The annual Test tournament also featuring New Zealand, Australia and Argentina was already delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic and is being staged in one country for the first time.
The South African Rugby Union said it had pulled out due to concerns over “player welfare” with the Springboks having had less time to prepare in competition compared to Australia and New Zealand, who completed domestic tournaments weeks ago and opened their Test season last weekend.
“This is a hugely disappointing outcome for supporters and commercial partners but the on-going impacts of the pandemic … mean we are unable to deliver a Springbok team without seriously compromising player welfare, apart from other logistical challenges,” SARU chief executive Jurie Roux said.
Much of the Argentina squad have had no match preparation but are already training in a bio-secure bubble in Sydney. Several Pumas players and coach Mario Ledesma tested positive for Covid during a preparatory camp at home.
UK foreign secretary hits out at reported Russian misinformation
Claims that Russia is attempting to sow the seeds of confusion about the vaccine being developed in the UK are “very serious,” according to Britain’s foreign secretary.
“It’s very serious because it’s an attempt to disrupt the attempts to find a safe vaccine,” said Dominic Raab, while also making an apparent jibe towards the vaccines which have already been approved by Russia amid concerns from global health experts.
“We know Russia has a track record of using misinformation as a foreign policy tool,” Raab told the BBC.
He was speaking after a Times report [paywall] on a Russian disinformation campaign which the newspaper said was designed to undermine and spread fear about the Oxford University coronavirus vaccine.
Pictures, memes and video clips depicting the British-made vaccine as dangerous have reportedly been devised in Russia and middlemen are now seeking to “seed” the images on social media networks around the world.
Britain’s foreign secretary has accused the mayor of the Greater Manchester area of trying to “hold the government over a barrel” by resisting tougher coronavirus restrictions.
Criticising Andy Burnham, the Labour party politician who is the mayor of the Greater Manchester area, Dominic Raab told BBC Breakfast: “Ultimately we need to take action – we can’t have a situation as we have seen in Manchester where Andy Burnham is effectively trying to hold the government over a barrel over money and politics when actually we need to take action.
“The cases there are 470 per 100,000 so it is very serious, and we must take action in the interest of the people of Manchester and the wider area, and if we take those targeted actions in those areas most affected … we get through this and we avoid the national level lockdown.”
Downing Street’s flagship policy for tackling the coronavirus in England has descended into chaos after mayors and MPs from the north-west of the country emphatically rejected being moved into the highest lockdown level and accused ministers of treating the region with contempt.
England is already getting “very close” to the peak of Covid-19 in April, one of the government’s health advisors has said, as he warned that it would take more than just a one-week circuit breaker to bring the situation under control.
Professor Graham Medley, an expert in infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and member of Sage, believes that in terms of healthcare “some areas are going to be back to the same kind of position they were at the end of March”.
Dismissing the suggestion that a lockdown or lockdowns were ‘kicking the can down the road,’ he said that they had a role to play as there was a real prospect of a vaccine.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:
We are struggling at the moment to understand how we’re balancing that imperative of having to prevent healthcare being completely overwhelmed and yet how to mitigate against the damage caused by the intervention which of course is huge.
The Czech Republic recorded 9,721 new COVID-19 infections on Thursday, setting a single-day record for a second day running, government data showed today.
The country of 10.7 million has registered the biggest surge of new coronavirus cases in Europe, with the total number of infections detected since the pandemic hit in March having more than doubled to 149,010.
The head of a leading pub chain in Britain has condemned the extension of lockdowns announced on Thursday as “a catastrophe from which the pub trade will never fully recover”.
Patrick Dardis, the chief executive of Young’s Pubs, said Britain’s drinking establishments had complied with government guidelines throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in pubs being safer than most supermarket aisles in the fight against the disease.
Yet, Mr Dardis said, the pub industry was now reeling from its second body blow in quick succession dealt by the Government, with the lockdown extension following the “abrupt and entirely pointless 10pm curfew” imposed last month.
“When pubs were allowed to reopen in July, we estimated cautiously that about 5,000 pubs would not survive,” Mr Dardis wrote in the Daily Mail. “But after the reckless introduction of the curfew, which predictably killed trade, I doubled this figure to 10,000.
New lockdown restrictions to be imposed across much of England from Saturday could be the “death knell” for many pubs and restaurants, the government has been told, as business groups voiced concerns about a wave of job losses within weeks.
Israel intends to ease some lockdown restrictions on Sunday, the government has announced, following a four-week national shutdown seeking to stall what was one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks.
The Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement that as of Sunday:
Companies that have no in-person customers can open.
Daycares and nurseries for children aged 0 to 6 can restart.
National parks and beaches will reopen.
Restrictions of leaving one’s home or hosting people are lifted, as long as gatherings do no exceed 10 people inside and 20 people outside.
The statement warned that the restrictions could be reimposed if the infection rate, currently around 2,000 per day, increase. It added that areas with very high transmission rates may not be included under the new rules.
With schools, bars, and most shops remaining closed, Israel intends to exit the second national lockdown cautiously, after an overzealous reopening in the spring saw infection rates spiral.