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Boots to unveil in-store rapid Covid-19 testing service
Boots is set to unveil a new coronavirus testing service it says can return results from swab tests in just 12 minutes. The pharmacy chain said the LumiraDx devices, which are able to quickly process swab tests to give customers same-day results, will be rolled out in selected stores over the next few weeks.

Boots has also launched a 48-hour testing service which is currently available in 10 stores across London, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow, with plans to extend the programme to more than 50 outlets across the nation.

The service is available as a private pre-flight test for customers who require one before travelling abroad, or as a solution for those who would prefer peace of mind before seeing friends and family.

The in-store service will cost £120 per test.

Seb James, managing director of Boots UK and ROI, said the programme is being implemented as a way to help ease the pressure on the nation’s health services.

“Boots has supported the Government’s Covid-19 testing programme from the very start and offering this new in-store service is the next step in our efforts to fight against the pandemic,” he said.

“We hope that by offering this testing option in local community stores, Boots can help ease pressure on the NHS and the Government by providing additional access to testing and crucial reassurances for people across the UK.

“As part of the UK High Street for over 170 years, Boots is proud to serve on the front line alongside the NHS and we will continue to do our part to support the nation’s healthcare needs during this challenging time and beyond.”

Customers who are not displaying any Covid-19 symptoms can book an in-store test through the company’s website, boots.com.

Published: 26/10/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Local lockdowns and home working take toll on jobs market – report
Deserted high streets and city centres are hampering Britain’s jobs recovery, new research suggests. Urban areas in Scotland and south England are bearing the steepest declines in vacancies, the Centre for Cities found.

The think tank, and jobs site Indeed, found that seven months after the nationwide lockdown was imposed, job vacancies have failed to return to pre-Covid levels in all 63 towns and cities analysed.

Aberdeen recorded the steepest fall with a 75% year-on-year decline, followed by Edinburgh (57%), then Belfast and the West Sussex town of Crawley (both 55%).

London has seen the sixth biggest fall in job postings at 52%, while overall UK vacancies are 46% behind last year’s level, said the report.

The rise in people working from home has dried up demand for local services in big cities, it was indicated.

While no area of the country or sector has escaped the labour market crisis, those where high street footfall returned to normal more quickly, such as Birkenhead, Chatham and Hull, have seen a faster recovery in job vacancies, the report said.

Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: “While unemployment continues to rise, the number of jobs available to people who find themselves out of work is far below its level last year in every single large city and town in the UK. This could have potentially catastrophic long-term consequences for people and the economy.

“The Government has told us to expect a tough winter and while local lockdowns are necessary to protect lives, it is vital that ministers continue to listen and reassess the level of support given to help people and places to cope with the months ahead.

“The Chancellor made welcome amendments to the Job Support Scheme which should help save jobs, but many places across the country didn’t have enough jobs before the pandemic hit so creating more will be vital to prevent long-term economic damage to their local economies.”

Pawel Adrjan, of Indeed, said: “The timid recovery in job vacancies is a portent of the distress towns and cities could face if restrictions continue to spring up in parts of the country already reeling from imposed lockdowns and reduced footfall.

“With the remote work trend showing no sign of abating, and entire regions being placed under stricter control, service jobs in large towns and cities could become scarcer still and pull the UK into a jobs spiral. That could mean a very long winter ahead for the millions of people currently unemployed.”

An HM Treasury spokesperson said: “We’ve put in place a comprehensive plan to protect, support and create jobs in every region of the UK, and recently increased the generosity of our winter support schemes, including our expanded Job Support Scheme, which will protect jobs in businesses that are open or closed.

“We are also providing additional funding for local authorities and devolved administrations to support local businesses.”

Published: 26/10/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Paediatricians: Childhood hunger is an issue that should transcend politics
More than 2,000 paediatricians have signed a letter urging Boris Johnson to extend free school meals to vulnerable children during the holidays – saying childhood hunger should “transcend politics”.
Members of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said they are shocked by the Government’s “refusal” to do so, and praised footballer Marcus Rashford for his “powerful campaigning” on the issue.

Businesses and organisations across England have pledged to offer free food to children from low income backgrounds in the days since MPs rejected a bid from Labour, backed by the Manchester United star, to extend free school meals over the holidays until Easter.

Labour has now warned it will bring the issue back to the House of Commons if ministers do not change course in time for Christmas.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green called on the Prime Minister to meet with Rashford’s taskforce “as a matter of urgency” to discuss its proposals for ending child poverty.

