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EU Leaders Sign Post-Brexit Trade Deal With UK

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European Commission president Ursula Von Der Leyen and European council president Charles Michel have signed the UK-EU post-Brexit trade deal on Wednesday.

The more than twelve hundred-page trade and cooperation agreement now heads to London for UK prime minister Boris Johnson to add his signature and the UK parliament to embark on a rushed debate to clear the decks before the looming deadline.

Von Der Leyen said “it has been a long road. It’s time now to put Brexit behind us. Our future is made in Europe.” Britain will leave the European single market and customs union at 11:00 p.m. (twenty-three hundred GMT) on Thursday, the end of a difficult year and a post-Brexit transition period marked by intense and tortuous trade negotiations.

Downing Street says the prime minister will tell MPs that the agreement heralds “a new relationship between Britain and the EU as sovereign equals, joined by friendship, commerce, history, interests and values.”

Johnson’s government only published the accompanying UK legislation on Tuesday afternoon – just under 24 hours before the debate was to start in parliament – an hour after the signing in Brussels.

The government intends to ram all stages of the 85-page European Union (future relationship) bill through the commons and the house of lords in one day.

The agreement averted the prospect of a cliff-edge separation which would have seen quotas and tariffs slapped on all cross-channel trade, exacerbating strains in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit Britain harder than most.

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US: Biden To Reinstate COVID-19 Travel Ban

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A public health official in United States has said that president Joe Biden will on Monday formally reinstate COVID-19 travel restrictions on non-U.S. travelers from Brazil, Ireland, the United Kingdom and 26 other European countries that allow travel across open borders.

The principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Dr Anne Schuchat told Reuters news agency in an interview stating that “we are adding South Africa to the restricted list because of the concerning variant present that has already spread beyond South Africa.”

Schuchat added that the CDC was “putting in place this suite of measures to protect Americans and also to reduce the risk of these variants spreading and worsening the current pandemic.”

Biden is reversing an order from President Donald Trump in his final days in office that called for the relaxation of the travel restrictions as of Tuesday.

More than 25 million persons in the United States have now been confirmed with COVID-19, about a quarter of the world’s total infections.

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Dog Spent Days Outside Turkish Hospital Waiting For Sick Owner

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A devoted dog has spent days waiting outside a hospital in northern Turkey where her sick owner was receiving treatment.

The pet, Boncuk (Bon-DJUK), which means bead, followed the ambulance that transported her owner, Cemal Senturk, to hospital in the Black Sea city of Trabzon on Jan. 14. She then made daily visits to the facility, private news agency DHA reported on Wednesday.

Senturk’s daughter, Aynur Egeli, said she would take Boncuk home but the dog would repeatedly run off and return to the hospital.

Hospital security guard Muhammet Akdeniz told DHA: “She comes every day around 9 a.m. and waits until nightfall. She doesn’t go in.”

“When the door opens she pokes her head inside,” he said.

On Wednesday, Boncuk was finally reunited with Senturk when he was pushed outside in a wheelchair for a brief meeting with his dog.

“She’s very used to me. And I miss her, too, constantly,” he told DHA.

Senturk was discharged from the hospital later on Wednesday and returned home with Boncuk. (AP)

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Hungary approves Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine

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Hungary has become the first country in the European Union to give preliminary approval to the Russian coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V.

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff confirmed both the Russian jab and the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine have been approved.

Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto has been scheduled to travel to Moscow for further talks, where he is expected to discuss a shipment and distribution plans.

Hungarian health officials are also in Beijing for discussions on the approval and immediate delivery of one million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, already being used in Serbia.

Sinopharm is a Chinese company that announced last month phase three trials of its jab showed 79% effectiveness.

At least 140,000 Hungarians have already been vaccinated with it.

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