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No10 slaps down Tory calls for ‘road map’ out of lockdown

No10’s top scientific advisers fear the Kent Covid variant that ripped through the UK and prompted England’s third lockdown may be deadlier than original strains, it was claimed today as the Government slapped down Tory calls for a ‘road map’ back to normal life. 

Boris Johnson has pointedly refused to rule out the draconian restrictions lasting well into the summer, despite an array of data suggesting the worst of the second wave is over. SAGE today claimed Britain’s R rate has fallen below the crucial level of one and separate experts estimated daily cases have halved in a fortnight.  

Defying mounting pressure to commit to easing the current measures, Mr Johnson warned today that the NHS is still under huge pressure and the curbs will only be lifted when it is ‘safe’. Downing Street was warned it faces the ‘mother of all battles’ next month when it has to discuss relaxing the restrictions.

The 70-strong Covid Recovery Group of Conservative MPs is urging the government to start lifting the lockdown no later than March 8 – when vaccines given to the most vulnerable groups should have taken effect. 

But No10’s refusal to give an exact day for when lockdown will end may have been fuelled by worrying findings from scientists feeding into SAGE, who believe that the highly-infectious Kent variant of Covid – called B.1.1.7 – may be up to 30 per cent deadlier than older strains. 

The PM is expected to discuss analysis of the variant’s lethality by Public Health England and other groups feeding into NERVTAG at tonight’s press conference, alongside Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance. 

‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson, the Imperial College London epidemiologist whose grim modelling warned hundreds of thousands of Britons could die without action back in March, told ITV’s Robert Peston it is a ‘realistic possibility’ the new variant increases the risk of death. 

The variant has already been spotted in 60 countries, including the US, Australia, India, China and Saudi Arabia. But the Government’s top scientific advisers believe the current crop of vaccines will work against the variant – but may be less effective against other South African and Brazilian mutations. 

In a dramatic sign that the outbreak could be flattening out, SAGE said the R rate – the average number of people each infected patient passes the virus onto – was between 0.8 and 1. That is down sharply from last week, when it was between 1.2 and 1.3.

Separate data show cases have halved in a fortnight and deaths in London are falling. And figures today revealed Britain’s mass vaccination drive is continuing to pick up speed following a blip last week, with a record 400,000 doses dished out yesterday.  

The epidemic is still huge and devastating the country, however, with another 1,401 deaths confirmed today – 10,000 people have died in the past 10 days – and 40,261 more people have tested positive. There are 38,562 people in hospital, as of Wednesday, and 3,960 on ventilators in intensive care yesterday.

And grim figures laying bare the other economically-crippling side of lockdown reveal business activity has fallen even more than expected this month, leaving the UK looking down the barrel of a double dip recession. Number 10 borrowed more than £34billion in December – the third highest monthly total ever – as it scrambles to keep millions of jobs and stricken firms afloat while tax revenues dwindle.

Instead Cabinet ministers are embroiled in an unseemly squabble over whether to pump up financial support further and toughen rules at UK borders. A leaked plan from Matt Hancock’s Department of Health would see everyone who tests positive for coronavirus given £500 in cash to self-isolate.

The idea, which could cost half a billion pounds a week, is meant to bolster low levels of compliance – but officials at Rishi Sunak’s Treasury branded it ‘bonkers’, while No10 effectively disowned the proposal, saying the PM had not seen it. 

Meanwhile, the powerful Covid O Cabinet committee is due to made a decision on introducing ‘quarantine hotels’ next week – with all arrivals potentially forced to isolate for 10 days at airports in a bid to prevent more Covid ‘super-strains’ being imported. 

In another whirlwind day of developments in the coronavirus crisis:

  • Nicola Sturgeon has warned there is no guarantee life will be ‘back to normal’ by the summer; 
  • Police raided a lockdown-busting wedding at a Jewish girls’ school last night – 10 months after its principal died of Covid; 
  • A group of 26 British skiers is in isolation in a French resort after 16 tested positive for Covid; 
  • Passengers at Heathrow have vented anger at delays and plans for enforced quarantine as the travel industry warned of looming catastrophe; 
  • An official survey revealed 98 per cent of adults aged 70 or over would show up to a vaccination appointment, but the figure is far lower for younger people. 

In a dramatic sign that the outbreak could be flattening out, SAGE said the R rate was between 0.8 and 1. That is down sharply from last week, when it was between 1.2 and 1.3

Worrying strains around the world: Since the Covid pandemic began there have been at least six new stains which appear more infectious and have mutations that open the door to vaccine resistance

Worrying strains around the world: Since the Covid pandemic began there have been at least six new stains which appear more infectious and have mutations that open the door to vaccine resistance 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits a storm basin near the River Mersey in Didsbury on January 21, 2021 in Manchester, England

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits a storm basin near the River Mersey in Didsbury on January 21, 2021 in Manchester, England

The ONS report today said the number of people likely to test positive for coronavirus came down from 1.122million on January 2 to 1.023million on January 16

The ONS report today said the number of people likely to test positive for coronavirus came down from 1.122million on January 2 to 1.023million on January 16

Passengers wait at  Heathrow Airport today as ministers mull even tighter rules

Passengers wait at  Heathrow Airport today as ministers mull even tighter rules

The number of people developing Covid-19 every day appears to have halved in a fortnight from 70,000 on January 8 to 34,000 today, according to the Covid Symptom Study, which uses self-reported symptoms through a mobile app used by around a million people

The number of people developing Covid-19 every day appears to have halved in a fortnight from 70,000 on January 8 to 34,000 today, according to the Covid Symptom Study, which uses self-reported symptoms through a mobile app used by around a million people

Grim figures published today showed government borrowing soared to £34.1billion in December - the third highest monthly figure on record - amid growing fears about the UK's debt mountain

Grim figures published today showed government borrowing soared to £34.1billion in December – the third highest monthly figure on record – amid growing fears about the UK’s debt mountain

Closely-watched PMI data for the private sector showed a reading of 40.6 so far in January - with anything blow 50 pointing to a contraction

Closely-watched PMI data for the private sector showed a reading of 40.6 so far in January – with anything blow 50 pointing to a contraction

Has the UK passed the worst of second peak? 

The UK’s R rate has dropped below one in a dramatic sign that the peak could have been passed.

Scientists said the level was down to between 0.8 and 1, compared to 1.2 and 1.3. 

The number represents how many people an infected individual passes the disease on to, and anything below one means the outbreak is shrinking. 

Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics said the total number of people with coronavirus dropped last week – but there were still more than a million people infected. 

And the symptom-tracking Covid Symptom Study estimates that the number of people developing symptoms each day has halved in a fortnight, down to 34,000 a day from 70,000 on January 8, while official death counts show fatalities appear to be declining in London.

Numbers of people testing positive through NHS Test and Trace have also tumbled for twelve days in a row, with the daily average tumbling from 60,000 on January 10 to 40,000 yesterday. And an array of other data also suggests the epidemic is coming under control, with Public Health England figures showing positive test rates are down in all regions and age groups.

London’s average daily death count fell from 169 to 163 in the most recent four days of data and could be set to fall further as official statistics remain lower than they were at the start of this month. 

Professor Tim Spector, a King’s College London epidemiologist, said today that the ‘signs are hopeful we’re on our way out of this situation’.

But he cautioned the virus is still widespread all over the country, with huge numbers of people infected. NHS hospitals are under immense strain and intensive care wards twice as busy as last year, despite thousands of extra beds. 

The estimates for R and the growth rate are provided by the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M), a sub-group of Sage.

The growth rate, which estimates how quickly the number of infections is changing day by day, is between minus 4 per cent and minus 1 per cent for the UK as a whole.

It means the number of new infections is shrinking by between 1 per cent and 4 per cent every day.

Scientists advising the Government said that all regions of England have seen decreases in the R number and growth rate estimates compared with last week, and R is below or around 1 in every region.

However, they warned that despite the reductions, case levels ‘remain dangerously high and we must remain vigilant to keep this virus under control, to protect the NHS and save lives’.

Sage scientists said: ‘Cases remain dangerously high and we must remain vigilant to keep this virus under control, to protect the NHS and save lives. 

‘It is essential that everyone continues to stay at home, whether they have had the vaccine or not. 

‘We all need to play our part, and if everyone continues to follow the rules, we can expect to drive down the R number across the country.’

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, from the maths faculty at the University of Cambridge, said the drop in R was ‘very encouraging news’.

He said the decline in positive cases has been slow but cases are ‘nearly half what they were three weeks ago, which is enormously hopeful’.

Sir David told the BBC that, by next month, the UK will start seeing the benefits of the vaccine rollout.

But he also gave a stark vision of the competing concerns that the government is wrestling with. 

‘The one thing I can be absolutely confident about is that, by this time next month, there is going to be the mother of all argument,’ he said.

‘Because it’s quite feasible that deaths will have come down considerably, infections should have come down considerably, hospitalisations and ICU will still be under a lot of pressure.

‘There will be enormous pressure to loosen things up.

‘Loosening it up will inevitably lead to an increase in cases, a resurgence of the pandemic among younger groups, and we can see then that does seep through into hospitalisations.

Kent variant timeline  

September 20 – Variant emerges in a chronically ill Covid-19 patient in Kent 

November 6 – Infected person takes the new strain to California  

November 2020 – Spike in cases occurs in Kent and Medway despite national lockdown squashing case numbers in the rest of the country 

November 23 – Air passenger brings new variant to  Florida

December 11 – SAGE tells the Government about the new variant 

December 14 –  Authorities of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland reported to WHO that new SARS-CoV-2 variant was identified through viral genomic sequencing

Matt Hancock tells MPs about the new variant  

December 18 – SAGE tells the Government they are concerned about the new variant and its transmissibility

December 20 – London, South East and East of England go into new Tier 4 restrictions due to spike in cases due to new variant 

December 21 – More than 40 countries halt flights from UK due to new variant 

December 29 – First case is spotted in the US 

All dates are for the year 2020  

‘So there’s going to be a real battle going on.’

Hopes have been fuelled that the UK might have passed the worst of the second wave, with the Office for National Statistics saying the total number of people with coronavirus dropped last week – but there were still more than a million people infected.

And the symptom-tracking Covid Symptom Study estimates that the number of people developing symptoms each day has halved in a fortnight, down to 34,000 a day from 70,000 on January 8, and that the R rate of the virus in the UK is just 0.8, while official death counts show fatalities appear to be declining in London.

Numbers of people testing positive through NHS Test and Trace have also tumbled for twelve days in a row, with the daily average tumbling from 60,000 on January 10 to 40,000 yesterday, and Public Health England figures show positive test rates were down in all regions and age groups last week.

Professor Tim Spector, a King’s College London epidemiologist, said today that the ‘signs are hopeful we’re on our way out of this situation’.

London’s average daily death count fell from 169 to 163 in the most recent four days of data and could be set to fall further as official statistics remain lower than they were at the start of this month.

But he cautioned the virus is still widespread all over the country, with huge numbers of people infected. NHS hospitals are under immense strain and intensive care wards twice as busy as last year, despite thousands of extra beds.

More than 20,000 people have died since January 1 and thousands more will die in the coming weeks even with cases continuing to fall because it can take weeks for infected patients to become severely ill. Almost 40,000 Britons are currently in hospital with Covid.

Despite the flattening, the direction of travel in government seems to be towards tightening lockdown even further. 

And No10 delivered a rebuke this afternoon to Tory MPs urging the government to release a blueprint for how lockdown will be eased when the first phase of vaccine rollout is complete  

The PM’s spokesman said: ‘It’s important that we continue to monitor the latest situation.