Mr Johnson’s own party colleague Robert Halfon said meeting with Rashford was a “no-brainer”, while fellow Tory MP Tobias Ellwood said extending provision over the holidays is a “simple and practical vehicle” to support families and called on the Government to “re-visit” the option.

Councils, including Conservative-run bodies, have announced stop-gap measures to cover the October half-term break which begins on Monday.

The open letter from the RCPCH members says: “Childhood hunger is an issue that should transcend politics.

“Few would disagree that one of our most basic human responsibilities is to ensure children have enough to eat.”

It adds: “We call on the UK Government to match the pledges of the Welsh and Scottish Governments and the Northern Ireland Executive, to continue to provide children from low-income backgrounds with free meals over the coming weeks and to then extend this at least until the Easter school holiday, as they have done in Wales and Scotland.”

Rashford said he is “so thankful and so very proud” for the “compassion and empathy” shown by those who have stepped up to help so far.

The 22-year-old striker’s online petition had garnered more than 785,000 signatures by Sunday morning.

Some Tory MPs have been accused over controversial comments on the subject, with one sparking anger after appearing to suggest local businesses giving away free food should not be seeking any further Government support.

Tory MP for North Devon Selaine Saxby later claimed her since-deleted comments were “out of context” and added: “I of course deeply regret any offence which may have been caused.”

Her party colleague Ben Bradley also said a tweet he sent appearing to agree with a comment suggesting some meal vouchers went direct to “a crack den and a brothel”, was “totally taken out of context”.

He claimed he was trying to say that giving children who live in “chaotic” situations an “unrestricted voucher to spend on whatever isn’t helpful”, but Labour MPs pointed out the vouchers could only be used to buy food.

Defending Mr Bradley, another MP Mark Jenkinson accused people of attempting to “score political points” as he claimed that in his constituency of Workington in a “tiny” minority of cases food parcels – not vouchers – are “sold or traded for drugs”.

The comments also sparked questions and demands for evidence, with Labour’s Jess Phillips writing: “Seriously Mark, let’s have a chat about this when in Parliament I’d love to see your evidence.”

Rashford has urged people to “rise above” disappointment, describing abuse of MPs and their families as “unacceptable” and “unnecessary” and calling for “collaboration” and “togetherness” and a continued focus on helping children.

West Midlands Tory mayor Andy Street has said the Government should make “a clear decision” on whether it would or would not fund free school meals over holidays, adding that it should not be “a last-minute thing”.

Tory-run Kensington and Chelsea council said it will pay for free school meals for eligible pupils in the borough, while other Tory-controlled councils getting on board include Hillingdon, Medway and Wandsworth councils.

The Labour leader of Birmingham City Council pledged to provide 61,000 eligible youngsters with meals in a scheme which will cost the local authority between £800,000 and £1 million, and the mayor of Liverpool said he was “not prepared to stand by and watch”, as he announced £300,000 of funding.

McDonald’s UK has also offered support to families, announcing a partnership with Fare Share UK to provide one million meals for families in need.

Downing Street has declined to praise such outlets for stepping in, with a Number 10 spokesman, saying: “I believe the PM said during PMQs that free school meals will continue during term time and that he wants to continue to support families throughout the crisis so they have cash available to feed kids if they need to.”

Published: 25/10/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Welsh Government to ‘review’ how non-essential item ban is going in supermarkets
The Welsh Government will review how the ban on supermarkets selling non-essential items during Wales’ firebreak lockdown is working, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.
Mr Drakeford announced that ministers would be “reviewing how the weekend has gone” with supermarkets and “making sure that common sense is applied”.

Under the firebreak lockdown, which began at 6pm on Friday and will end on November 9, non-essential retail including clothes shops, furniture stores and car dealerships must close.

Supermarkets have been told they must only sell essential items to discourage people from spending more time than necessary in shops and be fair to retailers who have had to shut.

On Saturday, more than 34,000 people signed a petition calling on the Welsh Government to reverse the ban, which it described as “disproportionate and cruel”.

Mr Drakeford tweeted: “Thank you for all your efforts over the last 24 hours to stay at home. We know people are fed up.

“It’s not easy, but we all have a responsibility to stop the virus spreading.

“We’ll be reviewing how the weekend has gone with the supermarkets and making sure that common sense is applied.

