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‘Ndrangheta’s Affairs In The City Of London Under Scrutiny In Italy’s Biggest Mafia Trial

UNITED KINGDOM. London: In Italy, the largest mafia trial in three decades is underway in Lamezia Terme, Calabria. About 900 witnesses are going to testify against more than 350 suspects, including mobsters, politicians and officials, all accused of being members of the ‘Ndrangheta, one of the most powerful mafia’s groups in the world based in the southern Italian region of Calabria.  

Now, the ‘Ndrangheta affairs in the City of London are set to come under scrutiny in the trial, The Guardian reports. According to the report, “Several defendants will be asked to respond to charges of money laundering over establishing companies in the UK with the alleged purpose of simulating legitimate economic activity.”

Nicola Gratteri the Italian prosecutor who oversees the trial, and who has been called a “dead man walking” by members of the mafia, told The Guardian, “Ndrangheta interests in the UK have figured prominently as clans have used the country as an investment and money-laundering base.”

Claudio Petrozziello, Italy’s financial police representative in the UK, told the Financial Times in 2020 that London is “one prime destination for ‘Ndrangheta cash”.

In a statement to the Financial Times, Petrozziello said, “Many people still think of the Mafia as drug dealers and extortionists, but there are many who are involved in moving money out of Calabria who would appear as sophisticated businessmen. They would blend in at an investment bank or a multinational corporation.”

As highlighted by The Guardian, the ‘Ndrangheta is believed to be one of the world’s richest and most powerful mafia organisations. According to a 2013 study by the Demoskopita Research Institute, ‘Ndrangheta financial strength is estimated to be more than that of Deutsche Bank and McDonald’s combined.

Brexit Factor

According to The Guardian, Italian magistrates and police officials are concerned that ‘Ndrangheta might try to take advantage of the UK’s exit from the EU. They pointed out that, if the police and juridical cooperation between the EU and the U.K. is weaker, the U.K. might be left alone to fight the organisation.

In July 2020, London Evening Standard reported that more than “£2 million of profits made by an Italian mafia gang and held in British bank accounts has been seized by City of London police.” The British investigators were helped by Europol and the Italian Guardia di Finanza.

However, The Guardian reports that Kevin Foster, the UK minister for future borders and immigration, in a statement said, “The agreement the UK reached with the EU delivers a comprehensive package of capabilities which ensures we can work with partners in Europe, including Italy, to tackle serious crime and terrorism – protecting the public and bringing criminals to justice.”

Also Read: Italian Mafia Ready To Exploit Pandemic Aid, A New Report Warns

The trial

The trial began in January 2021 and is expected to last more than two years. The charges include murder, drug trafficking, extortion and money laundering.

The investigation that led to the trial was one of the biggest anti-mafia operations since 1986-92 when a maxi trial against Sicily based mafia Cosa Nostra took place and led to the assassination of judges Giovanni Falcone e Paolo Borsellino.

To accommodate the number of individuals involved in the trial, the high-security courtroom has been set in a call centre building.

The trial, codenames Rebirth (Rinascita in Italian), will put Emanuele Mancuso, son of the ‘Ndrangheta boss Luigi Mancuso, under the spotlight: he has been revealing the clan secrets after accepting police protection.  

Prince Philip’s Death: The Funerals Will Be In Line With Government COVID-19 Guidelines

UNITED KINGDOM. London: The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip died last week at the age of 99. The news was given just after midday on Friday, April 7, by Buckingham Palace.

The funerals will take place on Saturday, April 17, at Windsor Castle and it has been said that the Duke wanted little fuss at the service, thus a state funeral wasn’t in line with his wishes.

On Friday, The Royal Family wrote on Twitter: “It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.”

The arrangements for Prince Philip’s funeral have been in place for years, under the codename of Operation Forth Bridge, “after the Scottish landmark and UNESCO World Heritage Site”, as Sky News reports.

However, final changes have been made to comply with the COVID-19 restrictions currently in place in the U.K.

Only 30 people will attend

In line with the coronavirus restrictions, only 30 people will attend. In the original arrangements around 800 people were set to be invited.

