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Covid-19 vaccination to start across UK next week
The Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech has been approved in the UK, paving the way for vaccination to start next week. The jab has been shown in studies to be 95% effective and works in all age groups.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “The Government has today accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for use.

“This follows months of rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA who have concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.

“The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will shortly also publish its latest advice for the priority groups to receive the vaccine, including care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and the clinically extremely vulnerable.

“The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week.”

Published: 23/11/2020 by Radio NewsHub

What do we know about the Christmas bubble rules?
Plans to allow people to form a temporary bubble over the festive season will be welcome news to families across the country. But how much do we know about what is being proposed?

Here, we look at some key questions based on information released by the Cabinet Office and relating to England.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are yet to publish their full guidance, which could contain variations in approaches.

– What is a Christmas bubble and when can I join one?

People will be allowed to form an exclusive Christmas bubble made up of people from no more than three households between December 23 and 27.

This rule applies across the whole of the UK.

Christmas bubbles can only meet in private homes and gardens, places of worship and public outdoor spaces.

– Can I be in more than one Christmas bubble?

No. Christmas bubbles will be fixed for the period they are permitted.

You are also not allowed to change your Christmas bubble once it is formed.

– Is there a limit to how many people can be in a Christmas bubble?

The Cabinet Office guidance only stipulates that the bubble should not include people from more than three households.

However, it highlights that the more people someone sees, the more likely they are to catch or spread Covid-19, and asks the public to be mindful of risks before agreeing to form a bubble.

The Scottish Government said people should keep the numbers within a bubble as low as possible and minimise the length of contact between different households in the bubble.

– Will we have to social distance within Christmas bubbles?

Social distancing will not be necessary in bubbles, but people will be advised to exercise restraint and judgment if they plan to mix with vulnerable friends or family.

It means friends and family will have the chance to hug for the first time in months.

– What happens if I’m self-isolating?

If you have Covid symptoms or are required to self-isolate then you must not join a Christmas bubble.

If someone in a Christmas bubble tests positive for coronavirus or develops symptoms between December 23 and 27, or up to 48 hours after the bubble last met, then all bubble members must self-isolate.

– Can I be in a different Christmas bubble from people I normally live with?

Cabinet Office guidance says you can choose to form a different Christmas bubble from the people you live with normally.

To prevent virus transmission within your normal household and between bubbles, people should try to stay with another member of their Christmas bubble between December 23 and 27 where possible.

Extra precautions such as cleaning surfaces and door handles and letting in fresh air after someone has visited your household are also advised.

However, the Scottish Government has said that “different people in a household should not pick their own bubble”.

– Can I still meet people outside of my Christmas bubble?

You will be able to meet people not in your Christmas bubble outside your home according to the rules in the tier you are staying in.

The tier system of restrictions applies to England, with rules in other parts of the UK varying.

– Can I stay overnight with my Christmas bubble?

Yes. If someone is in your Christmas bubble, you can visit each other’s homes and stay overnight, including in private rented accommodation.

– Can I travel through different areas and across borders to join a Christmas bubble?

Yes. You are allowed to travel between England’s tiers and the four nations of the UK to meet your Christmas bubble.

– When am I allowed to travel to and from my Christmas bubble?

You should only travel to meet your bubble and return home between December 23 and 27.

For those heading to or from Northern Ireland, they may travel on December 22 and 28 December, but should only meet their Christmas bubble between December 23 and 27.

Travel outside these periods is only allowed in exceptional circumstances, for example if your are required to self-isolate.

People are advised to avoid unnecessary stops on their journey and not to share a car with people not in their household.

If crossing borders, travellers should read the local coronavirus guidance as different rules may apply.

– Does my support bubble count as one household still?

According to the Cabinet Office, existing support bubbles will count as one household contributing to the three household Christmas bubble limit.

A support bubble in England is defined as a support network between a single adult household, or a one adult household with one or more people aged under 18 on June 12, and one other household of any size.

Rules on household bubbles are different in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with full Christmas guidance still pending from those nations.

– Can childcare bubbles continue?

In England, a childcare bubble is where one household links with one other household to provide informal childcare to children aged 13 or under.

Between December 23 and 27 you can continue to use a childcare bubble but “only if reasonably necessary” and “where there are no reasonable alternatives”, Cabinet Office guidance states.

If meeting socially during this period, the two households should form a Christmas bubble, with one further household permitted to join the grouping.

