World News

Fears at Nile's convergence in Sudan that new dam will sap river’s strength

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – At an open-air, riverbank factory where the Blue Nile and White Nile meet in Sudan, Mohamed Ahmed al Ameen and his colleagues mould thousands of bricks every day from mud deposited by summer floods.

“I consider the Nile something I have not parted with since I was born,” Ameen said, as workers around him shaped bricks with blistered hands and laid them out to dry in the sun. “I eat from it, I farm with it. And I extract these bricks from it.”

But the labourers on Tuti Island in Sudan’s capital Khartoum fear a giant dam Ethiopia is building close to the border between the two countries could endanger their livelihood.

They worry the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam upstream could weaken the Blue Nile’s force, putting at risk an industry that locals say provided bricks for some of Khartoum’s first modern public buildings around a century ago.

Pottery makers, farmers and fishermen around the Nile’s convergence share similar concerns, though other residents displaced by flooding last summer see benefit in a dam that will regulate the powerful river’s waters.

The dam “will stabilise the Nile and we will get less flooding”, said Mutasim al-Jeiry, a 50-year-old potter in a village outside Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman, where workers craft jars with clay from the river.

“But on the other hand we will get less clay and less water. Farmers, brick and pottery makers will be seriously affected,” he predicts.

The residents’ views are a snapshot of the hopes and fears thrown up along the length of the Nile by the vast hydropower project, which has triggered a high-wire diplomatic stand-off between Ethiopia and Egypt downstream.

Ethiopia, which says it is finally asserting its right to harness the Blue Nile’s waters to power its economy, promises to start filling the dam’s reservoir later this month.

Egypt, which sees a risk to its scarce water supplies, is frantically trying to secure a deal that would guarantee minimum flows from the Blue Nile, the source of about 86% of the waters of the Nile, which flows into the Mediterranean.

Sudan’s government says the dam could threaten the safety of some 20 million Sudanese living downstream and damage the country’s flood-plain agricultural system if not built and operated correctly.

But it also sees potential benefits in controlling floods during the rainy season and improving the performance of its own dams.

That ambivalence is echoed in the village of Wad Ramli, 60km (37 miles) downstream from Khartoum, where flooding was especially bad last summer. Some residents whose houses were damaged or destroyed were displaced to canvas tents pitched nearby.

“It is true the Renaissance dam will lower the Nile’s water levels and prevent flooding,” said Manal Abdelnaay, a 23-year-old living in one of the tents. “However, it will impact farming, and the Wad Ramli area is one that lives off farming.”

On Tuti Island, farmers and landowners are anxious that if the dam saps the river’s strength, there will be less water to irrigate and replenish the soil.

“I came to Tuti in 1988 because the land here is the best for agriculture and close enough to supply markets, and it makes good incomes” says Mussa Adam Bakr, who farms a plot where vegetable fields back onto citrus and mango groves, next to the brick factory.

“Through the year the Tuti earth produces all sorts of vegetables like potatoes, onions, aubergines,” says Bakr.

Sudan was long overshadowed in the dispute over the dam by its two larger neighbours, but has recently stepped up to broker new negotiations between the three countries.

Its citizens will be watching carefully for any changes in the waters they are so dependent upon.

“A fish out of water will die, it cannot survive,” says Ashraf Hassan, a 45-year-old fish trader in Omdurman. “Us too, we live as part of the water, or around it.”

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Rishi Sunak POLL: As experts warn YOU will pay the price, do you support £30bn splurge?

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The Chancellor has so far insisted despite the huge outgoings, he will still be able to return the country’s finances to a sustainable footing, at least in the medium-term. But the Treasury has warned emergency actions to fight the economic impact from the coronavirus crisis have already come at a “significant fiscal cost”. On Wednesday, Mr Sunak announced the Government’s latest financial package aimed at getting businesses back on track and protecting millions of jobs and employee salaries in the process as the UK comes out of lockdown.

The new Jobs Retention Bonus alone will cost the Government up to £9.4billion, with the cut in VAT adding a further £4.1billion.

The reduction in stamp duty for properties valued under £500,000 will cost £3.8billion, while the 50 percent eating out discount coming into force next month will add a further £500million.

This latest round of emergency measures are already in addition to the near-£160billion plan unveiled since the coronavirus outbreak in March.