‘You see the latest figures that we publish on a daily basis which clearly show that transmission rates of the virus remain high.

‘The NHS continues to be under pressure and the number of patients admitted to hospital remains at a high level.

‘It’s obviously the case that we want to see the transmission rate of the virus come down and therefore the pressure on the NHS eased.

‘The Prime Minister has been clear that we will lift restrictions as soon as we can but only when it is deemed safe to do so.’

There were reports today that ministers are already in talks with hotel chains over plans to force UK arrivals to quarantine at airports.

Travellers could be prevented from using their own accommodation under the proposals being put together by the government. Using GPS tags to ensure compliance is also believed to have been considered.

The draconian ‘quarantine hotel’ system, similar to that used in Australia and New Zealand, is a prospect amid rising fears about the spread of Covid variants around the globe.

Arrivals would potentially have to pay for their stays while they self-isolate for 10 days, or even a fortnight. There are reports today that negotiations are already taking place with hotel chains, while London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was in favour.

The powerful Covid O Cabinet sub-committee is due to discuss the ideas over the coming days – although a final decision is not likely until next week.   

Environment Secretary George has refused to rule out even more drastic action, with foreigners barred from coming to the UK altogether.    

Asked about the possibility in a round of interviews, Mr Eustice told Sky News: ‘We always keep these things under review. And it has been considered.

‘There is concern at the moment about the number of mutant strains.’

Any new restrictions would be a further blow to the beleaguered travel industry and put the holiday plans of millions at risk.

It comes as Britain’s airports are already struggling to cope with demand, with passengers queuing for hours yesterday to get through passport control at Heathrow as the border situation worsened.

The lines were so long staff were said to have handed out free water to exhausted travellers just hours after the Home Office insisted there were no staffing issues and people were moving through in ‘good time’. 

The proposal to hand out £500 to everyone who tests positive for coronavirus has surfaced amid efforts to increase compliance – with many believed to dodge the rules because they cannot afford to stop working.

Detailed in an official policy paper, it is said to be the ‘preferred position’ of Mr Hancock’s Department of Health.

Ministers mull ‘quarantine hotels’ for UK arrivals 

Ministers are in talks with hotel chains over plans to force UK arrivals to quarantine at airports, it was claimed today.

Travellers could be prevented from using their own accommodation under the proposals being put together by the government. Using GPS tags to ensure compliance is also believed to have been considered.

The draconian ‘quarantine hotel’ system, similar to that used in Australia and New Zealand, is a prospect amid rising fears about the spread of Covid variants around the globe.

Arrivals would potentially have to pay for their stays while they self-isolate for 10 days, or even a fortnight. There are reports today that negotiations are already taking place with hotel chains, while London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was in favour.

The powerful Covid O Cabinet sub-committee is due to discuss the ideas over the coming days – although a final decision is not likely until next week.   

Meanwhile, Environment Secretary George has refused to rule out even more drastic action, with foreigners barred from coming to the UK altogether.    

Asked about the possibility, Mr Eustice told Sky News: ‘We always keep these things under review. And it has been considered.

‘There is concern at the moment about the number of mutant strains.’

Officials fear that too many with Covid symptoms fail to take a test in case knowing a positive result stops them working.

However, it appears to have blindsided Downing Street, with sources making clear No10 was had not seen the blueprint before it was leaked and warning it would create ‘perverse incentives’.

Treasury officials said it was ‘not going to happen’ and swiped that they had ‘zero idea’ how Mr Hancock allowed it to get traction. ‘Just bonkers. The whole country will suddenly develop a dry cough,’ one said.

Mr Eustice refused to rule out the plan entirely, saying ministers were looking at reasons why people avoid self-isolating with Covid symptoms.

But he stressed that ‘no decisions’ had been taken and the government was ‘always keeping multiple policies under review’. 

The wrangling came as as grim figures showed business activity plunging into the red again this month.

Closely-watched PMI data for the private sector showed a reading of 40.6 so far in January – with anything below 50 pointing to a contraction.

It was significantly worse than the expectations of analysts, who had predicted 46.1, underlining the devastating impact of the pandemic. 

Economists warned that a double-dip downturn is now firmly ‘on the cards’ after the fledgling recovery from the worst recession in 300 years was strangled by action to control a surge in cases.

Figures last week showed GDP dropping 2.6 per cent in November during the second England-wide Covid lockdown.

Any December rally will have been smothered by the harsh ‘tier’ controls in England, and the renewed blanket curbs in January.

In more signs of the huge problems facing the country, figures have revealed public borrowing hit £34.1billion in December – the third highest monthly figure on record. 

And retail sales saw the largest fall since records began last year, even though there was a slight uptick in December.

However, separate PMI released for the Eurozone show the UK is far from alone, with France and other major players also facing GDP going into reverse again.  

Chris Williamson, Chief Business Economist at IHS Markit, said its ‘flash’ PMI for this month showed the crucial services sector had been hit ‘especially hard’.

However, in a crumb of comfort, he said the scale of the downturn was far less dramatic than last spring. 

‘A steep slump in business activity in January puts the locked-down UK economy on course to contract sharply in the first quarter of 2021, meaning a double-dip recession is on the cards,’ he said. 

‘Services have once again been especially hard hit, but manufacturing has seen growth almost stall, blamed on a cocktail of COVID-19 and Brexit, which has led to increasingly widespread supply delays, rising costs and falling exports. 

UK faces double-dip recession as business activity slumps in January

Britain is facing a double-dip recession as grim figures showed business activity plunging into the red again this month.

Closely-watched PMI data for the private sector showed a reading of 40.6 so far in January – with anything below 50 pointing to a contraction.

It was significantly worse than the expectations of analysts, who had predicted 46.1, underlining the devastating impact of the pandemic. 

Economists warned that a double-dip downturn is now firmly ‘on the cards’ after the fledgling recovery from the worst recession in 300 years was strangled by action to control a surge in cases.

Figures last week showed GDP dropping 2.6 per cent in November during the second England-wide Covid lockdown.

Any December rally will have been smothered by the harsh ‘tier’ controls in England, and the renewed blanket curbs in January.

In more signs of the huge problems facing the country, figures have revealed public borrowing hit £34.1billion in December – the third highest monthly figure on record. 

And retail sales saw the largest fall since records began last year, even though there was a slight uptick in December.

However, separate PMI released for the Eurozone show the UK is far from alone, with France and other major players also facing GDP going into reverse again.  

‘Worryingly, January also saw companies reduce headcounts at an increased rate again – albeit less so than seen between March and November. The steepest loss of jobs was recorded in the hotels, restaurants, travel and leisure sectors, reflecting the new lockdown measures. 

‘Encouragingly, the current downturn looks far less severe than that seen during the first national lockdown, and businesses have become increasingly optimistic about the outlook, thanks mainly to progress in rolling out COVID-19 vaccines. 

‘Business hopes for the year ahead have risen the highest for over six-and-a-half years, boding well for the economy to return to solid growth once virus restrictions ease.’ 

Government borrowing soared to £34.1billion in December – the third highest monthly figure on record – amid growing fears about the UK’s debt mountain.

The number for the last month of 2020 was £28.2billion higher than the equivalent period in 2019 as the pandemic wreaked havoc on the economy and ministers lashed out on massive bailouts such as furlough.

It pushed total borrowing for the first nine months of the financial year to £270.8billion, the peak for any April to December period since records began in 1993. 

There are fears the full-year figure will top £400billion. Even in the aftermath of the credit crunch, borrowing only hit £158billion in 2009-10. 

The UK’s debt pile reached £2.13trillion by the end of 2020, around 99.4 per cent of GDP – the highest debt to GDP ratio since 1962.  

Other PMI produced by IHS Markit today showed a double-dip recession in the Eurozone is ‘increasingly inevitable’, with France among the countries most seriously hit. 

The slowdown among business activities in the currency area intensified in January as the pandemic continued to batter the continent.    

Government scientists yesterday urged ministers to delay the reopening of pubs and restaurants until at least May to prevent another wave of the virus. Whitehall sources suggested schools could remain shut to most pupils until after Easter.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the UK Hospitality trade body, said many pubs and restaurants would ‘struggle to survive’ if they were forced to keep their doors closed until May. 

She added: ‘If we are forced to wait for a longer period then unfortunately there will be very little left of the hospitality sector – and the 3.2million people who work in it – to reopen at that point in May.’

In recent weeks, the Prime Minister has repeatedly spoken of a return to normality this spring.

 Last month he said: ‘We’re no longer resting on the mere hope that we can return to normal next year in the spring but rather the sure and certain knowledge that we will succeed.’

But asked directly whether the country was ‘looking at summer rather than spring’ for an easing of lockdown yesterday, he replied: ‘I think it’s too early to say when we’ll be able to lift some of some of the restrictions.’

The PM said the new variant of the disease ‘does spread very fast indeed’, adding: ‘It unquestionably will be a very tough few weeks ahead.’

No10 also refused to rule out an extended lockdown when asked to clarify Mr Johnson’s remarks.

There are early signs in Government data that number of people dying each day in London has turned a corner and started to decline in mid-January, with the daily average declining from 169 to 163 and falling for four days in a row between January 10 and 14

There are early signs in Government data that number of people dying each day in London has turned a corner and started to decline in mid-January, with the daily average declining from 169 to 163 and falling for four days in a row between January 10 and 14

Hancock faces backlash over ‘bonkers’ plan to give people £500 when they test positive for Covid 

Matt Hancock faced a furious backlash today after ‘bonkers’ plans surfaced to give everyone testing positive for Covid £500.

The proposal, which would cost up to £450million a week, is aimed at encouraging more people to undergo swabs and self-isolate to stop the virus spreading.

Detailed in an official policy paper, it is said to be the ‘preferred position’ of Mr Hancock’s Department of Health.

Officials fear that too many with Covid symptoms fail to take a test in case knowing a positive result stops them working.

However, it appears to have blindsided Downing Street, with sources making clear No10 was had not seen the blueprint before it was leaked and warning it would create ‘perverse incentives’.

Treasury officials said it was ‘not going to happen’ and swiped that they had ‘zero idea’ how Mr Hancock allowed it to get traction. ‘Just bonkers. The whole country will suddenly develop a dry cough,’ one said.

In a round of interviews this morning, Environment Secretary George Eustice refused to rule out the plan entirely, saying ministers were looking at reasons why people avoid self-isolating with Covid symptoms.

But he stressed that ‘no decisions’ had been taken and the government was ‘always keeping multiple policies under review’. 

Asked directly whether he could rule out the lockdown lasting into the summer, the PM’s official spokesman said: ‘We will continue to keep all of the scientific evidence and data under review.

‘It remains our position that we want to ease restrictions as soon as it is safe to do so, but in order for us to do that we need to see the transmission rates of the virus come down and we need to see the pressure on the NHS reduce.’

A Government source insisted that the PM’s comments did not amount to a change in the timetable for easing the lockdown.

‘People should not read too much into this,’ the source said. ‘The PM wants to reopen as quickly as we safely can, but cases are very high and only coming down slowly – there has to be a degree of caution.’

Former Tory chief whip Mr Harper said the public now needed a timetable for easing the lockdown. 

Mr Harper, chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, said achieving the Government’s target to vaccinate the 15million most vulnerable by February 15 should clear the way for restrictions to be lifted three weeks later when the vaccines had taken effect. 

‘Covid causes serious harm and it’s vital we control it effectively,’ he said. ‘But this cycle of lockdowns and restrictions cause immense damage too – to people’s health, livelihoods and businesses.

‘Once the top four risk groups have been vaccinated and fully protected… the Government must start easing the restrictions.’ But Government scientists and health chiefs warned it was much too soon to even contemplate easing restrictions.

