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New Governor arrives to a disgraced Public Service

…as departed Governor Pearce admits his own ‘poor’ governance

by Bennette Roach – April 1, 2022

Governor Andrew Pearce responding the question during his last press conference surrounding the Deputy Governor’s overpayment of her remuneration (2018-2022)

A Public Service in Disgrace

Outgoing Governor Andrew Pearce OBE just before he was ready to depart his failed tour of duty to the United Kingdom Government (UKG), and the Montserrat Government (GoM), must have gotten to a state where he somehow had to justify his many misleading if not ‘ignorant’ orations over untoward matters involving very senior public servants.

As Mrs. Sarah Tucker takes up duty as Governor of this British Overseas Territory, Montserrat, she must have been already aware that among the major challenges she will face in Montserrat, prime is centered around the whole machinery of government, the “Public Service”, to include the executive and its associates.

New Governor: Mrs. Sarah Tucker

This might appear on the surface simple to a newcomer but may not be that unfamiliar to her, based on pertinent information preceding her. It didn’t appear that way to Governor Carriere on her arrival. No doubt on advice from her predecessor who had revealed his sordid thoughts, and opinions of the public service hierarchy, she began speaking to and attacking issues, reporting disappointment on her achievement in the 12th month of her governorship.

Former Governor Miss Elizabeth Carriere, shares the guilt of disgrace (2015-2018)

Former Governor Carriere had said early enough: “So many people from both within and outside the public service have stressed this to me and expressed alarm at the current state of the service,” confirming the opinions expressed and published by TMR over and over again.” See:

Mrs. Tucker may be interested and pleased to take time soon and familiarise herself before she gets sucked in.

The background

There is a well-known saying, “A Fish Rots From the Head Down”.
About to leave, the Governor threw Mrs. Lyndel Simpson, the Deputy Governor, “under the bus”, even when he declared, his actions of calling for a review into her year-old ‘rumoured alleged financial misdeeds’ he said it was not his “intention… to throw the book at anyone or be unkind to anyone…”, going well out of the way to yet simplify what would be considered serious misconduct by his bosses.

Immediately following his arrival to Montserrat, at his “Swearing IN” ceremony at a special sitting of the Legislative Assembly he said, among many other things, he vowed, “…to do my part in making things better for the Montserratian community,

He paid tribute to his predecessor, Elizabeth Carriere, and the work she did in a number of areas. But in particular, “I applaud her,” on public sector reform through the Empowering Excellence Programme.

He declared, “A modern, motivated and efficient public service is a cornerstone and driver of a thriving economy and business environment in Montserrat.”

The problem she said: “… it really is also an attitude that the public service is a public service and we must carry out the right kind of service not just for Montserratians but also for people who are visiting Montserrat, so this is also an area of focus for improvement.”
It should be noted that the announcements were made during an “update on the initiative which is being undertaken through “Human Resource Transformation” project, (already) on stream for about four months.

Governor Pearce was to share these sentiments on his arrival but did nothing to carry on from where she left off.

Deputy Governor Mrs. Lyndel Simpson (2016 –

Enemy of Montserrat

In her (Carriere) last official function before leaving Montserrat on January 2, 2018, she confirmed the substantive appointment of Lyndell Simpson as Deputy Governor by means of effect from January 1 2017, which meant she served in the acting position for 13 months. She was initially appointed as Acting Deputy Governor on December 1, 2016, subject to a one-year probation period. At the end of that period, the Governor appraised Mrs. Simpson who immediately at the Governor’s departure as she noted, became “Acting Governor until the incoming governor arrives.”

All of the DG’s appointments were made in dispute of one or the other circumstance; including the current one, her third, which ends this year, since it runs from January 1, 2021. This last act could perhaps count as the most ‘disgraceful act’. That is so because it appears that the involvement with ‘money’ outranks ‘poor’ civil misconduct.

The Deputy Governor, having received a new three-year contract, on January 2, 2018, amidst unsavory whispers by dissatisfied public servants, because of actions already attributed to or about her, had already earned the early title of “Enemy of Montserrat”.
During her ‘probation’ year, in September 2017, Governor Carriere had obviously sanctioned the DG’s firing of the first head of the Project Management Office (PMO). “It was shocking news…he has been relieved of his duties,” was the

report. The unconfirmed information at the time was corrupt and disgraceful and involved several very senior government personnel to include the FS

Colin Owen, Financial Secretary

and at least one minister.

Among his initial achievements in the support of the Governments development agenda he had already put in place in a short space of time, new high-transparency, high-accountability frameworks for project, programme and portfolio management through world-class standards.

One witness to the action being conducted, described it as he was “frogged marched” by a very senior officer with a military background within the Ministry who demanded that he follow and leave his office in the Ministry of Finance.

Carl Gomersal head of the PMoffice

This action is popularly said to have set Montserrat back four years, and we consider her first serious disgraceful act. This gentleman fired “with no cause”, had come to be very highly respected because of his keenness to his duties and his great desire to see the work of his office bring results quickly for Montserrat. See:

He stressed, “It is through the support, work, creativity, and commitment of many other people, both inside and outside the public service.”

Governor Carriere’s duty cut short

It was less than a month later Governor Carriere would experience a call from TMR, “Governor Carriere should apologise to the Premier and Montserrat.” This we believe may have helped to bring about her early departure from Montserrat, three months later. See:

Empowering Excellence private sector team (included two junior members of the public service at far rt of the front row)

Governor Carriere had faltered in her Power of Excellence drive. The decline was now in train although the Power of Excellence program continued highlighting on the way, the real need for change and reform.

That firing began a serious downhill impact. There was the Montserrat Transformation Program (MTP), critical to the all-around development of Montserrat. It was an approved Cabinet decision dated January 30, 2017, a little less than two years of the closure of MDC, which agreed: “…to endorse the development of Montserrat Transformation Programme by a cross-functional working group led by the Financial Secretary in the short-term, until the CEO of the Office of the Premier is recruited; and, that, (note) the Office of the Deputy Governor should be responsible for the structural changes of the transformation.” By the way that never happened, the DG saw to that, and to this day we have heard no word of the MTP being instituted.

Dr. Jocelyn Clarke-Fletcher

A chance to excel with the drive for the Power of Excellence, it was no surprise when by September, Montserrat had recruited Dr. Clarke-Fletcher who came to her post (reportedly overqualified). (See:

What ‘luck’! But that was to result in the second major disgrace of the DG’s management and this time under Governor Pearce, who had already shown a clear misunderstanding, or careless approach, to be mild, as to the workings of the DG’s office and his responsibility for the work of managing the public service.
Dr. Fletcher had been in the post for just about nine months. She emphasised, that, although it was with grave difficulty, (there are the records and other evidence that will show), she had been nothing but professional in carrying out her functions.

