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Boris Johnson faces Tory revolt over new Covid controls
The Prime Minister is braced for a damaging Tory rebellion as MPs vote on a new toughened system of tiered coronavirus controls for England. The Government is expected to win today's Commons vote on the new rules – which are due to come into effect the following day – after Labour said it would abstain.
Sir Keir Starmer – who has previously backed Government measures – said while his party had “serious misgivings” it would not be in the national interest to vote them down when the virus still posed a “serious risk”.

However, with scores of Conservative MPs deeply unhappy at the extent of the restrictions, the vote is likely to throw Tory divisions into sharp relief.

Many backbenchers are furious their constituencies face stricter controls than before the latest lockdown which ends on Wednesday.

At a No 10 news conference on Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he hoped some areas could be moved into lower tiers when the restrictions come up for their first fortnightly review on December 16.

But scientists advising the Government have made clear they see little scope for any widespread easing before Christmas.

It could mean most areas of England will go into the new year in one of the toughest two tiers with a ban on households mixing indoors and strict controls on the hospitality sector.

Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have been designated for the lightest Tier 1 restrictions.

Meanwhile, the Government said a rapid coronavirus test that gives results in 20 minutes has been confirmed as having high sensitivity to the virus.

An evaluation carried out by NHS trusts and universities found the OptiGene RT-Lamp test to be effective in identifying infectious cases, including for people not displaying symptoms, in contrast to a report by the Guardian earlier this month claiming the test identified only 46.7% of infections during a trial in Manchester and Salford.

It comes as the head of operations for the mass community testing programme, General Sir Gordon Messenger, said the scheme may not be able to reach areas in Tier 3 until “January and beyond”.

The Government said a further 205 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday, bringing the UK total to 58,448.

On Monday the Government published its promised impact assessment of the health, economic, and social effects of the pandemic and its tiered approach.

But while it acknowledged there would be “significant costs” to individuals, society and the economy, it said the consequences for public health in allowing the virus to run unchecked would be “much worse”.

It said that without strong measures in place, the R number – the rate of reproduction of the virus – was likely to rise significantly above 1, leaving the NHS unable to cope.

However Mark Harper, chairman of the Covid Research Group of Tory MPs opposed to tougher restrictions, said the document acknowledged the “precise size and duration” of any breach in the capacity of the NHS to cope was “not possible to predict”.

There was frustration among MPs that the analysis did not include a detailed breakdown of the effects of the measures on different sectors of the economy – particularly hospitality, which has been among the hardest hit.

Some relief was offered for drinkers hoping to get around restrictions in Tier 2, with Cabinet minister George Eustice saying that ordering a Scotch egg with a pint would constitute a “substantial meal” under the rules which will only allow alcohol to be served with food in Tier 2 areas from Wednesday.

And the minister responsible for the rollout of a vaccine said it would be not be compulsory to receive an injection but pubs and restaurants could demand to know if a customer has received a coronavirus jab before permitting entry.

Asked whether people who get the Covid-19 jab will receive some kind of “immunity passport” to show they have been vaccinated, Nadhim Zahawi told the BBC: “We are looking at the technology.

“I think you’ll probably find that restaurants and bars and cinemas and other venues, sports venues, will probably also use that system – as they have done with the (test and trace) app.”

Such a regime could result in people without the vaccine facing severe restrictions.

Mr Zahawi said: “I think people have to make a decision.

“But I think you’ll probably find many service providers will want to engage with this in the way they did with the app.”

Published: 01/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

When will the Covid-19 tiers be reviewed and how are they decided?
MPs are due to vote later today on a tougher tier system in England to follow when the second national lockdown ends on December 2. The three-tier approach would see 99% of the country placed in the two highest levels of restrictions.

But when will the restrictions be reviewed and what will be considered when deciding an area’s tier?

– How many people are to face tough restrictions?

More than 55 million people will be placed into Tier 2 and Tier 3 measures on December 2, meaning mixing between households indoors will effectively be banned for the vast majority of the country.

Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly – accounting for little more than 1% of England’s population – face the lightest Tier 1 coronavirus restrictions.

Large swathes of the Midlands, North East and North West are in the most restrictive Tier 3, which accounts for 41.5% of the population, or 23.3 million people.

The majority of authorities – including London – will be in Tier 2, which will cover 57.3% of the country, or 32 million people.

– What are the key indicators that will primarily determine the restrictions in each area?

Five factors are considered:

– case detection rates in all age groups;

– case detection rates in the over-60s;

– the rate at which cases are rising or falling;

– the positivity rate – the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests taken;

– Pressure on the NHS, including current and projected occupancy.