Dr Vin Diwakar, medical director for the NHS in London said the pandemic was ‘the biggest health emergency to face this country since the Second World War’.

Rounding on those still flouting the lockdown rules, he told a Downing Street press briefing: ‘For me and my colleagues in the NHS breaking the rules…. is like switching on a light in the middle of the blackout in the Blitz.’

And Dr Marc Baguelin, of Imperial College London, who sits on a sub-group of the Government’s Sage committee, said the early opening of the hospitality sector would lead to a rise in Covid cases. He told BBC Radio Four’s World at One programme: ‘Something of this scale, if it was to happen earlier than May, would generate a bump in transmission, which is already really bad.’ 

No Glasto in June for the second year

Glastonbury Festival has been cancelled for the second year running thanks to the pandemic.

The organisers say they ‘moved heaven and earth’ trying to make it happen but continuing uncertainty means Britain’s biggest musical jamboree – attended by 200,000 fans in 2019 – cannot go ahead.

It was due to celebrate its 50th anniversary last year but had to be called off days before the first lockdown in March.

Now organisers Michael and Emily Eavis say the 2021 event cannot go ahead. Sir Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift and rapper Kendrick Lamar were scheduled to headline the Pyramid stage and Diana Ross was the Sunday afternoon ‘legend’.

People in the festival crowd enjoy watching Dizzee Rascal on the Pyramid stage during day two of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm on June 25, 2010 in Glastonbury, England

People in the festival crowd enjoy watching Dizzee Rascal on the Pyramid stage during day two of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm on June 25, 2010 in Glastonbury, England

Primal Scream, Dua Lipa, Manic Street Preachers and Lana Del Ray were also on the bill.

The father and daughter Eavis team said yesterday: ‘With great regret, we must announce that this year’s Glastonbury Festival will not take place and that this will be another enforced fallow year for us.

‘In spite of our efforts to move heaven and earth, it has become clear that we simply will not be able to make the festival happen.’

They said those who secured tickets with £50 deposits in 2019 will be able to roll this over to the next event in June 2022.

Disappointed fans due to descend on Worthy Farm, Somerset, from June 23-28 said the move was understandable, but Tory MP Julian Knight, chairman of the Commons culture committee, called it a ‘devastating’ blow and criticised the government’s failure to set up an insurance scheme to save major events.

Tom Watson, head of UK Music, said such a backup scheme ‘wouldn’t have cost too much’ and if Britain’s vaccine rollout proved a success Glastonbury would have provided an ideal celebration.

Eurostar passengers down 94% of passengers

Eurostar passenger numbers plummeted 94 per cent at the end of 2020, it emerged yesterday, sparking fresh calls for a joint UK-French support package.

Officials from both sides continued talks yesterday in a bid to strike a deal amid fears the Channel Tunnel firm is facing bankruptcy.

Yesterday’s figures reveal that, over the course of 2020, passenger numbers were down 77 per cent, dropping from just over 11 million in 2019 to 2.5 million.

Workers clean the platform area as a Eurostar train bound for Paris prepares to leave St Pancras International train station in London on January 18, 2021

Workers clean the platform area as a Eurostar train bound for Paris prepares to leave St Pancras International train station in London on January 18, 2021

The fall reached 94 per cent in the final quarter when passenger numbers were 170,010, compared with 2,624,943 in 2019.

One rescue option being discussed would involve the Bank of England providing funds from its Covid loan facility.

Industry projections suggest Eurostar, which is majority-owned by the French government, could go bust by April, although company insiders say reserves could stretch until summer. The UK Government sold its 40 per cent stake in Eurostar in 2015.

Cafes and bars could see 3.2m jobs axed

By Claire Ellicott and Sami Quadri for The Daily Mail 

Hospitality chiefs issued a dire warning about the future of many businesses last night after doctors advised that the reopening of pubs and restaurants should be pushed back to May.

Industry leaders said that just one in five restaurants, pubs and bars had enough cash to get through beyond March.

It came after Sage scientists who advise the Government warned that the sector would have to stay closed until at least May to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, told Radio 4’s The World At One that if the reopening of the sector was delayed until May, 3.2million could lose their jobs.

Diners in Old Compton Street, Soho, London, in August 2020

Diners in Old Compton Street, Soho, London, in August 2020

‘Just one in five hospitality businesses are confident that they will have enough cash to get through beyond March,’ she said. ‘There is no way that businesses will be able to survive until May with no revenues coming in for seven months.

‘It’s a cash burn of half a billion pounds to keep the sector closed each and every month. If we are forced to wait for a longer period then unfortunately there will be little left of the hospitality sector and the 3.2million people who work in it to reopen at that point in May.’

She said she hoped that with the vaccination programme under way, there would be a ‘pathway’ to the lifting of restrictions.

‘Otherwise I think you’ve got a danger that you have an impact on peoples’ mental health and well-being and also their economic health and well-being,’ she said.

A man wearing a face mask as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, walks past a closed pub in the City of London, on January 15, 2021

A man wearing a face mask as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, walks past a closed pub in the City of London, on January 15, 2021

If the sector is closed until May, she warned, there would need to be a ‘significant additional injection of cash support from the Government because the support at the moment is just not sufficient to sustain and maintain businesses and jobs’.

Doctors warned restaurants would not be able to open until May because it would push up the R rate.

Dr Marc Baguelin of Imperial College London, who sits on the Sage committee, said: ‘We looked at partial reopening and the increase of the R number and found that it will generate an increase, the extent of which we don’t really know.

‘And if this was to happen earlier than May, it will generate a bump which is really bad … at best you will carry on having a very unsustainable level of pressure on the NHS.’

School’s out until Easter? 

By Jason Groves for The Daily Mail 

Schools could remain shut until after the Easter holidays unless virus cases fall dramatically in the coming weeks, it was feared last night.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson yesterday said he still hoped schools might be able to return after the February half-term.

But with Covid cases still at high levels, Downing Street refused to be drawn on the likely restart for millions of children stuck trying to learn from home.

And a government source acknowledged it was becoming ‘increasingly difficult’ to see how schools could be reopened next month, given the state of the pandemic.

During a round of media interviews yesterday, Mr Williamson insisted there would be no repeat of the shambolic episode at the start of this month when schools were ordered to close just one day after returning from the Christmas break.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson yesterday said he still hoped schools might be able to return after the February half-term (stock photo)

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson yesterday said he still hoped schools might be able to return after the February half-term (stock photo)

He said schools would get at least two weeks’ notice of any order to reopen – suggesting that ministers will have to decide by February 8 whether classrooms will reopen for the start of the second half of the spring term on February 22.

Although Boris Johnson has prioritised the early reopening of schools, government scientists have warned that a return to the classroom could trigger another sharp spike.

‘We have to be realistic about the situation we are in and the impact reopening schools might have,’ a source told the Mail.

Dr Mary Bousted, of the National Education Union, said: ‘After the chaos and confusion that government incompetence over school opening and closure has created, it is good we now have an assurance from Gavin Williamson that school staff will be given two weeks’ notice before reopening.

‘The last thing that parents and children need now is a stop-start approach. We all want schools to be open, but they must be opened when it is safe to do so, and when the conditions are right to keep schools open sustainably.’

Any delays will pile pressure on Mr Williamson to ensure high quality education is available to all those children forced to stay at home.

He said a further 1.3 million laptops, tablets and routers would be distributed to those in need in the coming weeks to widen access to online learning, providing the ‘ultimate safety net’ for disadvantaged pupils.

He added that he had ‘made it clear to schools’ what was the ‘absolute minimum’ they were expected to provide.

Mr Williamson said he wanted to get pupils back in the classroom at the ‘earliest possible opportunity’, adding: ‘I would certainly hope that that would be before Easter.’

Downing Street confirmed that Mr Johnson wanted schools to reopen as quickly as possible but refused to be drawn on when that would be.

‘If we can open them up before Easter we obviously will do but that is determined by the latest scientific evidence and data,’ the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said. 

Categories
Entertainment USA

Kate Middleton Shows Off Long Hair Makeover As England’s Lockdown Continues: Before & After Pics

Kate Middleton debuted her gorgeous long hairdo in a new video via The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s official Twitter account! Check out her fresh look and watch her video to frontline health care workers.

Kate Middleton sent a humble message on January 21 to nurses working on the frontlines during the coronavirus pandemic. The Duchess of Cambridge, 39, looked as lovely as ever, debuting her new long hair makeover and showing how much her brunette locks have grown since she and her family have been quarantining together. Kate has been with her husband, Prince William, 38, and their three children — Prince George, 7, Princess Charlotte, 5, and Prince Louis, 2 — for months as they continue to isolate as a family.

You can see the above video for Kate’s new hairstyle as well as a before photo below! Despite the pandemic, though, neither Kate nor William have shirked their royal duties. During Kate’s address to health care workers, in which royal fans could see just how long Kate’s hair had grown in quarantine, the mother-of-three humbly thanked health care workers who continue to care for thousands amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Nurses up and down the country are going that extra mile, at a time when patients need it the most,” the caption to the above video read. “These acts of courage, strength, and kindness matter so much right now & we owe you a huge thank you for all that you have done & continue to do throughout these difficult times.” Far more touching than the introduction to the video were the kind words Kate extended to those risking their lives to save others.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, visits Cardiff Castle as part of their working visits across the UK ahead of the Christmas holidays on December 8, 2020 in Cardiff, United Kingdom [AP].

“That’s what matters so much now,” the Duchess said to nurses. “These acts of kindness to the patients that you’re looking after, that are in your care, that family members aren’t able to be there. But you are going that extra mile.” The coronavirus has left very few untouched, and even Kate and her family have faced their own battles.

Prince William tested positive for the virus in April 2020, but the news didn’t become public until November, when the royal had undergone isolation. In late March, Kate’s father-in-law, Prince Charles, also tested positive for the virus. Clearly, though, the entire royal family is doing what they can to ensure that everyone can remain safe and healthy in the months to come.

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Headlines UK London

Coronavirus cases dropped 15% to 330,000 in first week of lockdown – England

Coronavirus infections fell in every region and age group except toddlers in England last week, Public Health England data shows, after a mass study claimed cases rose over the first ten days of lockdown.

Covid-19 hotspot London saw the sharpest drop in its infection rate by a quarter, the report suggests, followed by the East of England and the South East. The regions were the first into Tier Four measures days before Christmas.

And in another promising sign those aged over 60 – who are most at risk of hospitalisation and death if they catch the virus – were suggested to have a 20 per cent drop in their infection rate, the third largest drop in England.

The surveillance report statistics are yet more evidence that the country’s coronavirus outbreak has been shrinking since the beginning of the new year.

NHS Test and Trace data also published today showed a 15 per cent decline in the number of people testing positive for the virus across the UK in the week ending January 13.

There were 330,871 people who tested positive for coronavirus across the country during the week ending January 13. For comparison, the figure stood at 389,191 in the first week of 2021. 

It is the first week-on-week fall since the beginning of December, when cases dipped as England emerged from its second national lockdown. It can take up to a week for the effect of any restrictions to be reflected in the data, meaning the drop in cases may have also been fuelled by the original tiered measures.

It has been suggested that falls could be due to fewer tests being carried out. But the latest figures show this is not the case – an extra 400,000 swabs were analysed in the most recent seven-day spell and the number of positives still dropped. It is another promising sign that the third lockdown, which began on January 5, is bringing England’s outbreak under control.

Although cases are high with tens of thousands more cases every day, infections have stopped rising at the rate they were in December when the virus was out of control.