Unlike Gomersal, she didn’t wait to be ‘frog-marched’, she simply left. Only like Gomersal, spared the Government of Montserrat a lawsuit for ‘unfair dismissal.’
The Governor’s office releasing: “…Mrs. Cheverlyn Williams Kirnon replaces Dr. Jocelyn Clarke-Fletcher with whom the government of Montserrat severed its employment relationship on Wednesday Dr. Clarke-Fletcher…effective Wednesday, June 20, 2018,” This without comment from H. E. Governor Pearce. With no comment either from the Executive of Montserrat except for the whispers, we would learn later that they were not all on the same page, for reasons we will learn of later, although there had been a (published) hint from Governor Carriere, plus a measure of ignorance, which would have exacerbated the disgraceful actions.

But, how did it get to us being able to label Governor Pearce as a failure and leaving the public service in disgrace? He further enabled his ‘troubled’ deputy, who had just received her second term contract this time for three years (Jan 2, 2018 – Jan 2021) mere weeks before he began his tour of duty.

During this DG’s tenure, there have been posts unfilled and several officers, junior and senior, were either suspended or waiting for complaints and charges against them to be settled by the PSC and/or in the courts: there were appointments being made contrary to the advice and recommendation of the Public Service Commission.

With the complaints and whispers of public servants being suspended for years and months, some were dismissed on questionable grounds. There was swirling news of lawsuits. No wonder that Governor Pearce throughout and at the end, considered the DG’s job “tough and hard”, simply displaying an unbelievable and unacceptable sense of justice within the public service.
As these questionable, some challenged activities continued, her behaviour would hit rock bottom. Her actions were complained about and referred to by the President of the Montserrat Civil Service Association as, “atrocious, unprofessional and demeaning”; while the victim (third in command at the Human Resource department) referred to the loud verbal abuse she endured as, “appalling and unprofessional.”

This atrocity took place on October 16, 2019 at the Human Resource Management Unit where her third in command worked as the Director of the Unit. The Hon. DG Lyndell Simpson repeated her misbehaviour, approaching another parent at a supermarket (her reactions stemmed from school boy’s melee at school).

The president of the MCSA referred to both instances “as unprofessional and demeaning for a person holding such a high office (indeed any public officer) referring to clauses in the Public Service Code of Conduct, and Deputy Governor’s post duties and obligations. “See: and:

Governor Pearce’s dealings with the DG’s misdeeds culminating with that last ‘financial’ matter stands out, leaving the public service in ‘disgrace’, the mark of his tenure, with him at the head. He side-stepped questioning of what had become common that the DG without sanction (as it was rumoured, without sanction of any authority), she was receiving an increase in either salary or allowances, or both. The Governor at one point denied that this was so and like he did in every other situation.

Then this. In May last year, not long after approving her third and current contract, the Governor had told ZJB Radio, on the salary/allowance issue: “Those rumours (about the payments) are completely without foundation and they are malicious and they should be ignored; the Deputy Governor continues to have my absolute full confidence…in the important work she is doing in Montserrat.”

Incompetence or Corruption!?
The Governor at his farewell press conference claimed he would be blunt and frank with the local media having to face, perhaps unsurprising to him, concerns on issues regarding the Public Service and its state in Montserrat.

At my turn I asked the question relating directly to the Deputy Governor’s obtaining for herself ‘salary, allowance, increase’ whichever of these, in whatever fashion and by whatever means the Governor noted, questions relating to this particular issue had been raised to him several times before. Indeed, he had previously dismissed the issue as mentioned above on more than one occasion.

He spoke in answer to the question for nine (9) minutes, although he had noted that he had spoken previously to or about this matter. It was in the seventh minute that he said this: “…I’ve asked for two reviews. I asked for one review, which didn’t to be honest, quite do the job. I want to be fair to people and so I think I’ve explained before that I’ve asked for another review … this time I’ve asked it to be done by a fully independent judicially trained individual and that is just starting… and it’s not intended to throw the book at anyone or be unkind to anyone…”
“Not only it’s just intended to sort out what was an unfortunate mistake not major sums of money involved… before I go, so I’ve briefed my successor…”, he said.

The book was thrown, not only to the DG, since in the meantime, he had highlighted either the ignorance, corruption, or both of the Premier who he noted: “… I’ve explained it to the premier, I’ve explained it in writing to the premier uh so he knows all that – because he obviously has to answer these things in parliament…”

It is in that and similar situations as the Governor alluded to, that we find the Premier complicit either out of ignorance or corruption as hinted earlier. His behaviour in answer to questions on the matter had been up to that time deplorable and suspiciously dishonest. Did the Governor give that information because he was aware of the Premier’s evasion of the matter in the Legislative Assembly, thus throwing him also under the bus?

In the nine-minute answer the Governor, rambling at times obviously simplifying the matter as he has in every situation that the DG behaved dishonourably.

He said: “…the deputy governor’s job is a tough one, it’s a particularly tough one … somebody doing that job trying to keep this thousand people sort of happy and well run, cannot conceivably do it all in perfection every day themselves…”

He noted that the DG was already in post before he arrived – “…The DG’s been here for all of my time she was appointed before I arrived that appointment was approved by Lord Ahmed a British minister at the time on the basis of advice and I think she’s done a very good job…I think, is it three contracts in total, first contract then there was a one just as I was arriving and then there’s another most recent one for about two years until the end of this year so the three contracts for the DG…”

It is here that he showed the deliberateness of the action of the transaction. He noted, “…there were a few changes and there were changes around the margins of a contract to things like telephone allowance and this sort of thing a few small things of that sort not a major set of changes and entirely normal for people when they move from sort of I suppose you might call it almost a probationary type of appointment to fully fledged contracts it’s quite normal to have a few adjustments of that sort and almost everybody on the island has those sorts of adjustments.”
He said the following but noted he was repeating himself: “…clearly there were discussions my view was that it would not be right. I wanted to pay everybody more but my view is that it would not be right to pay the DG or any other senior member of the public service an increase…”

He continued, (we will publish elsewhere the full transcript, but he continued), stressing: “…it did not feel right to me to uh to give a salary increase and I didn’t and I didn’t approve one.
“For some reason, there was some sort of mistake made in the paperwork, misunderstanding, and uh I didn’t read all the details of dollars and pennies…”
The Governor admitted that ultimately there was some mistake on his part, at the same time showing up the fact that there is incompetence, slackness, ignorance, or just “dunceness” at the head down. “It’s not really for a governor, to be frank, to have to read all those things you… but I signed the letter of appointment without rereading and checking myself personally in detail…” (approval?).

Indeed! Where did the authorisation for that increase begin?

The Governor in the end says: “It seems within HR (Human Resource dept) that there was an appropriate level for that allowance and the DG was not at that level and therefore to be fair and consistent there shouldn’t have been an increase I didn’t spot it I wasn’t told about it and I didn’t approve it but it went through on that basis now to be fair to people somebody gets a contract they sign it in good faith they don’t know either they’re getting that contract they can assume I think that it was you know all reasonably uh approved and so on it went for six/seven months or so until it was brought to the attention of parliament quite rightly.

The Governor in the end shows that there might have been collusion, adding to the obvious incompetence that he heads.

