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‘Test group’ of rugby players launch law suits over concussion | UK News

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Steve Thompson celebrates winning the world cup in 2003 - a match he says he cannot remember playing in

One of England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup winners, who now cannot remember playing in the final, is among a group of former internationals planning legal action over brain injuries.

Former front row forward Steve Thompson, 42, watched the 2003 final on TV during lockdown.

“I can see that I’m there,” he said, “but I can’t remember any of it.”

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Steve Thompson celebrates winning the world cup in Sydney in 2003

He is in a “test group” of eight former players who will each file claims against World Rugby and the relevant domestic rugby authority for “failure to protect [the claimants] from the risks caused by concussions”.

Also in the group is another former England player Michael Lipman.

Lipman, 40, who now lives in Australia, revealed his troubles last month, telling the Sydney Morning Herald he had been knocked out 30 times in his career.

Now, he has described the impact of his last concussion, saying: “It was like the lights were on but no one was home. That feeling lasted nine months.”

He is critical of the care he received as a player.

“The doctors were part of the coaching staff and their remit was always to get you patched up and back on the field,” he said.

Michael Lipman gets treated for a head injury while playing for Bath in 2009
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Michael Lipman gets treated for a head injury while playing for Bath in 2009

Rugby has changed its rules in recent years, changing the definitions of a high tackle to try to protect players’ heads.

The sport’s authorities have indicated they are unwilling to comment on the planned action until they receive legal notices.

The law firm representing the test group say they are representing more than 100 players.

Richard Boardman from Rylands Law said: “They just want to make it safer so current and future generations don’t end up like them.”

Alix Popham (R), playing for Wales against Fiji, says he can't remember meeting Nelson Mandela
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Alix Popham (R), playing for Wales against Fiji, says he can’t remember meeting Nelson Mandela

The players have also created 15 “commandments” which they feel would make the game safer.

These include more research, better testing and an acknowledgement from the rugby authorities that playing the game can lead to neurodegenerative disease.

Another of the group of eight, Alix Popham of Wales, 41, was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and early onset dementia in April.

He has no recollection of his meeting with Nelson Mandela before a game in 2004.

“I had a great career and willingly gave my heart, body and soul to rugby”, he said. “I just didn’t know I was giving my mind too.”

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COVID-19: Number of positive tests in England down 17% to lowest number since 23 December, Test and Trace figures show | UK News

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COVID-19: Number of positive tests in England down 17% to lowest number since 23 December, Test and Trace figures show | UK News

The number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 in England is down 17% and is at its lowest level since the week to 23 December, new Test and Trace figures show.

A total of 274,898 people tested positive for coronavirus at least once in the week to 20 January, following a decrease the previous week.

Some 2,813,445 people were tested at least once between 14 January and 20 January – that figure is down 5% on week before.

The stats show that 470,950 people were identified as coming into close contact with someone who had tested positive in that period.

For those where communication details were available, 96.5% of close contacts were reached and told to self-isolate in the most recent week. Taking into account all contacts identified, 93.2% were reached – the highest ever figure.

The latest figures suggest the national lockdowns are having an impact and people are heeding the “stay at home” message.

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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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