Again, guidance in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may differ.

– What happens to children whose parents are separated?

Children who are aged under 18 can be part of both their parents’ Christmas bubbles if the adults do not live together and separate groupings are formed.

Nobody else is allowed to be in two bubbles.

– Can care home residents join Christmas bubbles?

In England, visits outside of care homes should only be considered for residents “of working age”.

A care home resident that is allowed to leave, subject to a home’s agreement and individual risk assessments, may form a bubble with one other household only and should not form a three-household Christmas bubble at any point.

If a care home resident does join a household for Christmas they should maintain social distance and take steps to minimise risks.

– Can students returning from university join Christmas bubbles?

Students heading home for the holidays will be considered part of the household they return to.

– Can I form a Christmas bubble if I am clinically extremely vulnerable?

Yes, but people are warned this involves greater risks.

If someone decides to join a bubble they should take extra precautions, while others within the group should be extra vigilant in the days before getting together.

– Can my bubble have Christmas dinner together at the pub?

No. Under the rules Christmas bubbles cannot meet up at indoor settings such as pubs, hotels, retail businesses, theatres or restaurants.

In England, rules on who you can and cannot meet will still depend on which tier of restrictions a venue is in.

– Should I follow the rules of the tier I travel to or the tier I’ve come from when forming my Christmas bubble?

In England, if travelling to join your bubble you should follow the tier rules of your destination.

In Scotland, you must stay with your bubble where they are hosting you and you should follow the travel advice for the level you are in.

For example, people being hosted in a level 3 area cannot go on an outing to a level 2 area.

– Can I stay in a hotel during Christmas?

In England, you can stay in a hotel during the Christmas period, including in a tier 3 area, but only on your own or with members of your household.

– How will the Christmas rules be enforced?

No specific details have been released over how authorities might enforce the newly announced rules during the festive period.

– Will we face tougher restrictions in January to make up for this?

We do not yet know. It has been speculated that a further circuit-breaker might be needed in January or February if transmission rates rise during Christmas.

The Prime Minister has urged families to still be “jolly careful”, warning against “a big blowout Christmas” that could risk another lockdown in January.

Published: 23/11/2020 by Radio NewsHub

British vaccine is 70.4% effective against Covid-19, data shows
A coronavirus vaccine developed in the UK can prevent 70.4% of people from getting Covid-19, according to new data. AstraZeneca and Oxford University announced their jab is effective in preventing many people getting ill and it has been shown to work in different age groups, including the elderly.

Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford, said: “The announcement today takes us another step closer to the time when we can use vaccines to bring an end to the devastation caused by (Covid-19).

“We will continue to work to provide the detailed information to regulators. It has been a privilege to be part of this multi-national effort which will reap benefits for the whole world.”

The UK has placed orders for 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine – enough to vaccinate most of the population – with rollout expected in the coming weeks if the jab is approved.

It also has orders for 40 million doses of a jab from Pfizer and BioNTech, which has been shown to be 95% effective.

Another jab from Moderna is 95% effective, according to trial data.

Published: 23/11/2020 by Radio NewsHub

US agency declares Biden ‘apparent winner’ – clearing way for transition
A federal US agency has ascertained that Joe Biden is the “apparent winner” of the November 3 election, clearing the way for the start of the transition from Donald Trump’s administration. The move by the General Services Administration (GSA) allows Mr Biden to co-ordinate with federal agencies on plans for taking over on January 20.

Mr Trump, who had refused to concede the election, said in a tweet that he was directing his team to co-operate on the transition but vowed to keep up the fight.

GSA administrator Emily Murphy made the determination after Mr Trump’s efforts to subvert the vote failed across battleground states, citing, “recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results”.

Michigan certified Mr Biden’s victory on Monday, and a federal judge in Pennsylvania threw out a Trump campaign lawsuit on Saturday seeking to prevent certification in that state.

Yohannes Abraham, the executive director of the Biden transition, said in a statement that the decision “is a needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation, including getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track”.

He added: “In the days ahead, transition officials will begin meeting with federal officials to discuss the pandemic response, have a full accounting of our national security interests, and gain complete understanding of the Trump administration’s efforts to hollow out government agencies.”

Ms Murphy, a Trump appointee, had faced bipartisan criticism for failing to begin the transition process sooner, preventing Mr Biden’s team from working with career agency officials on plans for his administration, including in critical national security and public health areas.

