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Rabbits help save some of England’s most threatened species from extinction

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Back from the Brink initiative sees Breckland-based Shifting Sands project use surprising methods and rabbits to bring about record numbers of rare species.

Efforts to save England’s most threatened species from extinction are turning the tide for wildlife in a unique landscape spanning Norfolk and Suffolk.

The fortunes of species classed as declining, rare, near-threatened or endangered are now improving in the Brecks after 4 years of work to support their habitat.

The National Lottery Heritage-funded Shifting Sands project – a partnership of 10 organisations led by Natural England. It has seen 5 kilometres of ‘wildlife highways’ created, more than 100 specimens of rare plants re-introduced, habitat created and restored across 12 sites, species encouraged, and landscape-management practices improved.

Species increasing in number

As a result, 7 species of plant, bird and insect are increasing in number and many more are benefitting.

Among the species recovering are rare plants such as the prostrate perennial knawel that is unique to the Brecks, basil thyme and field wormwood.

Close-up. Light-green leaves have shades of white. The flower's five petals are open in a star shape, with yellow stamen.
Unique: The prostrate perennial knawel is found nowhere else in the world.

The endangered wormwood moonshiner beetle, lunar yellow underwing moth and 5 banded digger tailed wasp are also increasing.

All these species are identified in the UK’s Biodiversity Action Plan as being priorities for conservation.

Rabbit revolution

Perhaps the most surprising species to benefit is the European rabbit.

Although often considered a pest, for certain habitats – like the Brecks – the rabbit is a ‘keystone species’ that holds together the entire ecosystem. Their numbers are, however, declining regionally, nationally and globally, even being classed as endangered in their native region, the Iberian Peninsula.

Their grazing and digging activity keeps the ground in a condition that is perfect for sustaining other species that would otherwise move on – or die out.

In partnership with the University of East Anglia, Natural England has encouraged a rabbit revolution in the Brecks. They have produced a toolkit helping landowners of similar habitats do the same.

Encouraging rabbit activity

The toolkit includes cost-effective ways of encouraging rabbits, including creating piles of felled branches and banks of soil.

Monitoring over the past 3 years has shown the interventions are working, with evidence of significantly higher amounts of rabbit activity.

The open habitat maintained by rabbits supports 2 rare plants: the prostrate perennial knawel – found nowhere else in the world – and field wormwood.

These flora’s fortunes have been improved by Plantlife. As part of Shifting Sands, the conservation charity has re-introduced 110 specimens at 9 sites, helped restore habitat in which they thrive, and improved the way land is managed.

Rare plants thriving

Prostrate perennial knawel introductions are thriving. The 75 plants introduced have increased to 201, while field wormwood is enjoying a threefold increase – a boon for the insects that depend on it.

Among those insects is the wormwood moonshiner. This endangered beetle has a particular taste for field wormwood seeds. It is now being found in record-high numbers, on industrial estate verges and a patch of land within a housing estate.

A black-brown, shiny beetle in sharp focus. It sits on a plant. Dew can be seen on its body. Light reflects off its carapace.
Endangered: The wormwood moonshiner beetle is now being found in record numbers.Image credit: Brian Eversham

Elsewhere in the Brecks, Shifting Sands has seen Forestry England remove trees and disturb the ground, to widen and connect corridor-like spaces through King’s Forest.

Forest fast lanes

Acting as ‘highways’ for heathland wildlife, they have resulted in increased numbers of rare species. This includes the basil thyme, lunar yellow underwing and the 5-banded tailed digger wasp, as well as benefited rare bird species like nightjar and woodlark. The digger wasp has gone from being recorded in just 2 forest rides to 9.

Pip Mountjoy, Shifting Sands project manager at Natural England, said:

The Brecks were described by Charles Dickens as “barren”. They are anything but. Their 370 square miles of sandy heathland, open grassland and forest support almost 13,000 species, making it one of the UK’s most important areas for wildlife.

That wildlife is under threat. Felling trees and encouraging a species that is often considered a pest may seem a strange solution. But in this instance, carefully managed ‘disturbance’ is exactly what this landscape and its biodiversity needs.

