Author: Spire Radio

One in eight people in England has had Covid-19, new figures suggest
An estimated one in eight people in England had had Covid-19 by December last year, up from one in 11 in November, new figures show. Antibody data on infection in private households suggests that one in 10 in Wales had also been infected by December, alongside one in 13 in Northern Ireland and one in 11 in Scotland.

The figures come from the Office for National Statistic’s Covid-19 Infection Survey in partnership with the University of Oxford, University of Manchester, Public Health England and Wellcome Trust.

Last week, the Medical Research Council (MRC) Biostatistics Unit Covid-19 Working Group at Cambridge University said it believed the proportion of the population who have ever been infected was 30% in London, 26% in the North West and 21% in the North East.

This dropped to 13% in the South East and 8% in the South West.

It came as some family doctors continue to express their frustration about the rollout of vaccines across the UK.

With more than half of the over-80s and half of elderly care home residents having received the jab, ministers have now given the go-ahead to begin vaccinating the next priority groups – the over-70s and the clinically extremely vulnerable.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said “there will be an overlap” between those in the first group getting their jab and those in the second as the NHS keeps up the momentum of the vaccine rollout.

He told LBC radio: “We’re very clear that areas should be getting through the majority of the first cohort before they move on to the second cohort, but there will be an overlap.

“The reality is, as you’re moving through these, as you start to bring the second cohort in, there will be a bit of an overlap.

“So, while they’re still finishing cohort one, some people from the second cohort will be having their vaccines and being contacted.

“That’s understandable because the other alternative is you get through cohort one and you pause before you can start getting cohort two in and that would be wrong.

“In order to keep things flowing and moving we will see some overlap, but areas should be getting through the majority of cohort one before they start moving to cohort two.”

On Monday night, Health Secretary Matt Hancock acknowledged that some parts of the country had made better progress than others in vaccinating those in the top priority group, but said more supplies of the vaccine are being pumped to areas that have fallen behind.

He said: “We’re prioritising the supply of the vaccine into those parts of the country that need to complete the over-80s”, adding: “But we don’t want to stop the areas that have effectively done that job already.”

Some GPs have taken to social media saying they are “crying out for more vaccines” and that their elderly patients want to be vaccinated in local surgeries rather than having to travel further afield to mass centres.

The number of people in the UK receiving their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine has now passed four million and the Government is on track to vaccinate around 15 million high-priority people across the UK by February 15.

Once those vaccines have taken effect, around two to three weeks later ministers will consider whether lockdown measures can be eased in England.

Despite pressure from Tory MPs to move as quickly as possible, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned there will be no “open sesame” moment when restrictions will all be lifted together.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Lewis said it is “too early” to outline how the national lockdown will be eased in England.

“I’m afraid it’s still a bit early to outline that at the moment. The Prime Minister said when we put these restrictions in place that we’d have a review point in mid-February; we’re still some weeks away even from that review point.

“I think we’ve got to wait until we get to that point and see where we’re at, see how the vaccine programme is rolling out, see how the restrictions have worked and then we can look at what the next steps are.

“But whether that’s in February or whether we move forward in March, it’s just too early now in relatively early January to give an outline to that.”

Elsewhere, Professor Janet Lord, director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham, urged caution among those who have been vaccinated.

Asked whether people who have received the jab can hug their children, she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I would certainly advise not to do that at the moment because, as you probably know, with the vaccines they take several weeks before they are maximally effective.

“It’s really important that people stay on their guard even if they’ve had that first vaccination.”

She also warned against the idea of a coronavirus immunity passport until more is known about transmission of the virus among those who have been vaccinated.

“People might think (it is a) passport to freedom and even those who haven’t been vaccinated will see those changing their behaviours and think ‘Well, why should I bother if no-one else is either?’,” she said.

“That’s the real worry we’ve got at the moment.”

However, Professor Julian Savulescu, director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, said those who have proven immunity should not be restrained.

“There’s a serious ethical issue that you’re only entitled to restrict people’s liberty in a liberal society if they represent a threat to other people,” he told the Today programme.

“Carrying a virus is like carrying a loaded gun that can go off accidentally.

