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Coronavirus: Boost for holidaymakers as ‘air bridges’ plan backed by government | Politics News



Britons hoping for a summer holiday abroad have been given hope by a plan to exempt those travelling to countries with low infection rates from quarantine when they return home.

The proposal to come up with so-called “air bridges” between the UK and destinations where the outbreak is under control was backed the transport secretary.

Grant Shapps approved of the idea floated by senior Tory MP Huw Merriman, as the public were warned by a top government adviser, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, they may have to live with COVID-19 for “several years”.

Transport sec on Flybe
Grant Shapps said the government should consider the proposal

Sunseekers’ hopes of a trip abroad have been dampened in recent days, as the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the UK climbed to more than 34,000.

Asked if summer was cancelled last week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted: “I think that’s likely to be the case.

“It is unlikely that big, lavish international holidays are going to be possible for this summer. I just think that’s a reality of life.”

But they may have been salvaged by the idea of air bridges, which would see agreements sought with countries with low R numbers – the average amount of people someone with the virus infects – to let passengers travel between them without going into quarantine.

Currently, plans are for all those arriving in the UK to be told to go into self-isolation for two weeks, which could put many people off jetting off abroad.

Mr Shapps signalled those returning from countries where air bridge agreements have been secured may avoid the quarantine.

“It is the case we should consider further improvements – for example, things like air bridges enabling people from other countries who have themselves achieved lower levels of coronavirus infection to come to the country,” he told the Commons on Monday.

“So, those are active discussions that go beyond what will initially be a blanket situation.”

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: British-Iranian woman could be granted clemency soon, says husband | UK News



Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband says her release “feels quite close” as he waits to find out if she is among 3,000 prisoners granted clemency.

The British-Iranian mother was jailed in 2016 on spying charges, which she has always denied.

She was temporarily released from Tehran’s notorious Evin prison in March as 85,000 inmates in Iran were allowed out as part of attempts to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

She has been wearing an ankle tag and had to remain within 300m (984ft) of her parent’s Tehran home as she waited for a clemency decision.

But her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, told Sky News he was “hopeful” she was among 3,000 prisoners Iran’s supreme leader has announced will be granted clemency.

“It feels like we’re quite close,” he said.

“It feels like things could still go wrong. We’ve had a number of times where we’ve been down to the prosecutor’s office and been told to come back in a week’s time so that might be happening again.”

More from Nazanin Zaghari-ratcliffe

He said he believed his wife’s fate was the subject of disagreement among senior officials in Iran.

“There’s clearly been a battle happening between different parts of the Iranian regime about what to do with her,” he said.

“It feels like more parts of the Iranian regime are keen for her to come home, but there still is some stubbornness. So it feels like we’re close, but part of me still holds back just in case.”

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Alleged mass murderer arrested after 10 months in hospital recovering from burns | World News



A man suspected of killing 36 people in an arson attack in July last year has finally been arrested, after spending 10 months in hospital recovering from his own injuries.

Police in Japan had issued an arrest warrant for Shinji Aoba at the time of the fire but had been unable to question him after he suffered serious, self-inflicted burns.

Aoba is alleged to have set fire to Kyoto Animation studios because he believed he had been ripped off by the company. Most of those who died were young artists. More than 70 people were in the building at the time.

Residents place flowers for victims of the fire
Residents place flowers for victims of the fire

Kyoto Animation is well known in Japan and abroad for its series and movies, including “Violet Evergarden”, which has been on Netflix.

Investigators said that on 18 July 2019, Aoba entered the studios and shouted die as he doused the building in fuel before setting it alight. After the attack he told officers that he was angry because the studio had plagiarised his novel.

The 41-year-old suffered third degree burns that destroyed the innermost layer of his skin. A decision was made to treat the victims first as Aoba only had a 1% chance of survival.

There was also a lack of human skin available as organ donation is rare in Japan so the victims were given priority to receive donor skin first.

Aoba was not expected to survive as so much of his body was burned, but in early September doctors announced his burns were no longer life-threatening and he would undergo skin graft surgery in Osaka.

In a first for Japan for such extensive burns, surgeons used mostly artificial skin and only small patches of his own skin in the reconstructive surgery.

Police had to wait two months before Aoba was well enough to be questioned.

One dead and several injured after a suspected arson attack in Kyoto, Japan
Most of the dead were young animation artists

Although officials have yet to confirm it, Public broadcaster NHK said that police arrested Aoba at a Kyoto hospital on Wednesday, where he confessed to the crimes, and that he was transferred to police headquarters for further questioning.

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Coronavirus: Inside Brazil’s slums where COVID-19 is at risk of spreading like wildfire | World News



Brazil is now only second behind the United States as the worst affected country for coronavirus cases.

That is despite the central government and its president, Jair Bolsonaro, continuing to play down the spread and effect of the disease.

The worst hit city in Brazil is Sao Paulo and its enormous favelas are the chief breeding grounds for COVID-19, which has been claiming the lives of around 1,000 people a day across the country – although those official figures are hotly disputed as being too low.

The 'Cartel' gang in Tiradentes favela have placed it on lockdown
The ‘Cartel’ gang in Tiradentes favela have placed it on lockdown

In truth, if the figures are not much worse than that already, then they are likely to become so very soon.

