Environmentalists around the world are breathing a deep collective sigh of relief at the election of Joe Biden.
His victory means real hope that catastrophic climate change can be avoided; real momentum for world leaders to come together to collectively reduce greenhouse gases and the re-positioning of America as the world leader on the climate.
Donald Trump was a president who pulled out of the Paris agreement to limit global warming and even called climate change a hoax.
Joe Biden is the president-elect who says tackling climate change will be a top priority and has promised to preside over a green transformation of the US.
The fact is the climate policy of whoever lives at the White House is critical to tackling climate change – both as a major polluter and as a global influencer.
Mr Biden has said the urgency on the climate begins immediately and proof of that is his promise to re-join the Paris agreement.
His campaign message was that the changing climate affects everyone in the US – that it’s simply wrong to think only those living in the hottest and lowest lying parts of the country will be affected.
His climate strategy is underpinned by the belief that the climate is inextricably linked to the US’ health, wealth and national security.
Mr Biden has repeatedly called climate change an “existential threat” and is promising a “bold plan” and a “clean energy revolution”.
Tackling climate change doesn’t have to be a drain on the US but a saviour.
Crucially he’s signed up to the mantra of other major economies – including China – calling for the global recovery from coronavirus to be a green one citing climate change as an opportunity to provide new jobs across the US.
He has pledged $2tn of investment in clean energy over four years and called for 100% clean electricity by 2035.
There are also promises on key issues like electric vehicles; conservation and the energy efficiency of buildings.
Voters can now expect Mr Biden to sign a series of executive orders putting the US on the path to net zero – getting there, he says, “no later” than 2050.
Environmentalists will be looking out too for the White House to make good on the Biden promise to lead from the front on climate change – persuading other countries to set ambitious targets on reducing greenhouse gases and making climate change central to the US’ foreign policy.
But the new president faces a fresh rivalry from China which has also signalled its ambition to become the global leader on the climate.
TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan is yet to receive an invite to a key World Health Organization (WHO) meeting this week expected to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic due to “obstruction” from China, the island’s foreign ministry said, expressing its displeasure.
People walk past a Taiwanese flag amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Taipei, Taiwan, August 10, 2020. REUTERS/Ann Wang/Files
The U.S. mission in Geneva last week urged WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to invite Chinese-claimed but democratically ruled Taiwan to the WHO’s decision-making body, the World Health Assembly (WHA).
Late on Sunday, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said the island had yet to get an invite to the virtual meeting of 194 member states.
“The Foreign Ministry expresses strong regret and dissatisfaction at China’s obstruction of Taiwan participating in the WHO and the WHO’s continuing to neglect the health and human rights of Taiwan’s 23.5 million people,” it added.
The WHO’s refusal to invite Taiwan based on political considerations makes a mockery of the body’s “health for all” claim, the ministry said.
Taiwan is locked out of most global organisations such as the WHO due to the objections of China, which considers the island one of its provinces with no right to the trappings of a sovereign state.
The WHO says it is up to member states whether to invite Taiwan, which has been praised internationally for quickly containing the coronavirus, to observe the WHA meeting.
Backed by the United States, Taiwan has stepped up lobbying this year to take part, angering China.
China’s mission to the United Nations in Geneva on Friday denounced the “distorted” U.S. remarks on Taiwan, saying the island can only take part if it admits to being part of China, something Taipei’s government has refused to do.
The WHO says it cooperates with Taiwan on various health matters including on aspects of the pandemic and that the island has been provided with the help it needs.
Residents of three more English towns could be mass tested for coronavirus imminently despite criticism of the first scheme in Liverpool.
The Government is reportedly planning to roll out the programme to more places as early as next week as it seeks to catch more asymptomatic cases in order to stop the spread of the disease.
Mass testing began in Liverpool on Friday with plans to test 50,000 people a day once it is fully operational.
The names of the next towns on the list have not been confirmed but it’s thought one will be in the Midlands while another will be in the south of England, according to The Sun.
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The second mass testing pilots will aim to see whether the system can work in smaller, more rural areas.