The Telegraph has speculated that the Queen will be joined, alongside senior members of the family, including Prince Harry who flew from California, by the rest of the Duke’s grandchildren: Peter Phillips, Zara Tindall and her husband Mike, Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie, Lady Louise Windsor and Viscount Severn.

Other potential guests -according to the Telegraph- could be Lady Pamela Hicks, the Duke’s first cousin, Penelope Knatchbull, Countess Mountbatten of Burma, and other members of the extended family, including Princess Margaret’s children.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced he won’t attend, to allow as many members of the family as possible to go.

Furthermore, no public processions will take place: people have been urged to not gather outside royal residences

The Royal Family wrote on Twitter: “During the current public health situation, Books of Condolence will not be available for the public to sign. The Royal Family ask that members of the public consider making a donation to a charity instead of leaving floral tributes in memory of The Duke.”

Prince Philip will be interred in the Royal Vault of St George’s Chapel at Windsor. When the Queen dies, he will be transferred to the gothic church’s King George VI, where he will rest alongside his wife.

“He was, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years”

Messages of condolences and tributes have been shared online from all around the globe, but also from all the members of the Royal Family.

Buckingham Palace shared on Twitter a part of a speech the Queen gave in 1997. When talking about her husband she said: “He has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know.”

Prince Harry in a statement said: “He was my grandpa: master of the barbecue, legend of banter, and cheeky right ‘til the end.”

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall’s Twitter account shared an emotional speech by the Prince of Wales, who paid his tribute to his “dear Papa”: “The Prince of Wales pays tribute to The Duke of Edinburgh on behalf of The Royal Family.”

Also Read: Reflections On Meghan Markle And Prince Harry Interview

The Royal Family will now observe two weeks of royal mourning until April 22.

Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaccine Under Investigation: Some EU Countries Suspend The Use As A Precaution


UNITED KINGDOM. London: Some European countries, including Italy, Denmark, Norway, Austria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxembourg, have suspended all or parts of the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout as a precaution.

Denmark, Norway and Iceland have suspended the rollout of the vaccine, while Italy and Austria have stopped inoculating people using the doses form a certain batch. The decision was taken independently by each country after suspicious incidents occurred in people who received the vaccine.

The Danish Health and Medicines Authority said they will pause the rollout of the jab for at least 14 days while they investigate an unspecified number of blood clots experienced by people who received the AstraZeneca jab.

Danish health minister, Magnus Heunicke, said on Twitter: “The health authorities have suspended, due to precautionary measures, vaccinations using AstraZeneca [doses] following a signal of a possible serious side effect in the form of fatal blood clots. It is currently not possible to conclude whether there is a connection. We act early, it needs to be thoroughly investigated.”

Norway followed their neighbours and suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s jabs as a precaution.

Austria and Italy block the use of AstraZeneca’s specific batches

Austrian authorities said they were temporarily stopping the use of a specific batch of the vaccine after two people also developed clots.

One person developed multiple thromboses and died 10 days after vaccination and the other one was hospitalised with pulmonary embolism, but they are recovering, Sky News reports.

Italy has also announced on Thursday the stop to the AstraZeneca doses from the ABV2856 batch after “adverse events” occurred.

However, on Wednesday the EU Medicines Agency said on Twitter: “Preliminary view from EMA’s safety committee: there is no specific issue with a batch of #COVID19 Vaccine AstraZeneca that has been suspended in Austria after cases of multiple thromboses were reported.”

France 24 reports that “AstraZeneca on Thursday said the safety of its vaccine had been extensively studied in human trials and peer-reviewed data had confirmed the vaccine was generally well tolerated.”

Professor Anthony Harnden, from the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations, told Sky News there is no reason to doubt the safety of the jab in the UK.

EU approved on Thursday Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot coronavirus vaccine

While the AstraZeneca jab is under investigation in some countries, the EU has approved Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot COVID-19 vaccine.

The J&J jab is the fourth to be approved in the EU, after Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna.

The Commission has ordered around 200 million shots, but it’s not clear when they will be delivered.