The furlough scheme, which Mr Sunak has said will close in October, will cost the Treasury £60billion, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

The OBR had forecast borrowing for the entire year would come close to £300billion – before Mr Sunak announced the latest multi-billion-pound package on Wednesday.

But experts have warned UK taxpayers could be faced with huge economic pain in order to help get the country’s finances back in order.

Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, warned: “All of these measures will cost money – on top of the eye-watering sums already spent – and eventually, the Treasury is going to need to start raising revenue.

“It means that as early as the Autumn Budget we could see proposals and consultations emerge that promise more pain ahead.”

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “The Chancellor announced a ‘plan for jobs’ but it’s tomorrow’s taxpayers who will have to work hard to pay for it all.

“While the jobs retention bonus will help ensure that the furlough scheme isn’t just an expensive pause on mass lay-offs, taxpayers will be concerned about how and when they will pay the bills for ever-more spending promises.”

Carl Emmerson, deputy director at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think tank, warned Britons could be hit with some tax rises to pay for the huge financial outgoings and crippling holes in the UK’s economy.

He said: “The Chancellor also said in his speech yesterday that over the medium term we must and we will put our public finances back on a sustainable footing.

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“Now what I think that means is that once we’re through the crisis phase, once the economy has established its new normal, we are probably going to find that the economy is not as big as what it would have been had the coronavirus never hit.

“If that’s the case, and it’s very likely to be the case, revenues will still be depressed, and if we want to try then to bring the deficit back to where it would have been absent the crisis we will need to do some spending cuts, or given a decade of austerity, perhaps more likely some tax rises.”

The Treasury has acknowledged the UK faces mammoth costs from the emergency recovery plans announced so far, but has so far insisted “the costs of failing to act to support public services, businesses, and workers would have been much higher”.

But the UK economy is forecast to collapse into its deepest recession in recent history as the coronavirus crisis and enforced nationwide lockdown blows a huge hole in the country’s finances.

Britain’s gross domestic product (GDP) plummeted by 25 percent during the first two months of the crisis, while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned the country’s economy could shrink by more than 10 percent this year.

Mr Sunak has admitted he is “anxious” about the state of the UK’s economy which is “entering into a very significant recession” because of the coronavirus crisis, but has defended the £30billion of extra spending.

The Chancellor told Sky News on Thursday morning: “We’ve moved through the acute phase of the crisis where large swathes of the economy were closed. We’re now fortunately able to safely reopen parts of our economy, that’s the most important thing that we can do to get things going.

“But we won’t know the exact shape of that recovery for a little while – how will people respond to the new freedoms of being able to go out and about again. We have to rediscover behaviours that we’ve essentially unlearned over the last few months.

“But unless activity returns to normal, those jobs are at risk of going which is why we acted in the way that we did.”

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Know your risk: Pub, shopping and going to the gym ranked by threat

Doctors have created a coronavirus ‘risk scale’ which shows how dangerous certain everyday activities are.

The Texas Medical Association, which is made up of 53,000 physicians and medical students, put together a list which indicates how risky something is in relation to Covid-19 on a scale of one to 10, from low risk to high risk.

The list suggests going to the pub or working out at the gym poses a much higher risk of contracting Covid-19 than opening your post or getting a takeaway.

In the lowest risk category, opening the post, getting a takeaway, filling up with petrol, playing tennis and going camping are considered relatively safe.

Getting less safe – in low to moderate risk category – is supermarket shopping, playing golf, staying at a hotel, going to the doctor’s and going to a restaurant. Busier public areas are also in this category.

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Things considered moderate risk are going to the beach, having dinner with friends or a barbecue, visiting elderly relatives or working in an office.

Going to a hairdresser, attending a wedding or a funeral, and hugging a friend are in the moderate to high risk category.

But at the highest end of the scale in the high risk category are going to the cinema, working out at the gym, going to large gatherings and drinking in a pub or bar.

The medical professionals who compiled the list ranked each activity based on the ability to social distance. 

A spokesperson said: ‘The levels are based on input from the physician members of the task force and the committee, who worked from the assumption that – no matter the activity – participants were taking as many safety precautions as they can.’

It comes as the United States set a grim record on Tuesday with more than 60,000 new coronavirus cases reported in a single day, up from the previous record of 53,600 infections set last Thursday. 

The number of cases across the US has now topped 3 million, and more than 131,000 Americans have died with coronavirus since the pandemic took hold in March. 

At least 1,100 of those deaths were recorded on Tuesday, which is the highest daily increase this month. 