“Supermarkets can sell anything that can be sold in any other type of shop that isn’t required to close. In the meantime, please only leave home if you need to.”

His tweet followed a statement from the Welsh Government earlier on Saturday, which insisted the ban was “not for the sake of being difficult”.

A spokesman confirmed that items found in other essential shops – such as stationery and greetings cards – could still be sold in supermarkets during the lockdown.

Guidance previously published by the Welsh Government said certain sections of supermarkets must be “cordoned off or emptied, and closed to the public” during the two-week period.

These include areas selling electrical goods, telephones, clothes, toys and games, garden products and dedicated sections for homewares.

Supplies for the “essential upkeep, maintenance and functioning of the household” – such as batteries, lightbulbs and rubber gloves – can be sold during the lockdown.

Images posted on social media showed aisles selling products such as children’s clothes, greetings cards and book blocked off, with plastic sheeting placed over items to prevent shoppers from accessing them.

The petition calling for the ban to be reversed immediately states: “We do not agree that this is a prudent or rational measure, and will create more harm than good.

“We do not agree for example that parents should be barred from buying clothes for their children during lockdown while out shopping.”

Paul Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, said he had written to the presiding officer of the Welsh Parliament calling for members to be recalled to discuss the ban.

He described the popularity of the petition as a “clear sign” that people in Wales want the rule “scrapped immediately”.

One video posted on social media appeared to show a man ripping down plastic sheeting that was covering clothing aisles in a supermarket.

The ban on selling non-essential items was announced in the Senedd on Thursday following a question to Mr Drakeford from Conservative MS Russell George.

Mr George said it was “unfair” to force independent clothing and hardware retailers to shut while similar goods were on sale in major supermarkets.

In a statement published alongside his letter urging a recall of the Senedd, Mr Davies said: “It is madness that people have been banned from buying books, bins and baby clothes in local shops.”

He described the lockdown in Wales as “disproportionate, unnecessary and biting our economy hard” and said he would rather see people able to buy items in local shops than “see millions spent at online internet giants”.

Under lockdown rules, people can only leave their home for limited reasons, such as to buy food and medicine, provide care or take exercise, and must work from home where possible.

Leisure, hospitality and tourism businesses are closed, along with community centres, libraries and recycling centres, while places of worship are shut other than for funerals or wedding ceremonies.

Ministers hope that the firebreak will reduce the R value – the number of people each coronavirus case infects – to below one.

A new set of national measures is expected to be introduced in Wales after November 9.

On Friday, the rate of coronavirus across Wales was 156.8 cases per 100,000 people – with only one county under the Welsh Government’s threshold for intervention of 50 cases per 100,000 people.

Economists have estimated that the firebreak could cost the Welsh economy more than £500 million, but ministers say a longer period of measures would be more damaging.

On Saturday, a further 1,324 people were reported to have tested positive for coronavirus in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 41,577.

Public Health Wales said 16 people with Covid-19 had died, with the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic rising to 1,772.

Published: 25/10/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Self-isolation for Covid-19 contacts may be cut to seven days
Contacts of people infected with coronavirus may have to self-isolate for as little as seven days amid concerns in Whitehall about the levels of public compliance with the Test and Trace system.
Officials on the Government’s Covid-19 taskforce are understood to be examining the case for reducing the current fortnight period of isolation to between 10 days and a week.

The move – which would not apply to those who test positive for the disease – comes amid growing dissatisfaction with the performance of the system from ministers and MPs.

Boris Johnson was said to have become “disillusioned” with statistics provided by the service after they proved to be wrong, according to The Sunday Telegraph.

At the same time, there were said to be concerns that the prospect of a lengthy period indoors if they are contacted by Test and Trace is deterring people from co-operating.

The Telegraph quoted a No 10 source as saying: “Compliance is not as high as we would like and self-isolation is key if we are going to beat the virus.”

It comes after Test and Trace – headed by the Conservative peer Baroness Harding – last week hit a record low with just 59.6% of the contacts of people who tested positive for the disease being successfully contacted and told to self-isolate.

In a further sign of the unrest at Westminster, senior Tory backbencher Sir Bernard Jenkin launched a scathing attack on the performance of the system, saying public consent and co-operation was “breaking down”.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, he said there was a “vacuum of leadership” at the top of the organisation and called for a change that was “visible and decisive” with a senior military figure being put in charge.

