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UK Store Closures Hit Record Levels

The silver lining for local small businesses is that people are turning to their local high streets ..

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The silver lining for local small businesses is that people are turning to their local high streets as they work from home

Lockdown pushed store closures to record levels during the first half of the year, according to newly published figures, but the number of new stores being opened held steady.

Overall, the number of stores dropped by 6,000 in the first half of 2020, compared with 3,500 the year before, according to an Oct. 18 analysis by PwC.

With sales bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels over the summer, however, PwC says it would be unwise to write off the high street just yet.

“High street retail and leisure may be on the edge of a precipice,” stated the PwC report, which highlighted fewer openings, more closures, and permanent changes to the make-up of shopping and leisure destinations. “But while there may be worse to come, consumers still want to spend, so there’s every chance for businesses that evolve now to come out leaner, smarter and stronger.”

The pivot to home-working also favours smaller local businesses, as people turn to their local high streets over out of town retail outlets and major city centre shops.

Despite the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus and the ensuing lockdown measures, 5,119 stores were opened between January and June—just over a hundred more than for the same period last year.

Epoch Times Photo
Epoch Times Photo
A man walks across a quiet Oxford Circus in London on March 20, 2020. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

In contrast, 11,120 stores closed in the first half of the year, compared with 8,517 in 2019.

PwC warned that even the record closures may not reveal the true picture and is predicting further closures to come, both in the high street and other sectors.

“Based on primary research, our survey doesn’t count ‘temporarily closed’ sites as closed, so we’re not quite seeing the full picture yet,” the report states. “And the bounce-back in retail hasn’t been replicated across leisure and hospitality, which have been hampered by both national and local operating restrictions, as well as consumer reticence and other industry-specific factors, such as the lack of a film slate affecting cinema audiRead More – Source

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Ukraine nursing home fire: Four arrested after Kharkiv blaze leaves 15 dead

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Ukrainian authorities have arrested four people in connection with a deadly fire at a retirement home in Kharkiv.

15 people were killed after a blaze ripped through the nursing home on Thursday afternoon in the eastern Ukrainian city, according to emergency services.

Nine others were rescued, five of whom have been taken to hospital for treatment.

Pictures from the scene showed blackened rooms and barred windows on the upper floor of the two-storey building, which had been converted into a home for the elderly. 50 firefighters attended the incident to extinguish the flames.

In a statement on Facebook, the country’s attorney general, Iryna Venediktova, said four people have been arrested.

The suspects include those who owned and rented the building, as well as the manager of the retirement home. Authorities say they are investigating if the fire was started by arson or the short circuit of an electrical appliance.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the centre in Kharkiv and has announced a national day of mourning for Saturday.

In an earlier tweet, the President called on local authorities to do “everything possible” to help victims and relatives who had lost loved ones.

 

Read from source: https://www.euronews.com/2021/01/21/ukraine-nursing-home-fire-15-dead-and-five-hospitalised-after-blaze-in-kharkiv

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Europe’s space leaders seek to boost sector in light of Brexit, COVID and international competition

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The European Space Conference in Brussels takes place this week, so Euronews spoke to European Space Agency Director General Jan Wörner about the challenges the sector faces in 2021.

Brexit troubles Europe’s space sector

Brexit is a headache for the European space sector, as the UK is a permanent and committed member of ESA, but is now outside the EU. Leaving the EU has made everything more complicated: under the terms of the agreement signed in December 2020 the UK can continue to be part of the Copernicus Earth observation programme at least until 2028, as both the EU and ESA contribute funding to it. However, it loses access to high-quality positioning from the EU’s Galileo satellites, and is now out of EGNOS. The British stop being a full member of the European space debris tracking system, but still have access to it as a non-EU partner.

There are outstanding questions over the role of British companies in building spacecraft for EU-related projects. ESA DG Jan Wörner told Euronews he believes ‘it is possible to have a solution’, given that non-EU countries like Switzerland and Norway are able to take part in the construction of satellites under Brussels contracts. However, the sheer size of the UK space sector is an issue. “Some fear in Brussels that if a big member state is doing something different, then this could be a magnet for other countries to do the same,” admits Wörner.

EU project to beam internet to all

A hot topic around the virtual and real water coolers at the Brussels Space Conference will be the Commission’s new plans to create a network of low-Earth orbiting internet satellites, which should offer broadband, 5G and more to rural communities across the bloc.

The initiative is being spearheaded by Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton, with a broad consortium of space industry players comprising Airbus, SES, Arianespace, Eutelsat, OHB, Orange, Telespazio and Thales Alenia Space.