The figures come after a shocking study today sparked fears England’s third lockdown was failing to curb cases, after Imperial College London’s REACT-1 mass-testing project estimated 1.58 per cent of England’s population had coronavirus in the first 10 days of lockdown – up from 0.91 per cent in early December. 

But scientists dismissed concerns that even tighter measures were needed, saying the Imperial study does not prove infections are rising because it missed out a drop from the second wave’s likely peak in late December.

Researchers behind the study did not carry out the survey over this period, which is when official data suggests coronavirus cases reached their high point before beginning to drop.

Other studies tracking the Covid outbreak suggest more optimistic trends. Even Department of Health statistics show daily infections have plunged since the start of the lockdown, from an average of almost 60,000 to 40,000.

Cambridge University estimates show that the R rate of the virus is likely below one, while Public Health England last week claimed cases dropped in all age groups. King’s College researchers also say cases have fallen ‘steadily’ since the New Year.

Official statistics from Public Health England show coronavirus infections dropped in every region of England in the week to January 17. Above is the graph showing the sharpest drop in London

And infections are also thought to have declined in every group except toddlers, the latest PHE data suggests

And infections are also thought to have declined in every group except toddlers, the latest PHE data suggests

Random swabbing of 142,000 people between January 6 to 15 found 'no evidence' of a decline in infection levels — despite an array of promising data showing exactly the opposite. The graph shows the test positivity rate for every day of the study

Random swabbing of 142,000 people between January 6 to 15 found ‘no evidence’ of a decline in infection levels — despite an array of promising data showing exactly the opposite. The graph shows the test positivity rate for every day of the study

Public Health England data shows that the numbers of people getting positive coronavirus test results through the official swab-testing scheme has clearly been coming down since the start of January

Public Health England data shows that the numbers of people getting positive coronavirus test results through the official swab-testing scheme has clearly been coming down since the start of January 

Mass-testing study that claims lockdown 3.0 isn’t working ‘does NOT prove coronavirus infections are rising’

A shocking study that suggested England’s third lockdown isn’t working does not prove that infections are rising because it missed out a drop from the second wave’s likely peak in December, scientists say.

Imperial College London’s REACT-1 mass-testing study, which estimated 1.58 per cent of England’s population had coronavirus in the first 10 days of lockdown, triggered fears that the current restrictions aren’t tough enough.

But the team didn’t test anyone between December 3 and January 6, leaving a month-long gap in their picture of how the epidemic changed during what is widely considered the worst period since March 2020, perhaps ever.

During that time a new fast-spreading variant took hold in the south, Tier 4 was introduced for millions of people, household mixing was allowed for the first time in months for millions of others on Christmas Day, hospital patient numbers surged to record high levels, and the third lockdown was triggered.

The REACT study then re-emerged on January 6, finding that the proportion of people infected with the virus had doubled since it last checked at the start of December, and wasn’t showing sure signs of decline.

The researchers behind it admit they missed the peak and so did not record a downturn in the infection rate, and say they hoped further testing in January would show infection numbers come down as the effects of lockdown properly set in. Experts have suggested the third lockdown may be slower to act because the virus has become able to spread faster and people are becoming weary of rules and not following them as strictly. 

Public Health England’s weekly surveillance report shows Covid-19 infections dipped in the capital from 864 to 629 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending January 17, a 27 per cent decline.

But the capital still had the highest proportion of its population infected in England. 

The second highest drop was in the East of England, where the infection rate per 100,000 fell to 489 after declining by 24 per cent.

And the third highest was in the South East, where the infection rate fell by 22 per cent to 456 per 100,000.

Experts behind the Imperial surveillance study said the numbers appeared to plateau between January 5 and 16. One of the researchers said it ‘doesn’t support the conclusion that lockdown is working’.

However, other scientists today insisted the findings do not prove that infections are rising because it missed out a drop from the second wave’s likely peak in December.

Imperial’s team didn’t test anyone between December 3 and January 6, leaving a huge gap in their picture of how England’s outbreak changed during the worst of the second wave.

During that time a new fast-spreading variant took hold in the south, Tier 4 was introduced for millions of people, household mixing was allowed for the first time in months for millions of others on Christmas Day, hospital patient numbers surged to record high levels, and the third lockdown was triggered.

The REACT study then re-emerged on January 6, finding that the proportion of people infected with the virus had doubled since it last checked at the start of December, and wasn’t showing sure signs of decline.

The researchers behind it admit they missed the peak and so did not record a downturn in the infection rate, and say they hoped further testing in January would show infection numbers come down as the effects of lockdown properly set in. 

Experts have suggested the third lockdown may be slower to act because the virus has become able to spread faster and people are becoming weary of rules and not following them as strictly.

Other scientists say the study — which is considered one of the most accurate measures of the spread of Covid because it tests asymptomatic people — doesn’t have enough data to draw firm conclusions about whether lockdown was working in the first 10 days.

And Education Secretary Gavin Williamson today said other statistics given to the Government show lockdown ‘has been having an impact in terms of relieving some of that pressure on the NHS’. 

Professor Tim Spector, a King’s College London epidemiologist who is running his own Covid Symptom Study using constantly updating data from a mobile app, told MailOnline the Imperial researchers ‘can’t really judge the effects of lockdown with their survey’.

Professor Kevin McConway, a statistician at the Open University, added that there is ‘certainly quite a strong possibility that the REACT-1 estimates are not very accurate’.

Other studies looking at the effects of Covid-19 across the country suggest more optimistic trends. 

The Imperial College London study missed out a long period of testing during December. By the start of the lockdown in January it found that 1.58 per cent of people in England were infected with coronavirus — the equivalent of almost 900,000 people. The graph shows the general trend across each time period the study has been carried out for, with the red line pointing upwards in the most recent week. The large area of red shading around the line, which peaks on both sides, shows that scientists are very uncertain about what the data means and it could actually be going down, flat, or going up

The Imperial College London study missed out a long period of testing during December. By the start of the lockdown in January it found that 1.58 per cent of people in England were infected with coronavirus — the equivalent of almost 900,000 people. The graph shows the general trend across each time period the study has been carried out for, with the red line pointing upwards in the most recent week. The large area of red shading around the line, which peaks on both sides, shows that scientists are very uncertain about what the data means and it could actually be going down, flat, or going up

It found that mobility data suggested people were moving around more since the start of January, meaning even tougher restrictions may be necessary

It found that mobility data suggested people were moving around more since the start of January, meaning even tougher restrictions may be necessary

The Imperial College London team also revealed how test positivity rates varied across each region of England over the study period, with rates falling in the East and South West and plateauing in London

The Imperial College London team also revealed how test positivity rates varied across each region of England over the study period, with rates falling in the East and South West and plateauing in London

And the team also offered a heat map showing where outbreaks have grown or shrunk between the last two recent rounds of testing

And the team also offered a heat map showing where outbreaks have grown or shrunk between the last two recent rounds of testing

Experts behind the REACT-1 study also revealed how test positivity rates varied between age groups for each region, over the last three rounds of testing

Experts behind the REACT-1 study also revealed how test positivity rates varied between age groups for each region, over the last three rounds of testing

Above is the case rates by age groups in the UK. The highest levels are in the 20-29 and 30-39 age groups, data from the ZOE Covid-19 study shows

Above is the case rates by age groups in the UK. The highest levels are in the 20-29 and 30-39 age groups, data from the ZOE Covid-19 study shows

Cambridge University estimates last week showed that the R rate of the virus is likely below one and could be as low as 0.6 in London.

Public Health England revealed weekly coronavirus cases had fallen in all age groups except the over-80s.

And Department of Health figures showed that dozens of boroughs had experienced a drop in infection rates.  

Health Secretary Matt Hancock seized on the Imperial findings to hammer home the lockdown message and said they show ‘why we must not let down our guard over the weeks to come’. 

He added: ‘Infections across England are at very high levels and this will keep having a knock-on effect on the already significant pressures faced by our NHS and hospitals.

‘It is absolutely paramount that everyone plays their part to bring down infections.’

But experts aren’t sure that the data is comprehensive enough to give any accurate idea of trends in how the virus is spreading.

Professor Tim Spector, who has been monitoring the coronavirus outbreak since the pandemic began, said there were ‘problems’ with REACT’s figures because it ‘did not collect any data for a month from December 5 to January 6’.

‘So, it’s very hard for them to tell what the trends are,’ Professor Spector told MailOnline. 

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Headlines UK Leeds Manchester Sheffield

Police chief’s daughter, 19, breaks lockdown rules at illegal party

Amy Slattery (above) broke lockdown rules to party at her university halls of residence

The student daughter of a senior police chief has been caught on video at an illegal party brazenly flouting lockdown restrictions.

Second-year undergraduate Amy Slattery, 19, is seen dancing along to ‘Murder on the Dancefloor’ with other students at Leeds Beckett University in the clip from a boozy Saturday night party where no masks or social distancing were evident.

Her father, Cumbria Police Assistant Chief Constable Andy Slattery, has been at the forefront of the fight to control the pandemic and is chair of the county’s multi-agency Covid-19 Strategic Coordination Group.

The damning video footage of Amy and her mates in Leeds was posted to Snapchat by a fellow reveller from the event at 3am on Sunday. It is believed to have been held in one of the university’s halls of residence.

The day after the party, the university tweeted on its official account: ‘Unfortunately a small number of students have breached the regulations by organising or attending parties/gatherings in halls, putting the safety and welfare of other residents and staff at risk.’

The second year student, 19, was seen on camera dancing at the party that lasted until 3am on Sunday

Her father is Cumbria Police Assistant Chief Constable Andy Slattery, who warns people to stay indoors

Ms Slattery, 19, a second year student, was seen (left) dancing at the party that lasted until 3am on Sunday. Her father is Cumbria Police Assistant Chief Constable Andy Slattery (right)

The young people in the video were clearly making no attempt to take precautions against Covid-19 as the music boomed out, despite the fact that Leeds has been hard-hit by the virus.

A source told MailOnline they had been ‘utterly disgusted’ to witness the footage from the party.

‘Of course, it’s not just Amy who was behaving irresponsibly, but given who her father is, it’s outrageous that she has ignored all the rules in this way.

Ms Slattery was one of a number of students criticised by her university for breaking rules

Ms Slattery was one of a number of students criticised by her university for breaking rules

‘Her dad is never off the local TV and radio, rightly ramming home the message that we must all adhere to the laws on wearing facemasks and maintaining a safe distance if we’re to stay safe from this disease.

‘Andy takes all this very seriously. This won’t go down well at all.’

More than 1,000 people in the city have died since the start of the pandemic, and many areas of the city are still seeing above average infection rates.

ACC Slattery appears frequently on local media giving advice to the public on anti-Covid laws, and recently featured nationally when he pleaded with day-trippers to avoid driving to the Lake District to reduce infection.

In an interview with BBC Cumbria, earlier this month, he explained there had been 559 breaches in the county, resulting in 68 people being issued with a fixed penalty notice.

He said: ‘The virus doesn’t spread itself, the virus came here from the South East very quickly because it travels with people moving around the country and the government scientists are very clear that we’ve got to reduce the number of people travelling around the country and that’s why this stay local message is very important.’

On January 10, a week before the party, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust was one of five major trusts in England which ran out of adult critical care beds. 

Universities have been regarded as a key driver in spreading the virus not only within cities, but also across the country as students travel to and from home.

