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The government’s economic policies could be causing “many more deaths” than the COVID-19 pandemic, an academic has warned.

In the space of eight years, almost 335,000 more deaths than expected were recorded across England, Wales and Scotland, researchers have found.

The “not only shocking but shameful” statistic is thought to show the “damaging impact” of difficult economic situations caused by the government reducing public spending.

Experts at Glasgow University and the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH) looked at data on deaths in the three nations from 2012 until 2019.

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“This study shows that in the UK a great many more deaths are likely to have been caused by UK government economic policy than by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ruth Dundas, a professor of social epidemiology at the University of Glasgow and one of the authors of the report.

In its findings, the report stated there was now a “clear and urgent need… for such harmful policies to be reversed” and its authors urged the government to “implement measures to protect the most vulnerable in society”.

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The research was carried out amid a “stalling of improvement overall” in mortality rates, with the number of deaths among the poorest members of society increasing since the early 2010s.

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What did the study find?

From 2012, until 2019, 334,327 more people died than expected across England, Wales and Scotland, and more than half of them were men.

Among women, there were 77,173 excess deaths in England and Wales, as well as 6,564 in Scotland.

Published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the study found that previously improving mortality trends changed between 2011 and 2013 in Scotland and England.

This occurred after the Conservatives, under the leadership of David Cameron, came to power in 2010.

From that time until 2012, death rates among women living in the 20% most deprived areas of England increased by 3%, and they did the same between 2017 and 2019.

In the previous decade, this figured had decreased by around 14%.

In Scotland, the number of premature deaths among the poorest communities increased by 6-7% in the same time frames after declines of 10-20%.

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‘These deaths did not have to happen’

Speaking about the research, Dr David Walsh, the lead author of the paper, said: “These figures are not only shocking but shameful.

“We must remember that these are more than just statistics: they represent hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have been cut short, and hundreds of thousands of families who have had to deal with the grief and aftermath of those deaths.

“The tragic thing is that these deaths did not have to happen. In the words of the United Nations, in a society as wealthy as the UK, ‘poverty is a political choice’.”

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The government’s ‘plan for patients’

He urged the government to realise the “damaging impact of austerity” and respond with economic policies that improve life expectancy for everyone.

Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said the “shocking” findings reinforces the “urgent” need for the government to “change course” from its current budget proposals, which have caused concern among many MPs.

“Reinforcing austerity, and imposing deep real terms cuts on welfare payments and on public services as a whole, would simply add to the human toll so starkly illustrated in this study,” he warned.

His comments come amid speculation that the government could cut benefits in a bid to reduce public spending.

Former chancellor Rishi Sunak had promised to increase benefits in line with inflation, but current Prime Minister Liz Truss has said a decision on this policy “will be made in due course”.

With a failure to rule out a real-terms cut to benefits, concerns have been raised by Conservative MPs about the impact it may have on families already struggling due to the cost of living crisis.

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Zelenskyy calls on Biden and Xi to join Ukraine peace summit

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Zelenskyy calls on Biden and Xi to join Ukraine peace summit

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has directly called on his US and Chinese counterparts to join his latest summit for peace in Ukraine.

Speaking from Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine on Friday, Mr Zelenskyy announced a “global peace summit”, co-hosted by Switzerland, starting on 15 June.

He claimed 80 countries have already confirmed their attendance.

But he said: “I am appealing to the global leaders of the world who are still outside the global efforts of the global peace summit.

“To President Biden, the leader of the United States, and to President Xi, the leader of China, we do not want the UN charter to be burned.

“Please show your leadership in advancing the peace.”

Residents evacuated from a building hit by strikes in Kharkiv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters
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Residents evacuated from a building hit by strikes in Kharkiv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters

He added that it must be “real peace – not just a pause in the strikes” after various ceasefire breaches by the Russians.

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Finally, he urged: “The efforts of the global majority are the best guarantee that all commitments will be fulfilled.”

