‘Straight bullsh*t’: Fans blast NHL as Alex Ovechkin is one of four Russian aces punished alongside $100k fine for Covid-19 breach

Fans have questioned the NHL’s decision after hockey star Alexander Ovechkin and three of his countrymen at Washington were placed on the NHL’s Covid-19 protocol list, earning a $100,000 fine for a reported breach in a hotel room.

Ovechkin, who is chasing NHL legend Wayne Gretzky’s goals record, joined fellow center Evgeny Kuznetsov, defenseman Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Ilya Samsonov on the league’s sanctions list.

The compatriots are believed to have gathered in one hotel room in a violation of Covid-19 restrictions requiring all players to stay alone in a single room, with no guests allowed except for hotel staff.

The players have been sanctioned by the league for “social interactions among team members who were in close contact and who were not wearing face coverings.”

This is the first time the Capitals players appeared on the league’s protocol list this season, which includes those who test positive, have a potential exposure or face quarantine requirements.

Our training staff has worked extremely hard to create a safe environment for our players and staff to be able to compete this season,” the Capitals said in a statement.

We are disappointed by our players’ choice to interact in their hotel room and outside of team approved areas.

“We accept the NHL’s decision and once again will reiterate the Covid-19 protocols in place to make sure the players are in full compliance moving forward.”

Ovechkin released his own statement. “I regret my choice to spend time together with my teammates in our hotel room and away from the locker room areas,” he said. “I will learn from this experience.”

The players’ inclusion on the list means that the Russian quartet will not be allowed to train with the rest of their teammates, although it remains unclear whether they will be allowed to play Washington’s next game against the Buffalo Sabres which is scheduled for Friday.

Many fans were confused by the ruling. “OK, so they can hug and high-five after a goal, practice, sit next to each other on a bench and so on,” observed one. “Such total insanity bullsh*t.”

Another claimed: “They didn’t have someone come and visit them, and are just as likely to spread it – if not more likely, based on studies about the spread in hockey arenas in general – to teammates during the game.

“They shouldn’t break the rules, obviously, but it’s a really dumb rule.”

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UK reaches 5 million Covid-19 vaccinations mark, but infection rates up from December

The British health secretary has congratulated his colleagues in the National Health Service as the country reached a positive milestone in the battle against Covid-19, but the virus is continuing to spread rapidly across the UK.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock rejoiced on Thursday as the country administered its five-millionth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, with 4.6 million people having now received at least one dose of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca jab. 

“This is a huge leap, and one in which we can all take pride. This ongoing expansion will help us to protect even more of the vulnerable even more quickly,” Hancock told Sky News.

The health secretary noted that new sites, including a cinema, mosque, and cricket club will become vaccination hubs this week.

“Let’s all take comfort in the fact that we’re giving 200 vaccinations a minute, but in the meantime, everyone, everyone must follow the rules to protect the NHS and save lives, and we can do that safe in the knowledge that the tide will turn and that, with science, we will prevail,” Hancock said.

The health secretary added that local data on the vaccine programme would be published on Thursday.

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The UK remains one of the countries in Europe most afflicted with Covid-19, as a highly contagious strain of the virus spreads throughout the country. 

A study by Imperial College London, published on Thursday, suggested the most recent lockdown had not been effective in reducing infections. Covid test results from 143,000 people indicate that 1.58 percent of Britons had the virus in early January, up from 0.91 percent in December, according to the REACT-1 (Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission) study. 

“During the initial 10 days of the third Covid-19 lockdown … prevalence of Covid-19 was very high, with no evidence of decline,” the study concluded.

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France’s main Muslim organization slams three Islamic groups for not signing up to anti-extremism charter

The President of the French Council of the Muslin Faith (CFCM) has criticized three Islamic groups in the country over their decision to refuse to sign up to an anti-extremism charter proposed by President Emmanuel Macron.

The Faith and Practice movement, Committee for Coordination of Turkish Muslims in France (CCMTF) and Milli Gorus Islamic Confederation (CMIG) jointly announced on Wednesday evening that they will not sign the charter that has been proposed, in the wake of Islamic terrorist attacks across Europe during 2020.

“[These groups] risk being held responsible for this situation of division,” Mohamed Moussaoui, President of the CFCM said in a statement, calling their actions “repetitive” and describing how they are unlikely to “provide reassurance” that the Muslim religion should not be feared.

The three organizations reportedly refused to sign the charter over their concern about the way that it defines foreign interference in religion and the Islamic faith. 

Explaining their refusal, the groups claimed that they fear “certain passages and formulations in the text submitted are likely to weaken the bonds of trust between the Muslims of France and the nation.”

Some statements are prejudicial to the honour of Muslims, with an accusatory and marginalising tone.

The CFCM is comprised of nine groups but, so far, only five have agreed to sign the charter and work with the French government to address concerns in the country about radicalization and religious extremism.

President Macron proposed the charter towards the end of 2020, as well as implementing a crackdown on mosques and organizations that push extremism, after a teacher was beheaded by an Islamic extremist over a lesson where he showed pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed as part of a discussion on free speech.

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Russian MMA icon Fedor Emelianenko ‘hospitalized due to Covid-19 infection’ – reports

Former PRIDE heavyweight champion and Russian mixed martial arts pioneer Fedor Emelianenko has been admitted to a Moscow hospital which specializes in treating patients suffering from coronavirus, according to local reports.