Mr Slattery (pictured), 53, joined the force in 1991, after graduating with a BA (hons) in Sociology from Lancaster University and was promoted to ACC in April 2019

Mr Slattery (pictured), 53, joined the force in 1991, after graduating with a BA (hons) in Sociology from Lancaster University and was promoted to ACC in April 2019

In his role as chair of Cumbria's multi-agency Covid-19 Strategic Coordination Group, Mr Slattery has often tweeted telling people to stay home and only go out when necessary

In his role as chair of Cumbria’s multi-agency Covid-19 Strategic Coordination Group, Mr Slattery has often tweeted telling people to stay home and only go out when necessary  

Statisticians have found that infection rates often rise more rapidly in areas with a high density of students in major university cities such as Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield.

Mr Slattery, 53, joined the force in 1991, after graduating with a BA (hons) in Sociology from Lancaster University and was promoted to ACC in April 2019.

Having been a detective in every rank of the force he has previously held posts as Head of Serious and Organised Crime, Counter Terrorism, Public Protection and Intelligence, taking on the role of Detective Chief Superintendent, Head of Crime in October 2016.

The Cumbrian-born officer lives with his family in the county, and is a competitive fell-runner, ultra distance runner and a member of the Bob Graham Club, whose members run up and down as many Lake District hills in 24 hours as possible.

Amy, who is a keen runner herself, attended the exclusive £25,500-a-year mixed independent Sedbergh School in Cumbria.

When MailOnline called at Mr Slattery’s home, his wife Rachel, 52, replied: ‘It’s nothing to do with me, sorry’ and closed the door.’ 

Leeds Beckett University tweeted its disappointment (above) that students who attended parties, putting the safety and welfare of other students and staff at risk faced a £500 fine

Leeds Beckett University tweeted its disappointment (above) that students who attended parties, putting the safety and welfare of other students and staff at risk faced a £500 fine

Cumbria Deputy Chief Constable Mark Webster said in a statement: ‘We have been made aware of a video which appears to show a number of individuals at a party in another police force area. Any investigation into that is a matter for the local force concerned.

‘However, we are at a critical stage in the pandemic and the rules and guidance are clear. It is incumbent on everyone to comply, to ensure that we reduce the spread of infection.

‘In line with our policy throughout the pandemic we do not identify or single out individuals that have breached, or are alleged to have breached, restrictions – and this instance is no different.

‘Cumbria Constabulary continues to encourage everyone to follow the restrictions, which are in place to stop the spread of the virus, protect the NHS and save lives.’

A Leeds Beckett University spokesperson said: ‘The majority of students act responsibly and all Leeds Beckett students have been made aware of their personal and collective obligations when it comes to safety, social distancing and government guidelines on Covid-19.

Miss Slattery (centre) recently posted this photo on Instagram with her mother Rachel (left) and her father Andy (right) and captioned it 'my quarantine buddies'

Miss Slattery (centre) recently posted this photo on Instagram with her mother Rachel (left) and her father Andy (right) and captioned it ‘my quarantine buddies’

‘Where students are found to have breached the regulations by organising or attending parties in halls we act swiftly to investigate and take action as necessary.

‘Students who break the law by organising or attending parties in halls will face disciplinary action which could lead to a fine of up to £500 under the Student Code of Conduct.’

Categories
Headlines UK London

Property searches double for the Cotswolds in lockdown

The already in-demand Cotswolds have reached new heights of desirability amid the coronavirus pandemic, new research has suggested.

The area’s pretty rural villages have long been a favourite among the rich and famous, with homes in the area owned by Kate Moss, Jeremy Clarkson, David Cameron, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and the Beckhams, to name but a few.

And the desire to stay at home in somewhere more picturesque means the area’s rolling hills and open spaces are even more sought-after, with online searches for properties in the Cotswolds doubling in the second half of last year.

The number of sales agreed in the Cotswolds (pictured) rose 100 per cent in September

Online searches on Rightmove for the Cotswolds rose 102 per cent in the last six months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

The property website said the increase in searches came as people looked to relocate for a quieter life in the countryside.

Rightmove explained its focus on the Cotswolds, saying that it saw a big shift in the number of people who were looking to move to the countryside last year, and as one of the country’s most iconic rural regions, it wanted to examine whether the Cotswolds in particular had seen a surge in interest. 

The Cotswolds covers 787 square miles, stretching from just south of Stratford-upon-Avon to just south of Bath near Radstock. It lies across the boundaries of several English counties, including mainly Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, but also in parts of Wiltshire, Somerset, Worcestershire and Warwickshire.

The number of sales being agreed by agents in the Cotswolds outperformed the South West as a whole, peaking in September, Rightmove said.

There was a 100 per cent annual rise in the number of sales that were agreed by agents in the Cotswolds in September. 

This two-bedroom cottage in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, is for sale for £555,000

This two-bedroom cottage in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, is for sale for £555,000

The cottage in Chipping Campden has a garden and is for sale via estate agents Knight Frank

The cottage in Chipping Campden has a garden and is for sale via estate agents Knight Frank

Rightmove found that Wotton-under-Edge in Gloucestershire is where house prices increased the most in the Cotswolds in 2020.

Average asking prices in the leafy market town were up 14.8 per cent on 2019, an annual increase of £38,290.

The place with the biggest annual increases in buyer searches in the Cotswolds was celebrity hub Chipping Norton, up by 109.5 per cent, followed by Burford – up 82.3 per cent – and Chipping Campden, up 68.5 per cent.

Rightmove’s Tim Bannister said: ‘The headline market trend to emerge from 2020 was a huge jump in demand for rural areas and countryside living, and the Cotswolds ticks pretty much every box for home-movers seeking an escape to the country.

‘As a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, brimming with endless walking trails and tight-knit village communities, the Cotswolds represent much of what we hold dear about the great British outdoors.

‘It’s easy to see why the area is a magnet for people looking for a quieter life, and with remote working seemingly here to stay for many, I expect the popularity of the Cotswolds will continue to grow this year.’

This six-bedroom house near Minchinhampton, in Gloucestershire, is for sale for £1,495,000

This six-bedroom house near Minchinhampton, in Gloucestershire, is for sale for £1,495,000

Equestrian facilities: The six-bedroom house (as above) also boasts land and several stables

Equestrian facilities: The six-bedroom house (as above) also boasts land and several stables

Rupert Sweeting, of estate agents Knight Frank, described Cotswolds property viewing and buying as ‘completely frantic’ since the housing market re-opened in May.

He said: ‘In addition to the traditional reasons that have always attracted buyers to the Cotswolds, including the beautiful scenery, good schooling, and well-established transport links, the pandemic has drawn attention to how the Cotswolds can also offer a dreamy countryside lifestyle, strong broadband networks, and space and gardens without compromising convenient facilities.

‘After experiencing being cooped up during the multiple lockdowns with a small or no garden, city dwellers quickly realized the benefits of moving to the countryside.

‘The abundance of well-equipped towns and villages in the Cotswolds means that these urban buyers are able to achieve their dream countryside retreat without having to completely isolate themselves. ‘

He added that having the likes of Soho Farmhouse and Daylesford Farmshop around, while being about an hour and a half from the centre of London is an attraction for many buyers.’

‘The idealisation of the country perfectly reflects how the pandemic has seen people revaluate their day-to-day lives and consequently propelled the Cotswolds’ property market into a frenzy,’ he said.

This two-bedroom house in Wotton-Under-Edge is for sale for £500,000 via estate agents Fine & Country

This two-bedroom house in Wotton-Under-Edge is for sale for £500,000 via estate agents Fine & Country

Best mortgages

Categories
Health

COVID Lockdowns’ Boost to Air Quality Limited


WEDNESDAY, Jan. 13, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Two types of air pollution declined in cities around the world during initial COVID-19 lockdowns, but one type increased, a new study finds.

Researchers assessed changes in levels of nitrogen dioxide, ozone and fine particulate (PM2.5) air pollution during lockdowns in 11 cities: Beijing and Wuhan in China; Milan; Rome; Madrid; London; Paris; Berlin; New York; Los Angeles; and Delhi, India.

After accounting for weather effects, the researchers found that reductions in nitrogen dioxide were smaller than anticipated, while ozone concentrations rose.

Nitrogen dioxide is a major air pollutant from vehicle emissions, and is associated with respiratory problems. Ozone is also harmful to health and damages crops, the study authors noted.

In addition, the researchers found that PM2.5 concentrations dropped during lockdowns in all cities but London and Paris. PM2.5 can worsen health problems such as asthma and heart disease.

The findings were published Jan. 13 in the journal Science Advances.

Lead author Zongbo Shi, a professor of atmospheric biogeochemistry at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, said the rapid reduction in economic activity provided a unique opportunity to study the impact of interventions on air quality.

“Emission changes associated with the early lockdown restrictions led to abrupt changes in air pollutant levels but their impacts on air quality were more complex than we thought, and smaller than we expected,” he said in a university news release.

Shi noted that weather changes can mask changes in emissions on air quality.

“Importantly, our study has provided a new framework for assessing air pollution interventions, by separating the effects of weather and season from the effects of emission changes,” he explained.

Study co-author Roy Harrison, a professor of environmental health, said that “the reduction in [nitrogen dioxide] will be beneficial for public health — restrictions on activities, particularly traffic, brought an immediate decline in [nitrogen dioxide] in all cities.”

Harrison noted that if similar restrictions had remained in place, annual average nitrogen dioxide levels in most locations studied would have complied with World Health Organization air quality guidelines.


More information

The World Health Organization has more on air pollution and health.


SOURCE: University of Birmingham, news release, Jan. 13, 2021





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Headlines UK London

They met by chance as Covid struck and the result was a lockdown love story like no other

Anthony had arrived late, keeping us all waiting at the dinner table, and I was tired, grumpy and longing to go to bed.

It was the first evening of my holiday in France, so as soon as I could, I made my excuses to leave the room.

And that’s when I heard the dreaded sentence, murmured by my host as I closed the door. ‘Her name is Blanche and she is 12 weeks pregnant,’ he said, in confiding tones — leaving me spitting with anger that my secret had been revealed to a complete stranger.

The fact that I was having a baby on my own, by means of a sperm donor, wasn’t something that I felt ready to talk about. Being single and childless at the age of 42 was, to me, a source of great shame.

Blanche, 42, and Anthony, 63, (pictured together with Ottilie) met by chance as Covid struck and the result was a lockdown love story like no other

It wasn’t that I thought there was anything wrong with a woman of my age not having children: it was that I’d always wanted to have children and I felt that I had failed. Growing up, I had it all worked out. At 30, I was going to have my first child and then, shortly afterwards, my second.

Getting married at 31, I was a little off the mark but the situation still seemed promising. However, all too soon, my marriage hit the rocks and, by the time I was 35, we had filed for divorce.

At 35, female fertility starts to rapidly decline; I couldn’t have been more conscious of the fact. By 40, with a string of unsuccessful liaisons behind me, I was growing desperate.

And then I met ‘Mr Right’. He was witty, intelligent, interesting and great company. I could see myself growing old with him, and I very much wanted his children.

But within a year we were seeking relationship counselling.

‘I’m desperate to have a baby,’ I explained.

Blanche said that being single and childless at the age of 42 was a great source of shame which prompted her to have a baby on her own by means of a sperm donor (pictured with her daughter)

Blanche said that being single and childless at the age of 42 was a great source of shame which prompted her to have a baby on her own by means of a sperm donor (pictured with her daughter)

‘I love her but I don’t want a child,’ he said.

‘Well, that’s a deal breaker,’ said the counsellor. And she was right.

I was utterly devastated. I had always thought the challenge lay in finding the right partner: never had it crossed my mind that that very man might not want a child. But he didn’t, and I did, and there was nothing we could do about it.

That Christmas, I sat through a school carol concert in floods of tears. The stage was lined with children, singing sweetly, while their parents, all around me, looked on proudly.

And I sat in the midst of them and felt utterly desolate, feeling their love wash over me and fearing I’d never have a child.