The question one might ask who is the head of HR? Who is really responsible directly under the Governor and the duly appointed Premier?

We note that mentioned briefly here are just a few major acts that have been costly to the administration of the public service which is the engine of the Territory’s existence. There are numerous other disastrous actions that together leave a stench, from which the rot that we endure begins. A disgraced public service in operation since 2016 – and before!

Much to see how this new Governor Tucker conducts her governorship.

Governor Pearce’s last press conference (DG’s extra salary, perks, allowances begin 55:12 min…)

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ECCU Social Security Systems Are Key to National Development

from ECCB Connects…

  • March 21, 2022

The role of Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) Social Security Systems is critical to national

Speaking on the second of a two-part interview, recently Retired Director of the Anguilla Social Security Board, Dr. Timothy Hodge, and Acting Deputy Director Research Department, ECCB, Shernnel Thompson, discuss the roles of social security systems; some of the challenges the systems are facing; and steps that can be taken to protect and preserve these important systems.

Dr Hodge says that over the years, social security systems have provided a much stronger and bigger framework to prevent social chaos by removing the likelihood of persons who may end up as wards of the State. He adds that the social safety net provided by the region’s social security systems allows people to retire with some sense of dignity. In addition, Dr. Hodge says that the fund provides an avenue for investment when loaned to governments in the form of bills and bonds. Hence, he concludes that social security systems are often aligned with the ECCU governments’ development agenda.

Speaking from a central-banking perspective, Thompson notes that social security systems comprise one of the largest depositories of commercial banks. Hence it is important for close monitoring of these systems, given their link to the health and stability of the financial sector.

Dr. Hodge reiterates that, in the face of major challenges like the economic crisis of 2008, Hurricane Irma, and the COVID-19 pandemic, social security systems must remain strong, robust, and sustainable. He calls on the citizens of the ECCU to demand good governance, proper legislation, management, and compliance to ensure these systems continue to function effectively.

For the full discussion on the ECCU Social Security Systems, view ECCB Connects on the ECCB Connects YouTube channel and Facebook page.

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Turkey and Syria earthquake updates: death toll passes 21,000 as rescue efforts enter fourth night – latest news

An injured man is rescued from under rubble 87 hours after earthquakes hit in Turkey. Follow the latest news and live updates from the Turkey-Syria earthquake. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Death toll in Turkey alone is now more than 17,000 following Monday’s earthquake

Death toll rises to more than 21,000

The death toll from Monday’s earthquake on both sides of the border in Turkey and Syria is now more than 21,000.

Officials and medics said 17,674 people had died in Turkey and 3,377 in Syria from Monday’s 7.8-magnitude tremor, bringing the confirmed total to 21,051, Agency France Presse reports.

It comes after the White Helmets said on Twitter, that at least 2,030 people have been killed with more than 2,950 injured. Earlier on Thursday the death toll in the rebel-held area was 1,900.

21.24 GMT

Associated Press has this heart-rending dispatch about the situation facing orphaned Syrian babies and children whose parents were killed in the earthquake:

A Syrian baby girl whose mother gave birth to her while trapped under the rubble of their home during this week’s devastating earthquake now has a name: Aya, Arabic for “a sign from God.” With her parents and all her siblings killed, her great-uncle will take her in.

Aya is one of untold numbers of orphans left by Monday’s 7.8-magnitude quake, which killed more than 20,000 people in northern Syria and southeastern Turkey. The pre-dawn quake brought down thousands of apartment buildings on residents as they were roused from sleep, so entire families often perished.

In most cases, relatives take in orphaned children, doctors and experts say. But those surviving relatives are also dealing with the wreckage of their own lives and families. In the continued chaos days after the quake, with the dead and a dwindling number of survivors still being found, doctors say it’s impossible to say how many children lost their parents.

At one hospital in north-west Syria, a red-haired 7-year-old girl, Jana al-Abdo, asked repeatedly where her parents were after she was brought in, said Dr Khalil Alsfouk, who was treating her. “We later found out she was the only one who survived among her entire family,” he said.

In the case of the newborn Aya, her father’s uncle, Salah al-Badran, will take her in once she is released from the hospital.

But his own house was also destroyed in the north-west Syrian town of Jindires. He and his family managed to escape the one-story building, but now the household of 11 people are living in a tent, he told the Associated Press.

“After the earthquake, there’s no one able to live in his house or building. Only 10% of the buildings here are safe to live in and the rest are unlivable,” he said, communicating via voice messages.

Rescue workers in Jindires discovered Aya on Monday afternoon, more than 10 hours after the quake hit, as they were digging through the wreckage of the five-story apartment building where her parents lived.

Buried under the concrete, the baby was still connected by her umbilical cord to her mother, Afraa Abu Hadiya, who was dead, along with her husband and four other children. The baby was rushed to a hospital in the nearby town of Afrin.

Abu Hadiya probably gave birth to the girl and then died a few hours before they were discovered, said Dr Hani Maarouf at Cihan hospital in Afrin.

“We named her Aya, so we could stop calling her a new-born baby,” said Maarouf. Her condition is improving by the day and there was no damage to her spine, as initially feared, he said.

The UN children’s agency, Unicef, said it has been monitoring children whose parents are missing or killed, providing food, clothes and medicine and coordinating with hospitals to track down extended family members who might be able to care for them.

In Turkey, the ministry of family and social services appealed to potential foster families to submit applications. It said children whose families or relatives could not be found were currently being taken care of in state institutions. Staff were assessing their needs and placing them with registered foster families, the ministry said.

Updated at 21.28 GMT

21.04 GMT

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has spoken to Turkey’s finance minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, about how the US can provide assistance in Turkey and Syria.

US state department spokesperson Ned Price said the US would continue to demand unhindered humanitarian access to Syria and urged Bashar al-Assad’s government to immediately allow aid through all border crossings.

“This was primarily an effort to garner from our Turkish allies what they would like to see from the United States,” Price told reporters, adding that the US expects it will have more to say on aid to Turkey soon.

Çavuşoğlu gave specifics about Turkey’s needs, Price said, according to Reuters. He added that Washington “will do everything we possibly can to fulfil the needs that the Turks have put forward”.

Price said US helicopters were helping rescue personnel reach difficult-to-access areas and said Washington was pre-positioning relief equipment it hoped would join the recovery efforts.

The US is providing a disaster assistance response team of about 200 people, including two urban search and rescue teams.

Paramedics, emergency responders, hazardous material technicians and others had already arrived, Price said.

Washington is also sending concrete breakers, generators, medical supplies, tents, water and water purification systems, he added.

20.31 GMT

Our reporter Ruth Michaelson has written this from Istanbul, on how the perceived slow response by Turkey has affected the standing of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan:

The gleaming black sedan wound through the epicentre of Turkey’s deadly earthquake in the town of Pazarcık.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s car glistened in the sunlight as the Turkish president passed citizens burning fires to keep warm in the freezing cold among towering piles of rubble that were once their homes.