The project’s interventions have provided a lifeline for this unique landscape, and shown how biodiversity can be promoted by ‘disturbing’ places – not just by leaving them alone.

These rare habitats are becoming overgrown and species are declining as a result of changing land management practices and human impacts. It’s our responsibility to restore and maintain these spaces for nature. Some of these species exist only here and, if lost, will be lost forever.

Much of work has been carried out by an army of volunteers. More than 400 have dedicated 640 days to the project and received training in surveying techniques and species identification. Local volunteer groups such as Breckland Flora Group monitor these rare species across the Brecks and contributed hugely to the project.

A woman on her knees plants little white flags where she has found plants in an open landscape of short green-yellow grass.
Helping hands: More than 400 volunteers dedicated 640 days to make the project a success.

Fighting species extinction

Shifting Sands is 1 of 19 projects across England that make up the national Back from the Brink initiative. Together, these projects aim to save 20 species from extinction and benefit over 200 more.

Established in 2017 with £4.7 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and £2.1 million from other bodies. Back from the Brink was the first nationwide co-ordinated effort to bring together charities, conservation organisations and government bodies to save threatened species.

The project is a major contributor to achieving the government’s biodiversity goals, as well as meeting the UK’s international commitments under the UN’s Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The project is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and other bodies. Involved in Shifting Sands are BuglifeButterfly Conservation, the Elveden estateForestry EnglandNatural EnglandNorfolk Wildlife TrustPlantlifeRSPBSuffolk Wildlife Trust and [University of East Anglia](https://www.uea.ac.uk/].

Find out more about the Brecks, Shifting Sands and Back from the Brink

Visit and enjoy various sites across the Brecks.

All tips to go to staff under government plans to enhance rights of 2 million workers

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All tips will go to staff under new plans to overhaul tipping practices set out by the government this week, providing a financial boost to hospitality workers across the country.

Most hospitality workers – many of whom are earning the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage – rely on tipping to top up their income. But research shows that many businesses that add a discretionary service charge onto customer’s bills are keeping part or all of these service charges, instead of passing them onto staff.

The government will make it illegal for employers to withhold tips from workers. The move is set to help around two million people working in one of the 190,000 businesses across the hospitality, leisure and services sectors, where tipping is common place and can make up a large part of their income.

This will ensure customers know tips are going in full to workers and not businesses, ensuring workers receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

Tipping legislation will build on a range of government measures to protect and enhance workers’ rights. In the past 18 months alone, the government has introduced parental bereavement leave, protected new parents on furlough, and given millions a pay rise through a higher minimum wage.

Minister Paul Scully said:

Unfortunately, some companies choose to withhold cash from hardworking staff who have been tipped by customers as a reward for good service.

Our plans will make this illegal and ensure tips will go to those who worked for it. This will provide a boost to workers in pubs, cafes and restaurants across the country, while reassuring customers their money is going to those who deserve it.

Moves towards a cashless society have accelerated dodgy tipping practices, as an increase in card payments has made it easier for businesses to keep the funds.

80% of all UK tipping now happens by card, rather than cash going straight into the pockets of staff. Businesses who receive tips by card currently have the choice of whether to keep it or pass it on to workers.

This week’s plans will create consistency for those being tipped by cash or card, while ensuring that businesses who already pass on tips fairly aren’t penalised.

The legislation will include:

  • a requirement for all employers to pass on tips to workers without any deductions
  • a Statutory Code of Practice setting out how tips should be distributed to ensure fairness and transparency
  • new rights for workers to make a request for information relating to an employer’s tipping record, enabling them to bring forward a credible claim to an employment tribunal

Under the changes, if an employer breaks the rules they can be taken to an Employment Tribunal, where employers can be forced to compensate workers, often in addition to fines.

Tipping legislation will form part of a package of measures which will provide further protections around workers’ rights.

Building on economic support measures, the government recently announced a range of initiatives to support the hospitality sector through its first ever Hospitality Strategy. This set out ways to help the sector improve its resilience, including by making hospitality a career option of choice, boosting creativity, and developing a greener sector.