The vision is similar to the Starlink and OneWeb systems, both of which have already launched satellites aimed at offering a new kind of holy grail in communications, a low-flying communications network from orbit which allows everyone, at least in theory, to enjoy high-speed connectivity.

The European version would be a public-private partnership, and initial work will begin this year.

Defining ESA-EU relations

The EU’s enthusiasm for space is clear: just before Christmas the European Commission and Parliament approved a 14.8 billion euro budget for EU space activity. The funding for the period 2021 to 2027 includes 9 billion for Galileo and 5.4 billion for Copernicus.

It’s part of a continued and rising commitment to developing Europe’s space sector, but it does beg the question of just how close ESA and the EC would like to become? For Wörner, moving further in the EU’s direction is a ‘political decision’ but not one that necessarily fits with ESA’s principals on return on investment, which see agency member states receiving reciprocal industrial contracts which are very close in size to their level of investment in a given programme. “The link between what ESA is doing and what states want to happen is very close, and a really big advantage,” he says.

The current director of Earth Observation at ESA, Josef Aschbacher, has said that defining the relationship between the two organisations is one of his main objectives when he replaces Wörner in July 2021.

Competition from US and China

A key focus of the Brussels Space Conference is the desire for Europe to develop a vibrant and independent private space sector. So far, major initiatives like Galileo and Copernicus have spawned a large number of small and specialist space startups selling value-added services based on the free data from these two projects. However, the old continent has so far struggled to create the kind of attention-grabbing commercial space firms like SpaceX and Planet Labs that NASA has helped foster in the US.

Then, there’s the speedy growth and unbridled ambition of the Chinese to take into account. When Jan Wörner first came to his job in 2015 he made a media splash with his dreams of creating a ‘village on the Moon’. In late 2020, however, he could only watch in awe as the Chinese sent a robotic mission to fetch samples from the Moon. It’s something only the Soviet Union and the United States have achieved before.

“My first thought was congratulations, of course,” he says, “but I quickly thought ‘ah, they are fast, and we should be faster'”. He told Euronews he hopes the joint ESA-NASA Mars Sample Return mission will be even more inspiring and impressive and give Europe’s exploration programme a much-needed boost in publicity.

There are areas where ESA is a leader, particularly in Earth observation thanks to the Sentinel fleet. Catching space debris and working out how to deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth are another two of the growth areas for public and private initiatives in Europe. ESA is also pushing ahead with its Space Rider vehicle, an un-crewed flying machine which resembles a mini-Shuttle, and could offer commercial and institutional clients a relatively low-cost means of reaching orbit, and returning home afterwards.

However, the new Ariane 6 rocket continues to face delays. Much vaunted as a flexible new vehicle to compete in this highly-competitive market, the replacement for the heavy-lift Ariane 5 is now only due to launch in the second quarter of 2022. Arianespace has called on European governments to step up their commitment to launchers to better compete with SpaceX, which has grown rapidly on the basis of lucrative American government launch contracts.

Read from source: https://www.euronews.com/2021/01/11/europe-s-space-leaders-seek-to-boost-sector-in-light-of-brexit-covid-and-international-com

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Queen Elizabeth and Duke of Edinburgh receive Covid-19 vaccine

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Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh have received their Covid-19 vaccinations, a Buckingham Palace spokesperson said Saturday.

The inoculations were administered by a household doctor at Windsor Castle, a royal source said.
To prevent inaccuracies and further speculation, Her Majesty, who 94, decided that she would let it be known that she has had the vaccination, the source added. Her husband is 99 years old.
The couple’s son, Prince Charles, tested positive for coronavirus and went into isolation in March. The 72-year-old later said he was lucky to only experience mild symptoms, adding he’d “got away with it quite lightly.”
Meanwhile, their grandson Prince William, second-in-line to the British throne, also tested positive for coronavirus earlier this year, UK media reported, though exactly when he contracted the virus is unclear.
The UK has recorded more than 3 million cases of Covid-19 and more than 80,000 deaths, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University on Saturday.
The UK reported 1,325 coronavirus-related fatalities on Friday — its highest ever daily increase in deaths.
Health officials face a deadly start to 2021 as a new coronavirus variant, first detected in the UK, sweeps the nation.
In the capital, London’s mayor declared a “major incident” on Friday, warning that hospitals in the city were close to being overrun.
“The situation in London is now critical with the spread of the virus out of control,” Mayor Sadiq Khan said in a statement.
“The number of cases in London has increased rapidly with more than a third more patients being treated in our hospitals now compared to the peak of the pandemic last April.
“We are declaring a major incident because the threat this virus poses to our city is at crisis point,” Khan added. “If we do not take immediate action now, our [National Health Service] could be overwhelmed and more people will die.”

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