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Charities to benefit from support for rough sleepers during pandemic

Over 130 charities are set to benefit from £6m of government funding to allow them to continue their work supporting rough sleepers during the pandemic.

Original author: HM Government

Omission of air pollution from report on Covid-19 and race ‘astonishing’

The failure to consider air pollution as a factor in the higher rates of coronavirus deaths among minority ethnic groups is “astonishing” and “wholly irresponsible”, according to critics of a Public Health England review.

The PHE report released on Tuesday confirmed the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on people from ethnic minorities but did not mention air pollution. Minorities in the UKUS and elsewhere are known to generally experience higher levels of air pollution, and there is growing evidence around the world linking exposure to dirty air exposure to increased coronavirus infections and deaths.

Scientists said air pollution should “absolutely” be considered and that it could have a double effect, with long-term exposure weakening lungs and hearts and short-term exposure potentially making viral infection more likely. Before the pandemic, air pollution was estimated to cause 40,000 early deaths a year in the UK, about the same number as the official UK coronavirus death toll to date.

“I find it astonishing that they didn’t look at air pollution,” said Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, a World Health Organization advocate for health and air quality. Her daughter Ella died in 2013 from a severe asthma attack that medical experts have now linked to spikes in air pollution.

“Air pollution is linked to diabetes, strokes, heart attacks, asthma attacks, and those with underlying health conditions are dying more from Covid-19,” she said. “So I expected the black and minority ethnic community to come out worse, because health inequalities are worst in the BAME community, let alone adding a lethal respiratory virus.

Good karma: British travellers rescued by Deputy High Commissioner via mountain roads, ‘elephant corridor’ and a breakdown in a tiger reserve.

A rescue mission to ensure more than 260 elderly and vulnerable passengers were able to return home from India was almost thwarted when a Foreign Office team found themselves racing against the clock to change a tyre after b…

Original author: HM Government

World Food Safety Day 2020 - food safety is our business too

The second World Food Safety Day will be celebrated on 7 June 2020 to draw attention and inspire action to escale up the initial commitment made in 2019

Original author: HM Government

Places of worship to re-open for individual prayer

From Monday 15 June places of worship will be permitted to open for individual prayer in line with social distancing guidelines.

Original author: HM Government

The Fed deserves the praise for America’s jobs turnaround. But Trump benefits


he political obituaries of Donald Trump were all prepared. At the end of a week that has seen American cities convulsed by protests over the killing of George Floyd, the president would be faced with an increase in unemployment worse than anything seen in the Great Depression.

Well, it didn’t turn out like that. The US economy actually created 2.5 million jobs in May and the unemployment rate went down rather than up. The consensus among analysts was that it would shed 7.5 million jobs, a colossally wrong call. And a deeply significant one.

Instead of Trump being the new Herbert Hoover – the one-term occupant of the White House from 1929-33 – the amazingly good jobs figures hold out the prospect of him stealing Bill Clinton’s nickname and being the next comeback kid.

The US has a reputation for bouncing back from adversity quickly, but even by its own standards the turnaround has been remarkable. If the data from the Bureau for Labour Statistics (BLS) are to be believed, large numbers of workers who lost their jobs when the economy went lockdown in March were rehired as restrictions were eased from mid-May onwards. On Thursday, the day before the official payroll data was released, there had been figures out showing almost 2 million Americans had filed jobless claims the previous week, taking the total to more than 40 million since the crisis began.

Trump seemed as surprised as anyone by the news, but for once his hyperbole was fully justified. The president tweeted that the numbers were incredible, stunning and stupendous – as indeed they were. He also praised himself for the sudden reversal of fortune, which was less justified. If any one man can claim credit, it is the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, who acted early and acted big to provide record amounts of stimulus.

Renewable energy stimulus can create three times as many Australian jobs as fossil fuels

Stimulus programs backing clean energy as a path out of recession would create nearly three times as many jobs for every dollar spent on fossil fuel developments, according to a financial consultancy analysis.

