Many thanks for the info Ernest, much appreciated.
Indeed, its connection to remote URLs. Enabled debug mode and following shows up in plugins page
Warning: An unexpected error occurred. Something may be wrong with WordPress.org or this server’s configuration. If you continue to have problems, please try the support forums. (WordPress could not establish a secure connection to WordPress.org. Please contact your server administrator.) in /var/www/html/newsitemcil/wp-includes/update.php on line 320
Consulting department techs re this.