Deaths across the country have been trending downwards, even as the number of infections surge to levels not seen throughout the pandemic.

But the fatality rates in Texas, Arizona and Florida are now showing upward trends, according to project data that shows the seven-day average of deaths in the three hotspot states.

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‘Deeply disappointed!’ Queen’s rage at Meghan and Harry’s behaviour revealed

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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry hit headlines earlier this week. The attention came after they held a virtual summit of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust (QCT). It was here they ventured into the currently tense subject of history, talking about the need to acknowledge the past of the Commonwealth in order to move forward.

They also touched on racism amid the Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd.

The Queen, although not named by either Harry or Meghan, is the head of the Commonwealth.

Many interpreted the comments as a direct attack on the Royal Family.

This was made all the more controversial given the tumultuous months Harry has had with the Windsors.

During the virtual call from their Los Angeles home, Harry said: “Certainly when you look across the Commonwealth, there is no way that we can move forward unless we acknowledge the past.

“So many people have done such an incredible job of acknowledging the past and trying to right those wrongs.

“But, I think we all acknowledge there is so much more still to do.”

The Queen is unlikely to comment on the furore.

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Yet, reports suggest that she hasn’t always been quiet in her discomfort and sadness concerning the actions of Harry and Meghan.

Last year, several sources claimed that, behind the scenes, the monarch was “disappointed” with their behaviour as representatives of the British monarchy.

A long line of snubs had allegedly left the Queen demoralised – especially when, in September, Meghan skipped visiting the Queen’s Scottish residence Balmoral over the summer in 2019.

The Duchess instead jetted off on a commercial flight to New York to watch her close friend Serena Williams compete in the US Open final.


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At the time, the Mail on Sunday described the move as an “outright snub” adding that the monarch is “hurt and disappointed at a time when she likes to bring her friends and family together”.

The publication added Her Majesty is already “baffled” by Meghan and Harry’s inability to steer clear of PR calamities.

It was widely regarded that Meghan and Harry would use the opportunity to take baby Archie to join and mingle with the senior royals at Balmoral.

According to insiders the monarch had been looking forward to “a few days of merry chaos” with her great-grandchild.

Yet, it was soon made clear that Archie was “too young” to make the trip to the Scottish Highlands, and so the chance was lost.

The response came as a shock as just weeks prior to the Highland Games, Meghan and Harry took the young royal to Ibiza and then later to stay at Sir Elton John’s luxury villa in the south of France.

Despite royal protocol the Queen’s rage at certain members of the Royal Family has at times made headlines.

The royal was reportedly “furious” when pictures emerged showing Sarah, Duchess of York in a compromising situation with her lover John Bryan in 1992.

Her Majesty had retreated to Balmoral with the rest of the Royal Family for her annual summer break and was blindsided by the publication of a series of X-rated pictures.

So much had the photographs enraged the Queen, that Sarah was left packing with her two daughters back to London.

Speaking to Channel 5 documentary ‘Fergie and Andrew: The Duke and Duchess of Disaster’, expert Ingrid Seward said: “Sarah took one look around the dining room and thought, ‘oh but for the grace of God go the lot of you, I’m going ’ so she went back upstairs.

“Obviously she had to see the Queen and the Queen – remember, these two are fairly close – was furious with her. Just furious.”

Fergie and Andrew: The Duke and Duchess of Disaster aired on Channel 5 on Sat 4 July at 9:15pm.

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Americans face testing delays as virus surges

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With a cough and shortness of breath, it took Austin, Texas, resident Sam Lee three tries to get a COVID-19 test.

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The first time, he showed up an hour before the public testing site was set to close and was told they had reached capacity. He was turned away from a second center when rain shut it down, and voluntarily left a third after someone ahead of him said they had been waiting in line for more than three hours.


"If you have symptoms and you are just driving around the city trying to figure out how you can get a test, for people who are positive, it is not ideal,” said Lee, who finally got a test on June 29 after he showed up at a site before dawn and waited for more than two hours. Another five days passed before he was able to view the results online, and he didn't receive a text with the results until seven days after being tested.

Four months, 3 million confirmed infections and over 130,000 deaths into the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., Americans confronted with a resurgence of the scourge are facing long lines at testing sites in the summer heat or are getting turned away. Others are going a week or more without receiving a diagnosis.

