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Keir Starmer backs Christmas restrictions, but says PM left it too late
“Yet again, the Prime Minister waited until the 11th hour to take this decision,” the Labour leader told an online press conference.
Sir Keir Starmer has called on Boris Johnson to apologise to the public for the way the latest coronavirus restrictions had been handled.

The Labour leader told an online press conference: “I think the Prime Minister should apologise. This is not just one mistake when he has otherwise got things right. It is the same mistake over and over again.

“At the heart of the problem here is a Prime Minister who simply doesn’t want to be unpopular and therefore won’t take the tough decisions that are necessary, until he is forced into them at the 11th hour.

“We can’t go on like that. I think that it is very important that the Prime Minister does apologise to people for his handling of this episode of the pandemic.”

Published: 20/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Downing Street Press Briefing Summary
Johnson cancels Christmas for millions in London and the South East
A summary from todays Downing Street Press Briefing:

The total number of lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK has now passed more than two million since the outbreak began, according to the Government’s dashboard.

The new variant strain of the virus which causes Covid-19 may be up to 70% more transmissible and could increase the R value by 0.4

London and large areas of south and eastern England will enter a new “Tier 4” lockdown from Sunday, with non-essential retail closed and Christmas bubbles cancelled due to concerns around the spread of the new coronavirus variant.

The festive bubble policy across Tier 1, 2 and 3 areas of England will be dramatically scaled back to just Christmas Day

The Prime Minister said: “We are sacrificing the chance to see our loved ones this Christmas so we have a better chance of protecting their lives so that we can see them at future Christmases”.

350,000 people in the UK have so far received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine,

Published: 19/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Tier 3 coronavirus curbs to cover almost 40 million from Saturday
More than two-thirds of England’s population will be living under Tier 3 restrictions from Saturday amid rising concern about the spread of coronavirus in the run-up to Christmas. Health Secretary Matt Hancock placed large parts of southern and eastern England into the top tier and dashed hopes in northern regions of an easing of restrictions.

Mr Hancock told MPs he regretted having to impose the curbs but “there is a strong view right across Government that these actions are necessary”.

Under Tier 3 conditions pubs and restaurants can only offer takeaway or delivery services and indoor entertainment venues are shut.

Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Peterborough, Hertfordshire, Surrey (with the exception of Waverley), Hastings and Rother (on the Kent border of East Sussex), and Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant in Hampshire will all move into Tier 3.

The changes mean a total of 38 million people will be living in Tier 3 from Saturday – 68% of the population of England.

The little good news came for Bristol and North Somerset, which will move from Tier 3 to Tier 2.

Herefordshire will go down into Tier 1, although the county’s public health director raised concerns about the relaxation of measures there.

The announcements added to unease on the Tory benches about the Government’s response to the pandemic.

Tory MP Stephen McPartland said it was “ridiculous” and “totally unacceptable” that his Stevenage seat was “being dragged into Tier 3”.

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers and a Greater Manchester MP, questioned what more the region could do to get out of Tier 3.

“The statement will be greeted with dismay in Greater Manchester where we have had severe restrictions for nine months – where in nine of the 10 boroughs rates are below the national average,” he said.

Former minister Steve Baker, the deputy chair of the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown-sceptic Conservatives, said: “After a full and damaging national lockdown, millions more people and businesses across the country are heading into tougher restrictions.

“The Government must urgently clarify what the criteria are for moving areas between, and especially down, the tiers.”

The latest areas to join Tier 3 come after London and parts of Hertfordshire and Essex were placed under the top level of restrictions earlier this week.

Covid-19 case rates are rising in all but one region of England, according to the latest weekly surveillance report from Public Health England.

The highest rate is in London, which stood at 319.3 cases per 100,000 people in the week to December 13, up from 199.9 in the previous week.

In eastern England the rate has risen from 152.9 to 249.1, while in south-east England the rate has increased from 167.6 to 238.7.

The only region that recorded a week-on-week fall was Yorkshire and the Humber, where the rate dropped slightly from 153.6 to 148.5.

Mr Hancock said: “I regret having to take the action that we have to take.

“I deem it necessary and there is a strong view right across Government that these actions are necessary.”

He urged people to take “personal responsibility” for their actions to help curb the spread of the virus.

The cautious approach to the tiering arrangements comes after warnings that the relaxation of measures between December 23 and 27 could lead to increased cases and deaths.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told reporters that he was concerned the tier system was “just not strong enough to control the virus”.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said he was “not surprised but very disappointed” to remain in Tier 3.