UK funding protects 88 million people from the impacts of climate change

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Between 2011 and 2021, UK aid has supported 88 million people to cope with climate change, as well as improving 41 million people’s access to clean energy, according to new results published this week.

The UK’s International Climate Finance (ICF), totalling £11.6 billion over the next five years, helps developing countries limit and manage the impacts of climate change, mitigate further global warming from emissions and avert, minimise and address loss and damage.

The results come ahead of COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference, which the UK will host in Glasgow in November this year. World leaders will come together to agree on action to tackle the urgent threat of global climate change, with the UK making supporting vulnerable communities a priority in its presidency.

International Environment Minister Zac Goldsmith said:

Tackling climate change and protecting vulnerable communities and habitats is truly an international effort. I am proud of the impact that the UK’s International Climate Finance is having in developing countries around the world. By lending to climate friendly businesses in Latin America and the Caribbean, or preventing emissions and boosting biodiversity through the restoration of mangroves, forests, and other habitats, the UK is stepping up to tackle the greatest threats we all face.

COP26 represents a unique opportunity for more countries to come forward with ambitious financial commitments and urgent action to reduce emissions and protect and restore the natural world.

This week’s figures show that over the last ten years, UK funding has:

  • Provided 41 million people with improved access to clean energy, including connections to off-grid renewable energy sources, access to solar lanterns, or clean cookstoves;
  • Installed 2,400 MW of clean energy capacity, equivalent to 500 offshore wind turbines, capable of powering 1.8 million UK homes;
  • Avoided or reduced 180 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Leveraged £3.3 billion of private finance and £5.2 billion of public finance for climate change purposes.

Programmes like the Blue Forests initiative in Madagascar see UK funding support local communities, the private sector and government to protect over 20,000Ha of mangroves, as one of the most effective natural carbon stores on earth. This also provides invaluable storm protection and coastal erosion prevention.

UK funding has also supported the KaXu Solar One Concentrated Solar Power project in South Africa to use mirrors to reflect and concentrate the sun’s rays, generating enough energy to power 80,000 households and saving around 315,000 tonnes of CO2 – the equivalent to taking 66,000 cars off the road.

These results follow a week of climate talks among global leaders at the UN General Assembly in New York, where the UK Prime Minister committed new UK funding for global climate action, including a further boost the UK’s contribution to the $100 billion a year from 2020 goal for developed countries to support developing countries.

  • The International Climate Finance results can be found here.

Spice Bus tours London to celebrate 25 years of the Spice Girls

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Photo by Lia Toby/Getty Images for Spotify.

In celebration of 25 years of one of the most popular girl bands across the world, the Spice Girls, Spotify has recreated the iconic Spice Bus from the film Spice World and taken fans on the journey of a lifetime in the form of a Spice Girls tour across London.

The bus turned heads as it travelled through London, kicking off at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel London, where the iconic music video for “Wannabe” was filmed. Spotify’s Spice Bus then journeyed around the capital and over Tower Bridge (thankfully just driving and not flying through the air as in Spice World).

Spice Girls super fans on board the bus were treated to a dragtastic homage to the Spice Girls. The bus tour was hosted by RuPaul’s Drag Race UK season one queen Baga Chipz taking inspiration from Ginger Spice.

Accompanying Baga were contestants from the new series of Drag Race which premieres later this week, each drawing inspiration and paying tribute to their “spirit Spice Girl”: Kitty Scott-Claus (Baby Spice), Ophelia Love (Sporty Spice), Vanity Milan (Scary Spice), and Ella Vaday (Posh Spice).

2021 marks the 25th anniversary of the Spice Girls. Their debut, and most streamed track of all time (with over 600 million streams), “Wannabe” was released on the 8th July 1996, followed by the album “Spice” which launched in Japan on 19th September the same year before being rolled out globally, and has amassed an incredible 860 million streams in total over the years.

In fact the album “Spice” is still one of the most popular albums of all time. It has racked up more streams than albums from other female icons, including Taylor Swift’s “Taylor Swift” album, Britney Spears’s “…Baby One More Time”, and fellow girl group Little Mix’s “DNA”.