“We’re entitled to restrain people and check whether they have a gun, but, if they don’t have a gun, to restrain them, that’s false imprisonment.”

He added that efforts should be made to allow those with “certain immunity” to return to work and normal life.

Published: 19/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Toll on young people’s mental wellbeing as a result of pandemic revealed
The coronavirus crisis has taken a “devastating toll” on young people’s mental wellbeing, with the unemployed more likely to feel anxious and depressed, a new study suggests. Research by The Prince’s Trust suggested the experience of young people not in education employment or training is more negative than those in work and training.

The youth charity said its survey of 2,180 people aged 16 to 25 across the UK indicated that that more young people are feeling anxious than in the 12-year history of the study.

One in four respondents said they felt “unable to cope with life” since the start of the pandemic, increasing to 40% among those not in work, education or training.

Half of 16 to 25-year-olds said their mental health has worsened since the start of the pandemic.

Jonathan Townsend, UK chief executive of The Prince’s Trust said: “The pandemic has taken a devastating toll on young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

“They face a disrupted education, a shrinking jobs market and isolation from their friends and loved ones, and as a result, too many are losing all hope for the future.

“As ever, it is unemployed young people, and those with few qualifications and little confidence, who have an even more negative experience.

“At this critical time, we need businesses, government, and individuals to work with us to help as many vulnerable young people as possible.

“It is only by working together that we can stop this generation of young people giving up on their futures – and themselves.”

More than half of those surveyed said it was harder to ask for employment help and a similar number of those out of work said they could not see an end to being jobless.

Emma Taylor, UK people director at Tesco, which helped with the research, said: “The findings of this year’s Youth Index highlight how vital it is to support young people to develop skills and build their confidence, to support their future.

“Through our existing partnerships with The Prince’s Trust and other charities, we have already supported over 40,000 young people in secondary schools to develop essential employability and life skills, such as teamwork and communication.”

Minister for mental health Nadine Dorries said: “I know the pandemic has been incredibly challenging for children and young people and I am absolutely committed to supporting their mental wellbeing.

“Early intervention and treatment is vital, which is why we are training a new dedicated mental health workforce for schools and colleges across the country as well as teaching them what good mental and physical health looks like.

“In September, we launched a campaign through the Every Mind Matters website to raise awareness of the guidance and tools available to support children and young people’s mental wellbeing.

“We are also expanding children and young people’s mental health services through the NHS Long Term Plan to support an additional 345,000 individuals by 2023/24, backed by record investment of an extra £2.3 billion per year.

“I urge anyone who needs support to speak to their GP.”

Published: 19/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Matt Hancock self-isolating after coronavirus contact
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said he is self-isolating after coming into close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. He said he was alerted by the NHS app on Monday evening, having led a Downing Street press conference.

“Last night I was pinged by the NHS coronavirus app, so that means I will be self-isolating at home, not leaving the house at all until Sunday,” he said in a video on his Twitter on Tuesday morning.

“This self-isolation is perhaps the most important part of all the social distancing because I know from the app that I’ve been in close contact with somebody who’s tested positive, and this is how we break the chains of transmission.

“I’ve got to work from home for the next six days and together, by doing this, by following this and all the other panoply of rules that we’ve had to put in place, we can get through this and beat this virus.”

Mr Hancock must quarantine despite having tested positive for Covid-19 in March, announcing his diagnosis shortly after Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed his own.

It is understood that the Health Secretary was given the duration of his isolation period by the NHS app.

The health service’s website says the isolation period includes the day the individual was last in contact with the person who tested positive and the next 10 full days.

Published: 19/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Coronavirus vaccines to be offered to over 70s as Government expands rollout
Coronavirus vaccines will be offered to millions of over 70s and the clinically extremely vulnerable from this week as the Government expands the rollout amid a border crackdown to keep out new strains.

More than 3.8 million people in the UK – including over-80s, care home residents, and NHS and social care staff – have already received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, but from Monday it will be rolled out to the next two priority groups.

The Government said it would remain the priority to vaccinate those in the first two groups, but that sites which have enough supply and capacity to vaccinate more people will be allowed to offer jabs to the next cohorts.