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Shopping mall hit by strike in Kharkiv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters

Printworks and shopping centre targeted this week

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, with a pre-war population of 1.5 million people, is close to the frontline, and has been consistently targeted since the initial invasion in February 2022.

On Thursday, its ‘Vivat’ printworks, which is the country’s largest, was hit by missiles, killing seven people, and destroying an estimated 50,000 books. A further 21 people were injured, Ukrainian officials said.

On Saturday, a strike on a shopping centre killed six people, injured 40, and left a further 16 unaccounted for, local authorities said.

Elsewhere in the city, an additional 11 people were injured as a result of strikes, including a 13-year-old boy.

Just over the border, in Russia’s Belgorod region, the regional governor there said four residents died as a result of Ukrainian attacks on Saturday.

Aftermath of Russian strike on Kharkiv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters
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Aftermath of Russian strike on Kharkiv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters

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Mr Zelenskyy warned a new Russian offensive is being planned northwest of Kharkiv.

Ukrainians and military analysts have repeatedly warned of depleting weapon supplies on the frontline.

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Earlier this month the US agreed to a further $2bn (£1.6bn) in military support for Ukraine.

It has consistently resisted calls to send US troops there, in line with NATO’s refusal for direct involvement in the conflict.

China has resisted calls by NATO and its member states to take a direct stance against Russia in support of Ukraine.

President Xi hosted Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a show of “friendship” earlier this month.

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Hamas launches first rocket attack on Israel from Gaza in months

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Hamas launches first rocket attack on Israel from Gaza in months

Hamas has launched rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza for the first time in months.

The barrage of rockets set off air raid sirens in cities as far away as Tel Aviv.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage in what appeared to be the first long-range rocket attack from Gaza since January, although Palestinian militants have continued to sporadically fire rockets and mortar rounds at communities along the Gaza border since then.

Hamas’s military wing claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Israeli military said eight projectiles crossed into Israel after being launched from the area of the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where Israeli forces recently launched an incursion.

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India: Newborn babies killed in fire at hospital in Delhi after ‘chain of explosions’

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India: Newborn babies killed in fire at hospital in Delhi after 'chain of explosions'

At least six newborn babies have died after a fire broke out at a children’s hospital in India, according to reports.

Firefighters said they carried 12 newborns out of the centre in the Vivek Vihar district of east New Delhi late on Saturday night, but five of them died due to smoke inhalation.

Two other infants are believed to have already died, according to local media. There are differing reports as to whether six or seven infants have been killed so far.

Another five survived and are being treated in a nearby hospital, Delhi fire department chief Atul Garg said.

The blaze, which broke out on the first floor of the hospital, was put out after about an hour.

Burnt registration cards lie on the floor of a baby care center in New Delhi, India, Sunday, May 26, 2024. A fire broke out in the care center on Saturday night killing six infants, a fire service officer said on Sunday. (AP Photo/Dinesh Joshi)
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Burnt registration cards lie on the floor of the hospital. Pic: AP

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Mr Garg told the ANI news agency that an oxygen cylinder blast was the likely cause of the fire, but there has been no official confirmation.

“It was a very tough operation,” he was quoted as saying by India Today.

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“We made two teams. One team started firefighting because there was a blast of cylinders. We can say it was a chain of blasts of cylinders.

“We had to save ourselves also. We started rescue operations for babies as well. Unfortunately, we could not save all the children… That is a regrettable incident.”

The owner of the baby hospital has fled, according to Delhi police.

Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi’s chief minister, called the fire “heartbreaking”, adding that the “causes of the incident are being investigated and whoever is responsible for this negligence will not be spared”.

Machines move the debris following a fire in a gaming zone in Rajkot, in the western state of Gujarat, India, May 26, 2024. REUTERS/Amit Dave
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Machines move debris after a fire in Rajkot. Pic: Reuters

Earlier on Saturday, at least 27 people were killed in a fire at a crowded amusement park in the city of Rajkot in Gujarat state in western India.

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