Sulinna Ong, Spotify UK/IE, Head of Music says: 

“The Spice Girls have shaped the way the music industry operates today. Their message of female empowerment resonated across the world, no matter who you were or what you looked like – and continues into this day.

The fact that 18-24 year olds stream the Spice Girls the most shows what an impact the girls continue to have around the world. Bringing back the Spice Bus is Spotify’s way of giving a little something back to the fans who have flown the flag for Girl Power over the 25 years.”

England’s riverbanks and watercourses to be planted with new woodland

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New project to plant extensive woodlands along England’s riverbanks launched to improve water quality, manage flood risk and boost biodiversity.

Over 3,000 hectares of new woodlands are set to be planted along England’s rivers and watercourses with backing from the country’s leading environmental organisations, Forestry Minister Lord Goldsmith announced today (Saturday 25 September).

Planting trees on and around riverbanks, or allowing them to grow naturally, can help to improve water quality by blocking the runoff of pollutants into rivers, manage flood risks by slowing the flow of water, boost biodiversity by creating new habitat corridors and make our rivers more climate resilient by providing shade and cooling water temperatures.

There are 242,262km of watercourses in England, and it is hoped that by planting trees in this way they will contribute to a natural network of habitats across the country as part of our plans to expand, improve and connect these places across our towns, cities and countryside.

The Woodlands For Water project aims to create 3,150 hectares of trees in six river catchment areas from Devon to Cumbria by March 2025. To support farmers and landowners to create these woodlands, they will be able to apply for funding through the England Woodland Creation Offer grant which provides greater financial incentives for landowners and farmers to plant and manage trees, including along rivers and watercourses.

Speaking from a National Trust river tree planting project, Forestry Minister Lord Goldsmith said:

This is a hugely exciting and untapped area for woodland creation. The benefits of planting trees by rivers are vast – from helping biodiversity recover by creating more natural riverbanks; to slowing the flow of surface water to reduce the risk of flooding; and improving water quality by buffering rivers from harmful agricultural pollution.

The Government is committed to trebling tree-planting rates by the end of this parliament, and in this vitally important year for tackling climate change with the Glasgow COP summit, this partnership marks an important next step in our plans to build back greener.

Forestry Commission Chair Sir William Worsley said:

I am delighted to be working with partners to launch the Woodlands For Water project and deliver another major part of the England Trees Action Plan.

By putting the right trees in the right place, helped by our new England Woodland Creation Offer, the Woodlands For Water project can offer numerous benefits, from creating new woodland habitats; protecting existing habitats such as chalk streams; improving environments for fish by reducing water temperature, and helping rivers adapt to climate change.

Supported by Defra, the project will be carried out by the ‘Riverscapes’ Partnership comprising of experts from the Rivers Trust, National Trust, Woodland Trust and Beaver Trust, which will be on hand to provide expert assistance in the selected river catchment areas across England, ensuring there is pipeline of projects for riparian planting in future years.

The Rivers Trust Chief Executive Officer Mark Lloyd said:

The Riverscapes Partnership brings together leading national organisations who want to revive our rivers, restore nature and increase our resilience to droughts and floods.

Woodlands for Water is a very exciting first project for the partnership to work with Defra to meet the government’s targets on tree planting and its commitment to leave the environment in a better state for the next generation.

By planting the right trees in the right places, we can tackle multiple problems and provide multiple benefits: more nature, less flooding, more carbon locked up in trees and soils, fewer droughts, less pollution, more wild places for people to enjoy. We hope that this project will be the pathfinder for a route map to the revival of rivers and their catchment areas that can benefit every corner of England, and the rest of the UK.

The Woodland Trust’s Head of Landscape Scale Delivery Dr Adrian Southern said:

We are delighted to be part of what is an immensely important project, both from a perspective of combating climate change with more trees but also for showing how it is essential they are planted in the right places.

Tree establishment near rivers and in their catchments can have significant benefits for people and wildlife, from natural flood management to stabilising riverbanks and reducing sediment flow into water courses, to creating great places for people to enjoy.