“Please know that I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts. I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any executive branch official — including those who work at the White House or GSA — with regard to the substance or timing of my decision,” she wrote in a letter to Mr Biden.

Mr Trump tweeted shortly after her letter was made public: “We will keep up the good fight and I believe we will prevail!

“Nevertheless, in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”

Pressure had been mounting on Ms Murphy as an increasing number of Republicans, national security experts and business leaders said it was time for that process to move forward.

Retiring Tennessee senator Lamar Alexander, who had repeatedly called for the transition to begin, released a new statement saying Mr Trump should “put the country first” and help Mr Biden’s administration succeed.

“When you are in public life, people remember the last thing you do,” Mr Alexander said.

Republican senator Rob Portman had called for Ms Murphy to release money and staff needed for the transition.

Mr Portman, a senior member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, also said Mr Biden should receive high-level briefings on national security and the coronavirus vaccine distribution plan.

The two men, who had both aligned themselves with Mr Trump, joined a growing number of Republican officials who in recent days have urged him to begin the transition immediately.

Meanwhile, more than 160 business leaders had asked Ms Murphy to immediately acknowledge Mr Biden as president-elect and begin the transition to a new administration.

“Withholding resources and vital information from an incoming administration puts the public and economic health and security of America at risk,″ the business leaders said in an open letter to Ms Murphy.

Separately, more than 100 Republican former national security officials — including former Homeland Security director Tom Ridge, former CIA director Michael Hayden and former director of National Intelligence John Negroponte — said in a statement that Mr Trump’s refusal to concede and allow for an orderly transition “constitutes a serious threat” to America’s democratic process.

The officials signing the letter worked under four Republican presidents, including Mr Trump.

The statement called on “Republican leaders — especially those in Congress — to publicly demand that President Trump cease his anti-democratic assault on the integrity of the presidential election”.

Mr Trump had publicly refused to accept defeat and launched a series of losing court battles across the country making baseless claims of widespread voter fraud and seeking to overturn the election results.

Ms Murphy had missed a deadline on Monday set by House Democrats to brief legislators about the delay in beginning the transition, which is usually a routine step between the election and the inauguration.

A spokeswoman for the GSA said a deputy administrator would instead hold two separate briefings for House and Senate committees on November 30.

In response, the Democratic chairs of four committees and subcommittees said they could reschedule the meeting for Tuesday, but no later.

Published: 23/11/2020 by Radio NewsHub

William and Kate hear of ups and downs of fatherhood from new fathers

The Duke of Cambridge has voiced concerns about fathers who “just don’t know what to do” during a chat with men whose parenting skills have been supported by a charity.

William said he worried some fathers “don’t know where to go” for help, as he and Kate spoke to the group who have attended fatherhood courses run by Future Men, a London-based charity providing guidance to men and boys.

Published: 23/11/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Christmas will not be normal despite lockdown ending next month
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has warned that “Christmas is not going to be normal” despite England preparing to move out of lockdown and into a strengthened three-tier system of local coronavirus restrictions next mont
Boris Johnson will detail his “winter Covid plan” on Monday, setting out the restrictions to replace the national lockdown on December 2 and how people can spend the festive period.

Downing Street said more areas are expected to enter higher tiers next month and those tiers will be strengthened to safeguard the gains made during the four-week lockdown, but it is understood that the 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants will be altered.

Mr Sunak said the localised tiered system is a “far better way” to tackle Covid-19 as he confirmed the Prime Minister’s plans, which were expected to be approved by the Cabinet on Sunday.

The Prime Minister is understood to be preparing to unveil a plan so that while last orders must be called at 10pm, people will get an extra hour to finish their food and drinks, with opening hours to be extended until 11pm.

Mr Johnson will announce the full plans for winter in the House of Commons on Monday.

But he runs the risk of a rebellion from backbench Conservative MPs when they vote on the restrictions in the days before they are scheduled to come into force on December 2.

On Saturday the coronavirus recovery group (CRG) of Tories resisting new curbs warned that they “cannot support” a tiered approach unless the Government produces a cost-benefit analysis showing they “will save more lives than they cost”.

Published: 22/11/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Millions to be spent in Scotland on a new ‘world-beating’ planning system *
The Scottish Government will invest £35 million in the creation of a new tool for the planning system which will make it easier for the public to be involved in the process.
Housing minister Kevin Stewart has announced plans to start work on the new project from early next year.