“There is a spaghetti of command and control at the top, which is incapable of coherent analysis, assessment, planning and delivery,” he wrote.

“The immediate priority is to fill the vacuum of leadership in Test and Trace, which is destroying cooperation and compliance.

“Government harnessed the military to regain control in the foot and mouth crisis; the Prime Minister should follow that example today, by installing a single leader, a three or four star military commander with a reputation for handling complexity under stress.

“Test and trace should then be tasked with generating and sustaining a campaign targeted at achieving behaviour change by consent.”

Sir Bernard, who chairs the Liaison Committee of senior MPs which questions the Prime Minister twice a year, added that Lady Harding should be given a “well-earned break” so she and others could “reflect on the lessons learned so far”.

In response, the Department of Health and Social Care acknowledged there were areas where the service needed to improve, but said people should be “talking it up, not down”.

“Dido Harding and her leadership team – drawn from the military, public and private sectors – have built the largest diagnostic industry the UK has ever seen,” a spokesman said.

“It is the equivalent of building an operation the size of Tesco in a matter of months. The NHS Test and Trace system has built a testing capacity of 400,000 tests a day, from a starting point of 2,000 a day in March.

“This capacity is bigger per head than France, Germany, Italy and Spain and we have contacted over 1.1 million people and asked them to self-isolate.

“We need to improve in areas and we are very much focused on that, but we should be talking it up, not down.”

Meanwhile, talks are expected to continue this week between the Government and local leaders in Nottinghamshire, with parts of the county expected to enter the tightest Tier 3 restrictions on Wednesday.

The council in Warrington in Cheshire has already confirmed it will be moving to the very high alert level on Thursday.

It follows South Yorkshire which joined Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester and Lancashire in Tier 3 on Saturday.

Published: 25/10/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Tougher coronavirus restrictions affecting millions more come into force
Millions more people will be under tougher coronavirus restrictions in the next 24 hours as the Government increased financial support for businesses and employees affected by the measures. Greater Manchester moved into the highest alert level, Tier 3, on Friday morning, and Wales will introduce its two-week “firebreak” lockdown at 6pm.

Coventry, Stoke and Slough will enter Tier 2 on Saturday, while talks between Westminster and civic leaders in Nottingham over possible Tier 3 restrictions are continuing on Friday.

Under Tier 3 measures in Greater Manchester, pubs and bars will be closed, unless they are serving substantial meals, for a 28-day period, along with casinos, bingo halls and bookies.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced an emergency multi-billion pound bailout on Thursday aimed at supporting workers and firms through the second coronavirus wave.

The Job Support Scheme, which replaces the current furlough system from November 1, will be made more generous in an effort to persuade firms to keep staff in work.

There will also be grants of up to £2,100 a month available for firms in Tier 2 areas of England, aimed at helping hospitality and leisure venues which have seen takings plummet due to restrictions on households mixing.

The package could cost the Exchequer around £13 billion over six months.

It came as the Prime Minister acknowledged that the test and trace system, which he previously promised would be “world beating”, needed to be improved.

He said turnaround times for tests needed to be faster, after it emerged that just one in seven people having a test at a centre get their result back in 24 hours.

The Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance also said problems with the system could be “diminishing the effectiveness” and there was “room for improvement”.

A total of 101,494 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England at least once in the week to October 14, according to the latest Test and Trace figures, the highest weekly figure since the system was launched in late May.

But just 59.6% of close contacts of people who tested positive were reached through the Test and Trace system, its worst performance yet.

In other developments:

– Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance declined to rule out a “digital Christmas” in England due to social restrictions that “will need to be in place for a while”, after a medical adviser to Nicola Sturgeon warned that large family gatherings would be “fiction” this year.

– The Government said a further 189 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, as of Thursday in the UK, while 21,242 lab-confirmed positive cases were recorded.

– Spain’s Canary Islands, Denmark, the Maldives and the Greek island Mykonos have been added to the Government’s list of travel corridors, while Liechtenstein has lost its quarantine exemption.

– The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said analysing sewage for traces of coronavirus has helped officials spot spikes in Covid-19 cases in areas where relatively few people were being tested.

The Chancellor’s package of extra support, announced just days after London was moved into Tier 2, provoked fury from northern politicians who have seen their economies suffer due to long-standing coronavirus curbs.

