‘It’s them and us’: UK public fumes over minister’s plea to ‘move on’ from Cummings saga

A UK minister’s plea for people to “move on” from the Dominic Cummings lockdown violation controversy has been slammed, with many Britons saying the issue shows the government’s contempt for ordinary people.

In an interview with the BBC on Wednesday, Robert Jenrick – the housing, communities and local government secretary – argued that the prime minister’s special adviser had given a “reasonable” explanation as to why he travelled more than 260 miles (418 km) to his parents’ estate during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

My view is that now we accept that [explanation] and we move on because there are many, many more important issues that we need to be talking about.

It comes amid growing pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ditch his key aide, with over 30 Conservative lawmakers publicly calling for Cummings to be sacked or to resign. 

Johnson – who has defended his special adviser’s actions, insisting he acted with “integrity” – will appear before the Commons Liaison Committee later to answer questions on the coronavirus crisis, which is sure to cover the Cummings saga.

Jenrick’s plea to the nation has been brutally rejected on social media, with people hitting out at the apparent lack of contrition shown by someone with real power. Most feel the issue is about far more than one man flouting Covid-19 lockdown rules.

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British PM Boris Johnson's special advisor, Dominic Cummings © AFP / Tolga AKMEN
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One commenter insisted that it’s yet another example of “a decade of double standards” with one rule for the elite and another for the people, tweeting: “It’s them and us, and it always has been.”

Another responded to Jenrick’s remarks, saying that if Cummings had offered a swift apology, “many of us would have been ready to move on,” but the “utter arrogance” the 48 year-old showed during his statement on Monday “isn’t going to help.”

Others posted gifs poking fun at the apparent contempt those in power have for “the nodding dogs” – the British public – who have to play by different rules.

It emerged on Friday that Johnson’s special adviser broke lockdown restrictions, which Cummings himself had lobbied for. He defended the trip by claiming that it counted as essential travel as it had to do with securing childcare, before he and his wife were incapacitated with Covid-19 symptoms.

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France BANS hydroxychloroquine as study says medicine Trump took makes death from Covid-19 more likely

France has clamped down on the much-talked about drug that many have taken against Covid-19, including US President Donald Trump. A new study showed that the treatment increases the risk of death from the virus.

The French government has revoked its decree authorizing the prescription of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) for treating Covid-19 patients, with the exception of clinical trials. The decision came after the government’s advisory body, the High Council of Public Health (HCPS), and the National Agency for Medicines and Health Products Safety (ANSM) both gave unfavorable opinions on the drug.

The HCPS recommended against using hydroxychloroquine outside of clinical trials, regardless of whether the patients took the drug alone or in combination with antibiotics. The ANSM, in turn, initiated a procedure to suspend clinical trials involving the use of HCQ “as a precaution.”

The drug has become a buzzword in the media as many place high hopes on finding a cure for the novel coronavirus. HCQ became increasingly popular in France to fight Covid-19 symptoms, as its prescription rate jumped by 7,000 percent in some parts of the country, according to local media.

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However, a recent study published in the Lancet journal was “unable to confirm a benefit” of taking hydroxychloroquine to battle the virus after researchers analyzed 96,032 hospitalized Covid-19 patients, 3,016 of whom took HCQ, and 6,221 took HCQ with a macrolide antibiotic. Furthermore, hydroxychloroquine was “associated” with increased risks of “significant occurrence” of ventricular arrhythmias and in-hospital death with Covid-19, the study noted.

The study in the Lancet prompted French Health Minister Olivier Veran to launch a review of the use of HCQ, and the World Health Organization to halt the use of the drug in its global trials of the experiential Covid-19 treatment.

Hydroxychloroquine has been repeatedly touted by Trump as a prospective remedy against Covid-19. The US president said he had been taking HCQ “every day” as a prophylactic for about two weeks.

Trump’s promotion of the drug drew criticism from experts and political opponents, who said it was irresponsible and dangerous for a high-ranking official to disseminate information about unproven treatments.

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Not just humans: Moscow quarantines CAT after it tests positive for Covid-19

While most people are socially distancing and staying home, it might not just be humans needing to self-isolate. Last week, for the first time in Russia, a cat tested positive for Covid-19 – and it is now in quarantine.

Nikolai Vlasov, the deputy head of Russia’s national veterinary service Rosselkhoznadzor, explained that the poorly pussy was diagnosed after its owner took the animal to a Moscow vet clinic, where it was tested with throat and nose swabs. The cat was sent home and ordered to be quarantined at the owner’s place of residence.

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According to Vlasov, Covid-19 is transmitted from person to person, and there is no scientific evidence that anyone could catch Covid-19 from a pet, calling it an “epidemiological dead end.”

