LAC standoff | India approaches China bilaterally, with the challenge of global rebalancing, says External Affairs Minister


Jaishankar says negotiations could take longer.

Negotiations with China are ongoing, says External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar, and hints that they could even take years, in an exclusive interview to Suhasini Haidar. Speaking about his book The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World (reviewed here), where he lays out a treatise for Indian foreign policy, Dr. Jaishankar also defended the government’s moves on Article 370, Citizenship Amendment Act and trade protection.

In your book, India Way, you have devoted a chapter to ‘Managing China’s rise’. You open with the story of Shatranj ke Khiladi, where the Nawab of Awadh is playing a game while the kingdom is lost. Later, when you speak about the Mahabharata, you say you cannot have fatalism disguised as deliberation. Yet, nearly eight months after we have seen China amass troops at the Line of Actual Control, and then the Galwan incident where for the first time in so many decades, Indian soldiers were killed, the sense is that the government’s reaction has been more diplomatic, rather than trying to push back against China at the LAC. Is this not a ‘sense of fatalism disguised as deliberation’?

No, no, not at all. Not at all. I would say, I don’t think it is factually true to suggest that there has not been a military response. I think there’s been an enormous military response. If you look at the troops we have deployed there, it is pretty much unprecedented. Of course, it’s because their deployment is also unprecedented. The boundary question is a complicated one, and, you know, it’s been under negotiations now for many years. Now, I would urge you to look at the trend line. Not necessarily at an incident, however important an incident may be, because it is a trend line that gives you the real picture.

The bottom line right now is that we have bilateral agreements that commit both countries not to amassing a large number of forces along the LAC. Without credibly explaining why, the Chinese have chosen to violate that compact. The second aspect of it is that the progress in our bilateral ties have been very much predicated on peace and tranquillity along the LAC. If that is disturbed, as has been the case this year, then obviously, the rest of the relationship cannot be unaffected.

Also read: Indian Army says 20 soldiers killed in clash with Chinese troops in the Galwan area

We are not saying that progress in ties depends on solving the boundary question, but it clearly does on maintaining peace and tranquillity, while seeking a solution. And that has been the approach over three decades, and we have been consistent. The challenge today is whether we have the wisdom to be guided by the big picture. I used that term, I think in my book, whether we can take a long view of the relationship.

Also read: Realism should shape India’s China policy: Jaishankar

Now, from the Indian perspective, I believe that we are very grounded in realism. We have never shied away from acknowledging that there are differences. But the challenge is, when you have differences you work on those differences and narrow them, not worsen them and make them into disputes. Which is why we have regular engagement, very intensive engagement, including at the highest level. And I believe, as someone in diplomacy, that this is something which is necessary for two co-rising powers because they are both rising. My sense is that India approaches China more bilaterally, but with the challenge of global rebalancing. In contrast, I think China seems more affected by third parties, whether in our own region, or whether, you know, in their global calculations. So, for our own long-term future, it is important that we take a bilateral path that is mutually respectful and mutual sensitive. And because that is really is what you expect of self-confident polities to do otherwise.

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You said peace and tranquility is necessary. Right now, we have had eight rounds of military talks, you met with the Chinese Foreign Minister, and there has not been any incident in the last few months. But the troops remain amassed. There are reports in Depsang and along Pangong Tso North, that Chinese troops have taken over territory, or have made it impossible for India to patrol territories it used to. The question is, if there is no other incident, is the status quo today acceptable to you?

I don’t believe your question sets out fairly the totality of the ground picture. I think they have made their moves, and we have responded. I think the situation on the ground is far more complicated than what you are suggesting. I don’t want to talk about it because it is ongoing and negotiating with them, or not negotiating through you. I don’t think that would be helpful. We are very, very clear that both parties have formally taken on responsibilities to observe and respect the LAC. That to my mind is the bottom line. Beyond that, on the question of what is happening today with China and Ladakh, I will be very honest with you, I won’t be answering any of it because, as I said, I am in the middle of an ongoing negotiation.

It has been ongoing for some time, which is why the questions keep coming…

Well, I don’t know if you remember Sumdorong Chu [India-China standoff in 1986 that ended only nine years later]. I mean, I know in this day and age, there’s a lot of media pressure on you and on me. But you know, there are complicated issues [that] will take time and I will go for what is my interest and my bottom line. I mean, I will not be stampeded into accepting something which is less.

In your book, you referred to the Wuhan summit and Mamallapuram summit, as “pure realism”. Prime Minister Modi actually met President Xi Jinping 18 times in these six years. Did India fail to read China’s designs?

I don’t think that’s the right way to take it. If India counts for more, and is more active, obviously, we will meet more. I’m sure if you do the bean counting for Japan or Europe or, you know, Angela Merkel or the President of the United States, you will similarly come up with higher numbers than before.

Also read: India and China going through unprecedented situation, says Jaishankar

Now, if I meet somebody, it doesn’t automatically solve the problem. And just because I meet somebody, and then there is an issue like we have today [LAC in Ladakh], it doesn’t mean necessarily that I misread the fact that there were differences. Having said that, obviously, we expect the Chinese to abide by their commitments.

In the last decade, particularly in the last six or seven years, if you look at the figures of trade, investment, infrastructure, the number of students going from South Asian countries to China and the number of tourists being exchanged between the countries, India’s primacy has not only been challenged, it has been overrun by China on each of these parameters. How do you hope to counter this?

China today is, you know, in nominal terms, the second largest economy in the world. It is impacting every region of the world in trade in connectivity and so, the South Asian region cannot be impervious, cannot be insulated from the rest of the world. When I see global changes, I can’t say, you know, I don’t like these global changes. I must gear up and be competitive myself. I should obviously improve my connectivity, my trade, my education, my medical travel, my institutional linkages. And that is precisely what I am doing. Look at our LOCs (Lines of Credit), our grants, our connectivity projects, the travel to India. So pretty much use any parameter, and you will see India-South Asia also going up. An entitlement-driven approach to world politics is not a smart approach. You have to compete.

At the same time, India is being more accommodating of other powers in the region, when the US, for example, ties up or has a military dialogue with the Maldives; India no longer objects when the U.S. plans more in terms of its millennium challenges programme in Nepal or Sri Lanka, or Japan does. India is not just accommodative, India actually sees it as complimentary. Do you think that’s a reaction to the fact that China has been such a big player now in the region?