The assessment by professional services firm Ernst & Young (EY) says a government focus on renewable energy and climate-friendly projects to drive the economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic could create more than 100,000 direct jobs across the country while cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Commissioned by environment group the World Wide Fund for Nature, the EY report suggests fast-tracking wind and solar farms that have already been approved, increasing electricity transmission capacity and backing new industries in battery manufacturing, electric buses, renewable hydrogen and manufacturing powered by renewable energy.

It estimates every $1m spent on renewable energy and exports creates 4.8 full-time jobs in renewable infrastructure or 4.95 jobs in energy efficiency. By comparison, $1m on fossil fuel projects has been found to create 1.7 full-time jobs.

That suggests that if 10% of what the federal and state governments had indicated they would spend in response to Covid-19 was directed towards clean projects it could create 160,000 jobs.

Extra mental health support for pupils and teachers

Online resources and charity grants to help schools and colleges respond to the impact of coronavirus on mental health and wellbeing

Original author: HM Government

More than a third of NSW rainforests found to have been hit by Australian bushfires

More than a third of New South Wales rainforest was among 5.4m hectares hit by last season’s catastrophic bushfires, according to new state government data.

The report, an updated assessment of the effect of the fires on wildlife and landscapes, said 293 threatened animal species and 680 threatened plant species have habitat in the state’s fire ground. The affected area includes more than 3.5m hectares of the state’s best koala habitat.

Almost six months on from the crisis, the impact of the fire season is only beginning to be understood.

Recovery work has begun in some areas, while in others, the Covid-19 pandemic shut down early assessment work.

The fire ground includes 245 of the state’s 878 national parks and 208 out of 522 state forests.

Bruno Latour: 'This is a global catastrophe that has come from within'

In the early days of the lockdown, philosopher Bruno Latour wrote an essay for the AOC cultural online newspaper. “The first lesson the coronavirus has taught us,” he wrote, “is also the most astounding: we have actually proven that it is possible, in a few weeks, to put an economic system on hold everywhere in the world…” That essay, translated since into at least 12 languages, has encouraged many to reimagine how different the world could look if we learned from this experience. It has also solidified the reputation of the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) emeritus professor as one of the most influential thinkers of our age.

How has the pandemic reshaped our societies?
Some say this is the revenge of nature. That is silly. Anyone who has studied the history of medicine knows how a virus can make a society feel completely different. We are on a great learning curve. It’s a huge experiment. This is a global catastrophe that has come not from the outside like a war or an earthquake, but from within. Viruses are completely inside us. We cannot completely eject them. We must learn to live with them. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, you suggested everyone ask themselves what they would like to keep from the lockdown, what they would like to change. Those questions are now being asked all over the world. Has the interest surprised you?
Even if you were not a spiritual person, the lockdown forced everyone into a kind of retreat, a moment for reflection. It was quite extraordinary. The questions were therapeutic. They gave people powerlessly stuck at home a way of thinking about how they would create a better future.

Can an idea go viral like a disease?
Covid has given us a model of contamination. It has shown how quickly something can become global just by going from one mouth to another. That’s an incredible demonstration of network theory. I’ve been trying to persuade sociologists of this for 40 years. I’m sorry to have been so right. It shows that we must not think of the personal and the collective as two distinct levels. The big climate questions can make individuals feel small and impotent. But the virus gives us a lesson. If you spread from one mouth to another, you can viralise the world very fast. That knowledge can re-empower us.

Many countries are now easing out of lockdown. What can we expect to emerge from this period of reflection?
The pandemic has reopened the debate about what is necessary and what is possible. It has put us in a position where we can decide what is useful and what is not. That choice disappeared before. Everything seemed relentless like a tsunami. Now we realise it was not. We can see things are reversible. We can see which jobs are necessary and which are junk. How long that will last, I don’t know. We might have forgotten everything in three months. That depends on how hard the economic crisis becomes. I am overwhelmed by the size of the economic problem, from what I hear from my students.