Boris Johnson has pledged to offer vaccinations to the first four priority groups by the middle of next month, while Dominic Raab said on Sunday that all adults would be offered a first dose by September.

The expanded rollout arrives as a ban on quarantine-free travel into the UK came into force at 4am in a bid to keep out new coronavirus strains – such as those which have been discovered in Brazil and South Africa.

The new rules mean arrivals from every destination will need to self-isolate for 10 days, or receive a negative result from a coronavirus test taken at least five days after they enter the UK.

Passengers flying in from overseas will now also have to show proof of a negative Covid test before setting off – as part of rules which had been due to come into force last week.

The Foreign Secretary said on Sunday that checks at the border would be strengthened as the new measures enter into effect, and vowed to “beef up” capacity to ensure people are adhering to quarantine rules.

But the Government faced criticism from Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), who said the approach to quarantining foreign arrivals and contacts of coronavirus cases had been “pretty lax” so far.

In other developments:

– NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said that a coronavirus patient is admitted to hospital “every thirty seconds” – but that the health service is vaccinating at a rate of “140 jabs a minute”.

– Another 671 deaths of people who died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 were reported on Sunday, while there were a further 38,598 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.

– Boris Johnson will face intense pressure from Labour and Tory MPs to extend the temporary £20-a-week uplift to Universal Credit which was given to help families through the Covid crisis.

The Prime Minister said the inclusion of two more priority groups into the vaccine rollout this week marked a “significant milestone” in the vaccination programme.

He said: “We are now delivering the vaccine at a rate of 140 jabs a minute and I want to thank everyone involved in this national effort.

“We have a long way to go and there will doubtless be challenges ahead – but by working together we are making huge progress in our fight against this virus.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock added: “We are working day and night to make sure everyone who is 70 and over, our health and social care workers and the clinically extremely vulnerable are offered the vaccine by the middle of February and our NHS heroes are making huge strides in making this happen.

“This measure does not mean our focus on getting care homes, healthcare staff and those aged 80 and over vaccinated is wavering – it will remain our utmost priority over the coming weeks to reach the rest of these groups.”

Ten further mass vaccination centres will open in England this week, with more than a million over-80s invited to receive their coronavirus jab.

Blackburn Cathedral, St Helens rugby ground, Norwich Food Court and a park-and-ride outside York are among the new locations where large-scale vaccination will take place from Monday.

NHS England said they will join the seven existing mass vaccination sites across the country, alongside a thousand GP-led surgeries and more than 250 hospitals already providing jabs.

Elsewhere in the UK, more people are now in hospital with coronavirus in Scotland than at any time during the pandemic – despite new infections falling to the lowest level in almost three weeks.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said 98 soldiers would be deployed throughout Scotland over the next 28 days to help set up 80 coronavirus vaccination centres for NHS Scotland to administer the Covid-19 vaccine.

People in Wales were urged to stick to coronavirus lockdown rules as the “significant task” of vaccinating adults continues.

And in Northern Ireland, a health trust boss said the hospital system is facing huge pressure as it braces for the peak of Covid-19 patients needing intensive care treatment.

Published: 18/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Arsenal outcast Mesut Ozil arrives in Turkey to finalise Fenerbahce switch
Mesut Ozil travelled to Turkey on Sunday ahead of his expected move to Fenerbahce. The Super Lig club posted photographs of Arsenal midfielder Ozil boarding a plane and tweeted: “Our club is bringing Mesut Ozil to Istanbul to continue the transfer processes.”

Its understood the 32-year-old was at the club’s London Colney training ground to bid his farewells to the Gunners ahead of the imminent end of his seven-and-a-half-year stay.

He later hinted he was on the verge of committing to the Istanbul club by tweeting an image of his initials in the club’s colours, and the move is set to be confirmed subject to a medical.

On Sunday evening Ozil told Turkish television channel NTV he was “excited” by the prospect of playing for the Super Lig side, saying on ntvspor.net: “I’ve always said I support Fenerbahce and I’m very happy to come here.

“I am very happy, I am excited. God has let me wear this jersey and I will do my best.”

Ozil has not played for the Gunners since March and his £350,000-a-week deal was set to expire at the end of the current season.