It’s thought Boris Johnson could announce the locations as early as tomorrow, with up to 100,000 more people expected to be offered the chance to get a free weekly test.
The plans are part of the Government ‘Operation Moonshoot’ which aims to bring the country out of the second lockdown by identifying more cases of the virus and getting people to self-isolate.
A senior Government source told The Times: ‘The point about mass testing is that if you can test a lot of people who have the virus, but don’t have symptoms, and you can get them to isolate, you can reduce the spread of the disease.’
But scientists have raised concerns over the scheme. One of the rapid tests proposed for use in Liverpool was found to have identified less than half of positive cases during earlier studies.
Allyson Pollock, professor of public health at Newcastle University, also warned that plans to test asymptomatic people went against advice to prioritise testing for those who were displaying symptoms.
A letter sent to the city’s MPs by academics said: ‘The potential for harmful diversion of resources and public money is vast.’
A third tranche of mass testing pilots is already understood to be in the pipeline with locations in Wales and Scotland said to be under consideration.
Soldiers have been administering the tests in Liverpool, where the pilot is initially set to last for 10 days. The Director of Public Health Matt Ashton has previously said there is capacity for 85 centres to be set up across the city.
Lieutenant-General Tyrone Urch, who commands the 7,500-strong military Covid Support Force, said on Friday in Liverpool: ‘First and foremost this is a pilot. We don’t know where it will go. It has potential to roll out more widely.
‘I am sure if Government demands it and secretary of state approves we could do the same again. This is definitely scalable.’
The latest figures show the north west continues to be the hardest hit by the second wave of infections. The top five worst affected areas on Friday were Oldham, Blackburn with Darwen, Wigan, Salford and Rochdale.
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Earlier this year it is estimated there were around 400,000 independent retailers, according to research carried out for the British Independent Retailers’ Association (Bira).
It also showed 24 per cent of these shops which closed their doors in March for the original lockdown did not reopen again in June.
Andrew Goodacre, chief executive of Bira, fears the damage caused by the second lockdown – during peak time for Christmas shopping when retailers have just paid for seasonal stock – could see another 25 per cent stay shut.
He has called for the Government to do more to support stores deemed non-essential to avoid causing permanent damage to high streets across Britain.
Mr Goodacre said: “This second lockdown will do more damage than the last one because of the time of year and the importance to retailers.
“November and December are their most profitable months and all retailers were hoping for a good festive period to make up for the pain from this horrible year. That has now been taken away from them.
“We will not see the full impact until January and February and I fear we could see a further 25 per cent stay closed.”
He questioned the science behind closing non-essential stores with proven safety measures in place for Covid-19.
Mr Goodacre said: “We understood it in March when everything was unknown and we did not have the measures in place that we now see in every shop – Perspex, hand sanitiser, notices and now mandatory face coverings.
“All the charts show that when retail opened up in June, the number of cases continued to fall and did not rise again until September, after hospitality opened up.”
He added: “With further lockdowns we fear the worst. With the current lockdown, non-essential retailers will have been closed 17 weeks out of the last 32 – more than 50 per cent of the time.
“These businesses cannot survive more lockdowns without more support.”
Mr Goodacre said 80 per cent of independent retailers do not qualify for the government self-employed payment grant because they partly pay in dividends, leaving them struggling to pay their rents.
Bira wants to see the current moratorium on rent debt, which is set to be lifted at the end of December, extended and for business rates not to return to full value in April.
Amanda Fergusson, chief executive of the Greetings Card Association, said its retailers had been experiencing a record year for card sales – as we reported last Sunday – but were now “devastated” by being closed by the lockdown.
She has written to Business Secretary Alok Sharma calling for card shops to be treated as essential stores so people can send loved ones Christmas cards to boost their mental health.
Greeting cards were declared essential by the Government during the Second World War for boosting the nation’s morale.
It emerged yesterday that the Peak District, visited by 42 million people annually, is set to lose £1billion this year as a result of the pandemic.