Erdoğan limited his interactions with the public in Pazarcık, instead driving directly to the local police headquarters to discuss the aftermath of the multiple massive tremors that left a trail of destruction over 10 Turkish provinces and across northern Syria, trapping people underneath collapsed buildings and killing more than 20,000.

When he did stop to speak briefly to the area’s shattered and distraught residents, it was to double down on the notion that the quake was solely responsible for the devastation, rather than poorly constructed buildings linked to corruption, or a rescue response beset by delays.

“What happens, happens, this is part of fate’s plan,” he told one person in Pazarcık, echoing his statements just months earlier after a deadly mining disaster at a state-run coalmine, where the president blamed “fate’s design”, for an explosion that left at least 41 dead.

During a speech in nearby Kahramanmaraş, Erdoğan also lashed out at “provocateurs” who criticised rescue efforts, adding: “Of course, there are shortcomings. The conditions are clear to see. It’s not possible to be ready for a disaster like this.”

Read more:

‘What happens, happens’: how Erdoğan’s earthquake response tarnished his brandRead more

Updated at 21.31 GMT

20.21 GMT

World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is on his way to Syria, where the WHO is part of the response.

20.18 GMT

World Bank to provide $1.78bn to Turkey for recovery effort

The World Bank announced it will provide Turkey with $1.78bn (£1.47bn) in aid to Turkey to help relief and recovery efforts.

The body’s president David Malpass said: “We are providing immediate assistance and preparing a rapid assessment of the urgent and massive needs on the ground.

“This will identify priority areas for the country’s recovery and reconstruction as we prepare operations to support those needs.”

It comes as Agency France Presse reported on Thursday that the US will provide $85m (£70.1m) in aid for Turkey and Syria.

Immediate assistance of $780m (£643m) will be offered via Contingent Emergency Response Components from two existing projects in Turkey, said the bank.

“The assistance will be used for rebuilding basic infrastructure at the municipal level,” it added.

20.07 GMT

The death toll has risen again in north-west Syria, as the country’s civil defence group – the White Helmets – said that more than 2,000 people have now died in the region.

On Twitter, they said that at least 2,030 people have been killed with more than 2,950 injured. Earlier on Thursday the death toll in the rebel-held area was 1,900.

The number of people killed overall topped 20,000 earlier on Thursday, after updated totals from Turkey’s disaster and emergency body.

Updated at 20.22 GMT

20.02 GMT

Greece has set aside a historic rivalry to send thousands of tents, beds and blankets to help those left homeless by the earthquake.

The government in Athens plans to provide 80 tonnes of assistance such as blankets, beds, tents and medical supplies, its civil protection ministry said. Commercial flights carrying boxes with part of the aid landed at the Turkish airport of Adana early on Thursday, with the operation expected to conclude by Friday, according to Reuters.

“We have brought medicines, medical supplies and essentials to relieve a bit the pain of quake-afflicted people,” said the Greek civil protection minister, Christos Stylianides, who escorted the aid to Adana. “It’s time we all show our feelings of humanism.”

Greece and Turkey have been at odds for decades over a range of issues, from territorial rights in the Aegean Sea to ethnically-split Cyprus and migration, and tensions had rekindled recently.

However the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, called Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on Monday to offer his condolences over the lives lost.

Updated at 20.05 GMT

18.19 GMT

More than 20,000 people confirmed to have died in earthquake

The death toll from the earthquake has now risen above 20,000, after Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency body published its latest update on the amount of people who have died.

AFAD said the death toll in Turkey is now 17,134, Reuters reports.

It would make an increase from the total announced by Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday afternoon, which stood at 16,546.

State media in Syria said the death toll in government-held areas had risen to 1,347, up from 1,262.

Earlier, the White Helmets civil defence group said 1,930 had been reported dead in rebel-held areas in the north-west of the country. It brings the overall total to 20,411.

Experts have said the casualty figures are expected to continue to rise in the coming days.

17.47 GMT

The UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, has visited a donation centre in central London set up by students from University College London’s Turkish society.

He helped pack items, as well as donating hats, scarves and blankets. The items will be sent to Turkey and Syria in the next few days.

Updated at 17.55 GMT

17.05 GMT


Rachel Hall

Rachel Hall

It’s now 8pm in Turkey and Syria. Here’s the summary of the key developments from the afternoon and early evening:

  • The combined death toll in Turkey and Syria from Monday’s devastating earthquake rose to at least 19,823, after Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, announced that 16,546 had died, while state media in Syria reported that the death toll in government-held areas had risen to 1,347. Earlier, the White Helmets civil defence group said 1,930 had been reported dead in rebel-held areas in the north-west of the country.
  • At least 28,044 people have been evacuated from Kahramanmaraş, one of the southern Turkish provinces hardest hit by Monday’s earthquake, including 23,437 by air and 4,607 by road and rail, Turkey’s disaster management agency said.
  • Rescuers continued to pull people who have been trapped for days out of the rubble, including a young girl trapped for three days.
  • Turkey announced that it had received pledges of aid from 95 countries and 16 international organisations since Monday, and 6,479 rescue workers from 56 countries were already active in the 10 provinces affected by the quake, with teams from 19 more countries set to be in place within 24 hours.
  • France announced €12m in emergency post-earthquake aid to Syrians, with the aid to be disbursed “through non-governmental organisations and the UN in all regions affected”, while Germany said it would increase humanitarian assistance in Syria by €26m.
  • Turkey’s disaster management agency, AHAD, said it has recorded almost 650 aftershocks since two earthquakes – 7.8 and 7.6 in magnitude – struck, making rescue efforts even more difficult and dangerous as emergency teams comb through severely weakened buildings.
  • A Reuters report shed light on how hundreds of thousands of people made homeless by the quake are being housed in banks of tents erected in stadiums and shattered city centres, while Mediterranean and Aegean beach resorts outside the quake zone are opening up hotel rooms for evacuees.
  • The UN will dispatch its aid chief, Martin Griffiths, to Gaziantep, in Turkey, and Aleppo and Damascus, in Syria, this weekend to assess how the UN can best step up support, according to UN secretary-general, António Guterres, who also urged the Syrian government to allow aid-access to the country’s rebel-held north-west.

If you would like to donate in support of the rescue effort, lots of charities are desperately seeking extra funds to provide urgently needed medical and humanitarian assistance in Turkey and Syria. You can find out how to donate to the Disasters Emergency Committee – coordinating the response on behalf of 14 UK charities – here, or another list of charities accepting donations is here.

Thanks for following the blog. I’m handing over to my colleague Harry Taylor who will keep you updated for the next few hours.

Updated at 17.21 GMT

17.00 GMT

Ukrainian rescue experts involved in the war effort are bringing their skills to the devastation in Turkey to search flattened buildings for survivors, erect tents and offer first aid.

Reuters reports:

Oleksandr Khorunzhyi, a spokesperson for the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, said:

There is a war in our country, but we understand that we have to help, and this aid is mutual. There is no other way to do it.

This work goes on constantly, we have prepared people who take part in such operations.

Kyiv has sent 88 people to Turkey to help with the disaster, including specialists in search and rescue operations, doctors, dog handlers and firefighters.