EU Commission’s President, Ursula von der Leyen, wrote earlier on Twitter: “More safe and effective vaccines are coming to the market. We have just authorised the use of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine in the EU, following @EMA_News’ positive review. With the number of doses we ordered, we could vaccinate up to 200 million people in the EU.”

Italy Blocks Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine Shipment To Australia

UNITED KINGDOM. London: The government of Italy has blocked the shipment of 250,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Australia on Thursday. These doses were manufactured in a plant owned by U.S. group Catalent in Anagni, near Rome.

Italy made the request and the European Commission signed it off under a new export control system that came into law on Jan. 30.

The doses will be redistributed within the EU, “where about 8% of the population has been vaccinated, compared with more than 30% in the U.K,” according to Sky News.

Italy’s decision came after the British-Swedish drug manufacturer had failed to fulfill its contract with the European Union (EU).

The new control system

The bloc issued the new control system a month ago to fight the shortage of COVID-19 vaccine doses.

The EU hoped that the mechanism could force drug manufactures to respect their contracts with the bloc before exporting the vaccines anywhere else.

The EU has approved about 150 requests for the export of vaccines since the new mechanism came into force; Italy has been the first country to reject such request, The Guardian reported.

AstraZeneca-EU row

The Italian government’s move comes in response to an existing row between the EU and AstraZeneca.

The drug manufacturer announced in January that they couldn’t fulfill their 120m doses contract with the EU due to a vaccine shortage caused by production problems in Europe. The company was able to only commit to 40m doses – just a quarter of the doses initially agreed – and refused to redirect the jabs made in two plants in the U.K. to the EU.

AstraZeneca has an agreement with Oxford University, and it was bound to use doses made in Staffordshire and Oxford in the U.K. before satisfying other orders.

An EU diplomat told The Guardian, “Italy has sent a crystal clear message to AstraZeneca: Contracts are to be honored. AstraZeneca’s vaccine delivery to the EU will fall short by more than 60 million doses in the first quarter of 2021 alone putting at risk the lives of 30 million EU citizens. Being in this situation, not making up for it, not even offering excuses to the people they have led down and then asking for an export authorisation is a very brazen move. Italy rightly stopped it.”

EU Vaccine Passports Might Be Just Months Away, Leaders Agree At Summit

UNITED KINGDOM. London: EU leaders have agreed on the need for vaccine passports to allow travel within the bloc and, potentially, from third countries as well.

The proposal was one of the topics on Thursday’s EU leaders’ videoconference agenda.

Ursula von der Leyen wrote on Twitter: “Looking forward to #EUCO discussions today. I will ask EU leaders to: support the HERA incubator for a strong response to variants, apply our recommendation on restrictions to free movement, find a common approach to vaccination certificates, as summer nears.”

However, German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said that vaccine passports could take up to three months for the EU to configure. Thus, it might be ready in time for the summer holidays.

COVID-19 certificates to “ensure the functioning of the Single Market”

In her statement, the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, said that these certificates still leave “a number of open questions.”

Among the concerns there are what these certificates will be used for and whether the vaccine can prevent the transmission.

For instance, France and Germany have shown scepticism as they suggested data on the efficacy of vaccines in preventing a person from carrying or passing the virus are not clear, BBC reports.

However, von der Leyen highlighted that “at EU level, I believe we should use them to ensure the functioning of the Single Market.”

Greece calls for EU-wide vaccine certificates

Greece is already in talks with Britain about using a digital certificate to allow Brits to travel to the country over the summer.

Tourism in Greece contributes to 25% of the national GDP, and the government has been calling for an EU-wide vaccine certificate to ensure its economy can benefit from summer tourism.

In an interview with the BBC, Greek Deputy Prime Minister, Akis Skertos, said that non-vaccinated tourists could still visit Greece, but they would have to be tested and might need to self-isolate on arrival.

Thus, a vaccine certificate would be the quickest way to enter the country.

Spain, Austria and Bulgaria also support the EU-wide certificate; however, Vienna said that “it would implement its own if the EU cannot agree on anything by spring”, Sky News reports.

