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‘We feel like animals’: Border testing highlights broader tensions in EU’s COVID strategy | World News

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French residents who travel to Germany daily for work have reacted angrily after being told they must now get COVID tests every two days in order to cross the border. 

Germany introduced the measure earlier this week as infection rates remained high in the French border region of Moselle – but locals say it destroys the EU’s principle of free movement.

Sky News spoke to Laura Jarych, who lives in France but works in a German hotel just two minutes drive away. For decades she has made her journey uninterrupted – but the morning we meet she’s had to queue in a line of vehicles for her test. She is furious.

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Germany has placed stricter measures on people crossing over from the French department of Moselle
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Germany has placed stricter measures on people crossing over from the French department of Moselle

“I am angry, very angry,” Laura tells us. “And I think that the 20,000 people who are switching between the two countries in this area feel the same thing.

“We feel like animals because you go inside a drive-in with the car and it’s one after the other and the cars are waiting a long time and it just ‘come, make the test and pass’.”

The inconvenience is one thing, but principle is another. When we talk to people waiting in their cars at the tented testing area, one man says: “It’s a very bad feeling because the idea of Europe, free borders, is away now. I feel sad.”

Another woman tell us: “It’s a terrible situation as it’s not possible to come every two days and make a test.

“I’m a German person and I’m living in France. It’s like a regime – I can’t live free and I can’t go where I want to go.

“It’s 10 steps back.”

We were only able to find one person in the queue who said she understood and accepted the situation, telling us: “It’s OK for me, I work for a company in Germany, I live in France. It’s not really that bad.”

She admitted that she did feel frustrated by the measure but said it posed “another chance to beat this horrible virus“.

The issue, however, highlights broader tensions over the EU’s strategy against coronavirus – especially with vaccinations.

Coordinated centrally by the European Commission, the vaccine rollout has not been Brussels’ finest hour. Officials admit approvals and orders were too slow and production difficulties underestimated.

The AstraZeneca vaccine was given the green light across the EU more than a month ago – but France and Germany both restricted recipients to the under-65s because of a lack of data.

There has since been strong public unease about its safety and is something that might not be erased despite both countries now offering the AstraZeneca jab to older people. Germany confirmed that decision today.

“I think it’s a problem of perception for a lot of people,” Germany immunologist Carsten Watzl told me.

“So when it was first licensed, the efficacy was only given 60% and then there was this story that in South Africa that it was not at all efficient to prevent infections with the variant or the mutant that is found there.

“All this together has created some negative PR for this vaccine.”

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (right) has met with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu (left) to procure more vaccines
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Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (right) has met with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu (left) to procure more vaccines

France, Germany and other EU nations desperately need many more vaccines – and frustration with the rollout has prompted several countries to break away.

Today, the leaders of Denmark and Austria travelled to Israel to try and strike deals for supplies to their own nations. It’s a move that has promoted some criticism at home.

Danish MEP Margrete Aucken, a member of the European Green Party, said that while this wasn’t necessarily a failure of the EU, it showed “some of the weaknesses in the EU construction” that more hasn’t been done together for the common goal.

“But I think they are improving this year,” Ms Aucken added. “I really dislike that some member states are showing ‘we can do best ourselves’.

“None of us are best when we’re alone. None of us.”

Hungary's PM Viktor Orban has received the Chinese vaccine
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Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban has received the Chinese vaccine

However, Denmark and Austria are not alone in seeking outside help: the Hungarian prime minister was filmed recently getting a Chinese vaccine after getting frustrated with the EU’s programme.

Hundreds of thousands of Russia’s Sputnik V jabs have also been delivered to Slovakia, despite not being approved by the European Medicines Agency.

The vaccine watchdog has only just begun its review of Sputnik V, according to a statement released on Thursday.

It’s clear the COVID crisis has exposed tensions between the idea of European cohesion and national self-interest.

The EU as a body hasn’t met all the needs of its citizens. Now there are questions not just about the health of the population but the health of the union itself.

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Parliament’s email system less secure than Gmail, says MP ‘hit by Chinese psy-op emails’ | World News

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A senior MP says parliament’s email system is less secure than Google’s Gmail as he claimed to have been the victim of Chinese “psy-ops”.

Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the foreign affairs committee, called on the government to do more to defend democracy and freedom of speech.

The MP is one of seven British parliamentarians sanctioned by China in retaliation for British measures imposed over human rights abuses in Xinjiang province. They have all spoken out about the treatment of Uighurs and Hongkongers.

Mr Tugendhat claims to have been targeted by Chinese “psy-ops” – psychological operations – including fake emails tendering his resignation to fellow MPs.

He said: “I was told by friends at GCHQ – not formally, I admit – that I was better off sticking to Gmail rather than using the parliamentary system because it was more secure.

“Frankly, that tells you the level of security and the priority we are giving to democracy in the United Kingdom.”

Parliamentary officials said Westminster’s email system offered significantly greater protection than external providers.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), whose experts work with the Parliamentary Digital Service, said MPs should continue to rely on it.

An urgent question on China was granted in the Commons on Tuesday after Mr Tugendhat, plus four other MPs, two peers, a barrister and an academic, were sanctioned in March, including being banned from China and Hong Kong.

Conservative former minister Tim Loughton is one of the MPs and said the sanctions by China are “laughable”.