Commonwealth Points of Light Award: Her Majesty The Queen Congratulates Pakistani Volunteers

Her Majesty The Queen has honoured two outstanding volunteers with a Commonwealth Points of Light Award during a phone call hosted by British High Commissioner Dr Christian Turner CMG.

Original author: HM Government

NHS volunteers extend support to frontline health and social care staff

Frontline health and care staff will be able to access support from the hundreds of thousands of NHS volunteer responders, Minister for Care Helen Whately announced today.

Original author: HM Government

More than 17,000 helped to get home from across Africa

UK Government charter flights have now flown over 150,000 miles enabling over 8,400 stranded travellers to return home from across Africa

Original author: HM Government

UK butterfly season off to unusually early start after sunniest of springs

Record-breaking sunshine has encouraged midsummer butterflies to emerge unusually early, with dozens of species appearing a month before their usual flight season.

Butterflies that usually fill meadows and woods in July, including the ringlet, the marbled white, dark green fritillary and the silver-washed fritillary have been widely spotted during the sunniest spring since records began in 1929.

Experts are hailing it as – so far – the best summer for butterflies in nearly 25 years, with an abundance of both common species such as the small heath and endangered ones such as the heath fritillary, a notoriously sedentary butterfly which this year is being found on new sites across Exmoor.

Matthew Oates, the author of His Imperial Majesty: A Natural History of the Purple Emperor, a new book about the elusive Apatura iris, has seen 10 species earlier this year than during any other summer for the last 50 years.

The large blue is among the species Matthew Oates has spotted earlier than any season in almost 50 years. Photograph: Matthew Oates

“Butterflies are climate and weather opportunists par excellence,” he said. “Don’t write a butterfly book – climate change will make it instantly out-of-date.”

New UK deals will bring millions more PPE items to frontline healthcare staff

Millions more visors, aprons and gowns will be delivered to frontline health and social care workers treating coronavirus patients, manufactured in response to the UK government’s call to arms.

Original author: HM Government

Covid-19 relief for fossil fuel industries risks green recovery plans

The failure of governments and central banks to set out a green recovery from the coronavirus crisis is threatening to derail vital UN climate talks aimed at staving off global catastrophe, campaigners have warned.

On Friday, the UK and the UN attempted to revive the stalled Cop26 climate talks, with a coalition of businesses committing to a Race for Zero, signing up to reduce their emissions to net zero by mid-century. Close to 1,000 businesses have joined the campaign, including household names such as Rolls-Royce and the food and drink majors Nestlé and Diageo.

Mark Carney, former governor of the Bank of England and UN special envoy for climate and finance, said: “The transition to net zero is creating the greatest commercial opportunity of our time. Net zero targets must be underpinned by transition plans so that investors can assess which companies will seize the opportunities in the transition and which will cease to exist.”

But rhetoric is not enough while central banks are still pouring money into propping up “business as usual”, according to campaigners.

“It’s been great to hear the government’s warm words about the green recovery, but what really matters now are the policies and investments needed to make it a reality,” said Morten Thaysen, green recovery campaigner at Greenpeace UK.

Pursuing peace in the Sahel

Statement by Ambassador James Roscoe, UK Acting Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, at the Security Council briefing on G5 Sahel

Original author: HM Government

New Zealand readers tell us how they want the country to change after Covid-19

Last week the Guardian asked New Zealanders how they thought the country should change as workers return to their offices and life slowly returns to “normal”. Many urged systemic and far-reaching changes in society following the pandemic, which saw just under 1,500 infections in the country and 22 deaths.

Overall, the majority of respondents were keen on exploring a four-day week – floated by the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern – saying it would allow for more work-life balance, and the continuation of habits picked up during lockdown, including home-cooked meals, walking, cycling and more time spent with the family. Other common suggestions included the introduction of a universal basic income, greater emphasis on climate change adaption – and fewer cars on the road.