Some countries are worried about discrimination

Some countries, including France, Belgium and Romania have argued that vaccine certificates would discriminate against those who have not got the vaccine yet.

French President, Emmanuel Macron, said that certificates would be unfair for young people who might still need to wait months to get their COVID-19 jab.

However, some countries are developing their own systems. For instance, Denmark is planning to launch a digital passport to prove a traveller’s vaccination status, and it said will be compatible with any EU-wide vaccine passport scheme.

EU slow vaccination rollout

EU countries are still struggling with a slow vaccination rollout. Although the Commission still aims to vaccinate at least 70% of adults by mid-September, so far, they have vaccinated less than the 10%.

The European Commission wrote on Twitter: “The spread of our vaccination effort is increasing. More than 29 million doses have been administrated as of today. We should maintain our utmost efforts so the pace of the vaccination picks up.”

Queen Elizabeth II Urges People To “Think About Others” And Take COVID-19 Jab


UNITED KINGDOM. London: Queen Elizabeth II, in a video call with U.K. health leaders, urged the public to “think about others rather than themselves” and get the COVID-19 jab.

Her message aimed to encourage those who are still hesitant about getting the vaccine. During the call, she also told people, “it didn’t hurt at all,” while getting the COVID-19 jab.

The 94-year-old monarch and her husband, 99-year-old Duke of Edinburgh, received their first doses of the vaccine in January.

The Royal Family official Twitter account said, “The Queen has spoken to health officials leading the deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine across the four nations of the UK. Her Majesty heard about the vital importance of ensuring all communities have access to the vaccine and shared her own experience.”

“It was quite harmless”

The Queen, who took part in the video meeting from Windsor Castle, was asked about her own experience of getting the jab.

She smiled and replied, “Well, as far as I can make out it was quite harmless. It was very quick, and I have had lots of letters from people who have been very surprised by how easy it was to get the vaccine.”

Her Majesty also stressed that for some people who have never had a vaccine, getting the jab could be a “difficult” experience, but she urged the public to take it when offered.

Queen’s support vital for vaccination program

Dr. Emily Lawson, England Vaccine deployment lead, said that the “Queen’s comments about her vaccine experience were an ‘incredibly important vote of confidence in the program,” BBC News reported.

Award-winning journalist Federico Gatti took to Twitter and said, “In 1956 the Queen made sure the media reported about Prince Charles and Princess Anne getting the polio vaccine. As a result, millions of people followed. 55 years later, she’s still leading the way.”

UK’s vaccination rollout “remarkable”

The Queen was also impressed with the U.K.’s vaccination rollout and said it had been “remarkable” so far.

During her video meeting with the England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland NHS officials, she further added, “You’ll have to keep up the good work. I’m very glad indeed to have had the chance to hear it all.”

In the U.K., more than 18 million people have already received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (around one in three adults). Everyone in the top four priority groups, i.e, residents and staff working of care homes, people over 70, frontline care workers, and clinically vulnerable.

The next phase of the vaccination will continue to prioritize people by age, rather than their occupation. Thus, the over-40 are now the next in line to get a COVID-19 vaccine, while everyone aged between 18-29 will be the last group to be offered the COVID-19 jab.

Indian Merchant, Nirav Modi, Lost His Legal Battle Against Extradition, UK Juge Ruled


UNITED KINGDOM. London: Wanted diamond merchant, Nirav Modi, lost his legal battle against extradition, as a U.K. judge ruled this morning that “he does have a case to answer before Indian courts.”

He appeared in Westminster Magistrates’ Court today, via video link from Wandsworth Prison, in south-west London.

Mr Modi had contested his extradition to India on charges of fraud and money laundering in the estimated $2billion (around £1.4billion) Punjab National Bank (PNB) case.

The 49-year-old was arrested on an extradition warrant in March 2019 and has already appeared for a series of court hearings in the nearly two-year-long extradition battle.

His defence team, led by barrister Clare Montgomery, had attempted repeatedly to seek bail, but the attempts had been turned down both at the Magistrates’ and High Court level.