Being single and childless at the age of 42 was, to me, a source of great shame 

I was 42 and single, and my childlessness had become a torment. I could no longer visit friends with young children. I was blocking posts from new mothers on Facebook, and I couldn’t even stand by the photocopier at work because it looked onto a noticeboard announcing new births.

Worst of all, I found it hard not to believe my childlessness was all my fault. I’d been too picky. I’d been too difficult. I’d been too wary. I’d been too hesitant.

I’d spent too long with the wrong men and lost the good men I might have kept. And now, I felt, I’d messed everything up. I had always wanted to have children and I would not be having them.

Not, that is, unless I braved it on my own and used a donor.

Becoming a single parent had never been part of my plan, but now I saw it as my only option.

Fortunately, I had one thing on my side: I had frozen eggs. Soon after my divorce came through, at the age of 37, I had taken myself off to a clinic near London’s Baker Street and had my eggs ‘harvested’.

Anthony (pictured with Ottilie) had been an empty-nest widower when he met Blanche Girouard

Anthony (pictured with Ottilie) had been an empty-nest widower when he met Blanche Girouard

Every year since then, I’d paid £300 to have them stored — and now they sat, 16 of them, ready to be defrosted and then fertilised.

Choosing a donor wasn’t easy. When you fall in love and have a baby, you don’t worry about the fact your partner might have flunked his A-levels, have a squiffy eye or a grandmother with dementia. When you’re looking for a sperm donor, you most certainly do.

For days I scrolled through donor ‘profiles’ on sperm bank websites, scrutinising and comparing every detail. In the end, I opted for the man I felt most drawn to.

Like me, he sang in a choir, came from an academic background and had a father who had told him bedtime stories. He had a lovely deep voice (audible on a recording), a cute baby photograph and an impressive string of achievements to his name. But, best of all, he had written a wonderful letter to his donor children, making it clear that he would be there to ‘talk and listen’ in the future, if they wanted to make contact, and signing off ‘with loving thoughts through time and space’.

As we started as a couple, my stomach was burgeoning, a baby girl growing within me 

This donor’s sperm came from a sperm bank in Europe. It cost me €639 to purchase one ‘straw’ and another €295 to have it shipped over to London.

Still clinging to a shred of hope that I would one day have a baby with a man I loved, I decided to have only half my frozen eggs defrosted and fertilised — then I sat back and waited to hear what had happened.

From eight eggs I was lucky enough to get five embryos, three of which made it to day five — the age at which they were most likely to survive after implantation.

Each embryo was graded and, as soon as my womb lining was thick enough, the best was transferred, using a catheter, into my uterus. Two and a half weeks later, a urine test revealed I was pregnant.

But by six weeks, the foetus that had seemed so promising had stopped growing, and I was told I had no option but to miscarry.

I didn’t want to be awake when I lost my first chance of having a child, so I chose to have my womb scraped under general anaesthetic. When I came round, I was crazy with grief. So crazy, in fact, that I got in touch with my ex-boyfriend, hoping against hope that he might have changed his mind about having children and rescue me from this awful situation.

Blanche said that she aware that Anthony is not Ottilie’s father — and so is he — but being a trio together makes her soul soar

Blanche said that she aware that Anthony is not Ottilie’s father — and so is he — but being a trio together makes her soul soar

But, of course, it wasn’t to be. So back I went for another attempt.

This time, I threw everything at it: biopsy (to select the best embryo for transfer); embryo glue (to keep it stuck to my womb); daily hormone injections, patches and suppositories (to thicken my womb lining and aid implantation and growth), and a course of acupuncture (to improve my chances).

On Boxing Day 2019, I discovered that, once again, I was pregnant. This time, at the six-week scan, I heard my baby’s heartbeat, as fast and loud as the hooves of a galloping horse.

Now, it was February half-term and I was supposed to be skiing in the Pyrenees. Except that I was 12 weeks pregnant, couldn’t ski and had been forced to tell my host.

Which is how it came about that he told Anthony.

As it happened, Anthony couldn’t ski either. Or, at least, he took one look at me and decided not to ski.

For five days, we went off walking while the rest of the party took to the slopes. It was bizarrely warm for February. The sun shone on our backs as we walked through woods and fields, climbed hills to look at ruined Cathar castles and tried to push open the doors of medieval churches.

On the very first day, when we stopped for lunch, he had asked me if I had wanted to have children. ‘I know that you know,’ I said and I looked at him directly.

Blushing, he began asking a torrent of questions. ‘I think you’re heroic,’ he said, when I’d finished explaining. ‘I don’t feel heroic,’ I answered. ‘I feel sick.’

I had suffered from car sickness from early on in my childhood. Being pregnant in the Pyrenees, it was even worse. So when Anthony drove around mountain bends slowly, for the sake of my heaving stomach, I was very grateful. When he stepped in front of me, as I slid down some scree on a hillside, I thought him a very nice man.

And when he offered to drive me to the airport, when he wasn’t going there himself, I suspected that he might be thinking I was quite nice, too.

For a week we had done nothing but walk and talk. Now, on our last car journey together, we fell silent, not knowing what to say.

‘It would be a pity,’ he said eventually, ‘if we lost touch.’ And I agreed. Then he dropped me off and drove off into the night, leaving me feeling his absence, but sending a flurry of messages only a few hours later, as I knew he would.

It soon transpired that he was not at all put off by my pregnancy. In fact, far from it. He had been married, very happily, for 25 years when his wife died unexpectedly from a heart condition.

Now, nine years later, at the age of 63, he was rattling about, on his own, in a seven-bedroom house in Wiltshire, falling asleep in front of the 10 o’clock news and wondering what to do with his life.

A father to four children, aged between 26 and 31, the prospect of adding another was one he positively welcomed. He liked the idea of filling his house back up with family. And the fact my child would be a similar age to his three grandchildren (all under three) made it even better.

Almost at once, he told his family about me and my baby and, though taken aback, they were unfailingly supportive.

My preference was to get to know each other slowly, meeting up occasionally for nice outings and spending plenty of time with one another’s friends and family.

But that wasn’t what happened. Within a month, the country had descended into lockdown — forcing new couples to stay together or stay apart. The prospect of being together, having only met a few weeks earlier, seemed preposterous. But it was that or nothing, and we both felt ‘to hell with it, let’s go for it’.

So we did — first in Wiltshire and then at my home in London. And slowly, we started to come together as a couple. We shared experiences. Saw each other at our weakest point and lowest ebb. Looked for solutions and found compromises. And, most importantly, wanted, and kept trying, to make things work.

Meanwhile, my stomach was burgeoning, my breasts were engorging, a baby girl was growing within me and I was beginning to panic about giving birth.

The new restrictions meant I was allowed only one person with me when I was in active labour. Who should that be? My mother? A friend? A doula (who helps women when they’re giving birth)? Or Anthony?

For months, I debated the options. But, in the end, the answer was clear. It was Anthony who had consistently supported my choices about how and when I would give birth. It was Anthony who had sat through lengthy Zoom sessions about hypno-birthing, doing his best to tell me to ‘be calm and relaxed’ when I was anything but, and driving me to the local hospital, at three in the morning, when I became worried it had been too long since I had felt the baby kick.

Finally, at the end of August, my time came. For two nights, I stayed at my home in London, suffering contractions. On the third night, the exhaustion and pain began to overwhelm me and we went to St Mary’s in Paddington.

For two days we waited in our birthing suite, and on the third day she came. Not in a rush. Not in a haze of medication. But in an agony of un-medicated pushing, with four midwives holding up my legs and Anthony joining them, egging me on.

‘Would you like to hold her?’ they asked me, and I retorted ‘No’. Nothing had prepared me for such pain. And no one had told me that after pushing out her head, I would have to push again to free her shoulders.

But seconds later, I had changed my mind, and, then, there we lay, mother and baby — slimy, sweaty, exhausted but happy.

Thanks to lockdown, I’d told very few people I was pregnant. Now, though, I wanted everyone to see my gorgeous baby — and I didn’t care a jot how she had come about.

Anthony held Ottilie skin to skin on the night she was born, with an expression of the utmost tenderness on his face. Now he sits up, half asleep, to keep me company during night-time feeds. Changing her nappies, bathing her and singing her songs, he’s shown nothing but love and dedication to us both from that very first day.

Of course, I’m abundantly aware that he is not her father and so is he. I refer to him as ‘Anthony’ and he calls Ottilie ‘my girlfriend’s baby’ and sometimes I do find that upsetting.

But the truth is as it is: Anthony has his own children and Ottilie has her own father, and I wouldn’t want to deny the significance of that for either.

What the future holds for me and Anthony and for Anthony and Ottilie we can’t yet know. But what I do know is that I never imagined this could happen.

Gone are all my feelings of self-loathing and desolation. My heart is full of love and my soul soars with delight. Being a mother to Ottilie is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Being the three of us, together, makes me happy and content.

‘Present ecstasies thrive on the very anguish of the past,’ wrote the Oxford poet Elizabeth Jennings. As far as I’m concerned, she was right.

ANTHONY’S STORY:

‘Come and stay with us in the Pyrenees — it’ll be great fun!’ A throw-away invitation, accepted on a whim. After all, I had never been to the Pyrenees, so why not? I arrived at night to join the party — late for dinner but in time to spot a girl with a flash of white hair and a welcoming smile. So I met Blanche.

It was a skiing week, which suited neither Blanche nor myself. I had a car, so we were paired off to look after ourselves. We both like walking, and after walking there were restaurants to be enjoyed. And we talked.

The more we talked, the more there was to talk about. We discussed her pregnancy: the anonymous donor father, the relationships and disappointments along the way.

Blanche asked me about my 25-year marriage, which had unexpectedly ended nine years before with my wife’s sudden death. What was being a widower like? What had been my relationships and disappointments? My four children: what did they do, how had they coped?

Given our age difference, I never thought this might lead to a relationship. But at the end of the week, I realised I was going to miss Blanche and the intimacy of these conversations. Five days with someone who is intelligent, attractive and apparently interested in you is a rare gift.

On the evening drive to the airport she played me Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium. I played it on repeat after dropping her off. Also repeating in my head was the promise that we should see each other again.

Lockdown began and initially we were apart, reading our favourite books to each other, emailing daily recordings: Blanche read Strange Meeting by Susan Hill, while I chose The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni. I was wryly amused by the aptness of the titles.

We then decided to spend our time together. Blanche’s pregnancy was now obvious and one friend warned that I didn’t appreciate the commitment I was taking on.

But it was exactly that commitment which appealed to me. I had had a happy marriage and I love my children: I know both the challenges and the rewards.

Blanche’s decision to have a baby had always struck me as brave and impressive. The fact that the baby’s father was an anonymous donor created space for me to have a significant role in her life. I was very moved when Blanche asked me to be there for Ottilie’s birth.

Holding Ottilie for the first time I felt emotional and rather stunned. It is incredible to think how far we have travelled since our meeting in the Pyrenees less than a year ago.

Ottilie adds a creative dimension to our relationship: as she grows, our relationship grows too. My hope is in my future with Blanche, and a future for Ottilie within my family. I look forward to that.

n An audio diary of Blanche, Ottilie and Anthony’s story is available in the podcast Wonder of Wonders at thingsunseen.co.uk

Categories
Entertainment UK

BBC Breakfast’s Naga Munchetty admits lockdown forced change in alcohol decision

Naga Munchetty has said that after stating there is “no way” she would be doing Dry January, the third national lockdown has brought a new perspective.

The 45-year-old BBC Breakfast host started her presenting role on BBC Radio 5 Live last week and she spoke candidly with her listeners about the decision she made after discussing with her husband, James Haggar.

