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US enforces new visa waiver rules

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The United States started implementing changes to the US Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) for citizens of 38 foreign countries.

Starting from Thursday, nationals of the VWP partner countries are required to get a visa ahead of their trip to the US if they “have travelled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011,” said a statement by the US state department.

Limited exceptions exist for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country, Xinhua reported.

In addition, nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of the above mentioned four countries are no longer eligible for the VWP programme.

Despite the new restrictions, the US secretary of homeland security may still “waive these restrictions” on a “case-by-case basis” for individuals who travelled to the four countries as journalists, or on behalf of humanitarian agencies on official duty, or on behalf of international organisations, regional organisations and provincial or local governments, or for legitimate business-related purposes, according to the statement.

The VWP currently permits visa free travel for 20 million visitors each year to the US for citizens of 38 programme partner countries.

After the Paris terrorist attacks on November 13, 2015, which killed at least 130 people and injured over 300 others, US lawmakers and government officials worried that the current VWP, which allows citizens from partner countries to enter the US for as long as 90 days without a visa, could pose a security threat to homeland security.

Politics

UK PM’s approval rating drops by 20 pts after aide scandal

At a press conference on Monday, Johnson admitted he regrets the “confusion and pain” the scandal has caused the British public.

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Boris Johnson

London, May 26 : UK Prime Minister Boris Johnsons approval rating has dropped 20 points to -1 per cent after he refused to sack his chief aide, Dominic Cummings for allegedly breaking coronavirus lockdown rules, it was reported on Tuesday.

According to Savanta, a coronavirus data tracker which looks at how the UK population is responding to the pandemic, the Prime Minister’s rating was previously +19 per cent just four days ago, the Metro newspaper reported.

It stated that the overall government approval rate is now at -2 per cent, having dropped 16 points in a day.

Johnson’s approval rating is now also the lowest of all the individuals examined, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s the second lowest at 4 per cent.

Cummings’ rating has not been tracked.

Labour leader Keir Starmer’s approval rating also lifted to 12 per cent on Monday, while Chancellor Rishi Sunak dropped from 35 per cent four days ago to 20 per cent.

Cummings has been accused of breaking lockdown rules he helped make after it emerged he travelled from London to his parents home in Durham when his wife fell ill with suspected coronavirus in March, reports the Metro newspaper.

The Prime Minister’s chief adviser has refused to step down over the allegations, admitting he never considered resigning and he doesn’t regret his actions.

At a press conference on Monday, Johnson admitted he regrets the “confusion and pain” the scandal has caused the British public.

But he said that he believed Cummings acted “legally” and “with integrity”.

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Blog

445 people died from Australia bushfires smoke: Experts

Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra all had periods where they had the worst air quality in the world as a result of the smoke.

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Arogya Setu App

Canberra, May 26 : Smoke from Australia’s devastating 2019-20 bushfires killed at least 445 people, health experts revealed on Tuesday.

Fay Johnston, a public health expert from the Menzies Institute for Medical Research at the University of Tasmania, told the bushfire royal commission on Tuesday that her team estimated that 445 people died as a result of the smoke that blanketed much of the nation’s east coast, reports Xinhua news agency.

It takes the total death toll from the 2019-2020 bushfire season, which has been dubbed the “Black Summer”, to nearly 480 after 34 people lost their lives directly.

According to modelling produced by Johnston and her colleagues, 80 per cent of Australians were affected by the smoke at some point, including 3,340 people who were hospitalized with heart and lung problems.

“We were able to work out a yearly cost of bushfire smoke for each summer season and… our estimates for the last season were A$2 billion in health costs,” Johnston said.

“There’s fluctuation year to year, of course, but that was a major departure from anything we had seen in the previous 20 years.”

Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra all had periods where they had the worst air quality in the world as a result of the smoke.

Commissioners also heard on Tuesday that the increasing frequency of significant bushfire events in Australia meant that survivors no longer feel safe during the recovery phase.

“Disasters are no longer perceived as rare events, they are often seen as climate change, and they’re part of our new reality,” Lisa Gibbs, a child welfare expert from the University of Melbourne, said.

“We don’t know how that is going to affect recovery because the seeds of hope are a really important part of people’s ability to deal with what has happened and to get back on track.”

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Business

UK non-essential shops to reopen from June 15: PM Boris Johnson

The British Retail Consortium said it welcomed the announcement, adding it provided “much-needed clarity on the route ahead”.

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Boris Johnson

London, May 26 : All non-essential retailers across the UK will be able to reopen from June 15, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced, as part of plans to further ease the COVID-19 lockdown in the country.

Adressing the daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing on Monday, Johnson said that the move was “contingent on progress in the fight against coronavirus”, and retailers will have to adhere to new guidelines to protect shoppers and workers, the BBC reported.

Outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to reopen from June 1.

Johnson said new guidance had been published for the retail sector “detailing the measures they should take to meet the necessary social distancing and hygiene standards”.

“Shops now have the time to implement this guidance before they reopen,” he said.

“This will ensure there can be no doubt about what steps they should take.”

Commenting on the development, Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “Enabling these businesses to open will be a critical step on the road to rebuilding our economy, and will support millions of jobs across the UK.”

The British Retail Consortium said it welcomed the announcement, adding it provided “much-needed clarity on the route ahead”.

A spokesman for the Confederation of British Industry added that the new guidance would help retailers to open “safely and securely”.

However, not all businesses are pleased with the announcement, said the BBC report.

The British Association of Independent Retailers said many small shops had been preparing to open from next week, adding: “It is therefore a little disappointing for the smaller retailers not to be able to open until June 15, especially as they can make it safe to do so.”

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