– Why are there not rigid thresholds?

The Government has said it needs to maintain flexibility to weigh the indicators against each other – such as whether hospital capacity in neighbouring areas is lower.

Another example given in the coronavirus winter plan is that case detection rates would need to be weighed against whether the spread of the virus is localised to particular communities.

The plan states “given these sensitivities, it is not possible to set rigid thresholds for these indicators, as doing so would result in poorer quality decisions”.

– Is there widespread support for the tier system?

A number of the PM’s Conservative colleagues have been openly critical of the three-tier system.

But the Government is expected to win Tuesday’s Commons vote on the new rules – which are due to come into effect the following day – after Labour said it would abstain.

Sir Keir Starmer – who has previously backed Government measures – said while his party had “serious misgivings” it would not be in the national interest to vote them down when the virus still posed a “serious risk”.

– If the vote is won and the tier system comes into effect, when can any changes be made to it?

The first review of the tiers is set for December 16.

Mr Johnson has said the allocation of tiers will be reviewed every 14 days from that date and suggested mass testing could make households exempt from restrictions.

He also said that at the first review of the measures in mid-December he would move areas down a tier where there is “robust evidence” that coronavirus is in sustained decline.

He has written to Tory MPs offering them another chance to vote on the restrictions early next year, saying the legislation will have a “sunset of February 3”.

That vote after Christmas will determine whether the tier system stays in place until the end of March.

– What are the scientists saying about the prospect of easing measures?

Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, said it would be a “terrible mistake” to relax restrictions just months before vaccines “start to have an effect”.

Prof Openshaw, who is a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said: “We scientists are very concerned indeed about relaxation of precautions at this stage. The rates are still too high, there’s too many cases coming into hospitals, too many people dying.

“And if we take the brakes off at this stage, just when the end is in sight, I think we would be making a huge mistake.”

Published: 01/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Lewis Hamilton to miss Sakhir Grand Prix after testing positive for coronavirus
Lewis Hamilton will miss this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain after testing positive for coronavirus. The seven-time Formula One world champion is in isolation after his positive result.

An F1 statement said: “The FIA, Formula One and Mercedes Team can today confirm that during mandatory pre-race PRC testing for the Sakhir Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton has tested positive for Covid-19.

“In accordance with Covid-19 protocols, he is now isolating. All contacts have been declared. The procedures set out by the FIA and Formula One will ensure no wider impact on this weekend’s event.”

Hamilton’s Mercedes team said Hamilton, 35, reported “mild symptoms” on the morning following Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix where he claimed his 11th win of the season.

“Lewis was tested three times last week and returned a negative result each time, the last of which was on Sunday afternoon at the Bahrain International Circuit as part of the standard race weekend testing programme,” a statement from the Formula One team read.

“However, he woke up on Monday morning with mild symptoms and was informed at the same time that a contact prior to his arrival in Bahrain had subsequently tested positive.

“Lewis therefore took a further test and returned a positive result. This has since been confirmed by a retest.”

The Mercedes statement continued: “Lewis is now isolating in accordance with Covid-19 protocols and public health guidelines in Bahrain.

“Apart from mild symptoms, he is otherwise fit and well, and the entire team sends him its very best wishes for a swift recovery.”

Hamilton, who wrapped up his record-equalling seventh world championship in Turkey last month, is the third driver to have contracted the illness.

Sergio Perez missed the British and 70th Anniversary Grands Prix at Silverstone in August, while his Racing Point team-mate Lance Stroll also tested positive following October’s Eifel Grand Prix in Germany.

Sunday’s race will be the first Hamilton has missed since his debut at the 2007 season-opening race in Australia.

Mercedes have yet to confirm who will replace the Englishman for Sunday’s grand prix on the Outer Loop of the Bahrain International Circuit.

Mercedes reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne, formerly of McLaren, is in the running, while the world champions could also turn to British driver George Russell.

Russell, 22, is in his second season with Williams, but is a member of the Mercedes junior driver programme.

Published: 01/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

No last-minute rescue deal for Arcadia Group – report
Plans for an emergency multimillion-pound loan to Sir Philip Green’s struggling Arcadia Group have reportedly fallen through. Sir Philip’s retail empire, which includes the Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Burton brands, has been revealed to be on the brink of collapse with around 15,000 jobs at risk.

Senior sources at the company have told the BBC they do not expect a last-minute rescue deal, which had been flagged by Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group.

Arcadia Group will enter administration on Monday, the broadcaster said, with Deloitte to be appointed as administrators in the coming days.

The offer from Frasers Group, which runs Sports Direct and House of Fraser, amounts to a £50 million loan, Mr Ashley’s company confirmed.

