told Sky News his “immuno-compromised” wife was “terrified” by the rise in cases and they wanted to get away from the “millions of people that could infect us in days”.

Tom Soulsby has made a bunker in South Dakota his home. Pic: Tom Soulsby
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Tom Soulsby has made a bunker in South Dakota his home

“More than anything, the main protection you need is from people,” said the 70-year-old Windows server engineer, who now works remotely.

It is not just COVID-19 they wanted protection from – it’s the threat of any event that could disrupt the American food supply chain and lead to widespread “social unrest”.

“I don’t think it’s any more paranoid than keeping a fire extinguisher in your house,” he said.

He believes the likelihood of a solar flare hitting the Earth “in our lifetimes” is “very high” and would cause all electronics to stop functioning.

The Vivos Europa One facility in Rothenstein, Germany. Pic: The Vivos Group
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Many Vivos bunkers are sold as empty shells. Pic: The Vivos Group

Like many Vivos clients, Mr Soulsby does not trust the government to protect him in the event of a major disaster.

In the UK, coronavirus and the risk of Brexit-related trade disruption has pushed people to buy products like freeze-dried foods.

Justin Jones, a prepper and sales director of UK Prepping Shop, said their sales have gone up by 487% in the last three months, with many first-time buyers.

Vivos compex in Germany . Pic: The Vivos Group
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A new Vivos bunker complex in Germany will fit up to 10,000 people. Pic: The Vivos Group

“I don’t think people expected there to be empty shops,” he told Sky News. “It’s always been laughed at when preppers have talked about this in the past. It came true and now we’ve got a nation of preppers.”

Michael Mills, a prepping expert and criminology lecturer at the University of Kent, told Sky News a “declining faith in institutions” has accompanied the rise of the prepping movement.

He said: “Making sure that the individual or a small group can sustain themselves seems to be a bankable idea and bedrock of security in a world in which other sources of security seem to be on the way out or absent.”

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Daniel Pearl murder: British-born man acquitted over journalist’s killing to be released from Pakistan prison | World News

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An appeal hearing in the Daniel Pearl murder case was held at the Supreme Court, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021. The court on Thursday has ordered the release of Ahmad Saeed Omar Sheikh who was convicted and later acquitted in the gruesome beheading of American journalist Pearl in 2002. The court also dismissed an appeal of Sheikh's acquittal by Pearl's family. (AP Photo/Waseem Khan)

The Supreme Court in Pakistan has ordered the release of British-born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh who was convicted, and later acquitted, over the beheading of a US journalist in 2002.

Mr Sheikh has been on death row since his initial conviction for Daniel Pearl’s murder 19 years ago, but his lawyer argued that his client “should not have spent one day in jail”.

Lawyer Mehmood A Sheikh added that the court also ordered the release of three other Pakistanis who had been sentenced to life behind bars for their part in Mr Pearl’s kidnapping and murder.

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The Supreme Court voted two to one in favour of Mr Sheikh. Pic: Associated Press

Mr Sheikh was formally acquitted of his involvement in April 2020.

The court also dismissed an appeal by the family of Mr Pearl and the Pakistani government over the acquittal of Mr Sheikh.

In statement released by their lawyer, Mr Pearl’s family said: “Today’s decision is a complete travesty of justice and the release of these killers puts in danger journalists everywhere and the people of Pakistan.”

The country’s three-judge Supreme Court ruled two to one in favour of upholding Mr Sheikh’s acquittal and ordered his release, Pearl family lawyer Faisal Siddiqi said.

The US government has previously said it would demand that Mr Sheikh be extradited to the US to be tried there.

“We urge the US government to take all necessary actions under the law to correct this injustice. We also hope that the Pakistani authorities will take all necessary steps to rectify this travesty of justice,” the Pearl family said.

Mr Siddiqi said that the only legal avenue left to pursue would be to ask for a review of the court’s decision, but added that would be carried out by the same court that upheld the appeal, meaning “in practical terms” there is no further legal route in Pakistan.

FILE - In this April 15, 2007, file photo, Dr. Judea Pearl, father of American journalist Daniel Pearl, who was killed by terrorists in 2002, speaks in Miami Beach, Fla. Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021, ordered the release of Ahmad Saeed Omar Sheikh who was convicted and later acquitted in the gruesome beheading of American journalist Pearl in 2002. The court also dismissed an appeal of Sheikh's acquittal by Pearl's family. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
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Daniel Pearl (R) was beheaded after being lured to a meeting in Pakistan. Pic: Associated Press

Mr Sheikh was convicted of helping to lure Mr Pearl to a meeting in the Pakistani city of Karachi before the journalist was kidnapped.

Mr Pearl had been looking in to the link between Pakistani militants and Richard C Reid – the “shoe bomber”, who tried to blow up a flight between Paris and Miami with explosives in his shoes.

He went missing on 23 January, with his body being found in a shallow grave shortly after a video of his beheading was sent to the US consulate in Karachi.