A National Guardsman directs traffic at a COVID-19 testing site outside Hard Rock Stadium, Wednesday, July 8, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Florida is one of the nation’s hot spots for coronavirus. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Some sites are running out of kits, while labs are reporting shortages of materials and workers to process the swabs.

Some frustrated Americans are left to wonder why the U.S. can't seem to get its act together, especially after it was given fair warning as the virus wreaked havoc in China and then Italy, Spain and New York.


“It’s a hot mess,” said 47-year-old Jennifer Hudson of Tucson, Arizona. “The fact that we’re relying on companies and we don’t have a national response to this, it’s ridiculous. … It’s keeping people who need tests from getting tests.”

It took Hudson five days to make an appointment through a CVS pharmacy near her home. She booked a drive-up test over the weekend, more than a week after her symptoms — fatigue, shortness of breath, headache and sore throat — first emerged. The clinic informed her that her results would probably be delayed.

Lines of cars wait at a drive-through coronavirus testing site, Sunday, July 5, 2020, outside Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. Florida health officials say the state has reached a grim milestone: more than 200,000 people have tested positive

Testing has been ramped up nationwide, reaching about 640,000 tests per day on average, up from around 518,000 two weeks ago, according to an Associated Press analysis. Newly confirmed infections per day in the U.S. are running at over 50,000, breaking records at practically every turn.


More testing tends to lead to more cases found. But in an alarming indicator, the percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus is on the rise across nearly the entire country, hitting almost 27 percent in Arizona, 19 percent in Florida and 17 percent in South Carolina.

A nurse in protective gear administers a coronavirus test in Omaha, Neb., Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Vice President Mike Pence says the U.S. government will issue guidance encouraging front-line health care workers to reuse personal protective equipmen

While the U.S. has conducted more tests than any other nation, it ranks in the middle of the pack in testing per capita, behind Russia, Spain and Australia, according to Johns Hopkins University.

“I am stunned that as a nation, six months into this pandemic, we still can’t figure out how to deliver testing to the American people when they need it,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, director of Harvard’s Global Health Institute. “It is an abject failure of leadership and shows that the federal government has not prioritized testing in a way that will allow us to get through this pandemic.”


Testing alone without adequate contact tracing and quarantine measures won't control the spread of the scourge, according to health experts. But they say delays in testing can lead to more infections by leaving people in the dark as to whether they need to isolate themselves.

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Bodies found in suitcase filmed on TikTok named as mum-of-four and boyfriend

Warning: Disturbing footage.

Two dismembered bodies found in a suitcase by teenagers making a TikTok video in Seattle have been identified as a mother-of-four and her partner.

The bodies of Jessica Lewis, 35, and long-term boyfriend Austin ‘Cash’ Wenner, 27, were discovered in the luggage on Alki Beach on June 19. Their ‘heartbroken’ families, who described the couple as a ‘fun-loving, affectionate couple’, are offering a $10,000 reward to anyone who can provide information, saying that ‘somebody knows something’.

Teenagers, who spotted the suitcase lying on beach rocks, filmed the discovery and posted it on social media site TikTok. Initially, they joked that it may contain cash but when they opened it they were concerned about the ‘overwhelming’ smell coming from a bin bag stuffed inside and alerted police.

The King County Medical Examiner concluded that Ms Lewis and Mr Wenner were shot days before their remains were discovered, reported KomoNews.

The mother died on June 16 from multiple gunshot wounds and Mr Wenner died on the same day from a single bullet injury to the torso.

Along with the suitcase found on the beach, another bag was found in the water nearby.

The FBI told Kiro-7 that the killer could have been trying to make a statement by leaving their bodies discoverable in the suitcases.

Ms Lewis’ aunt, Gina Jaschke, said her family can hardly bear the thought of what happened to the couple of eight years.

She said her niece, who worked with adults with disabilities, had a ‘big heart’ and was ‘the most caring person’.

‘They were just nice normal people,’ she told Kiro-7. ‘Nobody deserves what happened to them.’

She added: ‘I want somebody to pay for what they’ve done and if it brings any kind of solace to my family, I’ll do it. Because they’re just devastated.’

Ms Jaschke has started a GoFundMe page to help raise the reward money to ‘catch these animals’.

‘Jessica & Cash were good-hearted people,’ Ms Jaschke wrote. ‘She leaves behind 4 beautiful children.

‘Their parents and family are heartbroken beyond words. Along with countless friends and loved ones’.