No, it is a reflection of where we are with the United States. I have said in the book that the United States was a very hostile power for India in the past. The biggest sort of challenge we had strategically was when the United States, China and Pakistan came together. So, you know, if the U.S. is strategically negative, I will have a certain reaction. But if the U.S. is no longer strategically negative, I have a different assessment.

In your book, you say “generosity and firmness” must go hand in hand in the neighbourhood. With Nepal, India has had a fractious relationship over its Constitution. This year, Nepal brought out a map showing Indian territories, to which India objected, but now we see Indian officials travelling to Kathmandu, while Nepal hasn’t budged. How would you judge the success of firmness?

As I said, don’t take an incident as the ultimate yardstick of judgment. Problems will happen. I mean, show me any two neighbours between whom there are no problems. Most of our neighbours today are democracies. The point is, they have their politics, we have our politics, there will be issues. The question is, how do you manage it? How do you find the common points, mitigate the issues of friction? At the end of the day, for when the smoke clears after a year, two years, three years, you say, have I moved forward? And I would suggest, looking at the neighbourhood, there is an enormous change. Since your questions focused on Nepal, I would say, yes, there was a period where we had issues, but I think we can clearly see in the last few weeks India and Nepal have decided [to move ahead] and it’s something mutual.

Everything you say about Nepal, and how India has dealt with it, comes in contrast to the way the Modi government in particular has dealt with Pakistan, where we literally are not talking at any level. In your book, you use the parallel of the Mahabharata where the Kauravas are offered several chances to avoid conflict. Are you saying that a conflict with Pakistan is now inevitable?

No. The parables and parallels I used in the book were not specific references. Look, our challenge with Pakistan is this desire for better ties was evident from day one. I mean, from the fact that, you know, the Pakistani Prime Minister was invited to be swearing in 2014. We tried very hard to make it work, including [in] that the Prime Minister actually visited Pakistan. But the fact was that what we saw from the other end, where, you know, [there were] egregious acts of cross border terrorism. Now, the fundamental issue to my mind is, you know, the question with Pakistan is not, you know, will it be this format of talks with that agenda? I think there is a basic underlying issue — are you as India willing to accept the reason as something normal? Is it a legitimate diplomatic instrument? I think it’s not. So, don’t make me out as the unreasonable party that are not talking, when they are the guys who are unrelentingly practising terrorism.

But you have dealt with Pakistan, despite terrorism after the Pathankot attack, for example, India actually invited a Pakistani team to come and visit and to start an investigation…..

That was because the Pakistani government also took a certain position on Pathankot, which was to distance itself from [the attack]. But post-Uri, we haven’t seen that.

Would you say, in that sense, diplomacy is not being contemplated now?

No. I think the ball is very much in Pakistan’s court because they have to make up their mind on what they are going to do on the issue of cross border terrorism.

At present, they’re accusing India of it….

That’s just a bad fiction.

In the South Asian context, though, hasn’t India given Pakistan a veto over the SAARC process….as India will not visit Pakistan to attend the summit, whose turn it is to host it?

The way you put it clouds the issue by really making their actions seem on par with us and I don’t think that’s a fair comparison. Look at SAARC. If SAARC is a serious regionalism initiative, and [Pakistan] blocks trade and connectivity and people-to-people ties….what regionalism are we speaking of?

Turning to the U.S., will India need to build a new engagement with the Biden administration, or will there be a seamless transition from the Trump administration?

Whether it is President Trump or President Biden, I don’t think it is a sharp binary option. I think there will be certain policies, which are American policies, because again, bear in mind is not just a President, there’s also Congress, and sometimes administrations carry on with the policies of those before. When it comes to the United States, there will be strong elements of continuity. Obviously, there will be elements of change because at the very least, the storyline, the method, you know, the modality of dealing with others, would be different. But none of this should really worry us. Because when I look at the potential administration, I mean, I see familiar figures with whom we have worked for many, many years, including the period when I was Ambassador, and then Foreign Secretary. Secondly, if you look at the debates in America, you know, serious policy debates, a lot of it is actually centred around other geographies: China, Russia and the Middle East. I think there is a general consensus on India. There are no very sharply different policy views. So, I am reasonably confident that we will pick up and carry on.

Do you expect the same kind of commitment from the U.S. on the Indo-Pacific policy, given that Mr. Biden is making America’s traditional alliances his priority?

I cannot judge my relationship with the United States in comparison to what the U.S. has with an ally because I am not an ally. My sense is that when it comes to the Indo Pacific, there is the recognition today that you cannot deal with the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean as separate watertight theatres.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in Tokyo that he would like the Quad to collaborate against China. Will Mr. Biden do the same?

I think different people say different things. I am responsible for what I say. And I listen to what others say, out there. And, you know, the Quad also has Japan and Australia as members. I think we look at it as a positive agenda, a diplomatic mechanism, as a diplomatic platform, if you will, with a certain agreed agenda, which is, you know, issues like maritime security, connectivity, counter-terrorism, whatever we have agreed on, those are what we discuss and exchange notes on.

On concerns that the Biden administration will be more intrusive on India’s domestic issues, are you worried?

I have worked with all of them before. We know them, and more importantly, they know us.

As a diplomat, perhaps you would never have thought of boycotting the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting (December 2019) because of the presence of an individual (Democratic U.S. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal). Do you think you have changed because you have become a politician?

A politician by definition is different from a diplomat. Obviously, when others do diplomacy, when it’s a diplomatic situation, you deal with it through diplomacy, when others do politics, you deal with it politically. Of course, I am a politician. You can’t expect me as EAM (External Affairs Minister) to behave as me as Foreign Secretary.

As External Affairs Minister, you have had to defend India, internationally, on a number of domestic decisions — Article 370 and the strictures in Jammu & Kashmir, the Citizenship Amendment Act, and the exit from RCEP. In your book, you say that the “mandarins must listen to the masses” and that the “Indian street knows more than Lutyens Delhi” does. How challenging has this been?