The case

Nirav Modi is the subject of two sets of criminal proceedings: the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) case, related to a fraud at the expenses of the PNB through the fraudulent obtaining of letters of undertaking (LoUs) or loan agreements; and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) case, related to the laundering of the proceeds of that fraud.

The charges against him are related to “his firms Diamond R Us, Solar Exports and Stellar making fraudulent use of a credit facility offered by PNB or LoUs”, NDTV reports.

He also faces two additional charges of “causing the disappearance of evidence” and “criminal intimidation to cause death.”

Some PNB staff conspired with Nirav Modi

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), arguing on behalf of the Indian authorities, has told the court, in two separate hearings, that some PNB staff conspired with Nirav Modi to ensure the LoUs were issued to his company without proceeding with the required credit check, without recording the issuance of the LoUs and without charging the commission on the transactions.

CPS barrister, Helen Malcolm, has argued that the jeweller presided over a “ponzi-like scheme where new LoUs were used to repay old ones.”

A ponzi scheme “refers to an investment scam which generates funds for earlier investors with money taken from later investors and the CPS has claimed that Modi used his firms- Diamond R Us, Solar Exports and Stellar Diamonds- to make fraudulent use of PNB’s LoUs in a conspiracy with banking officials.” Indian publication Jagran English reports.

Commercial dispute

Modi’s defiance team has claimed that the issue is a commercial dispute involving “authorised through ill-advised lending” that took place in “broad daylight”.

It also claimed that “none of his actions  meets the legal threshold of preventing the course of justice or amounted to fraud.”

The defence has also relied on arguments around Nirav Mondi’s mental health, as someone who has a family history of depression and suicide.

The CPS has challenged the defensive stance and called for an independent evaluation of medical records, Times of India reports.

The Indian government has also submitted an updated video recording of the cell at Barrack 12 in Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai, where Nirav Modi would be held, to prove that the cell meets all human rights requirements of natural light and ventilation.

The ruling will be sent to the U.K. home secretary

The magistrates’ court ruling will be sent back to U.K. home secretary Priti Patel for sign off, with the possibility of appeals in the High Court by Nirav Modi’s legal team.

Italian Mafia Ready To Exploit Pandemic Aid, A New Report Warns


ITALY. Rome: On Wednesday, the Italian Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate (DIA) has presented its twice-yearly report to the Parliament, raising the alarm on the potential danger that the nation’s mobsters pose to the pandemic recovery projects.

According to the 600 pages report, Italian mafias – ‘Ndrangheta, Cosa Nostra and Camorra- will probably try to intercept funding from major public works and green economy conversation’s projects.

Italy will receive more than 200bl euros in EU recovery founds, money aimed to relaunch the country after the crisis. In particular, they will help support the national health system and boost the economy through digitalization, green transition and public projects.

However, as reported by AP, DIA’s director, Maurizio Vallone, in an interview with Italian news programme TG5, said that Italy’s mobsters are “today financiers, tomorrow surely exploiters, predators”, referring to the companies and businesses that the recovery funds are meant to support.

The main problem, the report suggested, lays in the speed at which Italy has been assigning the recovery money to businesses, aiming to compensate for the economic losses caused by the lockdowns.

Italy has always tried to oversee closely the awarding of public works contracts, hoping to avoid organised crime’s infiltrations. However, this scrutiny has never discouraged mafias from trying their way to those contracts; thus, the risk is that the new projects could see an increase in organised crime infiltrations.

“All this will constitute serious risks of mafia infiltration in the legal economy, especially in the health sector that represents a big area of interest”, the report says.

Risks for small businesses

The DIA said: “The analysis of the criminality during the lockdown period have shown that mafia organisations, as predicted, have moved with a strategy aimed to consolidate the control over the territory.”  

According to the report, the risks behind this strategy are that the struggling small businesses could be dragged, in the long term, into the criminal net, becoming a money laundering tool.

As reported by AP, DIA’s director, Maurizio Vallone, told RAI, Italy’s state TV, that “mobsters increasingly are investing in businesses weakened by COVID-19 lockdowns, with the goal of ultimately take them over.”