Tourism bosses say the two national lockdowns plus ongoing restrictions have been “devastating” for the sector which usually generates around £2.3billion for the local economy each year.
A “worst-case scenario based on survey data” could see that figure almost halved this year.
Jo Dilley, managing director of Marketing Peak District and Derbyshire, said: “The second lockdown has come at a time when many businesses are already struggling to survive.
“Without further support, the question is whether they will be able to get through the winter into the 2021 visitor season.”
Author Debra Ann Francisco still reads Harry Potter books with her son, even though he is an advanced reader at 11. They enjoy discussing how the scenes in the books are depicted differently from those in the movies.
“Talking about books and their impact on us is just as important as reading them. My years as a literature teacher taught me this,” says Ms Francisco, who encourages parents to continue reading with their kids even as they get older.
The 44-year-old is the author of Vinod And The Deepavali Dishes and four other children’s books that teach kids about Singapore’s diverse food culture. She is also the News-in-Education specialist of The Straits Times Schools team.
“I wanted to write a series of stories about heritage food for children so that parents could start conversations about their own ethnic cuisines, and hopefully involve their children in cooking these dishes in the kitchen,” says Ms Francisco, who has two older sons aged 18 and 16.
For parents with younger children, she suggests creating a daily ritual of reading and making it a special time for the family. “I used to promote another book at the end of each day’s story time,” she recalls. “This creates anticipation for the next day’s read.”
If your kid is a reluctant reader, begin a new book by talking about the illustrations first. Ask your little one to guess what the story is about from the pictures. See if that sparks any interest and then say: “Shall we see if our guesses are correct? Let’s read this to find out.”
And why not record both of you reading together?
“My youngest son used to love Owl Babies by Martin Waddell when he was three, and could recite the story by heart. I recorded us reading together, with him reciting the owl babies’ dialogue,” says Ms Franciso.
“He got a kick out of listening to his voice over and over again, and it makes for a lovely recorded memory, even years later.”
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WHAT TO READ WITH YOUR CHILD
Ms Debra Ann Francisco shares her favourite titles.
1. Green Eggs And Ham, by Dr Seuss
“One of the strongest messages in the story is to never be afraid to try new things, even if these may be strange or different. Once my sons knew the story well, I got them to change rhyming words while we were reading it, with hilarious results.”
2. My Colouring Book Is Ruined! by Jill Lim
“It is a story about Claire, who is annoyed that her older sister Kate has scribbled all over her colouring book. She later learns about empathy and understanding when she talks to the rest of the family about Kate’s autism.
“Parents reading this book to their children can highlight the importance of patience and inclusivity in their relationships with others.”
How can you help your child succeed in school and life? Visit the Smart Parenting microsite.
WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) – U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and his aides have spent months gearing up for his transition to the White House, assembling a team that will grow to include several hundred staff members as the Democrat steps into a role he’s pursued for decades.
FILE PHOTO: Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential nominee Joe Biden and his family celebrate onstage at his election rally, after the news media announced that Biden has won the 2020 U.S. presidential election over President Donald Trump, in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., November 7, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
These are the key advisers that Biden will rely upon and consider for top posts in his new administration, according to people briefed on Biden’s early plans:
Biden has long kept a tight inner circle on whom he relies for strategic advice, including his family members and his chiefs of staff during his White House years as Barack Obama’s vice president, Ron Klain, Steve Ricchetti and Bruce Reed.
Klain, a political tactician who also ran the Obama administration’s response to an Ebola outbreak in 2014, is widely seen as a leading choice to be Biden’s initial chief of staff. The person in that job usually plays a key role in setting the president’s agenda, political priorities and day-to-day activities.
Prominent roles are also likely for Congressman Cedric Richmond of Louisiana and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who co-chaired Biden’s campaign.
Biden’s No. 1 policy priority is getting the coronavirus pandemic under control. He has promised that he will ask Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious diseases expert who has clashed with President Donald Trump, to stay on in his role. During Biden’s campaign he turned most often for briefings on the pandemic to former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who is also expected to play a role in the new administration.