Ozil had been expected to leave in the January transfer window and would be able to sign for another club as a free agent should the final few details be ironed out smoothly.

Having started the first 10 games under Mikel Arteta following his appointment in December 2019, Ozil has not featured since a 1-0 win over West Ham before the coronavirus pandemic saw football grind to a halt.

He was omitted from Arsenal’s Premier League and Europa League squads, with Arteta and technical director Edu insisting the decision was down to footballing reasons.

Ozil was criticised in some quarters when he refused to take a pay cut during the summer, with no football being played and Arsenal looking to balance the books.

He had signed his current deal in January 2018 to become the highest-paid player in the club’s history but now looks set to depart on a free.

Published: 18/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Ambulance workers ‘at breaking point’, union survey suggests
Three out of four ambulance staff are at “breaking point”, suffering low morale.
Three out of four ambulance staff are at “breaking point”, suffering low morale and calling for better protective equipment, a new study suggests.

The GMB union said almost two out of three of 2,000 of its members surveyed said they believed their PPE should be upgraded.

Three out of four respondents said ambulance workers were at “breaking point”, with the crisis much worse than when the lockdown first started last March.

The responses included:

– “People are dying waiting for ambulances whilst crews are stuck at hospital with Covid-confirmed patients.”

– “We had a taxi pull up in an ambulance bay with a dead male while his wife was shouting for help.

– “It’s very scary for us all.”

“In 24 years in the ambulance service I’ve never ever seen staff sat on station at the start of the shift so frightened (almost to tears) to go out on an ambulance.”

“Staff overwhelmed – calls waiting are in their hundreds for hours on end with little or no resources to send.”

GMB national officer Rachel Harrison said: “This cannot go on – something has got to give.

“Ambulance staff are going off sick in droves while the service collapses around them, despite their heroic efforts.

“A massive 93% are crying out for better protection, the PPE they are given just isn’t fit for purpose, and is a massive factor in why the situation is so desperate.

“Ambulance PPE needs addressing urgently or more people will die unnecessarily, including our ambulance workers.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “The safety of NHS and social care staff including paramedics has always been our top priority and we continue to work round the clock to deliver PPE that helps protect those on the front line.

“Guidance on the safest levels and standards of PPE is written by experts and agreed by all four UK chief medical officers.

“Our guidance is kept under constant review based on the latest evidence.”

Published: 17/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Navy medic’s pride at taking part in vaccination drive
A Royal Navy medic has said taking part in the mass Covid-19 vaccination drive has been her “proudest moment”.
Lieutenant Lauren Hodges, the senior nursing officer from Portsmouth-based aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales, is one of six naval personnel who have been deployed to a vaccination hub at Ashton Gate, the home of Bristol City FC.

The team is working alongside health staff at the mass immunisation centre to vaccinate NHS and key workers and people aged over 80.

Lt Hodges said: “This is probably my proudest moment – being part of a national effort to hopefully get ahead of Covid and get the country back to some form of normality.

“The set-up here is fantastic – really well-organised, especially given the size of the operation and the speed with which it has been set up.”

Leading Seaman Nicole Ellis, normally an operating theatre nurse at Portsmouth’s Queen Alexandra Hospital, said: “It’s a great feeling to be part of a national effort and part of history. We’ve helped deliver the vaccine to all these people – and they’re very happy to receive it. They feel that they can move on a bit with their lives.”

The team was provided training for the role last week and also met Prime Minister Boris Johnson when he visited the facility which has been providing the jab to about 800 people a day since Tuesday.

Surgeon Lieutenant Ryan Dodd, who works in the sickbay at engineering training establishment HMS Sultan in Gosport, was at sea for most of 2020 and found it frustrating he could not play a part in tackling the virus.

He said: “I cannot stress how happy I am to be helping – although I was doing my duty with the navy, it was hard to watch from the sidelines as friends and former colleagues were working hard through the pandemic.

“It’s great to be here, helping the NHS, supporting where we can, delivering vaccinations to those most in need as safely and efficiently as we can.”