She continued: ‘Please help find the person or persons responsible for this senseless crime…

‘Somebody knows something, and whoever helps solved this case will receive the money raised for their reward.’

The teenagers said they found the suitcase after being sent to the spot by Randonautica, an app which generates random coordinates for users to follow based on their intentions.

After posting the video of the discovery online, TikTok user Ughhenry captioned it: ‘Something traumatic happened that changed my life’.

The social media user told viewers that they became a ‘little scared and nervous’ while filing the report to police after finding the luggage, realising it was something a lot more serious than they initially thought.

Responding to comments, Ughhenry wrote that he ‘broke down’ the moment he got home after finding the suitcase.

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Yo Yo Honey Singh: Meri wife apne hath mein chhadi pakad kar cardio karati hai mujhse

Rapper-composer Yo Yo Honey Singh took his fans by surprise when he flaunted his fit body and posted a series of pictures on Instagram last week.However, it hasn’t been an easy journey for Singh to achieve this toned body, as he admits that ever since he made a comeback with his single Makhna in 2017, he hasn’t been in the “right shape”. He tells us, “Since that time, my fans were not exactly happy with my body, and were pushing me to get back in shape.”


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Checkout my Latest body transformation pictures, lockdown mein ki gayi mehnat !! Share which one u like !! Pic -5 , abs under process #yoyohoneysingh #yoyo #transformation

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From chole bhature and butter chicken to beetroot tikki and gluten-free food
So, for the last two years, Singh has been trying hard to get back in shape and following extreme workout sessions, changing his diet habits, which has seen the self-confessed street food lover stay away from his favourites — chole bhature, butter chicken and mutton curry in “Punjabi style” — and switch to a gluten free and carb free diet that includes sprouts and beetroot tikki.

“Until two years back, I had a lot of issues related to digestions and acidity. My dietician asked me to stay away from dairy products and wheat, and strictly no carbs. So for one year now, I don’t have breakfast, lunch or dinner. My meals are divided into small portions during the day, and main tukdon mein khata hoon or sabka swaad leta hoon,” he says.

Elated with the results, Singh wants to keep it this way for some time now and has decided to stay from any cheat days. “I’m really happy with the kind of shape I’m in, so, there’ll be no cheat days for a while. I haven’t had butter chicken in over four months now, and I think my last plate of chole bhature was six months back. And I am not going to have them anytime soon,” he quips

The two-way fight: Mental and physical
The result of this disciplined routine was evident, when Singh shared his recent pictures in the gym looking fitter and healthier. “But it wasn’t easy,” he says, and reveals that the medication he has been taking to treat his bipolar disorder, had affected his physical health greatly.

“The medicines contained a lot of sodium and lithium that affect your thyroid and weight. It was a two way fight. On a mental level, to fight the illness I was taking medicines, and then to fight its side effects, I had to work out. Working out became twice as hard, because you’ve to work harder if you want to see a positive change in your body,” he adds. 


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Moscow Mashooka Recording Session !! #yoyo #yoyohoneysingh

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Disciplined workout regime, thanks to the family
Singh further shares that his family’s support helped him achieve his dream. “Both my mom and my dad do yoga, everyday. They also teach it to people for free. So, they’re a lot disciplined when it comes to physical health. They pushed me, kept me disciplined and encouraged me to keep working hard,” he recounts.

Talking about what all training he underwent, the singer adds, “I did kick-boxing and a lot of functional training. I used to stay away from cardio, but my wife, Shalini, made sure I do that as well. Hath mein chhadi pakad kar cardio karati hai mujhse (laughs). And because of that, I started focusing on cardio and started doing things like sprints and other exercises.”


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Celebrating Father’s Day n Music Day !! Much love to everyone

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Staying positive is the key
Having undergone this physical transformation, Singh is in a happy state of mind. “Its imperative for any performer to stay fit, because you’re on stage, singing, dancing, shouting at the top of your voice. I’m really looking forward to some crazy concerts,” he says, adding that he shared photos of his transformation to inspire people.

“You’ve to look at things from only a positive perspective. When you look at your tummy in the mirror, don’t think negatively. It should motivate you to work harder. Similarly, when I see my biceps in the mirror, it should motivate me to work harder, and get the best results possible,” he ends.

Interact with the author on Twitter/@sammysamarth

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Burger King store closures: 53 restaurants could close leading to 1,600 job losses

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Burger King UK’s chief executive Alasdair Murdoch warned the company could shut up to 10 percent of its outlets which would be as many as 53 stores as a result of the economic damage caused by the coronavirus crisis. The closures could lead to 1,600 job losses.