The Ukrainian team built tents near the Turkish city of Antakya close to the Syrian border to provide emergency shelter and set up generators for those left homeless by the earthquake.

Updated at 17.34 GMT

16.46 GMT

Reuters has a devastating report shedding light on the tragedy that is unfolding in north-west Syria:

Rescuers working by torchlight pulled three-year-old Tariq Haidar from the rubble 42 hours after a devastating earthquake destroyed his family home in the Syrian town of Jandaris.

Orphaned by the earthquake that hit Syria and Turkey in the dead of night on Monday, Haidar was brought to a hospital where doctors were forced to amputate his left leg. They are trying to save his right.

Malek Qasida, a nurse caring for him, said:

As soon as he woke up, and saw us in front of him, he asked: ‘Where is Miral?’. We asked: ‘Who is Miral?’. He said: ‘My sister, she was sleeping next to me but she wasn’t answering me’.

They pulled out his father and two of his siblings before him, dead.

There are hundreds of children still under the rubble.

The bodies of his mother and a third sibling were recovered from the rubble later, people in the area said. His removal from the wreckage was the latest in a series of eye-catching rescues caught on camera in the areas in Syria and Turkey hit by the earthquake.

Jandaris was severely damaged by the quake, which has killed at least 1,930 people in rebel-held north-west Syria, according to rescue workers. The Syrian government says the toll in its part of the fractured country is 1,347.

The Syrian civil defence, the rescue service in the north-west, said on Thursday many families remained under the rubble.

Posted in Earthquake, Featured, International, Local, Regional0 Comments


Antigua and Barbuda PM Browne secures third term in general elections

For a third consecutive term, the Antigua and Barbuda Labor Party, headed by Gaston Browne, has been re-elected into office in what was a very competitive general election.

Although the ABLP claimed election victory and a number of its stalwarts held on to their seats, the party suffered several losses too.

Antigua & Barbuda prime minister, Gaston Browne. (GP) – FP

The ABLP claimed nine seats in total, a downward shift down from its former 15.

The Barbuda People’s Movement retained the one seat that it had held for two terms and the independent candidate for St Peter, Asot Michael, won his seat.

Meanwhile, Asot Michael, who was ousted from the ABLP party amid a bitter fallout with leaders, claimed 2,137 votes against ABLP candidate Rawdon Turner who received 899.

The UPP’s Tevaughn Harriette got 541 and the DNA’s Chaneil Imhoff claimed 29.

Incoming Prime Minister Gaston Browne told reporters that he sees the results as a blessing that could create the opportunity for renewal.

“We do not see this as a bad thing per se, we see it as an opportunity at the same time. However, I want to thank my colleagues who have served my country well and we will not leave them out in the cold…”

 Browne also acknowledged that his ministers had become a bit complacent.

Truth be told, after two terms, some ministers become lethargic, they don’t have the will to fight. One of our issues is the fact that some of our colleagues didn’t have the energy to mobilize…in any case, it will be an example for new leadership to ensure that no matter what…if you have been given two terms you have to put in the same energy…”, Browne added.

The new Cabinet is expected to be sworn in on Friday.

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The Fast-Spreading New COVID-19 Subvariant XBB Is Part of a ‘New Class’ of Omicron


Note by TMR Editor: We bring this and other articles making some introductory observations to our readers. We bring these for the information and education our readers can get so they are informed and know how to conduct and protect themselves and their families as well as their communities. What we would like to see more of is how people of this world can protect themselves from the dangerous people whose main interest in our health, is money. It is suspicious that they mostly push without giving the alternative we allude to, the “vaccine”.

Korin Miller 

For the past several months, Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 have dominated COVID-19 cases in the U.S. But now, there’s a class of new COVID subvariants on the rise and one, in particular, is getting plenty of attention. It’s called XBB—or Gryphon—and there’s a chance it could overtake everything else out there.

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XBB is getting a lot of buzz because it spreads fast—and seems to be able to evade immunity that people have built up from having a previous COVID-19 infection or getting the vaccine, says William Schaffner, M.D., an infectious disease specialist, and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Still, Dr. Schaffner says, “it’s early days and we have a lot to learn.”

XBB or Gryphon is a new COVID-19 Omicron subvariant that’s soaring in Singapore. Here’s what you need to know about the mutated version of the Omicron variant.© Olga Siletskaya – Getty Images

Here’s what we know about XBB so far, and why doctors are keeping a close eye on it.

What is the XBB COVID variant?

XBB is one of the “new class” of Omicron variants that are spreading fast right now, says Thomas Russo, M.D., professor and chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo in New York. That includes BQ.1.1, BQ.1, BQ.1.3, BA.2.3.20, and XBB, he says.

“XBB is a hybrid version of two strains of the BA.2 form of Omicron,” explains Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. It’s currently “spreading efficiently in Singapore,” he adds.

The variant was first detected in August 2022 in India, and has been detected in more than 17 countries since then, including Australia, Bangladesh, Denmark, India, Japan and the U.S., per Singapore’s Ministry of Health.

XBB is thought to have the best ability to evade antibody protections of these newly emerged COVID variants, according to a pre-print study from researchers in China. That study said that the new strains of Omicron, and XBB in particular, “are the most antibody-evasive strain tested, far exceeding BA.5 and approaching SARS-CoV-1 level.” (SARS-CoV-1, in case you’re not familiar with it, is the strain of coronavirus that causes SARS, a respiratory virus that can cause severe illness.)

Meaning, the vaccine and having previously had COVID-19 are not thought to offer the same level of protection against XBB as they have with previous strains of COVID-19. Antibody drugs like Evusheld and bebtelovimab may also not be very effective against XBB, the pre-print study says.

“These variants are evolving to evade protection,” Dr. Russo says. The bivalent booster is “likely going to be protective against severe disease” with XBB, but will be “imperfect against preventing infection,” Dr. Russo says.

Don’t panic, though. “When it comes to evasion of vaccine protection, it’s important to recognize that vaccine protection is not all or none,” Dr. Adalja says. “Even with immune-evasive variants, vaccine protection against what matters most—severe disease—remains intact.”

XBB variant symptoms

So far, symptoms of XBB seem to be similar to what they’ve been with COVID-19 in general. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those can include:

· Fever or chills

· Cough

· Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

· Fatigue

· Muscle or body aches

· Headache

· New loss of taste or smell

· Sore throat

· Congestion or runny nose

· Nausea or vomiting

· Diarrhea

How contagious is the XBB subvariant?

Like other strains of Omicron, XBB is thought to be very contagious. Singapore’s Ministry of Health notes that the variant now makes up 54% of COVID-19 cases in the country, up from 22% the week before.

Singapore’s Ministry of health says that XBB is “at least as transmissible as currently circulating variants” but adds that “there is no evidence that XBB causes more severe illness.”

When will the XBB subvariant peak?

There are a lot of unknowns about XBB right now. While it’s been detected in the U.S., BA.5 and BA.4.6 continue to be the dominant variants in this country, per CDC data.