Emelianenko, 44, is being treated at Clinical Hospital No. 52 in the Russian capital. News of Emelianenko’s admission to the medical facility was reported by RIA Novosti citing information given to them by the medical institution.

Specific details as to Emelianenko’s condition have not yet been made public, but a message posted to the fighter’s Instagram page issued thanked people asking after his wellbeing.

Thanks to all who are genuinely concerned for my health,” the message reads, via translation by RT Sport. “I feel fine, I am going into recovery. I’m grateful to the doctors and medical staff for their care and hard work.”

Emelianenko is known to mixed martial arts fans as one of the most dominant heavyweight fighters in the sport’s history due to an unmatched run through Japanese promotion PRIDE which saw him capture their heavyweight crown and remain undefeated as he rampaged through the division, taking down fighters such as Mirko Cro Cop, Mark Coleman and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira along the way.

The Russian great has most recently been a member of the Bellator roster and was last in action in December 2019, when he defeated fellow PRIDE alumnus Quinton Jackson by first-round stoppage. He came up short in his prior fight against Ryan Bader in a bid to capture the promotion’s heavyweight title. 

Emelianeko’s run in MMA is notable for him having never set foot in the UFC octagon throughout his two-decade fighting career, though UFC boss Dana White did attempt to engineer a fight between Fedor and former UFC champion Brock Lesnar in 2012 before negotiations between all three parties broke down.

In addition to his numerous world titles in mixed martial arts, Emelianenko is also a nine-time Russian champion in combat sambo. 

Since last March, more than 3.6 million coronavirus infections have been reported in Russia, with more than 66,000 deaths recorded. More than 20,000 new cases were identified on Wednesday. 

The virus has ravaged global sport for several months now and has previously impacted the top level of Russian MMA as Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, father and mentor to Russian champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, passed away in July due to complications from a Covid-19 infection.

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Hungary becomes first EU state to approve Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against Covid-19, as UAE also grants authorization for jab

Two more nations revealed on Thursday that they have granted approval for the use of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, with Hungarian Minister Gergely Gulyas saying his country had become the first EU member to sign off on the formula.

Developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, Sputnik V was not originally among those listed for procurement in Brussels, and is still under consideration by the bloc’s central regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMA). While Hungary has already received doses as part of clinical trials, Gulyas, who has led much of the country’s coronavirus response, told journalists on Thursday that he hoped a “larger quantity” of the jab would soon be secured.

In a statement posted on Sputnik V’s website, Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which funded the development of the jab, welcomed the decision, saying “Hungary is the first EU country to realize all the advantages of the Sputnik V vaccine and authorize its use. This decision is very important as it demonstrates that the vaccine’s safety and efficacy of over 90 percent are highly regarded by our partners in Hungary.”

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The day before, in an interview with state TV channel, Mátyás Szentiványi, director general of Hungary’s National Institute of Pharmacy and Nutrition, confirmed that the body “has given authorization for use in Hungarian territory.” He added that the decision would apply for six months, and can then be extended. However, it required final sign-off from the country’s National Center for Public Health before being cleared for use.

Hungary had previously risked a potential confrontation with the EU over its interest in the vaccine, securing vials for research and analysis outside of the bloc’s collective plans. Eric Mamer, a representative of the European Commission, told journalists that there was “no question” that any vaccine made available in any member country would first have to be approved by its own centralized regulator. “We are not in negotiations with either Russian or Chinese companies,” Mamer said. “That is the European vaccine strategy. All member states have signed up to this process.” However, earlier this week, the EMA was reported to now be considering the formula and it is expected that Budapest will wait for authorization, potentially as early as January 29, before injections begin. Another jab, made by the UK’s AstraZeneca, has also been approved on a similar basis.

It had previously been reported by a number of government-funded Western media outlets that Hungary had decided against procuring the Russian-made vaccine. RFERL, the American state-run broadcaster, reported on comments from Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Chief of Staff in December, saying that the country “won’t use Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, despite bilateral co-operation.” However, in an interview with Budapest-based Kossuth Radio in January, Orban praised the formula and said he was “not happy with the pace” of the EU schemes to get access to vaccines against Covid-19.

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Earlier this week, Moscow denied similar claims that the formula had been rejected by Brazil’s drugs watchdog. The Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency (Anvisa) announced on Saturday that it had returned a request for the emergency use of Sputnik V to the applicant, a third party company, saying that paperwork submitted by the firm did not meet the “minimum requirements for submission and analysis.” While some news outlets reported this as a snub for the vaccine, the Russian Direct Investment Fund said that the necessary additional paperwork “will be provided shortly.”

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At the same time, the team behind Sputnik V announced that the UAE had also joined the list of countries that have approved the jab for emergency use. In a statement, the Ministry of Health and Prevention for the country in the Arabian  peninsula said that “the decision comes as part of the UAE’s comprehensive and integrated efforts to ensure increased prevention levels against the virus and to safeguard the health of the country’s citizens and residents.” It had previously hosted Phase-three trials of the jab and said “study results have demonstrated the effectiveness of the vaccine in triggering a strong antibody response against the virus.”

In an additional statement, Dmitriev said that “the UAE is one of Russia’s key partners in the Middle East… the decision to include Sputnik V in [the] national vaccine portfolio is an important step towards protecting the population with one of the best vaccines against coronavirus in the world.”

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