“To be sanctioned by a totalitarian regime is not only deeply ironic and laughable, but it is an abuse of parliamentary privilege of this House by a foreign regime,” he said.

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‘Genocide’ taking place in China

Foreign Office Minister Nigel Adams, who wasn’t sanctioned, said the government “stands in complete solidarity with those sanctioned by China”.

He added that the government will not allow the sanctions to “distract attention from the gross human rights violations” taking place in China.

However, shadow Foreign Office minister Stephen Kinnock accused the government of “rank hypocrisy” and asked why Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab “says one thing in public and something else together in private”.

“It is clear that the government has no strategy on China at home and no strategy on China abroad,” he added as he called for an audit of “every aspect of the UK-China relationships”.

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Chinese ambassador ‘summoned’ over sanctions

Mr Adams said the “reality” is the UK has always wanted a “mature, positive relationship with China” based on “mutual respect and trust”.

“There’s still considerable scope for constructive engagement and co-operation but we will not sacrifice our values or our security,” he added.

Conservative MPs Iain Duncan Smith, Mr Tugendhat, Tim Loughton and Nusrat Ghani were all sanctioned, as well as Labour’s Baroness Helena Kennedy, barrister Geoffrey Nice and academic Jo Smith Finley.



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Iran set to enrich uranium to highest level ever – after ‘attack’ at nuclear facility blamed on Israel | World News

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Iran says it will increase its enrichment of uranium to 60% purity – its highest figure ever – bringing it closer to the levels needed for a nuclear weapon.

It comes after an “attack” at the Natanz nuclear facility in the country which Iran has blamed on Israel as an act of sabotage.

France says it is co-ordinating a response to Iran’s latest move with world powers, adding that it was a “serious” development.

Sunday’s incident at Natanz was initially described by Iran as a blackout in the electrical grid feeding above-ground workshops and underground enrichment halls, but later officials called it an attack.

Israel is suspected of carrying out the assault that damaged centrifuges, though it has not claimed it.

The Natanz plant pictured in 2005
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The Natanz plant pictured in 2005

News of Tehran’s intent to increase the purity of nuclear material comes as the Biden administration looks to revive the 2015 deal which limited Iran’s ability to create enriched uranium.

The US president’s predecessor Donald Trump abandoned the deal three years ago.

Iran expects to produce uranium enriched to 60% purity next week, said Kazem Gharibabadi, its ambassador to the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Also, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araqchi, said his nation would activate 1,000 advanced centrifuge machines at Natanz, which suffered the explosion on Sunday.

The 2015 Iran deal limited the purity level to which Iran can enrich uranium hexafluoride to at 3.67%.

A level of about 90% is needed for nuclear weapons.

Talks are due to continue in Vienna, Austria, to try and revive the 2015 agreement.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has called the enrichment plan from Iran “provocative”, and said it called into question how seriously Tehran was taking the talks.

Discussions between Iran and global powers to revive the deal last week were “constructive”.

Iran has said it never sought to obtain or develop nuclear weapons, and that it only wants nuclear technology for civilian purposes like medicine or energy.

Western intelligence services believe Iran had a secret nuclear weapons programme until 2003, although Israel suspects that this it is continuing in some form.

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St Vincent: Water supplies running short on Caribbean island hit by volcano eruption | World News

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Clean water supplies are running short on the Caribbean island of St Vincent after ash from a volcanic eruption contaminated reservoirs.

The blast from La Soufriere volcano rocked the eastern Caribbean island last week, sending an ash cloud six miles into the air.

Up to 20,000 people had to be evacuated from the island’s northern region in the shadow of La Soufriere, with 3,000 more forced to move to 80 government shelters.

Smoke rises from the La Soufriere volcano in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Pic: UWI Seismic Research Centre
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The volcano had been simmering for days. Thousands fled their nearby homes. Pic: UWI Seismic Research Centre

Although no casualties were reported since the first huge blast on Friday, falling ash and pyroclastic flows (fast-moving lava, ash and hot gases) have destroyed crops and contaminated water reservoirs.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told local NBC Radio he thought the country would need “hundreds of millions of dollars” to recover from the eruption.

He said: “We have to get stuff rolling in to people.”

Mr Gonsalves said some people have refused to leave communities closest to the volcano and he urged them to evacuate.

Garth Saunders, water and sewer authority minister, said efforts were under way to move water trucks to the hardest-hit areas but he warned: “What we are providing is a finite amount. We will run out at some point.”

The prime minister said people in some shelters need food and water, and he thanked neighbouring nations for shipments of items including cots, respiratory masks and water bottles and tanks.

In addition, the World Bank has given $20m (£14.5m) to the government of St Vincent as part of an interest-free catastrophe financing programme.

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Ash rains down on St Vincent after eruption

Adam Billing, a retired police officer who lived and tended to his crops on land near the volcano, said he had more than three acres of plantains, tannias, yams and a variety of fruits, and estimates he lost more than $9,000 (£6,600) worth of crops.

“Everything that (means) livelihood is gone. Everything,” said Mr Billing.

Roads on the island are covered in ash
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Roads on the island are covered in ash

The volcano had seen persistent low-level eruption since December and volcanologists say activity could continue for weeks.

Another blast was reported on Tuesday morning, sending a further large plume of ash into the air.

A previous eruption in 1902 killed 1,600 people.

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