Frasers Group said: “The company can confirm that it has made an offer and provided draft terms to the Arcadia Group for a loan of up to £50 million and is now awaiting a substantive response.

“Should the Company and the Arcadia Group’s efforts to agree an emergency funding package fail and the Arcadia Group enter into administration, the company would be interested in participating in any sale process.”

Sky News quoted Chris Wootton, Frasers’ chief financial officer, as saying: “We hope that Sir Philip Green and the Arcadia Group will contact us today to discuss how we can support them and help save as many jobs as possible.”

Arcadia had been in emergency talks with lenders in a bid to secure a £30 million loan to help shore up its finances.

If the insolvency is confirmed, it is expected to trigger a scramble among creditors to get control of company assets.

It is the latest retailer to have been hammered by the closure of stores in the face of coronavirus, with rivals including Debenhams, Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group and Oasis Warehouse all sliding into insolvency since the pandemic struck in March.

The group has more than 500 retail stores across the UK with the majority of these currently shut as a result of England’s second national lockdown, which will end next week.

Earlier this year, Arcadia revealed plans to cut around 500 of its 2,500 head office jobs amid a restructure in the face of the coronavirus crisis.

Published: 30/11/2020 by Radio NewsHub

What are the latest coronavirus restrictions around the UK?
Large swathes of England face the toughest lockdown restrictions of the tier-based system from December 2, but different rules are in place across the four nations of the UK. This is the current picture in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

– England

Much of the Midlands, North East and North West will be in the most restrictive Tier 3, meaning a ban on households mixing, except in limited circumstances such as parks, while bars and restaurants will be limited to takeaway or delivery services and people will be advised to avoid travelling outside their area.

The majority of England will be in Tier 2 – including London and Liverpool – where the restrictions mean a ban on households mixing indoors, and pubs and restaurants only able to sell alcohol with a “substantial meal”.

Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly will be placed in the lowest Tier 1 set of restrictions.

A vote on the new tier system is due to take place in Parliament on Tuesday.

– Northern Ireland

From November 27, pubs, restaurants, non-essential retail and close contact services had to shut for two weeks to help curb the spread of the virus.

Many businesses across Northern Ireland had only just opened up again following a circuit-breaker lockdown.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said the decision on further restrictions was “difficult but right”, while the hospitality sector is seeking assurances from Stormont that it can reopen on December 11.

– Wales

Further national restrictions will come into effect across Wales this week after a steady rise in infection rates – especially among the under-25s – since a 17-day “firebreak” ended on November 9.

Cinemas, bowling alleys and other indoor entertainment venues will close and new rules will be introduced for the hospitality industry on Friday.

But the new restrictions will not apply to non-essential retail, hairdressers, gyms and leisure centres.

– Scotland

The toughest coronavirus restrictions in Scotland have been imposed on 11 council areas.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that moving parts of west and central Scotland from Level 3 to Level 4 for three weeks was “unpalatable but necessary” as infections remained “stubbornly and worryingly high”.

The restrictions mean that non-essential shops, hospitality, gyms and beauty salons are among the businesses forced to close in these areas until December 11.

Published: 30/11/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Tighter tier system to cost hospitality sector up to £7.8bn

The tighter tiered system coming into force this week will stop 98% of England’s hospitality sector from doing business as usual at a cost of up to £7.8 billion, new research suggests.

Jobs site Caterer.com estimated that pent-up demand for meals and drinks could have delivered as much as £15.9 billion to the UK economy when the current lockdown ends on Wednesday.

A survey of more than 2,000 adults indicated that after four weeks at home, the public is eager to return to hospitality venues.

One in four respondents said they were planning to spend more than usual at hospitality venues, suggesting that a potential £5.1 billion could be spent on meals and a further £5.1 billion on drinks, if venues were allowed to trade fully, said the report.

While the return of customers would have delivered a much-needed festive boost for the struggling industry, much of the sector now faces crisis amid a tighter tiered system and tougher restrictions, said Caterer.com.

Published: 30/11/2020 by Radio NewsHub

PM announces £20m to boost medicine manufacturing in UK

Medicine manufacturing in the UK will receive a £20 million boost in a bid to strengthen the country’s response to future pandemics, the Prime Minister has announced.

Boris Johnson will launch the Medicines and Diagnostic Manufacturing Transformation Fund on a visit to North Wales on Monday.

The fund is designed to open-up investment opportunities for manufacturers across the UK, improving medicine supply chains and creating potentially thousands of skilled jobs.

It will be used to encourage companies to build new factories and harness new technological advances, with the aim of placing them ahead of global competitors.