No, I don’t think it’s been challenging at all. I think the issue is India is changing. I don’t think anybody can deny that. It’s important to communicate those changes abroad, to tell people, look, you know this, today, we will look at this India, it is proof of a successful democratic experience. It’s a much more grounded India, a much less elitist India and that we these are the changes which we have undertaken to strengthen our nationhood or secure our economic interests. One important part of diplomacy and international relations, is to make other people understand what you do. So, to me, it’s a very, very natural part of what a Foreign Minister and Indian diplomacy does. And, you know, each of these decisions make perfect sense.

On the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), actually, it was Bangladesh and Afghanistan that seem to have been hurt the most, because it’s premised on the idea that India has concerns about the domestic issues of other countries. How do you reconcile the idea that India is sensitive about anyone else speaking about its domestic issues, but it even passes laws that do that for other countries?

(Laughs) I would very much differ with the way you put it, I think, in a sense, these are legacy issues. I don’t think it’s an issue of, you know, our passing judgment on them. Now, I mean, we have a reality here, we have a large number of stateless people, you know, that. So, the CAA reduces the amount of statelessness in it, and that’s a good thing. It’s not a blame game between us and them. And so, again, say, part of our job is you should put it into people with a certain amount of directness and candour, I think people often get it. We will have heated debates as part of a democracy. But if their views are shaped or misled by one part of the debate, then it’s also my obligation to do something.

But are those concerns really being quelled? Many of the Biden appointees have said they are concerned about the treatment of minorities in India, as have Bangladeshi leaders as well…

I think if you look at the mainstream policy world, which I deal with, I do not share the concern that you have raised.

Just yesterday, we heard from the Canadian Prime Minister, concerned about the treatment of farmers in India….

Well, a number of Canadians spoke up, not just the Prime Minister. But you saw what the social media had to say on the subject. We made a statement, which lays out our position very clearly.

In your book, you describe the three burdens of India’s foreign policy as Partition, delayed nuclearisation, and delayed liberalisation, yet in a speech you gave recently, you actually criticised Free Trade Agreements, you criticised the impact of globalisation. You said free trade agreements had forced India to de-industrialise, and in the name of openness, we have allowed subsidised products and unfair production advantages from abroad to prevail, which has been justified by the mantra of an open and globalised economy. Is this not taking India back, in a sense, to pre liberalisation times?

No. I think that would be erroneous reading both of my speech and of the global situation and our policy. I don’t think anybody is in denial of globalisation. The real issue for any country, especially ours, is what are the terms with which you enter the globalisation process and engage? I was talking with specific reference to specific agreements we had to sign. I said don’t get into a false choice on globalisation: are you in or are you out? That’s a false choice. The question is, what are the optimal terms? My urging is, negotiate better, get better terms, what works for us. Don’t enter a process because somebody tells you that’s the politically correct thing to do.

What you say about free trade agreements has been contested. For example, I will quote from one study, which says trade deficits with India’s bilateral partners accounted for 12.6% of the overall trade deficit in 2007. But in 2017, a considerably smaller part of India’s trade deficit — 7.5% — came from these free trade agreements. Others have said that it is the downturn in the GDP growth since 2016 that is responsible. Manufacturing exports actually grew on an average by 12%. And there is this government’s insistence on a strong rupee — these are all some of the reasons why there is a deficit. So, are you making free trade agreements, and in particular the ones that were signed in the last decade, a straw man of sorts?

Number one, just look at your grade figures with RCEP countries and draw your own conclusions. Secondly, this is the Lutyens debate which I mention. Go out there, go and visit an industrial district and see what the last 15 years has done, the kind of problems our MSMEs face. See how they feel competition, fair or unfair, is affecting their business.

So, would you say, competition, free trade agreements, liberalisation is something India still has to put off for several years?

No, I would say negotiate optimal terms. You are again, making it binary, black and white.

Well, the government did negotiate RCEP for six years…

And at the end of it all, we reached a point where we looked at the terms on offer, you know, which are sort of the final offer and we said it doesn’t meet our concerns. So, I think we need to have the confidence today to negotiate, to get optimal terms. And if you don’t get optimal terms, you should have the courage to do what is in your interests.

We are in a situation today where India has walked out of the RCEP, is reviewing all existing free trade agreements, and there isn’t much movement on new FTAs. The bilateral investment treaty that held together a lot of the trade with Europe has been cancelled. Is India turning protectionist?

No. This is about standing up for Indian producers, it is about standing up for Indian employment, it is about not allowing your economy to be flooded by people using unfair advantages, it is about getting fair market access abroad, it is a clear message to the world that I will strive for optimal results.

Given that the government is clearly not going to rethink joining RCEP, will India consider the request from RCEP countries to join as an observer?

I think, at the moment, what I have said should give you a fairly clear picture of our thinking.



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Vladimir Putin tells Russians mass COVID-19 vaccinations to commence next week as Health Minister claims 100,000 already received Sputnik V


Not to be outdone by the UK, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered health authorities to begin mass vaccinations against COVID-19 there next week.

“Let’s agree on this — you will not report to me next week, but you will start mass vaccination … let’s get to work already,” Mr Putin told Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova on Wednesday.

Shortly afterwards, Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said more than 100,000 people had already been vaccinated against COVID-19, as Moscow presented its Sputnik V vaccine to the United Nations over video link.

The UK Government announced earlier on Wednesday Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine had been approved for emergency use in Britain and would be rolled out from early next week.

The United States and the European Union are still vetting the Pfizer vaccine, along with another from Moderna Inc.

Russia will have produced 2 million Sputnik V vaccine doses within the next few days, Mr Putin said.

Russia said last month that its vaccine was 92 per cent effective at protecting people from COVID-19, according to interim results.

Ms Golikova said large-scale vaccination could begin on a voluntary basis in December.

In August, Mr Putin said Russia had become the first country to grant regulatory approval for a vaccine after less than two months of human testing, a move Moscow likened to its success in the space race.

He said the vaccine would be called Sputnik V in homage to the Soviet Union’s Cold War-era satellite program.

However, the vaccine had not yet completed its final trials and the announcement sparked concerns among some experts.

‘The absolute priority are Russians’

The Kremlin earlier gave assurances that Russians would be first in line to be vaccinated, with Moscow also discussing supply deals with other countries.