In an effort to address that criticism, Mr Sunak said the business grants will be available retrospectively for areas which have already been subject to restrictions since August, and come on top of higher levels of additional business support for areas moving into Tier 3.

Around 150,000 businesses in England could be eligible, the Treasury said, at a potential cost of more than £1 billion.

The changes to the Job Support Scheme will apply across the country and could cost the Exchequer £6 billion if two million people take up the offer for the entire six months of the scheme.

Instead of only being open to people in “viable” jobs working a third of their normal hours, it will now cover employees doing just 20% of their usual work who will receive at least 73% of their usual pay.

The amount that employers are required to pay to top up their wages has also been reduced to just 5% of unworked hours, down from 33%.

Extra help for the self-employed will see the amount covered by grants increase from 20% of profits to 40%, meaning the maximum payout will increase from £1,875 to £3,750.

This will amount to a potential further £3.1 billion of support to the self-employed through November to January, with a further grant to follow covering February to April.

Published: 23/10/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Nearly half of people do not fully understand lockdown rules, study finds
Nearly half of the public in England do not “fully understand” the current coronavirus lockdown rules, a study suggests. Researchers found that around half of adults (51%) in the country said they understand the current Covid-19 restrictions. Only 13% of the respondents said they “fully understand” them.

The ongoing University College London (UCL) Covid-19 Social Study found this was an improvement on the 45% who felt they understood the rules in England in July. Those responses came after lockdown restrictions were firstly significantly eased on July 4.

But it was a significant drop from the initial lockdown period when 90% of respondents said they understood what was and was not permitted.

Lead author Dr Daisy Fancourt, associate professor at UCL’s Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care, said the findings were “especially worrying” at a time when case numbers were climbing.

“Levels of understanding around what is and isn’t allowed under current lockdown restrictions have dropped markedly since nationwide ‘strict lockdown’ has ended,” she said.

“This issue may well also be exacerbated by the newly introduced system of tiers in England and the differing policies of the devolved nations.

“As well as this potentially leading to people breaking rules they don’t fully understand, confusing messages or unclear communication could result in people disengaging from trying to keep abreast of restrictions, which could well lead to lower compliance in the long term.

“These developments are especially worrying at a time when the number of cases continues to climb. So it is vital that the Government improves communication of lockdown restrictions and ensures they are as simple to understand and follow as possible.”

The study of more than 70,000 people also found that understanding of the rules was lower in England than in both Wales and Scotland.

It said in Wales 15% “fully understand” and 62% understand “the majority” of the rules. In Scotland 15% “fully understand” and 66% understand “the majority”.

The levels of control people feel around aspects of their lives have also improved in some areas since July, it added.

Around three fifths of respondents (60%) felt in control of future plans compared with half in July. Meanwhile 70% now felt in control of their employment situation – up from 60% in July.

Despite this the study found people were still feeling out of control of their mental health. Half of respondents (50%) reported they do not feel at all in control or only feel a little in control of their mental health.

There was also a lack of improvement in people’s sense of financial control with two in five respondents (39%) not feeling properly in control financially, it added.

The project was launched the week before lockdown started. It is the UK’s largest study into how adults are feeling about the lockdown, Government advice and overall wellbeing and mental health, following more than 70,000 participants over the last 30 weeks.

A Government spokesperson said: “The Government has been working day and night to battle against coronavirus, delivering a strategy to protect our NHS and save lives.

“Throughout this crisis we have set out clear instructions to the public about what they need to do in order to delay the spread of the disease. The vast majority continue to play their part, washing their hands regularly, wearing face coverings and following social distancing rules.”

“We also work closely with local authorities to share best practice and insight on communications, and have delivered a paid marketing campaign according to local risk levels in England to ensure our messaging lands locally.”

Published: 23/10/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Wales prepares to enter two-week ‘firebreak’ lockdown
Wales will enter a two-week “firebreak” lockdown at 6pm on Friday in an attempt to protect the country’s NHS from being overwhelmed by the resurgence of coronavirus. The Welsh Government has said the “sharp and deep” lockdown, brought in to coincide with half-term holidays, could be enough to avoid a longer and “much more damaging national lockdown” in the months ahead.

Under the measures, which will last 17 days until November 9, people will be asked to stay at home and to leave only for a limited number of reasons, including exercise, buying essential supplies, or to seek or provide care.