Biden has said his other key priority will be stimulus and relief to get the economy back on track. He has a host of top economic positions to fill in his administration, including Secretary of the Treasury, where Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard and former Treasury deputy secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin are seen as top contenders.
Biden’s selection for the post must be approved by the U.S. Senate, which may still be in Republican hands depending on the outcome of two Georgia runoff elections in January. That could threaten the chances of progressive candidates for this and other roles, including U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, despite her background in financial regulation.
Biden is also expected to tap some of his longtime economic advisers at the White House and on the campaign trail, including Jared Bernstein and Ben Harris, for key economic advisory positions. Both have advocated for aggressive stimulus to prime the economy.
Biden’s team has also tapped KeyBank NA executive Don Graves to work on a broad economic agency review and former derivatives market regulator Gary Gensler to focus on market regulatory agencies.
Biden promises to reset relationships with allies and adversaries abroad early in his term. He is expected to turn to long-time personal aides for help on this task, too.
Antony Blinken, one of Biden’s closest advisers on the campaign, is being considered for national security adviser or Secretary of State. Blinken was a staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee long chaired by Biden, advised his 2008 presidential campaign and served as the vice president’s national security adviser in the White House. He has advocated a forceful leadership role for the United States abroad to confront possible adversaries such as China while also stressing opportunities for cooperation with other countries. Jake Sullivan, another top policy aide for the campaign, is also being considered for an international relations post.
Susan Rice, who was vetted to be Biden’s running mate, is considered a top pick for Secretary of State as well despite conflict with Republicans over her role in the aftermath of the 2012 militant attack on the U.S. mission on Benghazi, Libya. So, too, is one of Biden’s biggest supporters in the Senate, Chris Coons of Delaware.
Michèle Flournoy, a former top U.S. Department of Defense official who co-founded a consulting firm with Blinken, is considered a top pick to run the Pentagon.
Biden’s team is considering the possibility of naming a “climate czar” to deliver on the promises that the president-elect made during his campaign to tackle the issue.
Possibilities for that role include longtime Biden friend and former Senator John Kerry as well as Brian Deese, both of whom helped negotiate the Paris climate deal that Biden wants to re-join. Another possibility is Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, who ran against Biden in the Democratic primary on a climate change platform before advising the former vice president.
Another key climate-related role is Environmental Protection Agency administrator, where candidates include clean air activist Heather Toney, former Office of Management and Budget deputy director Ali Zaidi and California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols.
RAMALLAH (REUTERS) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday (Nov 8) congratulated US President-elect Joe Biden in a statement that indicated he will drop his three-year political boycott of the White House.
Mr Abbas had ended all political dealings with President Donald Trump’s administration after the US leader’s 2017 decisions to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the US Embassy there.
“I congratulate President-elect Joe Biden on his victory as President of the United States of America for the coming period,” Mr Abbas said in a statement issued from his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
“I look forward to working with the President-elect and his administration to strengthen the Palestinian-American relations and to achieve freedom, independence, justice and dignity for our people,” the statement continued.
Mr Trump’s moves, which broke with decades of US policy, had delighted Israel but infuriated the Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as a future capital and considered Mr Trump’s backing for Israel as undermining their own goal of statehood.
Mr Abbas’s boycott was popular among Palestinians, who celebrated Mr Trump’s defeat on Sunday on the streets.
But, even as security contacts with Washington continued behind the scenes, the Palestinian leadership felt increasingly isolated, especially after Israel signed agreements with Gulf Arab states to normalise ties.
In the days before the election Mr Abbas’s inner circle met to discuss whether they should resume political contacts with the White House if Mr Biden won, a Palestinian official told Reuters.
Mr Bassam Al-Salhe, a senior member of the Abbas-led Palestine Liberation Organisation, said on Sunday the boycott was primarily linked to what he called “the hostile policy” of Mr Trump’s administration.
“When Biden announces that this is going to change – and he announced that during his election campaign – there will be no reason for the boycott,” he said.
Mr Biden has said he would restore funding to the West Bank and Gaza that Mr Trump had cut, including assistance delivered through the US Agency for International Development and UN agencies.