“The absolute priority are Russians,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

“Production within Russia, which is already being developed, will meet the needs of Russians.”

Russia’s coronavirus task force on Wednesday reported 589 new deaths, the highest daily tally in the pandemic, topping the previous day’s record of 569 and bringing the cumulative total during the pandemic to 41,053.

However, the rise in infections in Russia has slowed since reaching a high on November. 27, with 25,345 new cases reported on Wednesday.

Russia has resisted imposing lockdowns during the second wave of the virus, preferring targeted regional curbs.

With 2,347,401 infections, Russia has the fourth-largest number of COVID-19 cases in the world behind the United States, India and Brazil.

It has recorded 41,053 deaths related to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

Currently, there is a country-wide mask mandate and mostly mild restrictions that vary from region to region.

Reuters



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Ex-Barnett Government Minister, To Quit His Seat Prior To WA Election

A week after failing the bid to lead the Liberal Party for the March election, Dean Nalder, former WA transport minister, has decided to quit state politics.

He confirmed that he would not be recontesting the blue-ribbon Liberal seat of Bateman, revealing that it was a family decision and not a result of the unsuccessful shift of his leadership.

Mr Nalder wants to explore private sector opportunities in the business world where he had spent his career before entering state politics in 2013.

As a former ANZ Executive, he was one of the two nominees for the Liberal leadership as a consequent of the resignation of Liza Harvey, along with Dawesville MP Zak Kirkup.

On the morning of the party room vote, however, Mr Nalder announced his withdrawal from the contest, accepting he did not have the sufficient number to win.

This happened before when he unsuccessfully challenged Colin Barnett for leadership in 2016, leading him to serve as transport minister in the final years of the previous Liberal-National government.

Upon the party’s heavy election defeat, he served as shadow treasurer under the leadership of Mike Nahan and Liza Harvey.

It was evident that Mr Nalder has been frustrated about the role of powerbrokers within the Liberal Party for some time, the influence of Upper House MPs Peter Collier and Nick Goiran in particular.

Mr Nalder’s departure from politics will be leaving the Liberal party in search of a new candidate in one of the safest seats, given just months out from the state poll.

No-trade deal Brexit is still possible, UK minister says


FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove arrives to attend a cabinet meeting at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London, Britain November 10, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville

December 1, 2020

By Guy Faulconbridge and Elizabeth Piper

LONDON (Reuters) – A senior British minister said on Tuesday there was still a chance of a turbulent Brexit without a trade deal as talks with the European Union had snagged on fishing, governance rules and dispute resolution.

Just 30 days before Britain leaves the EU’s orbit following a standstill transition period since it formally quit the bloc, the sides are trying to agree a trade deal to avoid a rupture that could snarl almost $1 trillion in annual trade.

With each side urging the other to compromise, a French official said Britain must clarify its positions and “really negotiate”, and cautioned that the EU would not accept a “substandard deal”.

Both Britain and the EU say they want a deal, and their two negotiating teams have been locked in intensive talks for more than five weeks. EU sources have said the talks are now in their final, most secretive phase and that they are hoping for a deal in the coming days.

Michael Gove, the cabinet minister responsible for the divorce deal, said an agreement was close but that to get it over the line the EU would have to live up to its responsibilities.

Asked if a “no deal” scenario was closer than anyone would admit, he told ITV: “It’s certainly the case that there is a chance that we may not get a negotiated outcome.”

“That’s why it’s important business prepares for all eventualities, but I very much want a deal and I believe that we can secure one,” Gove said.

Gove avoided repeating an earlier prediction of a 66% probability of a deal, declining to give a figure.

A report by Times Radio that the talks had entered the so-called “tunnel” or final stretch saw the pound rise to as high as $1.3442. [GBP/]

“IN THE END-GAME”

While most major investment banks say a deal is their central prediction, some investors have pointed out that Wall Street and the City of London were poorly prepared for the 2016 referendum as few believed the United Kingdom would vote out.

Failure to secure a deal would snarl borders, spook financial markets and disrupt delicate supply chains that stretch across Europe and beyond — just as the world grapples with the vast economic cost of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, under pressure from opponents in his party who dislike strict COVID restrictions, says a deal is preferable but that the United Kingdom could prosper without one. Both sides have contingency plans for a no-deal exit.

Even if a trade accord is secured, it is likely to be just a narrow deal on goods, and some disruption is certain as border controls are erected between Britain and the world’s biggest trading bloc.

Britain’s Office for Budget Responsibility said last week that failure to agree a free trade deal would wipe an extra 2% off UK economic output – in addition to the 4% drop from leaving the bloc with a deal – while driving up inflation, unemployment and public borrowing.

Talks have snagged on fishing in Britain’s rich waters, on what EU rules London will accept, and on how any future disputes might be resolved.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Europe’s most powerful national leader, has said some of the EU’s 27 member states are getting impatient.

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said a deal could be done this week, while his deputy, Leo Varadkar, told the Dublin Chamber of Commerce: “We still don’t know what will happen there, but obviously we are all hopeful that we will see an FTA (free trade agreement) concluded in the next couple of weeks.”

(Reporting by Sarah Young, Michael Holden, William James and Elizabeth Piper in London; John Chalmers and Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels; Padraic Halpin in Dublin; Michel Rose in Paris and Thomas Escritt in Berlin; writing by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Paul Sandle, Kevin Liffey and Gareth Jones)





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Former South Australian transport minister Stephan Knoll to quit at 2022 election


Once viewed as a potential future premier, South Australian Liberal MP Stephan Knoll has announced he is quitting politics.

The former transport minister resigned from Cabinet earlier this year amid the fallout from the Country Members Accommodation Allowance scandal.

He has since been cleared of any wrongdoing by the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption, but has remained on the backbench.

He was first elected in 2014 and represented the safe Liberal electorate of Schubert, in the Barossa Valley.

In a text message sent to Liberal colleagues on Tuesday, Mr Knoll said he had informed Premier Steven Marshall of his decision not to stand at the next election, in March 2022.

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“I want to thank each and every one of you for everything over the past 6.5 years,” he said.

“There is still much to do in the next 16 months, including winning the next election, and I look forward to helping in whatever way I can to achieve that.”