While details are scarce, the system will create a single place for planners and the public to access information and services related to the planning process.

According to the Scottish Government, increased communication within the sector will speed up decision-making.

The five-year programme is expected to create up to 1,600 jobs in the next 10 years in the construction and development fields, along with a £200 million boost to the economy, according to the Scottish Government.

Mr Stewart said: “There is immense potential for digital to provide new ways to get people involved in the planning of great places.

“Our digital planning team has been hearing about the experiences of people who work within planning, and also of those who participate in various ways.

“We’ve learned about what works well, what could work better and how digital transformation can help deliver positive impacts and outcomes at both the local and national levels.

“We’re now preparing to put our findings into action and over the next five years we will be building a world-leading digital planning system, helping connect people with their places, influence positive change, strengthen decision-making and focus on delivery of high-quality planned development.”

Mr Stewart is set to announce a new digital strategy for planning on Tuesday.

Published: 22/11/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Sunak to announce £500 million package to support mental health services

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce a £500 million package to support mental health services as part of measures to recover from the coronavirus crisis.

The Treasury said he will pledge the new funding in his spending review on Wednesday, when he will also deliver his long-term plan for infrastructure investment.

The majority of the spending is planned to go on specialist services for young people, including in schools, and support for NHS workers.

But Mr Sunak is also expected to make a vow for rapid progress to tackle the backlog of adult mental health referrals.

The Government estimates that mental ill health costs the economy up to £35 billion per year, and hopes the package will address the extra demand for services from the pandemic.

Mr Sunak said: “The pandemic has had a major impact on mental health because of increased isolation and uncertainty.

“So it is vital we do everything we can to support our mental health services and ensure help is there for people.

“This funding will make sure those who need help get the right support as quickly as possible so they don’t have to suffer in silence.”

Mr Sunak’s spending review is long-awaited, but it could also spark industrial action if he confirms the Government will impose a pay cap on millions of public sector workers.

Published: 21/11/2020 by Radio NewsHub

England to enter strengthened three-tier system when lockdown ends

England will enter a strengthened three-tiered system of local restrictions when the national lockdown ends on December 2, Downing Street has said.

Boris Johnson is expected to detail his plan for winter, which includes details on how families can see their loved ones at Christmas, to MPs on Monday.

The “Covid winter plan” is expected to place more areas into the higher tiers to keep the virus under control to ensure further restrictions are not needed, No 10 said.

And while some local measures will be the same as those in the previous system, some tiers will be strengthened to safeguard the gains made during the national lockdown.

The Prime Minister will accept that the measures are difficult but will make clear they are not to last longer than is absolutely necessary and will take into account the need to support the economy.

The Cabinet is expected to discuss and sign off the plan on Sunday before Mr Johnson announces it to Parliament the following day when the full details are expected.

The plan will set out how people will be able to spend their Christmas, but ministers have made clear that the festive season will be different to normal, with some restrictions expected to remain in place.

Ministers will set out what tier each area will be placed into on Thursday and MPs are expected to be given the vote to approve the new tiering system, as promised by Mr Johnson, in the days before it comes into force.

Published: 21/11/2020 by Radio NewsHub

UK and Canada agree post-Brexit trade can continue under same terms as EU deal

The UK and Canada have reached a deal to continue trading under the same terms as the current European Union agreement after the Brexit transition period ends.

The Government said the agreement paves the way for negotiations to begin next year on a new comprehensive deal with Canada, which has been touted as one of the benefits of the UK leaving the EU.

Boris Johnson and Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau sealed the “agreement in principle” in a video call on Saturday, the Department for International Trade (DIT) said.

The agreement does not give any new benefits to businesses but rolls over the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement reached by the EU and Canada after seven years of negotiations.

Welcoming the continuity deal, Mr Trudeau suggested a new comprehensive trade agreement with the UK would take several years to negotiate.

Industry groups expressed relief that businesses will not face higher trade tariffs with Canada next month but warned that similar deals were urgently needed.

Mr Johnson said the extension was “a fantastic agreement for Britain”, adding: “Our negotiators have been working flat out to secure trade deals for the UK and from as early next year we have agreed to start work on a new, bespoke trade deal with Canada that will go even further in meeting the needs of our economy.”

Published: 21/11/2020 by Radio NewsHub


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