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COVID-19: Tony Blair says UK should lead global push for immunity passports | Politics News

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Tony Blair says UK must 'completely reconsider' it's coronavirus vaccine strategy

Tony Blair has called for immunity passports to be rolled out and urged the UK to take advantage of its upcoming position chairing the G7 to push other countries to do the same.

The former prime minister said it was “inevitable” the idea will be developed by other nations, as the global race for inoculation against coronavirus gets under way.

A report by his non-profit organisation the Tony Blair Institute said the “only way to navigate allowing people to travel internationally again” is creating a global travel pass showing each individual’s COVID-19 status.

Live COVID updates from the UK and around the world

The idea has been mooted before but was rejected by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove just last month, when he told Sky News: “I certainly am not planning to introduce any vaccine passports, and I don’t know anyone else in government who is.”

Since then, the Sunday Telegraph reported the government is funding at least eight separate firms to develop such a product, which is already in use in countries in the Middle East and Asia.

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Tony Blair’s institute said the UK should ‘lead or be led’

Mr Blair has made multiple interventions during the pandemic, and recently suggested the idea of pushing back the second dose of coronavirus vaccines to dramatically increase the number of people offered at least some protection.

The idea gained traction and is now government policy, helping boost the UK’s global standing in the race to administer jabs.

Turning his attention to what happens next, Mr Blair’s institute said the UK should “place the creation of a global COVID-19 travel pass as a key item on the G7 agenda”, when leaders from the US, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada congregate in Cornwall later this summer.

It added Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s approach to international travel is “disjointed” and “unco-ordinated” – costing hundreds of billions in exports, foreign investment and tourism.

Geoff Holland, 90, and Jenny Holland, 86, from Mansfield receive their injections of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine at a former Wickes store in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, which is being used as a covid vaccination centre. The couple, who met in a sheltered housing complex, were due to get married last April but had to postpone their wedding twice due to lockdown restrictions. They eventually held their ceremony in August. Picture date: Monday January 25, 2021.
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The UK is one of the countries rolling out a vaccine quickest

The report released on Thursday said: “The UK faces a choice: lead or be led. If we choose to wait, a confusing array of different passports await our citizens.

“We can avoid this and the complications of multiple passes and varying travel requirements if the UK takes the lead on developing a single, global COVID pass.

“In the year of the UK’s G7 presidency, there has never been a more momentous opportunity – or need – for the government to show global leadership.”

Zurab Pololikashvili, the UN World Tourism Organisation’s secretary-general, last week said at an event in Madrid: “Vaccines must be part of a wider, co-ordinated approach that includes certificates and passes for safe cross-border travel.”

The leaders of Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta have called for the introduction of certificates which designate if a traveller has been vaccinated or not.

In Australia, education minister Alan Tudge said on Monday planned “digital vaccine certificates” would allow international students to return to study in the country without the need for them to hotel quarantine.

Over three nights Sky News will host a series of special programmes examining the UK’s response to the pandemic.

Watch COVID Crisis: Learning the Lessons at 8pm on 9, 10 and 11 February

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COVID-19: Michael Gove says Tory MP ‘out of order’ to tell anti-vaxxers to ‘persist’ against restrictions | Politics News

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COVID-19: Michael Gove says Tory MP 'out of order' to tell anti-vaxxers to 'persist' against restrictions | Politics News

A Tory MP who urged anti-vaccination campaigners to keep going with their fight against coronavirus restrictions and told them NHS capacity figures were being “manipulated” is “wrong” and “completely out of order”, a senior minister has said.

Michael Gove told Sky News that Sir Desmond Swayne should apologise and retract his comments.

However, the Cabinet Office minister would not be drawn on whether he should lose the Conservative whip.

Sky News revealed Sir Desmond’s comments in an exclusive story on Wednesday.

Sir Desmond told Sky News he would not apologise for telling a group – who say vaccines are dangerous – to “persist” with their campaign against COVID-19 restrictions.

During an interview in November with Save our Rights UK, obtained by Sky News, he said: “It seems to be a manageable risk, particularly as figures have been manipulated… We’re told there is a deathly, deadly pandemic proceeding at the moment.

“That is difficult to reconcile with ICUs (intensive care units) actually operating at typical occupation levels for the time of year and us bouncing round at the typical level of deaths for the time of year.”

He also told the group, which has previously advanced false claims about COVID vaccines, in the interview: “As the last (House of Commons) Speaker used to say, (John) Bercow, he’d say ‘Persist! Persist!’ That’s my advice – persist.

“And I’ll persist too.”

There is no evidence of data being manipulated, and at the time of the MP’s comments, deaths were 14% above the five-year average – according to the Office for National Statistics.

Over three nights Sky News will host a series of special programmes examining the UK’s response to the pandemic.

Watch COVID Crisis: Learning the Lessons at 8pm on 9, 10 and 11 February

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