In a subsequent statement posted on social media, Mr Knoll said he made the decision in order to spend more time with his family.

“In taking on the roles I have held, it is inevitable that sacrifices were made by those closest to me in order to enable me to devote the time and energy to the enormous task my ministerial workload demanded,” he said.

“I have a choice to become either a better politician, or a better person to those closest to me.

“I am choosing the latter. With my daughters at primary-school age, now is an important time to be more engaged and present as a father.”

Mr Marshall said he was “disappointed” but understood and respected Mr Knoll’s decision.

The ABC has contacted Mr Knoll for comment.

Stephan Knoll was transport minister for two years but did not mention the role in his resignation statement.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Malcolm Sutton)

From Liberal rising star to backbencher

The former transport, infrastructure and local government minister was long considered a rising star of the Liberal Party, before the expenses scandal unfolded in July.

But the Member for Schubert had already faced many challenges before that.

Just one month before his resignation, two key policies within his portfolios — an overhaul of Service SA centres and of Adelaide’s metropolitan bus network — were unceremoniously dumped after various failed pitches to the public.

Adelaide tram
Stephan Knoll entered Parliament in 2014.(ABC News: Matt Coleman)

In his statement, he included local government and planning reform among his achievements as a minister, along with tunnels being dug under South Road as part of the North-South Corridor.

He had also looked set to face a more significant challenge at the 2022 poll, after a draft electoral boundary redraw threatened to put a dent in the margin of his ultra-safe Barossa Valley seat.

Labor veteran Tony Piccolo — considered a grassroots campaigning champion within the Opposition — swiftly announced he would run against Mr Knoll in Schubert instead of his own seat of Light, to “stick by” his Gawler stronghold.

The decision to shift Gawler into Schubert was eventually reversed in the final electoral boundary redistribution report, released last month, with Mr Piccolo deciding to run again in Light.

Another Liberal also quits

Long-time Eyre Peninsula MP Peter Treloar also announced his plans to retire from politics after 12 years in State Parliament.

“The time has come to hang up my boots,” he said.

“With nominations now open for incumbent Liberal MPs, I have advised the Premier and the Liberal Party state director that I will not be seeking re-election at the next state election in March 2022.

Man on right standing in shearing shed looking pensive, wool piled up on the left
Flinders MP Peter Treloar was a farmer before entering Parliament.(Supplied: Robert Lang)

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time, and am grateful for the confidence and support given to me as the local Member of Parliament.

“I look forward to the remaining 16 months, with many more kilometres to travel yet.”

Labor frontbencher Chris Picton told State Parliament it was rare for an MP to leave Parliament “with such tremendous respect from both sides”.



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Taiwan foreign minister calls on Australia to help defend against China’s ‘expansionism’


As Australia’s relationship with China worsens, Taiwan has called on Canberra to stand up for democracy and help defend the disputed island territory against threats of attack.

Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu has warned the risk of regional conflict is “higher than before” because of Beijing’s increasing aggression and authoritarianism.

Mr Wu has called on democracies including Australia to support Taiwan through sharing information and intelligence.

In an exclusive interview with ABC TV’s The World, Mr Wu accused China of “expansionism” that is a direct threat to Taiwan.

“China has been imposing national security law on Hong Kong. China has also been sending vessels to the disputed water in East China Sea,” he said.

“China is also trying to take control of the South China Sea, and had some skirmishes with India along the Indian border.

Chinese soldiers patrol the Spratly Islands in the contested South China Sea.(Reuters)

Mr Wu said Taiwan was “feeling the heat” and accused Chinese military of encroaching on Taiwan’s critical Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ).

“If you look at the Chinese military activities around Taiwan, it’s been intensifying. We see that the Chinese military vessels as well as its military airplanes cross into Taiwan’s ADIZ, especially in the south west corner of Taiwan’s ADIZ almost on a daily basis,” he said.

“There were several times that the Chinese jet fighters crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait.

“The median line of the Taiwan Strait has been safeguarding peace and stability and the status quo for decades and this is something that we really worry about.”

China, which views its development as “peaceful”, has repeatedly urged foreign countries not to meddle in its internal affairs.

Responding to a question yesterday about the United States’ plans to sell arms to Taiwan, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said: “China will resolutely fight back against all attempts that undermine China’s core interests and interfere in China’s internal affairs.”

“We also once again give the stern message to the Taiwan authorities that ‘Taiwan independence’ is a dead end. Attempts and actions to seek external interference and use [of] weaponry to deny reunification are doomed to fail.”

Taiwan a ‘potential scapegoat’ for Beijing

A composite of Taiwan foreign minister Joseph Wu and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Taiwan foreign minister Joseph Wu (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping.(AP: Chiang Ying-ying/Mark Schiefelbein)

Mr Wu said China’s President Xi Jinping could make Taiwan a scapegoat to relieve increasing pressures at home.

“If an authoritarian country is facing domestic difficulties, the easiest way for them to keep the country together will be … to find a scapegoat outside,” he said.

“We are very concerned that Taiwan might become a scapegoat of the Chinese military.

“If you look at the Chinese domestic difficulties these days, [it] seems to be that the Chinese leaders are having a hard time keeping the country together.

“Economic slowdown has been so apparent that earlier this year they did not even announce their statistics on economic growth.

“And if the Chinese economy is not growing, I think it’s going to take away the communists’ legitimacy.”

When asked if he meant the risk of war was growing, Mr Wu said: “We cannot rule out that possibility.”

“Of course, I cannot predict that the war is going to take place next year or the year after, things like that,” he added.

“But if you look at the preparation on the Chinese side, we have to be very concerned about the real prospect of China launching a military attack against Taiwan.

“And as a decision maker I can tell you that we are looking at it with no light heart.”

Mr Wu said a strong Australia was crucial to regional security.

“Australia has been a very powerful element or actor in the Indo Pacific,” he said.

“I’ve seen throughout history that Australia has made so much sacrifice in order to protect [global] principles and values.

“Therefore, I see like-minded countries like Japan and Australia and India and the United States can also work together to prevent China from further expansionism.”

Defending Taiwan ‘crucial’ for democracy

Mr Wu’s comments come as Australia-China relations hit new lows.