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He has also in the past opposed Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, and voiced support for a two-state solution to the conflict, a formula that would see a future state of Palestine co-existing alongside Israel.
But he is not likely to reverse the Jerusalem and embassy decisions and Mr Biden has welcomed Israel’s rapprochements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, even as Palestinians condemned those moves.
Among the Palestinians hit hardest by Mr Trump were refugees, following his 2018 decision to cut off all US funding – more than US$300 million annually – to UNRWA, the United Nations agency.
“Trump’s losing is a gain for us, for the Palestinian people, because he had sold out the Palestinian cause,” said Mr Anwar Abu Amira, 38, a refugee in Gaza’s Beach Camp.
“Since he took office until he lost, he has been trying to wipe out the Palestinian identity,” Mr Abu Amira said.
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Gaza political analyst Hani Habib said the Biden win would encourage Mr Abbas to re-engage in negotiations with Israel, a move the international community has long called for.
He said this might complicate Mr Abbas’s efforts to reconcile with his principal domestic rivals, the Islamist movement Hamas, although Mr Habib said Mr Biden would not address the issue soon.
“When it comes to foreign policy, Mr Biden has far more important and immediate issues than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict such as Iran, Nato and the alliance with Europe.”
FILE PHOTO: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a news conference on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s president said on Sunday the next U.S. administration should use the opportunity to compensate for President Donald Trump’s mistakes, Iranian state reported after Joe Biden captured the U.S. presidency.
“Trump’s damaging policy has been opposed … by the American people. The next U.S. administration should use the opportunity to make up for past mistakes,” President Hassan Rouhani was quoted as saying.
“Iran favours constructive interaction with the world,” Rouhani said.
Biden has pledged to rejoin Iran’s 2015 nuclear accord with six powers, a deal that was agreed by Washington when he was vice president, if Iran also returns to compliance.
Tensions have spiked between the longtime foes since 2018, when Trump exited the deal and reimposed sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.
In retaliation, Tehran has gradually reduced its commitments to the accord. But Iran’s clerical rulers have said those steps were reversible if Tehran’s interests were respected.
“The heroic resistance of the Iranian people proved that the policy of maximum pressure is doomed to failure,” Rouhani said.
Noble Group Holdings, the commodity trader shrunken by years of losses and a multibillion-dollar restructuring, has paid US$20 million (S$26.9 million) to formerchief executive officer Ricardo Leiman.
The payment to Mr Leiman, who left the company in 2011 – several years before its 2018 restructuring – was disclosed in a presentation accompanying Noble’s third-quarter results last Friday.
It followed a long legal battle concluded in May, when Singapore’s Court of Appeal ruled that Noble had deprived Mr Leiman of entitlements including the right to exercise share options when he left.
When the case was first filed in 2012, Mr Leiman’s restricted shares and share options were worth about US$59 million, Bloomberg reported at the time.
By the time Noble’s Singapore-listed stock was suspended in 2018, its value had fallen by 99 per cent.
The settlement is a similar size to a roughly US$20 million package former co-chief executive Jeff Frase received on leaving in 2017, even as Noble slumped to a loss of almost US$5 billion.
Mr Leiman declined to comment on the terms of the settlement, saying only that he had no outstanding legal cases against Noble.
A spokesman for the company declined to comment.
While Noble’s market value once exceeded US$10 billion, it has become a shadow of its former self following a restructuring in 2018 that handed control to its creditors.
The US$20 million payment to Mr Leiman is equal to about 70 per cent of the company’s entire staff bill for the first half of this year, when “human capital costs” totalled US$28 million.
Noble’s presentation showed the US$20 million payment as a cash outflow during the first half of this year related to the settlement of a legal case involving a former CEO. The size of the payment had not previously been disclosed.
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A further £50million is to be made available next year to provide food for children if the coronavirus crisis continues.
The initial £170million is to support the poorest families over the winter running through to March.
There will be subsequent support for holiday activities and the food programme will be expanded to cover Easter, summer and Christmas in 2021.
