Published: 11:22, July 25, 2021 | Updated: 18:25, July 25, 2021
UK lawmakers: Pandemic may fade but high costs will linger
By Agencies

Pedestrians wearing protective face masks struggle against the wind in Glasgow city center on August 25, 2020, as Storm Francis brings rain and high winds to the UK. (PHOTO / AFP)

MADRID / MOSCOW - British taxpayers will be paying for the coronavirus long after the pandemic is over, according to a pair of reports released Sunday by a bipartisan panel of MPs.

“The COVID-19 response means government will be exposed to significant financial risks for decades to come,” the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts said.

The estimated lifetime costs of the government measures reached 372 billion pounds (US$511 billion) in May, with 172 billion reported spent, the committee said. The reports come days after Prime Minister Boris Johnson lifted most remaining coronavirus restrictions for England.

Daily cases in the UK have ebbed in the past few days after rising toward peaks seen in January. With over two-thirds of adults fully vaccinated, though, hospitalizations and deaths haven’t risen as much. In all, the COVID-19 virus has caused about 129,000 deaths in the U.K. since March 2020.

Among other things, the reports said that much of the government’s stockpile of personal protective equipment was “not fit for purpose” and is costing millions of pounds a week to store.

Britain has reported another 31,795 coronavirus cases in the latest 24-hour period, according to official figures released Saturday.


Greek police used teargas and water cannon to disperse people who had gathered in central Athens on Saturday to protest against mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations.

More than 4,000 people rallied outside the Greek parliament for a third time this month to oppose mandatory inoculations for some workers, such as healthcare and nursing staff.

A police official, who asked not to be named, said some protesters had thrown petrol bombs, prompting the police to respond with tear gas.

Recent polls showed the majority of Greeks would get the shot against the COVID-19 which has claimed 12,890 lives in Greece since the pandemic broke out last year. About 45 percent of a population of 11 million are fully vaccinated.


Tens of thousands of protestors turned out on Saturday in French cities for the third weekend of the action in a row to oppose anti-coronavirus rules as lawmakers are due to approve this weekend on a law aimed at setting up a health pass and mandatory vaccination for medical staff in a move to handle the fourth wave of the pandemic.

Some 161,000 people took part in the demonstrations in France, according to the estimation of the Interior Ministry. The figure is up from last week's 114,000. In Paris, Saturday's protests have lured 11,000 people, compared with 17,000 last week.

Marches across French cities were relatively calm. But in the capital, tension flared near Saint-Lazare railway station and in the Champs Elysees Avenue where police fired tear gas to push back demonstrators who threw projectiles at them.

In a Twitter message, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin strongly condemned "the violent behavior which targeted certain police officers, gendarmes and journalists."

Nine people were arrested in Paris, he added.

The government drafted a bill that will make vaccination of health workers and firefighters mandatory. In addition, only people who have completed their vaccination, have the negative test or recently recovered from COVID-19 will be allowed, starting from early August, to enter restaurants and cafes, go to shopping centers, gyms and even hospitals except for emergencies.

The authorities argued that the new rules are needed to contain the highly-transmissible Delta variant, first detected in India, and to avoid a new nationwide lockdown. But critics say the measures obstructed people's freedom and discriminated against those who refuse to receive COVID-19 vaccine.


Russia has sent a shipment of coronavirus-related humanitarian assistance to Cuba, including 1 million medical masks, the defence ministry said on Saturday, adding President Vladimir Putin had given instructions for the aid.

Cuba, which kept coronavirus infections low last year, earlier this week reported the highest rate of contagion per capita in Latin America. That has strained its healthcare sector and helped stoke rare anti-government protests earlier this month on the Communist-run island.

Two military planes carrying 88 tonnes of aid - including food and personal protective equipment, including over 1 million medical masks, departed from an airfield near Moscow on Saturday, the defence ministry said in a statement.

"On the instructions of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, military transport aircraft are delivering humanitarian aid to the Republic of Cuba," the ministry said.

The ministry did not mention the United States, but with its aid to longstanding ally Havana, Russia could also be looking to make a point against Washington.

The Cuban government has blamed the protests mostly on what it calls US-financed "counter-revolutionaries" exploiting economic hardship caused by decades-old U.S. embargo. Government critics say the island's economic woes are caused largely by the inefficiencies of the state-run system.


The Spanish government confirmed on Saturday that travelers from Argentina, Colombia, Bolivia and Namibia will have to spend 10 days in quarantine following their arrival in Spain.

The decision was published in the Spanish Official State Bulletin (BOE), which said the measure will come into effect from July 27 as a result of the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the four countries.

The 10-day quarantine may end earlier if the travelers get a negative COVID-19 test result on the seventh day after their arrival.

Argentina, Colombia, Bolivia and Namibia thus join a list of over 25 countries from outside the European Union that are considered to be high risk. Travelers from these countries have to spend time in quarantine after arriving in Spain.

The Spanish Health Ministry said earlier this week that the ban on arrivals from Brazil and South Africa, which was imposed earlier in the year, will remain in place until at least Aug. 3.


A total of 1,108 deaths were reported in Brazil in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 549,448, the country’s health ministry said on its website.

Brazil confirmed 38,091 new Covid-19 cases Sunday, raising the total to about 19.7 million, according to the ministry.


Chile reported 1,407 new cases and 83 deaths from COVID-19 on Saturday, for a total of 1,607,749 infections and 34,958 deaths.

A total of 1,776 people are currently hospitalized in intensive care units, of which 1,413 are on ventilators.

The Ministry of Health reported that cases have fallen by 47 percent in the last 14 days and 30 percent in the last seven days at the national level.

The positivity rate for the disease in the last 24 hours was 2.19 percent, with a weekly average of 2.62 percent, after 60,817 tests for the disease were analyzed over the last day.


Only a month after Iceland’s government removed all Covid related limitations, local authorities will now limit gatherings as of Sunday July 25, due to a surge in new infections, the government said in a web statement dated July 23.

Gatherings will generally be limited to 200 people and social distancing rules will take effect again. “The regulation will be in place for a short period of time while the large increase in infections in recent days are being addressed,” it said.