According to the report, mafia groups offer “companies in difficulty a form of social welfare as an alternative to [public] institutions, but then adopt the traditional intimidatory conduct aimed at acquiring control of their economic activities.”

Mafias like businesses

Italy’s three main mafia groups have taken “the very characteristics of a business enterprise, if not those of a holding company that is constantly looking to expand, even while maintaining uncharged its very criminal essence”, the DIA highlighted.

An analysis of the type of crimes during the lockdown period showed that there was a decline in offences such as robberies, handling of stolen goods, and counterfeiting, due to the social restrictions in place. However, in the same period, other crimes such as illegal substances’ traffic and smuggling saw a slight increase.

According to the DIA, those two crimes are a clear sign of the control these groups have on the territory.

In the same way, DIA reported “an increase of cases of money-laundering and re-investing illicit money”, especially in the north and central Italy. Meanwhile, in the south of the country, mafia groups focused on vote-buying and corruption.

Calabria’s ‘Ndrangheta group is the richest

Italy has three main mafias: ‘Ndrangheta, localised in the south region of Calabria; Cosa Nostra, the oldest of the three and based on the island of Sicily, and Camorra, which developed around Naples. However, all three operates all over Italy and abroad.

For instance, the report highlighted evidence, discovered by Italian authorities, of attempts by New York’s Gambino crime family to reawaken historic ties with Cosa Nostra.

DIA stressed how, of the three, Calabria’s ‘Ndrangheta is the strongest and wealthiest, thanks to its prominence in international drugs trafficking.  

One-Third Of Freshwater Fish Are At Risk Of Extinction: Report Warns

UNITED KINGDOM. London: Nearly one-third of fish living in rivers and lakes are at risk of extinction, a new report suggested.

Since 1970 around 80 species of freshwater fish have been declared extinct, and even more have seen a worrying decline, according to the report.

The investigation was carried by 16 conservation groups including WWF, the London Zoological Society (ZSL), Global Wildlife Conservation and The Nature Conservancy.

In the past 50 years, migratory freshwater fish populations have declined by 76% on average, while the population of freshwater mega-fish (fisher heavier than 30kg) has declined by 94%.

On Tuesday, WWF Water wrote on Twitter: “OUT NOW: Major report on world’s #ForgottenFishes. Freshwater fishes are dazzlingly diverse. And they are critical for socialites, economies & ecosystems…but they are undervalued and under threat. We must act now to save them.”

2020 was a black year for freshwater fish as the “iconic Chinese paddlefish, an endemic giant of the Yangtze River” was declared extinct. The IUCN Red List for Threatened Species announced the loss of over 15 species in the Philippines.

Human impact on environment

The report stressed how freshwater fish play an important role within our ecosystems and “serve as indicators of the health of those ecosystems.”

Furthermore, the authors of the report added that “if our freshwater ecosystems deteriorate to the point where they can’t support a healthy population of fish, we can be sure they won’t fit for humans either.”

The threat of extinction for these species comes from a combination of human actions including, damming rivers, draining wetlands, abstracting too much water for irrigation and releasing too much-untreated waste into the water bodies.

Other factors threatening freshwater fish are the unsustainable and damaging fishing practices, the introduction of invasive non-native species, and, of course, the “escalating impact of climate change.”

Freshwater fish provide livelihoods to 60M people

Wild-caught freshwater fish provides food security and livelihood to hundreds of millions of people around the world.

It has been estimated that freshwater fish provides the primary source of animal protein, as well as essential nutrients, to at least 200 million people globally, particularly for vulnerable communities in Asia and Africa.

The report says that these fisheries are estimated to be worth U.S. $30 billion, i.e, nearly £22 billion.

Stuart Orr, Freshwater Lead at WWF, on Twitter said, “Freshwater fisheries provide food & livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people across the world. But 1/3rd are already threatened with extinction. A new report today shows why we need to save the world’s #ForgottenFishes.”

Hopes to restore world’s freshwater ecosystems

The authors of the report called out to authorities to take steps to protect the ecosystem and biodiversity.