Other variants are also started to spread at the same time, Dr. Adalja says, and it’s unclear which will displace BA.4.6 and BA.5 in the U.S., if they will at all. “It’s likely to spread to some degree in the U.S. but unclear if it—or some other related variant such as BQ.1.1—will become dominant,” he says.

Dr. Schaffner says there is “some concern” about XBB and fellow variants on the rise. “Watching what happens over the next several weeks is important,” he says.

This article is accurate as of press time. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly evolves and the scientific community’s understanding of the novel coronavirus develops, some of the information may have changed since it was last updated. While we aim to keep all of our stories up to date, please visit online resources provided by the CDCWHO, and your local public health department to stay informed on the latest news. Always talk to your doctor for professional medical advice.

Posted in COVID-19, Health, International, Local, News, Regional0 Comments


New Covid variant XBB hits 18 UK cases – all you need to know about the deadly ‘nightmare’ strain

MS Start =

Chronicle Live

Chronicle Live

by Adam May & Aaron Morris – 

The XBB strain may be a factor in the recent spike in cases because it spreads quickly and appears to evade people’s vaccine protection © PA

A new strain of Covid-19 dubbed the ‘nightmare’ variant has reached 18 known cases in the UK – with scientists and experts urging residents to stay up to date with eligible vaccines.

The warning comes after cases of the XBB strain were detected across Great Britain, out of a global total of 1,086,639 samples uploaded from Singapore.

It is thought the mutated variant may be a slight factor in the recent spike of Coronavirus cases, as it spreads at a rapid pace and appears to evade vaccine immunity.

Read more: The rules on going to work or staying home if you test positive for Covid-19

The Mirror reports that while the XBB strain has not been designated as a variant of concern just yet, experts are monitoring the situation closely. It comes as one of two new strains of the global virus which have entered the UK, with the second being the new BQ.1 variant.

There have been more than 700 cases of the latter logged in the UK to date.

Dr Meera Chand, Director of Clinical and Emerging Infection at the UK Health Standards Agency (UKHSA), said: “It is not unexpected to see new variants of SARS-CoV-2 emerge. Neither BQ.1 nor XBB have been designated as variants of concern and UKHSA is monitoring the situation closely, as always.

Related video: XBB strain detected in 17 countries: Is there a need for variant-specific booster vaccines?

XBB strain detected in 17 countries: Is there a need for variant-specific booster vaccines?

View on Watch

“Vaccination remains our best defence against future Covid-19 waves, so it is still as important as ever that people come take up all the doses for which they are eligible as soon as possible.”

XBB was initially discovered in India back in August, since being located in Bangladesh, Japan, Singapore, and at least 13 other countries – including Denmark and Australia. It has also been detected in Hong Kong.

Singapore’s Ministry of Health said that XBB went from being responsible for some 22 percent of Covid-19 cases to 54 percent in the space of a week. Almost 80 percent of those in Singapore are also fully vaccinated.

While Singapore’s health ministry says that there is no evidence that XBB causes more severe illness, it appears to be resistant to treatments. Ong Ye Kung, said that the country is in turn likely to see 15,000 daily cases on average by mid-November.

Infectious disease expert John Swartzberg previously told the San Francisco Chronicle : “We are seeing a slew of new variants that are using a similar approach to survive — they are finding ways to evade the way we get immunity from vaccines and previous infection with changes on the spike protein.

“XBB is no different from the others.”

XBB is a mutation on Omicron BA.2. 23 cases of XBB have been detected in the USA. Natalie Thornburg, CDC lead respiratory virus immunology specialist said: “XBB is a chimera. I think there have been a couple of sequences identified in the United States.

“But it’s way, way, way, way below that one percent threshold. I mean, it’s really like a handful of sequences.”

Read next:

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, COVID-19, Environment, Health, International, Local, News, Regional0 Comments


The Montserrat Reporter

October 28, 2022

Posted in Advertisements, Business/Economy/Banking, CARICOM, International, Local, Regional, Vacancies0 Comments


Rishi Sunak to be UK’s next prime minister

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak warns Tories party faces ‘existential threat’ and rules out early general election after winning (the) race to be PM tells Conservatives there will not be an early election but calls for the party to unite

Rishi Sunak posing with fellow Tories outside CCHQ. Photograph Aaron Chown – PA

This story is currently being updated every 10 minutes or so:

TMR Editor: Do read in depth. We believe the problems will not easily go away – feel that Boris with all the ‘hypocritical ills is likely still their best bet. They do have two years to sort out the best leader… leader… politically and administratively… requirements; which also apply to, do you know who?

Posted in Business/Economy/Banking, Featured, Features, International, Local, News, Politics, Regional, UK - Brexit0 Comments

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More evidence Covid WAS engineered in a lab?

Another explosive study dismisses natural origin theory – but experts say it’s just more ‘uninformed nonsense’ –

Comment: Jus wonderin – Is this a case of ‘Follow the Money’?

Researchers studied Covid’s genome and compared it to other coronaviruses

Team detected ‘peculiar patterns’ that are hallmarks of a man-made virus, they say

Dr Alex Washburne said the lab leak theory can’t be ruled out based on results

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The coronavirus was likely made in a lab, according to the latest explosive study to shed light on the possible origins of the pandemic.

Researchers in the US and Germany studied Covid’s genome — the virus’ instruction manual — and compared it to dozens of previously detected coronaviruses.

‘Peculiar patterns’ were visible in the building blocks of the pandemic-causing virus, which they say are hallmark signs that it was manufactured. The team described it as having a ‘synthetic fingerprint’.

Study author Dr. Alex Washburne, a mathematical biologist, said the lab leak theory can’t be ruled out based on the results of his controversial study.

Each test his team performed ‘decreased the odds of SARS-CoV-2 having a natural origin’, he said.

However, Dr Washburne noted his team don’t identify which lab that was the source of the outbreak and insisted that the virus looks more ‘like an accident’ rather than a ‘bioweapon’.

Some experts called the results ‘troubling’ and claimed they offered the ‘strongest piece of evidence’ yet that the virus was man-made. 

But dozens of others, including leaders in the field, have hit out at the findings, sparking a fierce row. One virologist said the research is ‘so deeply flawed that it wouldn’t pass kindergarten molecular biology’. 

Another said the study was ‘very poorly controlled, cherry-picked and making a big deal out of lumps and bumps that are of no significance to the virus’. One described it as ‘tinfoil-hat bonkers’.

The study is the latest addition to the fierce argument around how the virus came to sweep the world in 2020.

Most leading virologists believe the coronavirus jumped to humans from an infected animal, potentially in the ‘ground zero’ wet market in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Others think it leaked from a secretive laboratory in the same city. Whether or not it was deliberate or accidental is an even more contentious part of the ‘lab leak’ theory.

Scientists argue it is vital to find out the origins of the virus so steps can be taken to prevent future pandemics. But many doubt the root source of the pandemic will ever be uncovered, with China accused of trying to conceal investigations.