“It feels like if the North has rising cases, the North goes under restrictions; if London and the south-east has rising cases, everyone stays under restrictions,” he told BBC Radio 4’s World at One.

Mr Hancock said the Government “looked very closely” at the area but there continues to be “significant pressure” on the NHS in the north-west.

Herefordshire’s acting director of public health, Dr Rebecca Howell-Jones, raised concerns about the county’s move to Tier 1.

“I think the relaxation of the rules now, just ahead of the Christmas mixing and the further relaxation that is inevitably going to result in more infections. It feels like it is too soon,” she told BBC Radio 4’s World at One.

Gerald Vernon-Jackson, the Liberal Democrat leader of Portsmouth City Council, said the decision to put the Hampshire city into Tier 3 was “bizarre” when other authorities that required care provided by the city’s Queen Alexandra Hospital had not been moved up.

Meanwhile ministers in Northern Ireland agreed to introduce a six-week lockdown from Boxing Day to curb rising cases.

The Stormont Executive agreed to close non-essential retail and contact services, as well as restricting the hospitality sector to takeaway only, with an overarching message to the public to stay at home.

Christmas relaxations will not be affected with up to three households still able to mix between December 23 and 27, while travel to and from Northern Ireland is also permitted on December 22 and 28.

In other developments:

– A further 532 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 and as of 9am there were a further 35,383 confirmed cases, including 11,000 from Wales which were not recorded in official figures between December 9 and 15 due to a computer glitch.

– The Government announced that the return to class of secondary school and college pupils’ in England will be staggered in the first week of January to allow headteachers to roll out mass testing of children and staff.

– Hospitals were showing signs of pressure, with Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust postponing some non-urgent operations and London’s Barts Health NHS Trust deferring some routine procedures.

– Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board became the third in Wales to suspend non-urgent care, saying pressure had increased on services in Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil in the last week as the equivalent of almost four people acquired the virus every 10 minutes.

– The furlough scheme was extended for an extra month until the end of April with Government loan schemes extended two months until the end of March in a sign that ministers fears the economy will still need support into the spring.

Published: 18/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Lucy Bronze happy to be a role model for others after winning top FIFA award
Lucy Bronze expressed her pride at being a trailblazer after becoming the first British player to win one of FIFA’s top two awards. The England and Manchester City full-back was named women’s player of the year at the FIFA Best Football Awards.

Bronze pipped former Lyon team-mate Wendie Renard and Pernille Harder, who left Wolfsburg for Chelsea this summer, after helping the French team win the Champions League and domestic double.

The 29-year-old, who was third last year behind USA duo Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, looked stunned when her name was announced and said: “Winning this award now, I’ll appreciate it more than ever and I’ll remember this moment for the rest of my life.”

At a press conference later, Bronze, the first defender to win the award, expanded on what it meant to her, saying: “I know we always speak about being a role model and there’s no better way to be a role model than doing those things yourself and showing the path for other people that maybe don’t think there is a path for them.

“To be successful and to be the first at doing certain things shows so many millions of people in England, so many little girls, so many defenders around the world, that it is possible.

“You just have to work hard and keep getting yourself to the top, play every game hard. I quite like to be able to tell other people, if I can do it, there’s no reason why you can’t.”

Bronze also highlighted the influence on her career of former France and Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier, who died earlier this week.

“I think it was the Scouser in him that just attracted him to the northern English player in me but the players that he worked with during his career were phenomenal and for that kind of person to give me all the advice over the past two or three years and show up to England games was just phenomenal,” she said.

“So, in the wake of the sad news this week, the award would have to be dedicated to him. A huge loss and I’m just thankful for everything he did for me.”

Houllier was remembered at the ceremony along with Diego Maradona and Paolo Rossi following their recent deaths.

Bronze now has her sights set on silverware with England, adding: “Whether that’s a home Euros or a World Cup, that would easily outweigh any individual award that I could ever win, although I can’t deny that it is very special to have my hands on this award.”

The men’s award went to Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, who joined Luka Modric as the only player to break the stranglehold of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi over the last 13 years.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was named best men’s coach for the second successive year, beating Leeds’ Marcelo Bielsa and Bayern’s treble-winning boss Hans-Dieter Flick as he became the first dual recipient.

Having won last year following the Reds’ Champions League triumph, Klopp was presented with the award again after ending Liverpool’s long wait for a Premier League title.

Klopp gave credit to his coaching team, saying: “I have to thank these boys. What we did in the last few years was really special.”

Holland coach Sarina Wiegman, who will succeed Phil Neville as England boss next summer, won the women’s award.

Son Heung-min’s sublime individual effort for Tottenham against Burnley last December earned him the Puskas Award for best goal.