This commitment from Defra could be catalytic in supporting the Riverscapes partnership to start to really deliver the transformational change needed to meet the threats of climate change and wildlife loss.

The National Trust’s Director of Land and Nature Harry Bowell said:

With 90 per cent of UK floodplains not fit for purpose and creating flood issues for communities, we fully recognise the value of trees to our river corridors in helping to slow flood waters, soak up carbon and keep rivers cool in the face of rising temperatures.

This work will enhance the projects we already have underway where our primary focus has been the conservation and health of the river channel itself. This partnership and funding will allow us to look at the wider river corridor to further enhance this work.

James Wallace, Beaver Trust Chief Executive Officer, said:

As members of the Riverscapes partnership with Defra, we are delighted to be a part of this first big first step towards paying farmers to create a nature recovery network of mosaic habitats along our rivers, working together to breathe life back into our land.

We hope in time farmers will be incentivised not only to plant trees but to create wetlands, floodplain meadows and other spaces for natural processes and wildlife to regenerate in riparian buffer zones.

Collaboration between Government, industry, landowners, communities, and the NGO sector is key if we are to help communities build resilience to the climate and the ecological emergency. The Riverscapes partnership looks forward to helping engage the farming community, connecting landowners with each other and much-needed public money, and developing systemic solutions like blended finance, empowering rapid change in how we manage our rivers and land.

Today’s announcement is a key action of the recently published England Trees Action Plan which outlined the Government’s strategy to get more trees in the ground that will help to deliver wide ranging benefits for nature, climate and people, and contributes towards the commitment to treble planting rates in England by the end of this Parliament.

Outside of the catchments targeted by this new Riverscapes Partnership, Defra’s other Woodland Creation Partnerships are supporting land owners to plant trees to meet a range of objectives, including along watercourses.

Prince Charles curates climate change channel for Amazon Prime

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The Prince of Wales has launched a television channel on Amazon Prime focusing on climate change.

The channel, named RE:TV, will also feature a direct plea from Charles to “act now” in addressing issues facing the future of the planet.

RE:TV highlights projects from across the world working on initiatives that can help transform how business is done, helping people make a cleaner and more sustainable economy.

It is understood Charles is not being paid for his curation of the channel, which will feature new films as well as air existing material.

Films include topics such as sustainability, the natural environment and innovation, with a focus on industries such as coffee production and fashion.

Charles said:

“I’ve spent a lot of my lifetime trying to engage people and businesses with the issues and solutions of the climate crisis.

“RE:TV was therefore set up with the aim of capturing the will and imagination of humanity and to champion the most inspiring solutions for sustainability from around the world.”

Platinum Jubilee Medal revealed

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Platinum Jubilee Medal. Source: UK Gov

The design of the medal awarded to a number of front line emergency workers to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee next year has been unveiled today.

The medal, which has been designed by Timothy Noad of the College of Arms, will be awarded to individual George and Victoria Cross recipients and serving members of the Armed Forces and emergency services, among others, and acts as a token of the nation’s thanks to those who diligently serve the public.

The medal, which is made of nickel silver, features an image of The Queen with the Latin inscription ‘Elizabeth II Dei Gratia Regina Fid Def’ which stands for ‘Elizabeth II, By the Grace of God, Queen, Defender of the Faith’.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said:

Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee is a wonderful opportunity to recognise the dedication and service of those who, like the Queen, tirelessly serve our country.

From the troops who serve overseas to the emergency services workers at home who run towards danger when others would flee, we are honoured to have such dedicated and professional public servants who keep us safe.

2022 is an opportunity for us to come together as a nation to celebrate and say thank you to Her Majesty and all those who work so hard to make Britain Great.

The history of awarding medals to mark Royal Jubilee’s dates back to the Victorian period when the first medal was awarded to mark the 50th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s reign.

Those who will receive the medal for Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee are:

  • Serving members of the Armed Forces that have completed five full calendar years of service on 6 February 2022.
  • Frontline emergency services personnel that have been in paid service, retained or in a voluntary capacity, dealing with emergencies as part of their conditions of service, and have completed five full calendar years of service on 6 February 2022.
  • Prison services personnel who are publicly employed and are regularly exposed to difficult and sometimes emergency situations that have completed five full calendar years of service on 6 February 2022.
  • Members of the Royal Household with one year of qualifying service.
  • Living individual recipients of the George Cross.
  • Living individual recipients of the Victoria Cross.