She has now declared that she is backtracking on her thoughts about Dry January as bars and restaurants will be closed for the month and it could be the opportunity to break her alcohol cycle.

The presenter said that she would no longer be making herself “feel better” with food and alcohol and that she “can’t keep relying” on indulgences like this during the lockdown.

Naga Munchetty and husband James Haggar

Dry January has become increasingly more popular and it sees people giving up alcohol for the first month.

While on her radio show, Naga’s co-star joked that she only made this decision because there was nowhere to go during the pandemic.

Naga told her listeners: “I’ll tell you where I’m at right. Before the [lockdown] announcement, I was like, ‘There’s no way I’m doing Dry January.

“‘There’s no way I’m doing anything like that, I like my wine’.”

Naga’s colleague chimed in: “You can’t go out anyway!”

Naga Munchetty has received positive reviews from her first week on radio
Naga Munchetty has received positive reviews from her first week on radio

Laughing, she continued: “There you go.

“But then when I heard the announcement, I thought, you know what, no.”

Naga recalled: “I spoke to my husband last night, and I said, ‘No I think I may just stop drinking.

“I can’t keep relying on something… food, wine, whatever, to make me feel better’.”

She added: “There is that almost kick back.”

Naga has proved to be popular during her fist week on the mid-morning show, which was previously presented by Emma Barnett.

She has received positive reviews as she took over the show from Monday to Wednesday,.

Naga will continue to host BBC Breakfast from Thursdays to Saturdays.

*Naga Munchetty returns to BBC Radio 5 Live on Monday at 10am.

Do you have a story to sell? Get in touch with us at [email protected] or call us direct 0207 29 33033.

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Headlines UK London

Is lockdown about to get TOUGHER? Matt Hancock refuses to rule out curfews or closing nurseries

Boris Johnson held a top-secret cabinet meeting to discuss an even-tougher lockdown with limits on exercise, compulsory mask-wearing outdoors and no more social bubbles all being floated by ministers, sources claim.

The Cabinet Office refused to deny that the draconian new laws were incoming – and instead pointed to Matt Hancock’s vague statement earlier today. 

The Health Secretary refused to speculate when directly asked if harsher measures – including curfews and nurseries closures – might brought in, and instead said Britons should ‘follow the rules that we’ve got’.

One Whitehall source told MailOnline that the measures discussed today even included a ban on people leaving their homes more than once a week.

Under current rules, Britons can exercise with one other person or with their household or support bubble – but not outside their local area.

But a Government source said the rule is ‘being used as an excuse for people to go for a coffee in the park with their friends’ and could be tightened, The Daily Telegraph reports. 

They said the ‘rule is there for exercise, for people’s mental health, particularly for older people who are not going to be going for a run to see someone’ but many are using their ‘imaginations’ to make it what they want. 

Officials are also set to encourage shops and workplaces to improve on their Covid social distancing measures.

Supermarkets will be a key focus of the Government’s latest push, with many worried that lax enforcement of the rules means shoppers are at risk.  

The Health Secretary refused to speculate when directly asked if measures like curfews, limits to time allows outside homes and making masks compulsory outdoors might be brought in.

Professor Peter Horby, the chairman of virus advisory group NERVTAG, said: 'If there’s any sign that they’re not then we’re going to have to be even stricter, I’m afraid.'

Professor Peter Horby, the chairman of virus advisory group NERVTAG, said: ‘If there’s any sign that they’re not then we’re going to have to be even stricter, I’m afraid.’

A senior Government science advisor today said it would become clear whether the current lockdown was lowering the spread of coronavirus cases – with deaths now above 80,000 – within a fortnight.

Professor Peter Horby, the chairman of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), said: ‘If there’s any sign that they’re not then we’re going to have to be even stricter, I’m afraid.’

The UK announced a further 573 coronavirus deaths today, the highest Sunday figure in seven months.

Mr Hancock appeared on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Programme this morning, where he was asked about a range of measures that could be brought in.

 Mr Marr asked: ‘Are you considering things like curfews, closing nurseries, ending some of those support bubbles, going back to only an hour of exercise outside and telling people in crowded outdoor spaces to wear masks? Are those the kind of things that you could consider if you don’t get this under control very quickly?’

But Mr Hancock replied: ‘Well, I don’t want to speculate, because the most important message is not whether the government will further strengthen the rules, the most important thing is that people stay at home and follow the rules that we’ve got. ‘

 Professor Horby told the same programme that the new variant discovered in Kent, that appears far more transmissible than older strains of Covid, has made the situation ‘more risky’.

Asked what being ‘even stricter’ meant in practice he said: ‘Well I think the principles haven’t changed. There’s no evidence that this virus is being transmitted in any different way, it’s just that people when they’ve got it have got more virus so every contact is more risky.

‘So the same principles apply. It’s about decreasing social contacts and if there are unavoidable social contacts then being as strict as you can about distance and facemasks and hand hygiene and ventilation, etcetera.’

Mr Marr asked: So thinking back to March and the spring I can remember you could only go out for an hour for instance for any kind of exercise and there were much stricter rules about meeting other people. Are those are the kind of things we might see coming back if we don’t get this under control now?’

To which he said: ‘Yes, that’s right. You know we have seen in the past very strict measures do work and if the current measures aren’t strict enough then it’s clear what we have to do.’

Meanwhile Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer warned that lockdown rules may need to be made tougher if they do not arrest a surge in Covid cases – as he demanded nurseries be shut down immediately. 

He attacked ‘mixed messages’ from ministers over the lockdown restrictions as he urged Boris Johnson to front daily press conferences until the lockdown is lifted.

The UK’s Covid death toll passed 80,000, after a further 1,035 deaths were recorded yesterday, increasing fears that the total will surpass 100,000 by the end of the month.  

But appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, Sir Keir said: ‘They are tough and they’re necessary. They may not be tough enough.

‘In a sense, I think the most important thing is people get that message about stay at home.

‘And it’s up to the Government to put that message out there the whole time. We’ve had mixed messages I’m afraid for the last nine months which is why we’ve got a problem.

‘I would like to see the Prime Minister out there every day with a press conference making sure that message is absolutely getting through.’

The Labour leader attacked 'mixed messages' from ministers over the lockdown restrictions as he urged Boris Johnson to front daily press conferences until the lockdown is lifted

The Labour leader attacked ‘mixed messages’ from ministers over the lockdown restrictions as he urged Boris Johnson to front daily press conferences until the lockdown is lifted

Sir Keir Starmer said nurseries 'probably should be closed', telling the BBC: 'I think there is a case for looking at nursery schools, we're talking to the scientists about that'

Sir Keir Starmer said nurseries ‘probably should be closed’, telling the BBC: ‘I think there is a case for looking at nursery schools, we’re talking to the scientists about that’

Priti Patel today defended police as they began strict application of Covid rules that includes £200 fines and less tolerance for rule-breakers.

The Home Secretary warned that officers ‘will not hesitate’ to take action because the increasing number of new Covid-19 cases proved there was a need for ‘strong enforcement’ in cases where people were clearly breaking the rules.

Mr Hancock told Sky’s Ridge on Sunday more people were obeying the rules than in the November lockdown, but added: ‘Absolutely I’m going to back the police. The challenge here is that every flex can be fatal.

‘You might look at the rules and think ”well it doesn’t matter that much if I just do this or do that”, but these rules are not there as boundaries to be pushed, they’re the limit of what people should be doing.’

Asked about the prospect of tighter restrictions later on Marr he added: ‘I don’t want to speculate because the most important message is not whether the Government will further strengthen the rules.

‘The most important thing is that people stay at home and follow the rules that we have got.

‘And that, in terms of the scale of the impact on the cases, that is the most important thing we can do collectively as a society.’

Mr Hancock, who gave the interview from his own home via video link, added: ‘It is hard, it is not easy. But if you can do something from home and you don’t need to go outside of home to do it, then you should.

‘People need to not just follow the letter of the rules but follow the spirit as well and play their part.’

Sir Keir Starmer said nurseries ‘probably should be closed’. Primary and Secondary schools have been closed during the lockdown but pre-schools remain open for younger children.

He told the BBC: ‘I think there is a case for looking at nursery schools, we’re talking to the scientists about that.

‘I think people are surprised that primary schools were closed but nurseries aren’t.’

He added: ‘I think they probably should be closed, I do want to talk to the scientists about that.’

He said delivering on the vaccine programme targets was the best way of reopening schools.

Pictured: People queue for pancakes in Hampstead, North London today despite London Mayor Sadiq Khan declaring a state of emergency in the capital due to a rapid rise in cases

Pictured: People queue for pancakes in Hampstead, North London today despite London Mayor Sadiq Khan declaring a state of emergency in the capital due to a rapid rise in cases

But he said opening classrooms again did not need to be contingent on vaccinating teachers.

‘We’d have to look at all the criteria but the most important thing is that vaccination programme,’ he said.

‘It is very difficult to see how we can start lifting restrictions in any meaningful way until the vaccine programme, at least that first part of it is rolled-out successfully.’

Pressed on whether reopening was contingent on inoculating teachers, he added: ‘No, I don’t know that it necessarily is, although if that can happen that would be a good thing.

‘This argument that there are sectors where there is a very strong case for vaccination for obvious reasons, and I understand that and we are going to have that to accommodate that, quite frankly.

‘But at the moment, we do need to focus on those who are most likely to go into hospital and tragically to die.’

Categories
Headlines UK London

Tearful nurse who zips up the body bags of dead Covid patients begs public to follow lockdown rules

An exhausted intensive care nurse has revealed the emotional toll of ‘zipping up body bags’ as she begs the British public to stop flouting coronavirus lockdown rules. 

Ameera Sheikh, 28, who zipped up the body bag on her fourth Covid-19 patient in just two days at a hard-hit London hospital, said she can’t sleep any more ‘because the nightmares are too much’.   

Her comments come after the UK’s Covid-19 death toll passed 80,000, after a further 1,035 deaths were recorded yesterday, increasing fears that the total will surpass 100,000 by the end of the month. 

Ameera Sheikh, 28, who zipped up the body bag on her fourth Covid-19 patient in just two days at a hard-hit London hospital, said she can’t sleep any more ‘because the nightmares are too much’

London's mayor Sadiq Khan declared a 'major incident' across the capital in the face of soaring Covid-19 cases. Pictured: Paramedics transfer a patient from an ambulance into the Royal London Hospital on January 8

London’s mayor Sadiq Khan declared a ‘major incident’ across the capital in the face of soaring Covid-19 cases. Pictured: Paramedics transfer a patient from an ambulance into the Royal London Hospital on January 8 

The ICU nurse revealed she and her colleagues are on their feet for up to 14 hours a day and some medics ‘are so burnt out that they can’t eat’. 

Ameera hit out at anti-lockdown protesters and said none of them will ‘ever zip up a body bag in their lives’ whilst she and her colleagues are risking their lives every day to treat patients.

She also said ‘our Government has failed us’ as London’s mayor Sadiq Khan declared a ‘major incident’ across the capital in the face of soaring Covid-19 cases.   

Ameera hit out at anti-lockdown protesters and said none of them will 'ever zip up a body bag in their lives' whilst she and her colleagues are risking their lives every day to treat patients. Pictured: Police officers arrest anti-lockdown protester outside Houses of Parliament in London on 6 January

Ameera hit out at anti-lockdown protesters and said none of them will ‘ever zip up a body bag in their lives’ whilst she and her colleagues are risking their lives every day to treat patients. Pictured: Police officers arrest anti-lockdown protester outside Houses of Parliament in London on 6 January

Ameera told The Sunday People: ‘Each day is as bad as the next. Some days it’s so intense. You feel so sick inside that you can’t even bring yourself to drink a glass of water.