Beijing recently imposed new tariffs on Australian products and released a list of grievances it demands Canberra fix.

Earlier this week, a senior Chinese bureaucrat posted a fake image on twitter highlighting allegations of war crimes by Australian troops in Afghanistan.

Joe Biden smiling with his hand on Xi Jinping's shoulder
Incoming United States president Joe Biden (right) sees China as a strategic threat.(Reuters: David McNew)

Mr Wu said other nations must support Australia to resist Chinese pressure.

“The Australian strategy is a stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific. And I think this is the strategy that is in line with many other like-minded countries.”

Australia, Japan, India and the US — the so-called quadrilateral (Quad) group — are increasing military cooperation.

Xi Jinping has made a priority of returning Taiwan to mainland China control and has warned the Taiwanese government against any moves to independence.

It is a fault line that could tip two global superpowers — America and China — into conflict.

Mr Wu said defending Taiwan was crucial to defending democracy.

“It’s up to the decision makers in Canberra to think about what is the best strategy for the country in dealing with such challenges,” he said.

“In Taiwan, we have been facing the threats of China for decades. And for us, the best strategy to deal with the … Chinese threat is just to prepare ourselves for the possible onslaught.”

The ABC has approached the Chinese embassy for comment.



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Time for cuts and adjustments won’t come until 2022, says Finnish finance minister


THE FINNISH ECONOMY has been left relatively unscathed by the global crisis set off by the coronavirus pandemic, views Etla Economic Research.

Etla reported last week that industrial output in the country decreased by 5.6 per cent year-on-year between January and September, substantially less than the average of nearly 10 per cent recorded elsewhere in Europe.

The tourism and restaurant industry has been the worst-hit industry also in Finland, with value added about to fall by 30 per cent from the previous year.

“The official restrictions, as well as the choices of consumers, targetting tourism and restaurant services have led to a completely unusual situation in the whole industry. The industry will recover partly next year if the pandemic remains under control, but a full recovery will take more time,” commented Birgitta Berg-Andersson of Etla.

Minister of Finance Matti Vanhanen (Centre) told YLE on Sunday that the relatively small overall impact on the national economy is a consequence of the successful effort by the government and local authorities to control the epidemic.

“Taking care of the epidemic also provides the best economic result. That’s what we’ve proved here,” he said.

Although the ongoing second wave of infections will inevitably also have an impact on the economy, Vanhanen is confident that the outlook will brighten as soon as next year. Statistics Finland, for example, has stated that the gross domestic product could grow by around three per cent from this year.

The Finnish government has issued its seventh and final supplementary budget of the year, deciding to extend the second cost support scheme adopted to enable businesses to withstand the crisis.

“We introduced an option to the winter framework in advance so that, if we need a third round of cost support for companies, if companies report losses of that magnitude at both before and after the turn of the year, we’ll have a 500-million-euro appropriation for that. That hasn’t been activated yet,” Vanhanen stated to YLE.

He added that the objective of the supplementary budget is also to anticipate for needs that emerge in the winter by securing the resources health care providers and municipalities need because of the crisis.

The time for fiscal adjustments or cost cuts will not come until 2022, according to Vanhanen. Both Finland and Europe will continue to stimulate their economies to make sure they can resume growth following the introduction of a vaccine against the virus.

The stimulus efforts, he underlined, must be credible.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT



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The Crown needs ‘work of fiction’ disclaimer, says U.K. culture minister


Britain’s culture minister thinks the Netflix TV series The Crown should come with a disclaimer: It’s a work of fiction.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden weighed in amid criticism of the historical liberties taken by the drama about the British royal family.

“It’s a beautifully produced work of fiction. So as with other TV productions, Netflix should be very clear at the beginning it is just that,” Dowden told the Mail on Sunday newspaper. “Without this, I fear a generation of viewers who did not live through these events may mistake fiction for fact.”

Dowden is expected to write to Netflix this week to express his view. Netflix did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

Questions of historical fidelity were not a major issue during earlier seasons of the show, which debuted in 2016 and traces the long reign of Queen Elizabeth II, which began in 1952.

Latest season set in the 1980s 

But the current fourth season is set in the 1980s, a divisive decade that many Britons remember vividly. Characters include Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whose 11-year tenure transformed and divided Britain, and the late Princess Diana, whose death in a car crash in 1997 traumatized the nation.

Former royal press secretary Dickie Arbiter has called the series a “hatchet job” on Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, and his first wife Diana. The troubled relationship of the couple, played by Josh O’Connor and Emma Corrin, is a major storyline in the series.

Emma Corrin, left, and Josh O’Connor appear as Princess Diana and Prince Charles in a scene from The Crown. The latest season of the Netflix series depicts their sometimes troubled relationship. (Ollie Upton/Netflix via The Association Press)

Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, has also said the show should carry a notice that “this isn’t true but it is based around some real events.”

“I worry people do think that this is gospel and that’s unfair,” he told broadcaster ITV.

Some Conservatives have criticized the program’s depiction of Thatcher, played by Gillian Anderson. Britain’s first female prime minister, who died in 2013, is portrayed as clashing with Olivia Colman’s Elizabeth to an extent that some say is exaggerated.

Show is true in spirit, creator says

The Crown creator Peter Morgan, whose work also includes recent-history dramas The Queen and Frost/Nixon, has defended his work, saying it is thoroughly researched and true in spirit.

In a 2017 discussion of The Crown, Morgan said “you sometimes have to forsake accuracy, but you must never forsake truth.” 

Steven Fielding, a professor of political history at the University of Nottingham, said the suggestion that The Crown carry a disclaimer was “reasonable and yet pointless.”

“It invariably doesn’t have an effect,” he said. “There are studies that show that people believe fiction when it’s presented as fact — even if you tell them it’s not fact.”

Charles portrayed as ‘a bit of an idiot’

Fielding said it was no surprise that Charles and his allies were annoyed with the heir to the throne’s depiction as “a bit of an idiot.” But he said making a fuss about it only amplifies the attention.

Historians are used to railing at inaccuracies in dramas such as the Academy Award-winning Darkest Hour, which included an invented scene of Winston Churchill meeting ordinary Londoners on an Underground Tube train during the Second World War.