2022 will be a blockbuster year of celebrations with plans to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee with a four-day Bank Holiday weekend from 2 – 5 June which includes Trooping the Colour, the lighting of beacons, a Service of Thanksgiving, a concert, Platinum Pageant and nation-wide street parties.

As well as celebrating 70 years of Her Majesty The Queen’s reign, Britain will host the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and the Festival 2022, which will celebrate the cross collaboration of the Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths sectors.

Government extends legal action against protesters obstructing the A20 and strategic routes to the Port of Dover

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Protesters in Dover causing blockages and travel chaos for tens of thousands of people. Photo credit: Jim Sadler

National Highways secures a further interim injunction to deter demonstrations on the A20 and main roads linked to the Port of Dover.

A further injunction has been approved today (24 September 2021) by the High Court against climate activists who have been carrying out a string of disruptive demonstrations along major roads and at the vital Port of Dover, attempting to cause blockages and travel chaos for tens of thousands of people.

With immediate effect, protesters will be in contempt of court if they breach the terms of an interim injunction won by National Highways today.

Breach of the injunction can be punishable by up to two years in prison and an unlimited fine, serving as a deterrent for anyone thinking of rejoining the disruptive action.

National Highways previously secured an injunction against the protesters for the guerrilla tactics used by activists on the M25 and intends to return to court to extend the injunction and potentially seek additional powers of arrest.

It is hoped the government’s intervention will help dissuade activists from carrying out any further disruption.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

We are absolutely committed to protecting the right to peaceful protest, but it is unacceptable that people cannot go about their day-to-day businesses and that businesses or critical supplies should be put on a knife’s edge because of the reckless actions of a few protesters.

I commend the work of Kent Police and the Port of Dover authorities today to quickly resolve the issue and keep our critical supplies moving and I will do everything to prevent these sorts of guerrilla tactics from putting people’s lives at risk and keeping our emergency services away from the communities that need them.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said:

The British public are rightly furious that the behaviours of a selfish minority have been putting lives at risk and causing untold disruption on our roads and now at Dover. We will not tolerate the recklessness of these few activists and the police continue to have our full support in cracking down on their dangerous behaviour.

The public and the police want officers back serving their communities and cutting crime, not dealing with people happy to put the safety and needs of others at risk.

The government is already ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the UK by 2030, investing billions of pounds to help industry and drivers make the switch to cleaner vehicles, and will continue its work to install thousands of chargepoints and boost the development of new technologies to meet ambitious net zero goals.

Campaign group Insulate Britain’s recent demonstrations have led to considerable disruption on one of the UK’s busiest motorways – creating a backlog of traffic and more pollution – as well as blocking the emergency services from reaching those whose lives are in danger.

Over 200 people involved with the demonstrations have already been arrested and previous actions of Extinction Rebellion – of which Insulate Britain is an offshoot – have cost the UK taxpayer £50 million.

London retains European financial crown despite Brexit

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London retained the European top spot in the latest Financial Centre Index (GFCI) and came second only to New York in the global rankings.

New York came out on top in the latest Global Financial Centres Index, while London held on to second place as Chinese cities slipped according to a report published today (Friday) by the Z/Yen Group.

The index, in partnership with think-tank China Development Institute, is being celebrated in London especially after Brexit as Britain forged its own way ahead in financial markets across the world since last December.

A GFCI statement said:

“The relatively strong performance of New York and London suggests that the financial services sectors in these cities managed to sustain their performance despite radical changes in working practices during the last 18 months.”

Michael Mainelli, Executive Chairman of Z/Yen said:

“We see two patterns in the results for GFCI 30 – confidence in the recovery of the North American and Western European economies following the shock of 2020; and a levelling off following the rapid rise of Asia/Pacific centres and their economic stability in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Competition remains tight. Outside the top two centres, only five points on a 1,000 point scale separate the centres ranked third to eighth.”