These slums are home to millions. Millions who live with poverty, disease and crime at the best of times – but these are the worst of times.

We were taken inside the Tiradentes favela by a motorbike gang. They provided security. We could not move without them – it is far too dangerous for outsiders.

They call themselves the “Cartel” gang, working the streets of the east zone of Sao Paulo, which has the worst infection rates in the city.

The Cartel is modelled on the images of the original Hell’s Angels, but they are not a crime gang.

In the absence of effective state aid here, they are the ones delivering food and teaching people how to keep clean, wash hands and stay alive.

Here, the word “angels” to characterise this gang has a completely different meaning. For these communities, they actually are angels.

Rubia Oliveria with members of the Cartel group who are delivering aid to those in the Tiradentes favela
Rubia Oliveria with members of the Cartel group who are delivering aid to those in the Tiradentes favela

They work with community leaders who tell them where they need to go to help.

Vanderlei Rodrigues, the gang’s leader, standing next to co-founder Rubia Oliveira, said: “At the moment COVID is in the back of these families’ minds, they will only believe it when someone in their immediate family dies from it.

“It is difficult for them to understand it, we hear this a lot.

“We try to fight by giving them information, fighting fake news, taking out the politics and appealing to the rational part of people.”

In Brasilandia favela community groups are trying to raise money for food boxes for those who have lost their jobs
Community groups are trying to raise money for food boxes for those who have lost their jobs

The fake news and the politics he is referring to is the continuing scorn the national government, and in particular the president, pours on the danger of COVID-19.

While they are in denial, the people in favelas – who are experiencing death and being made unemployed daily – are living in fear.

Whole communities are closing their streets to outsiders, with only actual residents allowed in.

The living conditions are utterly miserable, but it is all they have and they are determined to protect it.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro is seen in a neighborhood Sudoeste, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brasilia, Brazil, April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Adriano Machado
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has previously called coronavirus ‘a little flu’

We travelled from the east of the city to the north, which has the highest mortality rates from the virus.

In the Brasilandia favela, we met community groups who raise money to hand out food boxes to people who have lost their jobs.

They are also handing the food out to try to stop people going out to find work and endangering themselves and their families – something they have to do just to eat.

Their charismatic leader Claudio Rodrigues Melo and his team closely control social distancing, making sure the recipients stay on the other side of a busy road until they are called forward for their food box.

Claudio Rodrigues Melo and his team in Brasilandia are handing out food boxes to those who have lost their jobs
Claudio Rodrigues Melo and his team in Brasilandia are handing out food boxes to those who have lost their jobs

Claudio said there are three big problems for the communities and why they are in so much danger.

“There are no [health] services, people are poor and they live so close together that social distancing is impossible,” he said.

After a long period of national denial and a fear of stigma, the poorest now realise they are the most likely to die from this pandemic, and in the slums they are trying to teach each other how to survive.

Many live in fear.

Ruth Leite is terrified of being ostracised after she was in hospital with suspected COVID-19
Ruth Leite is terrified of being ostracised after she was in hospital with suspected COVID-19

Refusing to open the metal gate to her shack, Ruth Leite, is self isolating. She has already been ill in hospital, tested and discharged.

Fourteen days later she still has a cough and has not received her test results. She assumes she is still in danger.

Ruth moved from her previous street where 22 neighbours died of COVID-19. She is terrified of the disease and terrified of being totally ostracised by society.

“I’m afraid, I was in the queue [to get food] and as soon as I said I’d had COVID everyone moved away from me – I was left alone,” she said through the bars.

“I’m staying here locked in my house because I’m so afraid that I don’t even show my face here. I just move between my garage and my house,” she said, coughing continuously.

The Brasilandia favels is very tightly packed together
The Brasilandia favela is very tightly packed together

All the favelas have community leaders who are at the forefront of trying to teach people of the dangers of the virus and the need to isolate and distance wherever possible.

Marta Sampaio took us through her community called Nova Uniao, a relatively new favela, and everywhere you look people are building new shacks as well as brick homes, but in a very piecemeal way.

It is rough. There is raw sewage in the streets and the new builds cling precariously to muddy hills facing an utterly polluted river.

It is frankly awful and it is clear that in these densely populated semi-illegal settlements there is no protection from the disease and it will spread like wildfire.

Marta Sampaio holds Jair Bolsonaro responsible for the continuing spread of coronavirus in Brazil
Marta Sampaio holds Jair Bolsonaro responsible for the continuing spread of coronavirus in Brazil

Marta said: “It’s only natural, you see the conditions they are living in, there is no sewage system, there’s no infrastructure, these are the challenges we face.

“But the situation here is critical, people here don’t even have the means to build a home.”

Marta holds President Bolsanaro responsible for the continuing virus spread.

She said: “He doesn’t believe it’s a virus that is killing people. He’s giving speeches saying ‘it’s a little flu’, but we as Brazilians know that this is not a joke.”

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Across the country people blame the president for his confusing messages and denials.

Even the United States, a close ally, has closed its borders to Brazilians.

But the confusion continues and the numbers of people dying continues to rise.

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