Researchers in the US and Germany studied Covid's genome ¿ the virus' instruction manual ¿ and compared it to dozens of previously detected coronaviruses. The team detected a 'peculiar patterns' in the building blocks of the pandemic-causing virus, which they say are hallmarks that it was manufactured in a lab. These include a more organised structure than naturally-occurring viruses and mutations that suggest the virus was assembled in a lab. Study author Dr Alex Washburne, a mathematical biologist, said the lab leak theory can't be ruled out based on the results of his controversial study. However, he noted his team don't identify which lab that was the source of the outbreak. Pictured: the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is at the centre of the lab leak theory

Researchers in the US and Germany studied Covid’s genome — the virus’ instruction manual — and compared it to dozens of previously detected coronaviruses. The team detected a ‘peculiar patterns’ in the building blocks of the pandemic-causing virus, which they say are hallmarks that it was manufactured in a lab. These include a more organised structure than naturally-occurring viruses and mutations that suggest the virus was assembled in a lab. Study author Dr Alex Washburne, a mathematical biologist, said the lab leak theory can’t be ruled out based on the results of his controversial study. However, he noted his team don’t identify which lab that was the source of the outbreak. Pictured: the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is at the centre of the lab leak theory

The top graph shows the average length of the longest fragment in a coronavirus genome (shown by grey line in the middle of bars). The coloured dots show the longest fragment length in the genome of Covid (red) and 10 other genetically engineered coronaviruses. The researchers said Covid's longest genome segment length is 'well below' what would be expected if the virus had evolved naturally and 'right within the narrow range of fragment number we find in engineered coronaviruses'. The bottom graph compares the virus fragment length in relation to how many standard deviations ¿ the difference from the average length ¿ the lab-made viruses are from naturally occurring coronaviruses. The researchers said this shows Covid 'appears more likely to have been engineered' than other viruses that are known to be man-made

The top graph shows the average length of the longest fragment in a coronavirus genome (shown by grey line in the middle of bars). The coloured dots show the longest fragment length in the genome of Covid (red) and 10 other genetically engineered coronaviruses. The researchers said Covid’s longest genome segment length is ‘well below’ what would be expected if the virus had evolved naturally and ‘right within the narrow range of fragment number we find in engineered coronaviruses’. The bottom graph compares the virus fragment length in relation to how many standard deviations — the difference from the average length — the lab-made viruses are from naturally occurring coronaviruses. The researchers said this shows Covid ‘appears more likely to have been engineered’ than other viruses that are known to be man-made 



Evidence for Wuhan lab-leak theory

An article in the respected Science journal on May 14 2021 kick-started the surge in interest for the lab-leak theory.

Some 18 experts wrote in the journal that ‘we must take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spillovers seriously until we have sufficient data’.

Later that month, a study by British Professor Angus Dalgleish and Norwegian scientist Dr Birger Sørensen claimed it had ‘prima facie evidence of retro-engineering in China’ for a year.

The study included accusations of ‘deliberate destruction, concealment or contamination of data’ at Chinese labs.

It followed statements from the WHO Director General, US and EU that greater clarity about the origins of this pandemic is necessary and feasible to achieve.

Previously, the theory had been dismissed as conspiracy by most experts, partly because of its association with President Donald Trump.

President Joe Biden in May 2021 ordered a full investigation into the origin of the pandemic virus and demanded scientists work out whether there is truth to the theory.

In December 2021, Harvard scientist Dr. Alina Chan told the UK’s Science and Technology Select Committee that it is ‘reasonable’ to believe that Covid was genetically engineered in China. 

She also said that the Chinese Communist Party’s cover-up of the initial outbreak in Wuhan two years ago and attempts to sabotage the World Health Organisation’s inquiry into the origins of the pandemic made the lab-leak theory likely. 

The head of the World Health Organization insisted just a day earlier that the theory that Covid emerged from a Wuhan lab has not been ruled out — as he said China should help solve the mystery out of ‘respect’ for the dead.

The body’s director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, suggested that Beijing had not cooperated fully as he urged more ‘transparency’ in the continuing investigation.

And a senior Government source claimed in June 2022 that the WHO boss privately believes the pandemic kicked off following a leak from a Chinese lab. 

In September 2022, leading medical journal the Lancet admitted the virus may have been leaked from a lab, including those in the US. 

Evidence against the theory

Most of the scientific community say the virus is most likely of natural origin.

A series of papers point to the virus evolving in animals before being transmitted to humans, in the same way as all other previously discovered coronaviruses.

The first study, published in Scientific Reports, showed some 47,000 wild animals from 38 species were sold across four markets in Wuhan between May 2017 and November 2019.

The authors, including Dr Chris Newman, an evolutionary ecologist at Oxford University, claimed the evidence showed the conditions for animal-to-human transmission were in place in Wuhan.

But they acknowledged there was no proof Sars-CoV-2 was present or originated in any of these animals.

A joint World Health Organization-China investigation also concluded it was ‘very likely’ the virus jumped from bats to humans via an as-yet-unknown intermediary animal.

And a June 2022 report by the WHO sets out that Covid most likely originated in bats before infecting humans.

The scientists, including Dr Washburne from Montana-based research institute Selva Analytics and Professor Antonius VanDongen, a pharmacology expert at Duke University, in North Carolina examined the SARS-CoV-2 genome — the virus’ genetic material.

The team also included Valentin Bruttel, an immunologist who is attached to the gynecology department at the University of Würzburg in Germany. 

While human genomes are made of double-stranded DNA and are 3billion letters long, Covid has a single short RNA strand that is just 30,000 letters long.

Some researchers create viruses in lab experiments to study how they behave and develop drugs and vaccines to treat them, in case of an outbreak.

They do this by making small segments of the viral genome and stitching them together — with the joins known as restriction sites. 

While restriction sites tend to be randomly scattered throughout the genomes of naturally-occurring viruses, scientists building a virus in a lab add more in and tend to spread them out evenly, according to the researchers. 

To determine whether Covid evolved naturally or was manufactured, the team looked at the number and length of stitching points in Covid’s genome to compare it to 70 coronaviruses found in nature, as well as man-made versions.

Their findings, published on the pre-print website bioRxiv, set out that the pattern of Covid’s restriction sites are ‘typical’ of man-made viruses and different from naturally-occurring coronaviruses.

They found that the restriction sites on Covid’s genome were evenly spread rather than randomly spaced out, making it an ‘outlier’.

Meanwhile, the average length of Covid’s genome fragments were the smallest out of the dozens of coronaviruses that the researchers looked at.

Covid also has so-called silent mutations in its restriction sites, which are a hallmark of a manufactured virus, according to the researchers. 

It is ‘is extremely unlikely’ this ‘synthetic fingerprint’ appeared ‘by random evolution’, they wrote.

The experts concluded Covid’s genome is similar to ‘many’ engineered coronavirus genomes and ‘differs from closest relatives’ found in nature.   

They wrote: ‘We report a high likelihood that SARS-CoV-2 may have originated as an infectious clone assembled. 