The South Korean picked up the ball on the edge of his own area during the 5-0 Premier League win before running through the entire Burnley team.

The goalkeeping awards went to Manuel Neuer of Bayern and Lyon’s Sarah Bouhaddi while Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford was recognised for his campaigning work for children.

Bronze also made the best women’s XI along with England team-mate Millie Bright while Liverpool’s title-winning trio Alisson Becker, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil Van Dijk were named in the men’s team with new team-mate Thiago Alcantara – formerly of Bayern – and Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne.

Published: 18/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Deliveroo dishes up first ever gift card
Food delivery firm Deliveroo has followed rivals Uber Eats and Just Eat by launching its first ever gift card as demand for takeaways soars amid the pandemic. The group is offering e-gift cards which can be bought online and via its app in multiples of £10.

It said the launch comes in response to surging demand from customers ahead of Christmas.

London-based Deliveroo’s competitors, Uber Eats and Just Eat, already have gift cards available in the burgeoning food delivery sector.

The pandemic has seen food delivery firms enjoy booming business as restaurants have been forced to close due to lockdowns and tighter restrictions, turning instead to takeaway services.

Deliveroo announced in September that it was taking on an extra 15,000 riders to meet the demand, meaning more than 30,000 riders have joined Deliveroo’s platform since the start of 2020.

Since March, more than 11,500 new restaurants have also joined the platform.

Deliveroo spokeswoman Arabella Jenkins said: “In a time where many people are unable to see their families and in what has been a catastrophic year for businesses in the hospitality industry, we want to encourage people to give the gift of food and drink.

“It’s a special treat for those receiving the gift, but also helps to continue to support our incredible restaurant partners across the festive period and beyond.”

Deliveroo said it had given the first ever fully-loaded gift card to a customer who took to Twitter to urge the group to launch a gift card in time for Christmas.

It is also offering 500 people with festive names the chance to win a free gift card with a £10 credit.

Entrants can take part by emailing their details to [email protected] by midnight on December 20.

Published: 18/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Star Wars actor Jeremy Bulloch dies aged 75
Tributes have been paid to Jeremy Bulloch who played Boba Fett in the original Star Wars films. The actor, who also appeared in James Bond film Octopussy and featured in a number of Doctor Who episodes in the 1970s, died on Thursday aged 75.

His death followed “health complications following his many years living with Parkinson’s disease”, according to a statement on his website.

Mark Hamill, who starred as Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, labelled Bulloch as “the quintessential Englishman”.

He added: “A fine actor, delightful company & so kind to everyone lucky enough to meet or work with him.

“I will deeply miss him & am so grateful to have known him.”

According to the Star Wars website, Bulloch, of Market Harborough, Leicestershire, got his role in the Star Wars films thanks to his half-brother Robert Watts.

Watts had attempted to help Bulloch for many years and was working as an associate producer and tasked with finding someone to fit into the Boba Fett costume.

The website said: “He called his half-brother and told him that if the costume fit him, he had the role.

“When Jeremy Bulloch arrived and put on the costume, it fit him like a glove.

“George Lucas saw Bulloch as Boba and said, ‘You look fantastic.’, and thus, an iconic character of the saga was born.”

Billy Dee Williams, who starred as Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars films, tweeted: “Today we lost the best bounty hunter in the galaxy. RIP Jeremy Bulloch.”

Daniel Logan, who played a young Boba Fett in Star Wars: Attack Of The Clones, paid tribute to Bulloch on Instagram.

He wrote: “RIP legend I’ll never forget all you’ve taught me!!

“I’ll love you forever!! Conventions won’t be the same without you may the force be with you always.”

The official Twitter account for the Star Wars franchise also paid tribute to Bulloch.

“Jeremy Bulloch, whose unforgettable performance as notorious bounty hunter Boba Fett has captivated audiences since he first appeared in 1980’s Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, has sadly passed away,” it said.

“He will be remembered not only for his iconic portrayal of the legendary character, but also for his warmth and generous spirit which have become an enduring part of his rich legacy.”

He is survived by his wife, three sons and 10 grandchildren.

Published: 18/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Post-Brexit trade deal talks continue despite ‘big differences’ remaining
Post-Brexit trade deal talks between the UK and European Union will continue in Brussels after the two sides warned that major obstacles remain despite progress in the negotiations. Boris Johnson told European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen in a call on Thursday evening that the EU must “significantly” shift its stance on fishing if there is to be an agreement.

Mrs von der Leyen acknowledged that “big differences” remained between the two sides and stressed that “bridging them will be very challenging”.