Healthy Start payments are also set to rise from £3.10 to £4.25 a week from April 2021. This scheme supports pregnant women or those with children under four, who have low incomes and are in receipt of benefits, to buy fresh fruit and vegetables.
Mr Rashford said he was “so proud” of those who had united behind his campaign and that he was “overwhelmed by the outpouring of empathy and understanding”, promising his supporters to “fight for the rest of my life” to end child hunger in the UK.
In a statement, he said: “Following the game today, I had a good conversation with the Prime Minister. The steps made today will improve the lives of near 1.7 million children in the UK over the next 12 months, and that can only be celebrated.”
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said: “We want to make sure vulnerable people feel cared for throughout this difficult time and, above all, no one should go hungry or be unable to pay their bills this winter.
“We know this has been achallenging time for many and we have consistently supported the lowest-paid families, protectingnine million jobs with furloughand boosting welfare support by £9.3billion.
Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan welcomed the aid.
He said: “This new scheme is a lifeline for vulnerable families who are struggling to feed their children and heat their homes this winter. It will also help prevent holiday hunger throughout 2021.
“We stand ready to work closely with government ministers, local authorities and other partners to keep children safe and healthy through this crisis and give them the best possible chance of apositive future.”
The Covid Winter Grant Scheme will be run by councils in England with funding ring-fenced andat least 80 per cent earmarkedfor support with food and bills.
It will allow councils to directly help the hardest-hit families and individuals, as well as provide food for children who need it over the holidays. The Holiday Activities and Food programme, which has provided healthy food and activities to disadvantaged children since 2018, will also be expanded next year.
It will cover Easter, summer and Christmas in 2021, and cost up to £220million. It will be available to children in every local authority in England. The Government has also pledged additional funding of £16million for food distribution charities, and is holding conversations with FareShare and others as to how this is allocated.
The move has come after severe pressure from Conservative MPs on ministers to find a way to help poorer families during lockdown.
But Conservative MPs also want the Government to come up with a strategy that allows the economy to open and avoid further lockdowns after the current one ends on December 2.
Tatton MP Esther McVey, founder of the Blue Collar Conservatism Movement and one of 34 Tory rebels who voted against lockdown last week, said: “We cannot just keep locking down. We need to find a way to live with this disease even if there isn’t a vaccine.”
It is understood that a bigger rebellion was seen off after Chancellor Rishi Sunak had a series of one-to-one meetings with unhappy MPs to discuss next January’s budget.
There are also concerns that Boris Johnson has lost control of the crisis and has allowed Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to take charge.
One senior source said: “Boris jokingly calls Gove ‘the boss’.”
A former minister added: “Gove chaired all the Brexit Cabinet committees and it seems he is now in charge of the Covid Cabinet committees as well. Boris needs to get a grip or he is going to find himself pushed out.”
Yesterday there were 24,947 new Covid cases and 413 further deaths in the UK, up on Friday’s 23,287 cases and 355 deaths.
Statistician Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter at the University of Cambridge defended the “dramatic action” of an English lockdown, saying it had been needed to reduce transmission from its current “unsustainable” levels.
He told BBC Radio’s 4 Today programme that infections were broadly stable, but added: “It looks like the tiers have been working but slowly, and not enough to bring R down well below one.”
He also pointed out that deaths in hospitals and hospitalisations were going up slowly as winter approaches and said: “That’s not sustainable in terms of what the health service can deal with.”
Liverpool’s mass testing, partof the Government’s Operation Moonshot, is also to be extended to secondary school pupils within days after agreement was reached.
Parents at 10 schools will be sent letters asking for permission for their child to be tested aspart of a pilot scheme introduced on Friday. Director of Public Health, Matthew Ashton, said: “The more of us who get tested, the more we can stop the spread of Covid-19 in our city.”
And as the current firebreak in Wales ends tomorrow, Dr Chris Williams at Public Health Wales reminded people that “this does not mean a return to normality”.
Wales recorded 958 new cases and a further 32 deaths yesterday.