WATCH | Josh O’Connor on his experience portraying Prince Charles:

British actor Josh O’Connor, who portrays the Prince of Wales in season four of Netflix’s The Crown, explains what it was like to examine the “human” side of the royal. 1:03

“Mixing historical fact and fiction has been around since Shakespeare. This is not new to films, it’s not new to TV,” said Fielding, co-author of The Churchill Myths, which examines Britain’s wartime leader in popular culture.

“I don’t recall the culture secretary complaining about the ridiculous presentation of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour,” he said. “Because it went with the myth, with the idea of Churchill the hero, nobody complained.”

“Nobody’s bothered if fact and fiction are all mangled up, so long as it’s saying nice things,” he added.



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NSW health minister writes letter to Santa giving him “exemption” from quarantine


The New South Wales Health Minister, Brad Hazzard has great news for Australian kids: “Santa Claus is coming to town and no quarantine is required!”

Hazzard shared the good news on social media, posting a letter addressed to Mr Claus.

“I understand you have significant magical powers which allow you to travel the world safely without transmitting COVID-19,” the letter states.

“As a result, I…hereby declare an exemption for the following essential workers to enter New South Wales,” going on to list Santa, nine reindeer and “any elves required to assist with delivery of presents.”

Like other essential workers, Santa must follow certain health provisions on Christmas Day, adds Hazzard. This includes delivering presents after midnight to minimise contact, physical distancing and mask wearing.

“I am aware you have safely delivered presents to children in Australia during previous pandemics and as a result I am confident you will take the necessary precautions to keep your community safe,” he adds.

Source: Instagram / @newsouthwaleshealth





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Minister is put in charge of vaccine rollout criticised tier system


A minister who has criticised Boris Johnson’s tiered lockdown system has been put in charge of the UK’s vaccine rollout.

Stratford-On-Avon MP Nadhim Zahawi has been temporarily appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Health Department.

The role – which is set to last until next Summer at the earliest – will involve him deploying the eagerly-awaited coronavirus vaccine across the country.

The newly-appointed vaccine tsar has criticised Government’s tiered structure which will see his constituency thrust into Tier 3 lockdown next week despite low infection rates.

His appointment comes amid a brewing Tory rebellion as furious backbenchers accuse the Government of risking catastrophic damage to the economy with its controversial system for life post-national lockdown. 

Stratford-On-Avon MP Nadhim Zahawi has been temporarily appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Health Department

Stratford-upon-avon - which resides in the local government district of Stratford-on-Avon - has been thrust into Tier Three lockdown. Pictured: Purple indicates an infection rate of more than 400 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending November 21, dark blue = 201-400, light blue = 101-200, turquoise = 51-100, green = 11-50, yellow = 0-10

Stratford-upon-avon – which resides in the local government district of Stratford-on-Avon – has been thrust into Tier Three lockdown. Pictured: Purple indicates an infection rate of more than 400 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending November 21, dark blue = 201-400, light blue = 101-200, turquoise = 51-100, green = 11-50, yellow = 0-10

Almost the entire nation is set to be banned from socialising indoors until Easter, officials admitted last night. The senior sources said it was 'unrealistic' to expect areas under the toughest curbs – Tiers 2 and 3 – to move down to Tier 1 before spring

Almost the entire nation is set to be banned from socialising indoors until Easter, officials admitted last night. The senior sources said it was ‘unrealistic’ to expect areas under the toughest curbs – Tiers 2 and 3 – to move down to Tier 1 before spring

Stratford-On-Avon MP Nadhim Zahawi (pictured with Carrie Symonds) has been temporarily appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Health Department

Stratford-On-Avon MP Nadhim Zahawi (pictured with Carrie Symonds) has been temporarily appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Health Department

Mr Zahawi is the second-highest earning MP in the UK due to his various roles – including as chief strategy officer for oil and gas firm Gulf Keystone Petroleum.

He also co-founded research and polling firm YouGov.

Warwickshire – where Mr Zahawi’s constituency of Stratford-on-Avon resides – will see pubs, bars and restaurants remain shut when England’s national lockdown ends on December 2.

Although the Warwickshire town’s already low rates are falling still further, it has found itself lumped in with the rest of the county. 

Yet towns in nearby Oxfordshire and Worcestershire, with higher rates, are in Tier Two.  

Following the Government’s announcement, Mr Zahawi said: ‘I am hugely disappointed and sad that Warwickshire will be moving into Tier 3 next week, in particular because of the effect this will have on our hospitality and tourism industries who have already been through so much this year.

Under a 'virtual lockdown' revealed on Thursday, 99 per cent of the population was put in the top two tiers, which ban household gatherings and cripple the hospitality trade

Under a ‘virtual lockdown’ revealed on Thursday, 99 per cent of the population was put in the top two tiers, which ban household gatherings and cripple the hospitality trade

 

 

‘It seems that the high numbers of infections, especially among those over 60, and hospitalisations in the north of the county have counted against us.

‘I understand the concerns raised by large numbers of constituents about why the restrictions in Stratford-on-Avon are being affected by factors in areas further away from us than from our immediate neighbours, such as Worcestershire and Oxfordshire, both of whom will be moving into Tier 2 next week.’

Stratford has an infection rate of 105.3 per 100,000. Among the over-60s the rate is even lower, at 74 per 100,000, while the hospitalisation rate is also low, with fewer than two people a day being admitted.

The town recorded 137 new cases in the week ending November 22 – a drop of 67.

At a more local level, the area of Stratford South East and Torrington had just four cases – a rate of 48.2 per 100,000. But nearby Redditch in Worcestershire, with a rate of 240 cases per 100,000, is in Tier Two. 

One furious MP predicted that as many as 70 MPs would rebel against the new tiered measures in a Commons showdown next week, which could see Boris Johnson relying on support from Labour to get the new restrictions approved.  

Their anger has been fuelled by reports that it was ‘unrealistic’ to expect areas under the toughest Covid curbs – Tiers 2 and 3 – to move down to Tier 1 before spring, in a plan dubbed a ‘virtual lockdown’.    

Following Mr Zahawi’s appointment, a Downing Street said in a statement: ‘The Queen has been pleased to approve the appointment of Nadhim Zahawi MP as a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care.