Time is running out to reach a deal with just a fortnight until the end of the transition period, and the Prime Minister said the negotiations were now in a “serious situation”.

Tweeting after the call, Mr Johnson said he told the Commission chief that “time is short and the EU position needed to change substantially”.

And in a readout of the call, Downing Street said the Prime Minister warned it looked “very likely” a deal would not be agreed unless the bloc shifted its stance.

Number 10 said he urged the EU to move on fisheries and said some “fundamental areas” remained difficult despite a narrowing of the gap on the “level playing field”.

“The Prime Minister underlined that the negotiations were now in a serious situation,” a spokeswoman said.

“Time was very short and it now looked very likely that agreement would not be reached unless the EU position changed substantially.

“He said that we were making every effort to accommodate reasonable EU requests on the level playing field, but even though the gap had narrowed some fundamental areas remained difficult.

“On fisheries he stressed that the UK could not accept a situation where it was the only sovereign country in the world not to be able to control access to its own waters for an extended period and to be faced with fisheries quotas which hugely disadvantaged its own industry.

“The EU’s position in this area was simply not reasonable and if there was to be an agreement it needed to shift significantly.

“The Prime Minister repeated that little time was left. He said that, if no agreement could be reached, the UK and the EU would part as friends, with the UK trading with the EU on Australian-style terms. The leaders agreed to remain in close contact.”

The UK’s chief negotiator Lord Frost meanwhile warned that progress in the talks “seems blocked”, tweeting: “The situation in our talks with the EU is very serious tonight. Progress seems blocked and time is running out.”

After the 7pm call – which was not expected to be a breakthrough moment – Mrs von der Leyen wrote on Twitter: “We welcomed substantial progress on many issues.

“However, big differences remain to be bridged, in particular on fisheries. Bridging them will be very challenging. Negotiations will continue tomorrow.”

Lord Frost and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier have been holding discussions in Brussels all week aimed at breaking the deadlock on key issues which have plagued the talks for months.

They include fishing rights, the “level playing field” to ensure neither side can unfairly compete with the other on environmental standards, workers’ rights or state subsidies, and the legal mechanisms to govern any deal.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, who has been in charge of the Government’s no-deal planning, said on Thursday that the chances of an agreement remained “less than 50%”.

He told the Commons Brexit Committee the “most likely outcome” was that the current transition period would end on December 31 without a deal.

“I think, regrettably, the chances are more likely that we won’t secure an agreement. So at the moment less than 50%,” Mr Gove said.

He also said the Government will not seek to negotiate a fresh trade agreement with the EU next year if they cannot reach a deal before the end of the Brexit transition period.

Published: 18/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Openreach to create 5,000 new engineering jobs in 2021
It is part of plans to deliver Full Fibre to 20 million homes
Communications giant Openreach is creating 5,000 new engineering jobs next year, saying it will help to continue improving service levels across its networks.

The move will also help to build and connect customers to its new future-proofed ultrafast Full Fibre broadband network.

The recruitment drive includes 2,500 full-time jobs in Openreach’s service and network build divisions, and an estimated 2,800 positions in its UK supply chain.

The company also announced a commitment to upgrade its 27,000 Openreach vehicles – the second largest commercial fleet in the UK – to electric by 2030.

Published: 18/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

New six-week lockdown for N Ireland ‘draconian but necessary’
Measures are to come into force on the 26th of December
A new six-week lockdown in Northern Ireland is “draconian but necessary”, according to Michelle O'Neill, the deputy First Minister.

Stormont Executive ministers agreed to close non-essential retail and contact services, as well as restricting the hospitality sector to takeaway only, from December the 26th.

No sporting events will be permitted in the first week of the measures, with an overarching message to the public to stay at home.

However, the festive bubbling arrangements will be permitted.

The first week of the intervention will also include an 8pm curfew for essential shops.

The measures are set to be reviewed after four weeks.

Published: 17/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Sculpture ‘lost’ for 26 years installed in pond
It was removed from Festival Park in Glasgow in June 1994
A sculpture by an internationally-renowned artist that was removed from public display 26 years ago has been installed in a park after it was discovered in storage.

Kinetic art piece Three Right Angles Horizontal by George Rickey was removed from Festival Park in Glasgow in June 1994 after a month of being on display as local children had started to use it as play equipment.

It was thought the piece had been lost and Rickey feared it had been destroyed, but the sculpture, known as “Triple L”, had actually gone into safe storage in the city’s Bellahouston Park, before being moved to a facility in East Kilbride.

It was traced during a recent audit which confirmed the work remained in Glasgow City Council’s possession, and it was decided to return it to public view.

Published: 17/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

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