The Welsh Conservative’s leader in the Senedd, Paul Davies, told the PA news agency that the Welsh Government needed to ensure the two week period wasn’t “wasted”, and called for more data supporting the decision for a “disproportionate” nationwide lockdown to be published.

He said: “For months we’ve been calling for the publication of community by community cases, demographic data and how the virus is transmitted. It is essential that transmission data is published so that people can see how and where the virus is transmitted – their homes, work, transport or elsewhere.

“It is concerning that the Welsh Government’s actions show that they either don’t have this data or it doesn’t support their monumental decision to lock Wales down again.

“If the Welsh Government want to take the people of Wales down further rolling lockdowns in the future, they need to be open and transparent along the way.”

Mr Davies also called on the Welsh Government to “get to grips” with its testing regime, after First Minister Mark Drakeford conceded the country currently wasn’t able to make full use out of its 15,000 tests-a-day capacity.

“Currently on average only 3,000 tests are done per day by Welsh laboratories, with the UK Government carrying out more than 6,000 tests a day in Wales”, he said.

“The Welsh Government needs a plan to fully utilise the testing capacity in Wales.”

Under the “firebreak”, people will be encouraged to work from home if possible, with the exception of essential workers.

People will not be able to meet indoors or outdoors with anyone they do not live with, with exceptions for those living alone.

All non-essential retail, leisure, hospitality and tourism businesses will close, along with community centres, libraries and recycling centres, while places of worship will also be shut other than for funerals or wedding ceremonies.

Business owners in Welshpool on the Welsh border have questioned the necessity for the two-week lockdown, saying they were effectively being tarred with the same brush as places such as Cardiff and Swansea.

Terri-Ann Ratledge, landlady of The Grapes pub, said she felt “victimised” by the new lockdown.

“We’re being tarred with the same brush and the same restrictions as what the big cities are. It’s just not bad round here and people are considerate because it’s a small community,” she said.

Tammy Weaver, owner of wedding services firm TMS Events in Four Crosses, Montgomeryshire, described 2020 as a “wipe out” for her business.

“We don’t really see light at the end of the tunnel because of the implications of the restrictions both in England and in Wales,” she said.

Ms Weaver also criticised the decision to impose the circuit-breaker for the whole of Wales.

“We feel a bit confused and upset by the decision,” she said.

“We just feel we are such a small area and Montgomeryshire is a safe area and everybody is abiding by the rules.”

Childcare facilities will stay open in Wales, with primary and specialist schools reopening after the half-term break.

Secondary schools will also reopen after half-term for children in years seven and eight, as well as the most vulnerable students.

And universities will provide a blend of in-person and online learning, but students will be required to stay at their accommodation.

Published: 23/10/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Trump and Biden clash on coronavirus and race in final debate
The second and final presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden was a much more civil affair than last month’s widely-panned first debate. With a mute button in place this time around, the candidates interrupted each other far less frequently, even as they clashed on issues ranging from the coronavirus to crime and global warming.

While Mr Trump and Mr Biden responded to each other’s answers — shaking their heads disapprovingly or smiling, in the case of Mr Biden — the two largely avoided speaking over one another.

And neither man tried to speak at length while he was muted during opening questions.

They opened the debate by sparring over the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Trump insisted he had done a good job with the worldwide pandemic and said the country needs to “learn to live with it”.

Mr Biden shot back: “People are learning to die with it.”

Responding to unfounded allegations from Mr Trump that he has received funds from Russian sources, Mr Biden noted that he has released 22 years of taxes, which he says show “I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life”.

Pointing his finger at Mr Trump, Mr Biden asked: “What are you hiding?”

The two candidates took questions on how they would deter foreign interference in American elections.

US officials have reported that Russian hackers have targeted the networks of dozens of state and local governments in the United States in recent days, stealing data from at least two servers.

The president said that nobody has been tougher on Russia through sanctions and pushing for increased military spending by NATO than him.

Mr Biden said his son did nothing inappropriate while working for a company in Ukraine while noting the president was the one who got impeached for dealings with that country.

Mr Trump said Mr Biden’s son Hunter drew a large salary from a Ukrainian firm.

Mr Biden responded that the accusation had been investigated repeatedly and did not link him to any wrongdoing.

He also noted that the president was impeached for attempting to pressure the president of Ukraine to find potentially damaging information on his family.

President Trump said former president Barack Obama’s government left him a “mess” to deal with in terms of tempering relations between the United States and North Korea.