‘We are on our feet for 13 or 14 hours a day, running around. I don’t sleep any more because the nightmares are too much.’ 

Ameera, who has worked for the NHS for 12 years, begged the British public to not break the coronavirus lockdown rules in order to help save lives. 

She said: ‘Please don’t break the rules. I have worked overseas in less developed countries where they don’t have the resources like we do and what is going on right now reminds me of those experiences.

‘Death was all around us then and death is all around us now.’ 

The ICU nurse revealed she and her colleagues are on their feet for up to 14 hours a day and some medics 'are so burnt out that they can't eat'. Pictured: A nurse works on a patient in the ICU in St George's Hospital in Tooting, London

The ICU nurse revealed she and her colleagues are on their feet for up to 14 hours a day and some medics ‘are so burnt out that they can’t eat’. Pictured: A nurse works on a patient in the ICU in St George’s Hospital in Tooting, London

In a scathing rebuke of the anti-lockdown groups who are flouting lockdown restrictions, she said: ‘They don’t have any medical qualifications yet feel it’s OK to make unfounded comments. 

‘When will they realise what’s going on? Will it be when they lose someone they love?

‘They need to realise the world doesn’t revolve around them. Other people are living in this world too and many have died because people chose not to wear a mask or wanted to hang out with their pals.’ 

She continued: ‘We can have a day where patients are dying all day long and you are having to quickly wash them and zip up a body bag.

‘None of the people from anti-lockdown groups will ever zip up a body bag in their lives.’  

Staff nurses work in the corridor of the Acute Dependency Unit at St George's Hospital in Tooting, south-west London

Staff nurses work in the corridor of the Acute Dependency Unit at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, south-west London

The nurse has treated a number of patients who they know have broken lockdown rules. 

‘As healthcare workers we have to suspend judgement. Some people are very lucky not to have experienced Covid. 

Ameera, who is a Unite union representative, added: ‘[Some people] admit to flouting the laws and are apologetic, while others don’t care. They have maybe lost their jobs or feel isolated and therefore don’t trust anything the Government says.

‘Some are very sick but deny they have Covid at all.’ 

Speaking of the emotional toll of the virus and working in a hard-hit London hospital, Ameera added: ‘I’ve lost friends and colleagues to this virus and we have doctors working in red zones who have come back from retirement or are medically vulnerable.

‘Staff are falling sick and it’s no surprise when, in many areas of the hospital, they are only wearing aprons and simple surgical masks.

‘It’s only the staff on ICU who are wearing full PPE. Everyone is scared of catching the new variant because it’s so much more infectious and many of us are still waiting for our vaccinations.’

A consultant takes a moment to use his phone in the corridor of the Intensive Care Unit at St George's Hospital in Tooting

A consultant takes a moment to use his phone in the corridor of the Intensive Care Unit at St George’s Hospital in Tooting

Hospitals in London will run out of beds within weeks if the spread of coronavirus is not dramatically reduced, Mr Khan warned as he declared a ‘major incident’ across the city.

The capital’s mayor said Covid-19 cases were ‘out of control’ and implored Londoners to stay at home ‘unless it is absolutely necessary for you to leave’ in order to save lives and protect the NHS.

Chris Whitty has also warned hospitals are facing ‘the worst crisis in living memory’ as Covid-19 cases continue to soar – with 46,000 medical workers now off sick.   

Britons who don’t take the coronavirus lockdown seriously will cause ‘avoidable deaths’ when critically ill patients are turned away at the hospital door, Professor Chris Whitty warned in a scathing article for the Sunday Times.

Britons not taking the coronavirus lockdown seriously could soon cause 'avoidable deaths' when critically ill patients are turned away at the hospital door, Professor Chris Whitty warned in a scathing article for the Sunday Times. Pictured, ambulances outside the Royal London Hospital on January 8

Britons not taking the coronavirus lockdown seriously could soon cause ‘avoidable deaths’ when critically ill patients are turned away at the hospital door, Professor Chris Whitty warned in a scathing article for the Sunday Times. Pictured, ambulances outside the Royal London Hospital on January 8

And almost 50,000 hospital workers are currently off sick with Covid-19, according to the chair of the British Medical Association, Chaand Nagpaul, meaning an already stretched workforce is under even more pressure, reported The Guardian. 

Prof Whitty blasted coronavirus rulebreakers for being the ‘link in a chain’ that will allow the deadly virus to infect a and kill the elderly and vulnerable. 

‘We must stay home except for work, exercise and necessary activities. Every unneccesary interaction you have could be the link in the chain of transmission which has a vulnerable person at the end,’ he wrote.

The country has two weeks before hospitals are likely to be completely overwhelmed, Prof Whitty added, as the nation is plunged into the ‘most dangerous situation’ in living history.

Prof Whitty (pictured) blasted coronavirus rulebreakers for being the 'link in a chain' that will allow the deadly virus to infect a and kill the elderly and vulnerable

Prof Whitty (pictured) blasted coronavirus rulebreakers for being the ‘link in a chain’ that will allow the deadly virus to infect a and kill the elderly and vulnerable

Speaking about the high-demand in UK hospitals, Ameera said: ‘During and after the first wave, a lot of staff had handed in their resignation, and that’s across many hospitals in the UK.

‘A lot of people were just about coping in the first wave. [But] because of the way that they were treated, because of what they saw, the trauma, and not being supported well enough by management – they left.

‘So now we’re seeing a massive surge, being in the second wave, and it’s worse than the first wave.

‘It’s so stressful, my colleagues aren’t coping very well. Some of them are so burnt out that they can’t eat, they can’t sleep, they can’t bring themselves to come into work. How has our Government failed us, and had all these months to prepare?’

Footage showed the inside of St George's Hospital as Covid cases soar in Britain. The country has two weeks before hospitals are likely to be completely overwhelmed, Prof Whitty added, as the nation is plunged into the 'most dangerous situation' in living history

Footage showed the inside of St George’s Hospital as Covid cases soar in Britain. The country has two weeks before hospitals are likely to be completely overwhelmed, Prof Whitty added, as the nation is plunged into the ‘most dangerous situation’ in living history

Ameera also revealed some hospitals in the capital are now so overwhelmed that staff have no option put to place a negative patient with positive cases because there isn’t enough space. 

She said: ‘In London we are playing musical beds, moving patients from one hospital to another nearby to create space.

‘We are opening new intensive care units and new Covid wards, but with what staff? A lot of staff handed in their resignations after the first wave. Nurses are looking after three or even four patients each in ICU.

‘There are some hospitals who have the odd negative patient amongst a bay of positive cases because they’ve run out of side rooms.’ 

In a letter to Boris Johnson he has demanded churches and other places of worship be closed and for face masks to be worn routinely outside of the home, including in supermarket queues and other places outside that may be crowded

Mr Khan warned that more than one per cent of the city’s nine million residents tested positive for Covid last week, with one in 30 residents currently estimated to be infected. 

In the worst-hit boroughs, it is feared the rate is as high as one in 20 and startling figures also show that hospital admissions rose by a quarter in the first week of January. 

More than 7,000 NHS beds across the capital are currently occupied by Covid patients – 35 per cent higher than the busiest day of the pandemic in the spring. 

Police blasted a ‘small selfish minority’ ignoring the rules and promised to come down hard on transgressors who are refusing to stop partying despite the highly transmissible pathogen being rife. 

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist said: ‘I know Londoners will be shocked that officers are still dealing with a small selfish minority who think the rules don’t apply to them by holding house parties, large warehouse raves or other gatherings. These are creating breeding grounds for the much more transmissible variant.’ 

Police blasted a 'small selfish minority' ignoring the rules and promised to come down hard on transgressors who are refusing to stop partying despite the highly transmissible pathogen being rife. Pictured: A man is arrested by police during an anti-lockdown protest at Parliament Square in London on 6 January

Police blasted a ‘small selfish minority’ ignoring the rules and promised to come down hard on transgressors who are refusing to stop partying despite the highly transmissible pathogen being rife. Pictured: A man is arrested by police during an anti-lockdown protest at Parliament Square in London on 6 January

Police confronted protesters chanting ‘take your freedom back’ as they marched through Clapham on Saturday to call for opposition against national lockdown measures ordering people to stay at home.

The protest, organised by group StandupX, was attended by a few dozen people who marched from Clapham Common, in south London, and then down the high street, prompting car drivers to blare their horns. 

After reaching the Argos store in Clapham, a video which was broadcast online showed brief scuffles between protesters and the Metropolitan Police as they appeared to arrest one man. At least 10 officers could be seen surrounding the protesters. 

Police confronted protesters chanting 'take your freedom back' as they marched through Clapham on Saturday to call for opposition against national lockdown measures ordering people to stay at home

Police confronted protesters chanting ‘take your freedom back’ as they marched through Clapham on Saturday to call for opposition against national lockdown measures ordering people to stay at home

After reaching the Argos store in Clapham, a video which was broadcast online showed brief scuffles between protesters and police as officers appeared to arrest one man. At least 10 officers could be seen surrounding the protesters

After reaching the Argos store in Clapham, a video which was broadcast online showed brief scuffles between protesters and police as officers appeared to arrest one man. At least 10 officers could be seen surrounding the protesters

The protest, organised by group StandupX, was attended by a few dozen people who marched from Clapham Common, in south London, and then down the high street, prompting car drivers to blare their horns

The protest, organised by group StandupX, was attended by a few dozen people who marched from Clapham Common, in south London, and then down the high street, prompting car drivers to blare their horns

Further scuffles then broke out outside a nearby Sainsbury’s store as officers made another arrest. Police said in a statement posted on Twitter that they had detained 12 people. 

It comes after the Metropolitan Police warned its officers will take action against protesters and will fine them the first time they are caught flouting lockdown rules.

The number of people who tested positive for coronavirus across the country rose by 59,937 yesterday, 3.8 per cent higher than last Saturday’s figure but down 8,000 on the previous day.

Shattered staff at London’s largest hospital St George’s say they are working ‘to the limit’ of their ability, battling low morale, exhausting shift patterns, and the prospect that the worst is still to come. 

Medical Director at NHS London, Vin Diwakar, warned medics that even if coronavirus patients grew at the lowest likely rate and hospital capacity is increased – including opening the Nightingale  at the ExCel Centre – the NHS would still be short 2,000 general, acute and ICU beds by January 19, the HSJ reports.

Inside St George’s they are seeing seriously ill patients in their twenties because of the new Covid strain – and bosses fear that there will be an exodus of staff when the third lockdown ends at Easter. 

Intensive care consultant Mohamed Ahmed said he had seen staff in tears at the end of their shift, while some decided they could no longer come to work

Intensive care consultant Mohamed Ahmed said he had seen staff in tears at the end of their shift, while some decided they could no longer come to work

Staff at London’s University College Hospital told the BBC they are having to make choices about which patients to prioritise after a surge in young people left fighting for their life and needing ventilators.

St George’s emergency department consultant Dr Mark Haden said: ‘Everyone’s stress levels are higher than usual. Everyone is working to the limit, to the threshold of what they’re able to. The hospital bed occupancy is very, very high, it has lots of Covid patients as inpatients at the moment.’ 

The Press Association was given access to the ICU where Ms Cooper said: ‘There is very little joy in our work at the moment. It’s hard to find that joy when you come into work – you’re scared for your colleagues, your families and yourself.’

She said some staff have had to be sent home to take time off due to the unprecedented pressures on the job, while others have battled on despite not being able to see family abroad for nearly a year.