“Now, there is no reason to take measures concerning either domestic or wild animals that could jeopardize their well-being and health, or may have a negative impact on biodiversity,” he said.

A scientific study published earlier in May revealed that cats are able to infect each other with coronavirus but probably won’t get sick. According to the new research, published by the New England Journal of Medicine, the felines all tested clear of the virus within six days.        

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Last month, Konstantin Savenkov, another official at Rosselkhoznadzor, explained that coronavirus can be transmitted to both cats and dogs, although dogs are far less susceptible. However, for the safety of all pets, this means the malaised moggy won’t be able to meet with any feline friends or canine companions for at least 14 days.

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Poland to scrap compulsory outdoor masks from May 30, cinemas reopen on June 6

Poles will be allowed to go outside without protective masks from May 30 and cinemas, theaters and gyms will reopen on June 6, the government said on Wednesday. Public gatherings of up to 150 people will be allowed in coming days, while limits on the number of people in churches will also be relaxed.

The country of 38 million people has so far reported 22,074 cases of Covid-19 and 1,024 deaths.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki reiterated the government’s desire to hold a delayed presidential election next month, Reuters said. The election, originally set for May 10, was canceled due to the pandemic.

Schools in the country are expected to remain closed until the end of June, and borders will also remain effectively closed until at least mid-June.

Majority voice non-democratic? Amid new Hong Kong turmoil, MSM piece grills Chinese students who voted down pro-protest resolution

As violence yet again grips the streets of Hong Kong, a fresh clash between Chinese students and a writer for website Axios shows how Western pundits are back demanding the people take a stand for ‘pro-democracy’ protesters.

Hong Kong’s streets have once more become the scene of clashes between protesters and riot police as of last week. On Wednesday, officers used pepper pellets to disperse crowds at the city’s financial heart. The fresh wave of demonstrations was triggered by a national security law proposed by Beijing, which would ramp up security in the autonomous Chinese city.

©REUTERS / Tyrone Siu

Widely labeled as ‘pro-democracy’ in the Western media, the Hong Kong protest movement has plenty of supporting foreign voices. Ironically, some of these supporters don’t seem to put much faith in democratic procedures when they don’t favor their stance. A fresh example comes from Axios and its coverage of a Beijing-bashing draft resolution, which was defeated at a student college in England.

The motion put before students at the University of Warwick sought to condemn the “unprecedented levels of police brutality, infringement on democracy and human rights” in the Chinese city and to encourage pro-protester events on campus.

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It was strongly opposed by students from mainland China, however, who apparently organized an unprecedentedly high voter turnout and defeated the proposal by 2,041 votes to 971.

This development seems to have angered a China author at Axios, who penned a critical story about what had happened. According to the article, the university’s Chinese students, who number around 3,200 of the 27,000-strong student body, did a disservice to “democratic values” at Warwick.

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The story stops short of accusing the naysayers of being Beijing’s agents, only mentioning that “Chinese embassies and consulates maintain close relationship with Chinese student groups.” But the Twitter feed of the author, Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, leaves little doubt as to who she blames for the resolution’s failure – the Chinese government.

The story led to a fierce debate between the author and a Chinese student, who had spoken against the proposal and was cited in the story. The student, Zishi Zhang, said the notion that he and others at Warwick somehow got democracy wrong with their vote showed “classic bias” against China.

“The question democratic societies are facing now is, what happens when people (right-wing populists, or whoever) use liberal democratic means to promote illiberalism?” Allen-Ebrahimian lashed out in response. “The values in question are not those of ‘democracy,’ but of ‘liberal democracy.’”

Her opponent said that, when champions of liberalism simply dismiss vote outcomes they dislike – be it the election of Donald Trump, or Brexit – as fruits of “illiberal democracy”, it seems disingenuous. The approach boils down to “vote again if I didn’t like the result you voted,” he noted. “This is rather patronizing and self-defeating.”

Hong Kong has suffered from months of protests, which have often escalated into vandalism and violence by the radical part of the movement. The protesters accuse the Chinese government of infringing on the city’s freedoms under the so-called ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement.

Some of them showed their attitude to Beijing by defacing the Chinese flag and other national symbols, acts that the security law floated by the government seeks to punish more harshly. The protesters also called on foreign powers, like Hong Kong’s former colonial master Britain, to support them diplomatically, and even with force.

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Several Western governments have publicly voiced their support for the protests and blamed Beijing’s policies for causing the discontent. This pressure continues amid the new wave of demonstrations, with US President Donald Trump promising “very interesting” new measures against China coming “very powerfully” by the end of this week. Beijing has accused Western nations of inflaming the violence in Hong Kong.

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