Mr Trump said he had warded off a war that could have threatened millions of lives, adding Mr Obama told him he viewed potential danger from Kim Jong Un as among the country’s greatest national security threats.

Mr Biden said Mr Trump had “legitimised” a “thug” by meeting and forging a relationship with Mr Kim, while the president countered by saying that Mr Kim “didn’t like Obama” and added that “having a good relationship with other countries is a good thing”.

Mr Biden responded by saying the United States “had a good relationship with Hitler” prior to the invasions that led the country into World War II.

Mr Trump defended his administration’s separation of immigrant children from their families following detentions along the US-Mexico border.

Mr Trump said his government had constructed more than 400 miles of his promised border barrier. He also said “they built cages”, referring to Obama-era facilities depicted in media reports during the separations.

Mr Biden disputed Mr Trump’s answer, saying kids “were ripped from” their families in 2018.

As he has done since the primary campaign, Mr Biden defended the immigration policy of the government under Mr Obama, admitting that it “took too long to get it right”.

The debate then turned to race relations, with the former vice president calling the current president “one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history”.

Mr Biden said the president “pours fuel on every racist fire” and noted that at his last debate the president would not condemn white supremacy and told an extremist group to “stand down and stand by”.

Mr Trump portrayed himself as a champion of black people, repeating his standard line that no president has done more for black Americans aside from Abraham Lincoln – which Mr Biden sarcastically seized on by referring to the president as “Abraham Lincoln over here”.

He also accused Mr Biden and Mr Obama of ignoring issues of racial justice when they were in power.

Touting criminal justice reform and opportunity zone bills he signed, the president said: “I am the least racist person in this room.”

The two also sparred over the nation’s reliance on oil and what is required to reduce future emissions.

Mr Biden said the US needs to embrace clean energy and eventually transition away from the use of oil.

Mr Trump quickly pounced, cutting in with “that’s a big statement”, and wondered aloud if voters in oil-producing states like Texas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania were listening.

Mr Biden said that his plan was far more nuanced than Mr Trump was making it sound and emphasised that the transition would be gradual.

He also criticised the president for subsidising the oil industry while failing to give similar benefit to clean energy producers, like wind and solar power.

To close out the debate, both President Trump and Mr Biden offered divergent versions of what they would tell Americans who did not support them on a hypothetical Inauguration Day.

Mr Trump said that if he is re-elected, he would tell voters who did not back him in the election that “success is going to bring us together, we are on the road to success”.

Meanwhile Mr Biden said he would tell his detractors that “I represent all of you, whether you voted for or against me” and “I’m going to make sure that you’re represented”.

Published: 23/10/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Liverpool hospitals treating more coronavirus patients than at peak of pandemic
Hospitals in Liverpool are treating more coronavirus patients than they were during the peak of the first wave of the pandemic, the medical director has said.

Dr Tristan Cope, medical director of Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Royal, Aintree and Broadgreen hospitals in the city, said the numbers were continuing to rise.

Writing on Twitter, he said: “Sadly we are now treating more patients in hospital with Covid-19 @LivHospitals than we did in April at the peak of the first wave and numbers continue to rise.

“So important that people in #liverpool and @LivCityRegion adhere to social distancing restrictions.

“Treating so many Covid patients in addition to usual acute and emergency care of patients with non-Covid conditions puts a huge strain on @LivHospitals staff. Thank you to all our staff for their incredible hard work and dedication in dealing with this very difficult situation.

“We can all help reduce that pressure by doing the right thing and taking some very simple measures: washing our hands frequently, keeping our distance from others from outside our household and wearing face coverings in indoor settings.”

The hospital trust currently has 398 inpatients with Covid-19, compared to 390 at the height of the pandemic, on April 12.

The city region became the first area of the country to become subject to Tier 3 restrictions, which include the closure of bars and pubs which are not serving food, last week.

Liverpool has the third highest infection rate in the country according to the latest figures, although the numbers are dropping.

In the seven days up until October 17 there were 2,970 recorded new cases, meaning a rate of 596.3 cases per 100,000 people, down from 691.7.

Chief nurse of the hospitals trust Dianne Brown wrote on Twitter: “As Covid rates @LivHospitals exceed the number back in April, need to recognise the impact this is having on our staff .

“Thank you to each and everyone of you, it is mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting – you are doing an amazing job.”

Published: 22/10/2020 by Radio NewsHub


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