‘He remains a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.’

Mr Zahawi will focus on the deployment of the coronavirus vaccine, with the temporary arrangement set to last until at least next summer.

Michael Gove today issued a stark warning to Tory backbenchers planning on rebelling against the tiered system in the commons next week.

The Cabinet Office minister urged MPs to ‘take responsibility for difficult decisions’ to curb the spread of Covid-19, amid anger from some Conservatives that much of England will face stringent restrictions.

Writing in The Times today, Mr Gove said the decision to impose the restrictions was necessary to ‘pull the handbrake’ and avoid the ‘disaster’ of NHS hospitals – and private sector and newly-built Nightingale hospitals – becoming filled to capacity with only Covid patients and emergency cases.

‘Keeping our hospitals open, available and effective was not just crucial to dealing with Covid-19. It was imperative for the health of the whole nation,’ the pro-shutdown Tory minister argued.

‘But the only way to ensure we can take care of cancer patients, administer radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and help stroke victims and treat heart attacks is by protecting the NHS,’ he said, adding this could only be done by reducing the spread of the virus and thus limiting the number of Covid patients in hospitals.

Mr Gove also claimed that reducing infections would save the UK economy, which has been decimated by shutdown restrictions that prevent the trade of the hospitality industry and retail, tourism and air travel. 

Only three areas in England saw their Covid-19 infection rates rise in the week ending November 22, according to the latest data from Public Health England's weekly surveillance report

Only three areas in England saw their Covid-19 infection rates rise in the week ending November 22, according to the latest data from Public Health England’s weekly surveillance report

LIVERPOOL AND MANCHESTER: Liverpool has been placed into Tier Two after at least two consecutive weeks of falling infections. It had been under Tier Three in the previous system. But Manchester will remain in Tier Three curbs despite also seeing its infections fall for at least two consecutive weeks

LIVERPOOL AND MANCHESTER: Liverpool has been placed into Tier Two after at least two consecutive weeks of falling infections. It had been under Tier Three in the previous system. But Manchester will remain in Tier Three curbs despite also seeing its infections fall for at least two consecutive weeks

MIDLANDS AND YORKSHIRE AND THE HUMBER: Purple indicates an infection rate of more than 400 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending November 21, dark blue = 201-400, light blue = 101-200, turquoise = 51-100, green = 11-50, yellow = 0-10

MIDLANDS AND YORKSHIRE AND THE HUMBER: Purple indicates an infection rate of more than 400 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending November 21, dark blue = 201-400, light blue = 101-200, turquoise = 51-100, green = 11-50, yellow = 0-10

As official forecasts warn that the national debt could soar to £2.8trillion by 2025, he warned: ‘Think for a moment what would happen to our economy if we allowed infections to reach such a level that our NHS was overwhelmed.’

But his argument was attacked by former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption today, who blasted the Government’s use of ‘extremely selective and tendentious’ data to justify shutdowns.

Lord Sumption, last year’s BBC Reith Lecturer, also told Radio 4’s Today programme that the Tiering system was ‘unenforceable’ and suggested that the public was growing increasingly unwilling to comply.

MailOnline analysis this week revealed that around 17million people living in parts of England that have seen their coronavirus outbreaks shrink for at least two weeks in a row will be plunged into the toughest tiers next week.

As many as a third of England’s authorities – 51 out of 149 – saw coronavirus infections drop in the seven-day spells ending November 15 and November 22 according to Public Health England’s weekly surveillance report.

They include all 10 boroughs in Greater Manchester – home to 2.8million alone – and authorities subject to tough restrictions for months, such as Blackburn with Darwen, Gateshead and Lancashire – which are all earmarked for Tier Three.

Boris Johnson – who has revealed 99 per cent of England will live under toughened restrictions come December 2 – said Tiers would be determined based on the rate of fall in infections, alongside pressure on the NHS, the total number of cases and the rate of infection in the over 60s who are more at risk from the virus.

But officials have refused to reveal the exact criteria needed for areas facing lockdown in all-but-name to escape the tougher curbs, meaning the fate of millions is left in the hands of the secretive Joint Biosecurity Centre, which has previously been slammed as being ‘far too opaque’.

EAST: Purple indicates an infection rate of more than 400 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending November 21, dark blue = 201-400, light blue = 101-200, turquoise = 51-100, green = 11-50, yellow = 0-10

EAST: Purple indicates an infection rate of more than 400 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending November 21, dark blue = 201-400, light blue = 101-200, turquoise = 51-100, green = 11-50, yellow = 0-10

SOUTH EAST AND LONDON: Purple indicates an infection rate of more than 400 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending November 21, dark blue = 201-400, light blue = 101-200, turquoise = 51-100, green = 11-50, yellow = 0-10

SOUTH EAST AND LONDON: Purple indicates an infection rate of more than 400 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending November 21, dark blue = 201-400, light blue = 101-200, turquoise = 51-100, green = 11-50, yellow = 0-10

SOUTH WEST: Purple indicates an infection rate of more than 400 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending November 21, dark blue = 201-400, light blue = 101-200, turquoise = 51-100, green = 11-50, yellow = 0-10

SOUTH WEST: Purple indicates an infection rate of more than 400 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending November 21, dark blue = 201-400, light blue = 101-200, turquoise = 51-100, green = 11-50, yellow = 0-10

Experts said today they felt ministers had been ‘cautious’ when allocating the tiers, due to an expected jump in infections in the run-up to Christmas. Once the festive period has passed, however, they said many areas may be able to drop to the lower tiers.

But Housing Minister Robert Jenrick, who headed up negotiations with local authorities under the old tiered system, offered a ray of hope today when he said areas may move down the tiers before Christmas.

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty struck a very different tone yesterday, however, when he suggested that Tier Two – with bans on mixing between households – would be as good as it gets for most.

He said that the new Tier One is similar to that in the former system and would only be available to areas with very low case rates.

The tiers were announced yesterday, and will go to a vote in the Commons next week. 

Once imposed they will be reviewed on a two-week rolling basis. 

MPs from all parties have voiced opposition to the plans, claiming how they were allocated was confusing and that boroughs with low infection rates within counties should have been moved to lower levels of restrictions.



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