The report says that the world must implement a six-pillar Emergency Recovery Plan for freshwater biodiversity.

The first pillar would be to let rivers flow more naturally, then improve the water quality in freshwater ecosystems, protect and restore critical habitats; end overfishing and unsustainable sand mining in rivers and lakes, prevent and control invasion by non-native species, and protect free-flowing rivers and remove obsolete dams.

“Only by implementing this plan, which is echoed in the Convention on Biological Diversity 5th Global Biodiversity Outlook,” the authors of the report said adding, “we can hope to restore the world’s freshwater ecosystems and reverse decades of decline in freshwater fish populations. By committing to this plan, countries can enhance the health of their rivers, lakes, and wetlands – and secure the future of their fish and fisheries.”

UK PM Unveils Roadmap To Lift Lockdown In England: ‘One-Way Road To Freedom’


UNITED KINGDOM. London: In a press conference on Monday, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled the government’s map out of lockdown for England — “one-way road to freedom.”

The plan is a four-stage roadmap for the unlocking of England by summer.

No 1, the headquarters of the Government of the United Kingdom, stressed that, after each step, the subsequent stages of reopening could be subject to delay and that the program would be driven by “data, not dates.”

Boris Johnson took to Twitter and said, “Our decision will be made on the latest data at every step, and we will be cautious about this approach so that we do not undo the progress we have achieved so far and the sacrifices each and every one of you has made to keep yourself and others safe.”

There is a minimum of five weeks between each stage: three weeks to gather data and information and a week for people and businesses to prepare for the next stage.

Boris Johnson has also highlighted that there will be no return to regional tiers, however, there could be localised efforts if a new variant is detected.

COVID-19 Roadmap: Step 1   

The U.K. Prime Minister tweeted last night: “THREAD: The COVID-19 Roadmap for England: Step 1. 8 March-29 March.”

The first step will kick off on March 8 with the reopening of schools and colleges for all students. People will also be allowed to meet one another for coffee or a picnic.

By the end of March, outdoor sports and leisure facilities might be allowed to reopen, and up to 15 people, excluding children under 5 will be able to meet outdoors.

Also, the “rule of 6” will come back for outdoors social contact.

COVID-19 Roadmap: Step 2   

PM Johnson tweeted, “COVID-19 Roadmap: Step 2. No earlier than 12 April (at least 5 weeks after Step 1).”

Unless data suggests a surge in cases, the second stage of the “one-way road to freedom” will start around 12 April.

In this phase, all retail, personal care businesses, libraries, community centres, gyms, outdoor hospitality and outdoor attractions will be allowed to reopen.

COVID-19 Roadmap: Step 3

The PM’s tweet read, “COVID-19 Roadmap: Step 3. No earlier than 17 May (at least 5 weeks after Step 2)”

The third phase is set to start at least 5 weeks after step 2; thus, no earlier than 17 May.

In this stage, indoor hospitality and activities will be allowed to reopen, however, social distance restrictions will still be in place. Only a maximum of 30 people will be allowed to gather outdoors, while indoors the rule of 6 remains.

Step 3 will also see a relaxation of restrictions on national and international travel.

Covid-19 Roadmap: Step 4

In another tweet, PM Johnson said, “COVID-19 Roadmap: Step 4. No earlier than 21 June (at least 5 weeks after Step 3).”

“118 days to freedom” — June 21 could be the day the remaining restrictions in place are lifted, with nightclubs reopening and there will be no legal limit on social gatherings.

The government is still evaluating if “COVID status certificates,” like vaccine or test passports should be used for traveling purposes.

Most of the rules in steps 3 and 4 are still under review and they will be agreed upon as things develop.

“It’s on all of us”

In an interview with Sky News on Tuesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the government’s roadmap to lift restrictions will not speed up and it could even slow down, and the government must stay “vigilant.”

“It’s on all of us to make sure we can [ease the restrictions] by continuing to follow the rules between now and then as the vaccine rollout continues and as the really, really positive impact of those vaccines takes effect. This is on all of us,” Hancock added.