‘There are more noble goals’

“I have been enjoying working from home. Working from home has meant I’ve seen my family more, have not had to spend an hour a day in the car commuting, and have been able to go on daily walks around the neighbourhood. Local walks have been wonderful, with next to no motorised traffic. Families have been out cycling on Auckland’s normally insanely dangerous roads. The city has been quiet. Birdsong has been audible. The air has been noticeably clearer.

Discretionary spending has dropped hugely. No more convenience shopping for lunches, no more Uber Eats. I’ve been cooking lunches and dinners, and enjoying it.

I wish the family time, the inner-city peacefulness, safety and cleanliness, and sense of community built by the crisis could continue.

Russia to use anti-tank shells in attempt to put out oilfield fire

Military called in to fire artillery rounds at wellhead in Siberia that has been ablaze for nearly a week

10 March 2019: An employee inspects a wellhead in the Irkutsk Oil Company-owned Yarakta oilfield. Photograph: Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters

A Russian oil company has asked the military to bombard a wellhead fire with anti-tank artillery rounds in a last-ditch effort to extinguish the blaze after nearly a week.

Russian troops will deploy to rural Siberia and fire shells from a 100mm anti-tank gun to cut off the wellhead and allow the oil well to be sealed, Russian state news agencies reported.

Video showed emergency workers in silver protective suits battling a pillar of flame at the Yarakta oilfield in rural Siberia, where the fire has raged for nearly a week after a hose reportedly malfunctioned.

The Guardian view on Brazil and the Amazon: don’t look away | Editorial

A consensus that international cooperation is required to limit the danger from global heating has existed for decades. The success of the rearguard action against this knowledge, led by fossil fuel interests, is a catastrophe whose full extent is yet to unfold. Central bankers are now demanding that a “whole economy transition” must follow the pandemic if the world is to avoid the extreme disruption that temperature rises of 4C would bring.

Arguably, the chaos unleashed by coronavirus has made such a future seem less remote, and action to prevent it more necessary. The risk is that the virus will have the opposite effect: focusing minds on the threat right now rather than the one that can be ignored for a few more years.

Nowhere is this danger greater than in Brazil. South America’s most populous country is responsible for 2.25% of global emissions (by comparison, the US, with a population 50% bigger, emits seven times as much). But accelerating deforestation places Brazil, which has 60% of the Amazon rainforest within its borders, at the heart of the struggle to prevent runaway global heating. That is because the Amazon is the planet’s biggest terrestrial carbon sink and plays a crucial role in the water cycle, as well as providing a home to more species than anywhere else on land.

Twenty-eight years ago, in June 1992, the UN framework convention on climate change was opened for signature in Rio de Janeiro. But since Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, took office 18 months ago his government has sabotaged years of work by environmentalist and indigenous activists aimed at protecting the rainforest, and instead fanned the flames of its destruction by illegal loggers, miners and cattle ranchers. In the year to July 2019, losses rocketed to 9,800 sq km and research predicts that the rainforest is on course for a tipping point that would see it become a carbon emitter in the mid-2030s. Now there are fears that the coronavirus pandemic may speed this up.

On Thursday, Brazil overtook Italy to become the country with the third-highest Covid-19 death toll (behind the US and UK), after a daily record of 1,743 fatalities took the total to more than 34,000. While Mr Bolsonaro continues to attack public health measures, the indigenous population of the Amazon region appears increasingly under threat from violence as well as disease, with five killings in Maranhão state in six months.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Where does the funding come from?
The funding comes from larger energy companies through The Energy Company Obligation (ECO3) phase 3. It sets a responsibility on energy companies to reduce lifetime heating costs in households.

The scheme is regulated by Ofgem
Do I need to be unemployed or on benefits to receive funding?
No, unemployment is just one of the many criteria included in the 3rd phase of the Energy Companies Obligation, since October 2018 ECO3 has been changed to include more middle-income families and the elderly. Most households qualify because they have children under 16, however our experts will quickly assess your information even if you did not meet the criteria in the past. 

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