‘The type of mutations (synonymous or silent mutations) that differentiate the restriction sites in SARS-CoV-2 are characteristic of engineering.

‘And the concentration of these silent mutations in the restriction sites is extremely unlikely to have arisen by random evolution.

‘Both the restriction site fingerprint and the pattern of mutations generating them are extremely unlikely in wild coronaviruses and nearly universal in synthetic viruses. 

‘Our findings strongly suggest a synthetic origin of SARS-CoV2.’

And they called for more research to investigate the origins of the virus, noting that ‘further tests may reject our theory’. 

The team noted they could have drawn on a wider pool of coronaviruses to compare Covid against to better understand similarities and differences. 

Nonetheless, Dr Washburne said the lab leak theory — which certain corners of the scientific community have repeatedly tried to dismiss since the beginnings of the pandemic — can’t be ruled out based on the results of this study.

However, he noted that his team do not identify which lab that was the source of the outbreak. This would also be near impossible. 

And he said the virus ‘looks like an accident’ rather than being a ‘bioweapon’ or gain of function research — modifying organisms to enhance how they work, such as making a virus more deadly or more transmissible. 

But he drew parallels with a recent controversial study at Boston University, which saw scientists create a hybrid Covid strain — combining the original strain and Omicron — that killed 80 percent of mice in a study. 

Dr Washburne said: ‘Making chimeric viruses in vitro [in a lab] carries risks.

‘We encourage transparency from researchers studying CoVs in Wuhan. We strongly encourage global coordination on biosafety.’

Mr Bruttel told German TV channel n-tv that the results ‘show that this virus is 99.9 percent an artificially created copy of a natural virus’.                                                                              

While China has insisted the virus originated elsewhere, academics, politicians and the media have contemplated the possibility it leaked from a high-level biochemical lab in Wuhan - raising suspicions that Chinese officials simply hid evidence of the early spread


View gallery

While China has insisted the virus originated elsewhere, academics, politicians, and the media have contemplated the possibility it leaked from a high-level biochemical lab in Wuhan – raising suspicions that Chinese officials simply hid evidence of the early spread

The question of whether the global outbreak began with a spillover from wildlife sold at the market or leaked out of the Wuhan lab just eight miles across the Yangtze River has given rise to fierce debate about how to prevent the next pandemic. Studies point to a natural spillover at the Huanan wildlife market. Positive swab samples of floors, cages and counters also track the virus back to stalls in the southwestern corner of the market (bottom left), where animals with the potential to harbour Covid were sold for meat or fur at the time (bottom right)


View gallery

The question of whether the global outbreak began with a spillover from wildlife sold at the market or leaked out of the Wuhan lab just eight miles across the Yangtze River has given rise to fierce debate about how to prevent the next pandemic. Studies point to a natural spillover at the Huanan wildlife market. Positive swab samples of floors, cages, and counters also track the virus back to stalls in the southwestern corner of the market (bottom left), where animals with the potential to harbour Covid were sold for meat or fur at the time (bottom right)

Experts slam Boston lab where scientists have created a new deadly Omicron strain with an 80% kill rate in mice

Boston University scientists were today condemned for ‘playing with fire’ after it emerged they had created a lethal new Covid strain in a laboratory. revealed the team had made a hybrid virus — combining Omicron and the original Wuhan strain — that killed 80 per cent of mice in a study.

The researchers were attempting to discover whether the spike protein on the Omicron variant – responsible for making it the most transmissible of Covid strains to date – is also behind the virus having a particularly mild effect on infected hosts, with most suffering only slight illness.

The resultant chimera was only slightly less deadly than the Wuhan strain, indicating that the spike protein is not behind the attenuation of its effects on hosts.

The team behind its creation announced that as well as ‘inflict[ing] severe disease’ it also ‘robustly escapes vaccine-induced humoral immunity’, indicating that the recombinant virus retained the most dangerous properties of its parents.

The revelation exposes how dangerous virus manipulation research continues to go on even in the US, despite fears similar practices may have started the pandemic.

Professor Shmuel Shapira, a leading scientist in the Israeli Government, said: ‘This should be totally forbidden, it’s playing with fire.’

Gain of function research – when viruses are purposefully manipulated to be more infectious or deadly – is thought to be at the center of Covid’s origin.

Professor Francois Balloux, an infectious disease expert based at University College London, said the findings appear ‘solid, both conceptually and methodologically.

He said: ‘The distribution of restriction sites in SARS-CoV-2 is highly atypical when compared to related viruses in circulation, and far more in line with previous lab-engineered coronaviruses. 

‘This is a troubling finding, which requires scrutiny.

‘These findings are not “final and dispositive”, but they can’t be ignored either. 

‘To me, this is by far the strongest piece of evidence to date against a simple scenario of strict zoonotic origin for SARS-CoV-2.’

However, Professor Kristian Andersen, a virologist at research facility Scripps Research in California, said the study is ‘so deeply flawed that it wouldn’t pass kindergarten molecular biology’.

He said: ‘The study is a clear example of motivated reasoning with a heavy dose of technobabble to make it sound legitimate — but it’s nothing more than poppycock dressed up as science. 

‘In plain language — this is uninformed nonsense and it’s simply not worth engaging with.’

Dr. Benjamin Neuman, a virologist at the of Texas A&M University, said the study is ‘very poorly controlled, cherry-picked and making a big deal out of lumps and bumps that are of no significance to the virus’.

He said: ‘It’s about as illuminating an approach as converting the genome to digits, adding up the digits, and comparing that to the “number of the Beast”. 

‘This isn’t really evidence for or against the discredited idea of a lab-origin virus.

‘The study looks for patterns of nucleotides that people have found useful because they can be cleaved by restriction enzymes.

‘Essentially, this study looks at an irrelevant trait that would not be useful to either the virus or a person trying to assemble the virus using modern technology.’

Dr Neuman added: ‘There is no reason a person assembling a genome would need to assemble the sequence in gene-sized chunks that start or end exactly at gene boundaries. It’s tinfoil-hat bonkers.

‘The methodology is nonsense, as are the conclusions. There are thousands of different Coronavirus genomes now, and this study cherry-picks fewer than forty that make its point.’

Since China originally alerted the world to a mysterious virus circulating in Wuhan in December 2019, debate has been raging over its true source. 

China has repeatedly insisted the virus spilled naturally into humans from bats, with most scientists agreeing Covid most likely had natural origins.  

But some say it’s possible the coronavirus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), where researchers were conducting controversial research on the world’s most dangerous pathogens.

The WIV has been carrying out gain-of-function work for years before the Covid outbreak.

China insisted early and often that the virus did not leak from the lab, claiming that crossover to humans must have occurred at a ‘wet market’ in Wuhan that sold live animals.

Perhaps driven by animosity for then-US President Donald Trump, who embraced the lab leak theory early on, mainstream media and academics in the West heaped scorn on the possibility, calling it an unhinged conspiracy theory.

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Grand Opening - M&D's Green Market



A Moment with the Registrar of Lands