The multi-year fund, starting with £20 million, will be available from next year and eligible manufacturing companies can bid for help with their capital costs.

Mr Johnson said: “This new £20 million fund will significantly increase the capacity and resilience of our medicines and diagnostics manufacturing supply chains and equip us to fight future health crises.

“Throughout the pandemic we have seen a coming together of British scientific industry and innovation and this new fund will enhance the UK’s manufacturing capabilities even further.”

Business Secretary Alok Sharma added: “The positive and timely response of our medicines manufacturers to the pandemic has been remarkable, but we want to ensure that the UK’s supply chains are even more resilient in the future.

“There are huge opportunities for innovation in medicines and diagnostics, and this new fund will put the UK head and shoulders above others, boosting the UK’s capabilities and generating significant economic opportunities across the country.”

Published: 29/11/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Darth Vader actor Dave Prowse dies aged 85

Dave Prowse, the former bodybuilder from Bristol best known for playing Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy and the Green Cross Code Man, has died aged 85, his agent confirmed.

Prowse won the role playing Vader due to his impressive 6ft 6in physique, but with his West Country accent deemed not quite suitable, the part was instead voiced by James Earl Jones.

The towering performer also earned an MBE for playing the Green Cross Code Man to promote road safety.

Tributes have poured in for the star, including co-stars from Star Wars.

Mark Hamill has hailed his co-star Dave Prowse as “a kind man” who was “much more than Darth Vader”

Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker opposite Prowse, tweeted: “So sad to hear David Prowse has passed. He was a kind man & much more than Darth Vader.

“Actor-Husband-Father-Member of the Order of the British Empire-3 time British Weightlifting Champion & Safety Icon the Green Cross Code Man. He loved his fans as much as they loved him.”

Published: 29/11/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Thousands of turkeys culled after bird flu outbreak at Yorkshire farm

More than 10,000 turkeys will be culled at a farm in North Yorkshire following a bird flu outbreak.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said avian influenza poses little risk to public health and this strain of the virus does not affect food safety.

All 10,500 birds at the turkey fattening site in Northallerton will be humanely culled to limit the spread of the disease, and a 3km and 10km Temporary Control Zone has been put in place to stop the disease spreading.

Public Health England (PHE) and the Food Standards Agency have assured consumers that avian influenzas pose a very low risk to people, and that properly cooked poultry products including eggs are safe to eat.

A detailed investigation is in progress to determine the most likely source of this outbreak, but Defra has said it does not anticipate any impact on the supplies of turkeys or other birds over Christmas.

Wild birds migrating from mainland Europe during the winter period can spread the disease to poultry and other captive birds.

As a result of outbreaks in the UK, new restrictions were declared nationwide to prevent the spread of the “highly infectious” flu earlier in November.

Published: 29/11/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Clinically extremely vulnerable given same priority as over 70s on vaccine list
People at very high risk from coronavirus, who were made to shield during the pandemic, have been given the same priority as the over 70s in the queue to receive a vaccine.
The provisional vaccine priority list published by Public Health England has placed people aged 18 or older who are deemed clinically extremely vulnerable in the same priority group as those aged 70 and over.

It means people with conditions such as blood, bone or lung cancer, chronic kidney disease and Down’s Syndrome have been placed in priority group four of nine.

Gemma Peters, chief executive of charity Blood Cancer UK, said: “This is extremely good news.

“Putting people with blood cancer at the same priority level as those aged over 70 better reflects the fact that they are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus.”

She added: “Any vaccine might not work as well in people with blood cancer, so vaccinating the people around them is a vital part of protecting them.

“We are very grateful to the Government for having listened to the voices of people with blood cancer and other health conditions on this.

“It is also important to remember that this is not definitely the final priority list.

“No vaccines have been approved yet, and we’re waiting for confirmation that any vaccine will be safe and effective for people with blood cancer.”

The updated list, which is subject to Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approval of vaccine supply, also lists the conditions that fall in priority group six for at-risk adults aged 18 to 65.

These include diabetes, chronic heart disease and morbid obesity.

The interim guidance, advised by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), says the order of priority should be:

1. Older adults in a care home and care home workers

2. All those 80 years of age and over and health and social care workers

3. All those 75 years of age and over

4. All those 70 years of age and over and the clinically extremely vulnerable individuals, excluding pregnant women and those under 18 years of age

5. All those 65 years of age and over

6. Adults aged 18 to 65 years in an at-risk group

7. All those aged 60 and over

8. All those 55 and over

9. All those aged 50 and over

Published: 28/11/2020 by Radio NewsHub


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