Hong Kong and Singapore in third and fourth position both fell 25 points in the ratings.

In their survey of fintech centres, New York and Shanghai retained first and second positions, with London rising two places to third place as Britain makes fintech-friendly policies a priority.

GFCI September 2021 rankings

Maggie Keenan receives COVID booster vaccine as NHS vaccination rollout continues

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The first person in the world to receive a fully-tested and approved Covid-19 vaccine on the NHS was Maggie. Photo permission NHS England

Margaret Keenan, the first person in the world to receive a COVID-19 jab outside of a clinical trial, received a booster shot today in the next phase of the NHS vaccination programme.

The 91-year-old grandmother of four, who is known as Maggie, returned to Coventry Hospital to receive the top-up vaccination.

May Parsons, who administered Maggie’s initial jab ten months ago also received her booster, as the pair were reunited.

The NHS in England made history when Maggie received the first approved vaccination in Coventry on 8 December and has since delivered more than 78 million jabs.

Maggie, a former jewellery shop assistant who only retired five years ago and has two children and four grandchildren, said she was “delighted” to get the extra dose before the winter, and encouraged others to do the same.

Head of the health service Amanda Pritchard today praised Maggie and May for launching the NHS COVID vaccination programme, along with the staff and volunteers involved in the biggest and most successful rollout in health service history.

The NHS chief executive revealed that more than 350,000 people have booked a booster so far this week, and urged others to follow in the footsteps of Maggie and May by taking up the offer when they are invited.

Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said:

“The world watched in December as Maggie Keenan became the first in the world to get a COIVD vaccine and since then, more than 40 million others across the country have joined her. This is testament to the incredible efforts of NHS staff and volunteers, working at speed to protect people from this awful virus.

“It is wonderful to see Maggie get her top up jab today, protecting herself and those around her ahead of winter.

“With more than 350,000 people already booked in for their top-up jab, it is great to see so much enthusiasm for the booster vaccine in such a short period of time.

“If you’re invited, please do come forward for your boost of protection”.

The NHS kickstarted the COVID-19 booster programme last week within two days of updated advice from the JCVI.

On getting her booster 91 year old grandmother, Maggie Keenan, said:

“It was a real privilege to be the first person vaccinated against COVID-19 in December, and to be able to receive my booster alongside May was hilarious. May is great fun – we have done the double-act today, Maggie May.

“I feel good, I feel really good. I don’t really know what stops people from having it, maybe they are frightened of the needle, but it is nothing to be frightened of.

“It has protected me in my mind as well, and I feel quite confident now going out to places, I feel so happy now that I have got this done.

On why people should come forward for their vaccine. 

Maggie added:

“It’s saving their lives, their family’s lives, and it is helping the NHS, so what more can I say – go for it, go and have it done, you will feel much better for it, it is going to help you, and help others”.

Matron May Parsons said:

“To see Maggie doing so well is really extremely heart-warming for me – obviously we had our vaccine in December and getting the booster is imperative if you want maximum protection this winter.

“Even if people are not doing it for themselves and are healthy and well, they are doing it for other people that are quite vulnerable.

“It is a community responsibility – I cannot say it loudly enough, get vaccinated and get protected”.

The jabs for Maggie and May came shortly after the NHS invited over one and a half million people eligible for the COIVD-19 booster vaccine to book an appointment to get jabbed.

Those who are eligible and had their second vaccine at least six months ago will be invited for a booster vaccine.

Eligible individuals will be able to quickly and conveniently book an appointment via www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination. People that can’t go online can book by phoning 119.

The booster programme is being delivered through existing sites including pharmacies, hospital hubs, GP practices and vaccination centres, and in line with JCVI guidance people will receive either one dose of Pfizer or half a dose of Moderna.

People could also be offered a booster dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine if they cannot have the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine.

Those who are eligible for a booster at least six months on from their second dose include:

  • those living in residential care homes for older adults
  • all adults aged 50 years or over
  • frontline health and social care workers
  • all those aged 16 to 49 years with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 (as set out in the green book), and adult carers adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals.

Source: NHS