Mr Murdoch told the BBC’s Newscast: “We don’t want to lose any [jobs].

“We try very hard not to, but one’s got to assume somewhere between five percent and 10 percent of the restaurants might not be able to survive.

“It’s not just us – I think this applies to everyone out there in our industry.”

Only about 370 of the chain’s 530 UK stores have reopened since the nation went into lockdown.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Wednesday unveiled a £30 billion support package to save the UK’s economy.

The measures included an “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme in a bid to boost the hospitality sector.

But Mr Murdoch warned the Government’s plans do not go far enough to compensate restaurants for the combination of fixed costs and lost sales during the coronavirus outbreak.

He said: “I don’t think you can ever get over the top of this problem.”

Mr Sunak’s “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme provides 50 percent off – up to a maximum of £10 per head – meals at participating businesses across the UK every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday during August.

The Chancellor told the Commons: “I can announce today that, for the month of August, we will give everyone in the country an ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ discount.

“Meals eaten at any participating business, Monday to Wednesday, will be 50 percent off, up to a maximum discount of £10 per head for everyone, including children.

“Businesses will need to register and can do so through a simple website, open next Monday.

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“Each week in August, businesses can then claim the money back, with the funds in their bank account within five working days.”

Speaking this morning, Mr Sunak warned that jobs are at risk if economic activity does not return to normal.

He told Sky News: “We’ve moved through the acute phase of the crisis where large swathes of the economy were closed.

“We’re now fortunately able to safely reopen parts of our economy, that’s the most important thing that we can do to get things going.

“But we won’t know the exact shape of that recovery for a little while – how will people respond to the new freedoms of being able to go out and about again.

“We have to rediscover behaviours that we’ve essentially unlearned over the last few months.

“But unless activity returns to normal, those jobs are at risk of going which is why we acted in the way that we did.”

Restaurants, cafes and pubs have been badly hit by the coronavirus lockdown, with many staff placed on the Government’s furlough scheme.

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John Lewis to permanently close eight stores with 1,300 jobs at risk

John Lewis says it will permanently close eight of its stores, putting 1,300 jobs at risk.

Two full-size department stores in Birmingham and Watford are closing, as well as four At Home shops in Croydon, Newbury, Swindon and Tamworth, and two travel hub outlets at Heathrow and St Pancras.

The John Lewis Partnership said the decision was made to ‘secure the business’s long-term future and respond to customers’ shopping needs’.

It said the eight shops were already ‘financially challenged’ before the pandemic, which has driven customers towards online shopping.

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The group estimated that between 60% and 70% of John Lewis sales will be made online this year and next, compared with 40% before the coronavirus crisis.

John Lewis Partnership chairwoman Sharon White said: ‘Closing a shop is always incredibly difficult and today’s announcement will come as very sad news to customers and partners.

‘However, we believe closures are necessary to help us secure the sustainability of the partnership – and continue to meet the needs of our customers however and wherever they want to shop.

‘Redundancies are always an absolute last resort and we will do everything we can to keep as many partners as possible within our business.’

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This is a breaking news story, more to follow.

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EU to back Croatia, Bulgaria in first step to join euro, sources say

BRUSSELS, July 9 (Reuters) – Euro zone officials are ready to let Croatia and Bulgaria into the ERM-2 mechanism, a preliminary stage for adopting the euro as their currency in the next three years, four sources told Reuters.

The move would pave the way for the first enlargement of the euro zone since 2015, when Lithuania joined the currency bloc, which now has 19 members.

European officials said a decision was imminent after a final backing from euro zone and EU finance ministers, who hold video conferences later on Thursday and Friday.

Two sources said the decision was likely to be announced outside market hours, probably during the weekend, to prevent market speculation.

Officials said some minor issues remained to be settled in the coming hours. They could delay the announcement beyond the weekend, but were unlikely to derail the decision on accession to the ERM-2 exchange rate mechanism.

Once countries join the ERM-2, they remain in the mechanism for about two years before starting the practical preparations to join the euro zone, a process that takes roughly another year, making 2023 the earliest year for euro membership. (Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio in Brussels, Tsevetelia Tsolova in Sofia, Balazs Koranyi in Frankfurt and Igor Ilic in Zagreb; editing by Larry King)

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