Published: 17/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Safeguard controversial statues and put them in context, minister says
Britain should not try to edit or censor its past, the Communities secretary, Robin Jenrick has said
Britain should not try to edit or censor its past, the Communities secretary has said, amid proposed amendments to laws to protect statues, monuments and other memorials.

Robert Jenrick said any decision to remove heritage assets in England will require planning permission and a consultation with local communities, adding he wanted to see a “considered approach”.

He wrote in the Sunday Telegraph: “Our view will be set out in law, that such monuments are almost always best explained and contextualised, not taken and hidden away.”

The plans to change the legislation, to be revealed in Parliament on Monday, follow the toppling of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston last year and a wider discussion on the removal of controversial monuments.

Mr Jenrick said he had noticed an attempt to set a narrative which seeks to erase part of the nation’s history, adding this was “at the hand of the flash mob, or by the decree of a ‘cultural committee’ of town hall militants and woke worthies”.

Writing in the paper, he said: “We live in a country that believes in the rule of law, but when it comes to protecting our heritage, due process has been overridden. That can’t be right.

“Local people should have the chance to be consulted whether a monument should stand or not.

“What has stood for generations should be considered thoughtfully, not removed on a whim or at the behest of a baying mob.”

The death of George Floyd while in the custody of police in Minneapolis sparked protests across the world, with the Colston statue dumped into Bristol Harbour and a memorial to Sir Winston Churchill vandalised with the words “is a racist”.

Speaking last June, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square is a permanent reminder of his achievement in saving this country – and the whole of Europe – from a fascist and racist tyranny.

“It is absurd and shameful that this national monument should … be at risk of attack by violent protestors.

“Yes, he sometimes expressed opinions that were and are unacceptable to us today, but he was a hero, and he fully deserves his memorial.”

Published: 17/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub

UK can see a way out of the pandemic, Health Secretary says
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the UK is “nearly on the home straight” as 324,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines were administered in the space of 24 hours.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the UK is “nearly on the home straight” as 324,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines were administered in the space of 24 hours.

More than 3.5 million people in the UK have now received their first dose of a vaccine, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, as he hailed those helping the “fantastic national effort”.

Two vaccines have been rolled out in the UK, with a third – developed by Moderna – also approved for use.

Mr Hancock, writing in the Sunday Express, said: “We can see the way out of this pandemic. We are nearly on the home straight.

“After months of detailed preparations, rigorous scientific scrutiny and an extraordinary amount of patience, we are rolling out two highly effective vaccines, with a third coming in spring and others progressing through clinical trials.

“We’re rolling it out to as many vulnerable people as possible and we expect tens of millions of people to be vaccinated by the spring.”

Ministers are urging the public to “play their part” in supporting the vaccination programme, such as by helping the elderly attend their appointments.

And Mr Hancock said people should also sign up to clinical trials for vaccines and treatments, and stay informed with accurate and trusted NHS advice.

He urged the public to commit to “three pledges” to support the rollout, saying: “Everyone has a part to play in this national effort – to protect our NHS, our loved ones and other people’s loved ones too.”

His plea came as another 1,295 deaths in the UK were reported on Saturday, the third-highest daily total since the pandemic began, but the lowest number of lab-confirmed cases this year was reported – 41,346.

The figures will be seen as a sign that infections may be levelling off or falling as a result of the lockdown measures, though scientists believe the peak in deaths will come later.

In other developments:

– Government sources dismissed as speculation reports in the Sunday Telegraph that every adult in Britain could be vaccinated by the end of June.

– The Sunday Times said a “Cabinet deal” has been done to approve a three-point plan for lifting coronavirus restrictions from early March.

– The paper also reported that ministers had been considering new border measures – including the creation of quarantine hotels and using technology to ensure people isolate.

Ten further mass vaccination centres will open in England this week with more than a million over-80s invited to receive their coronavirus jab.

Blackburn Cathedral, St Helens rugby ground, Norwich Food Court and a park-and-ride outside York are among the new locations where large-scale vaccination will take place from Monday.

NHS England said they joined the seven existing mass vaccination sites across the country, alongside a thousand GP-led surgeries and more than 250 hospitals already providing jabs.

It comes as the Government prepares to suspend all quarantine-free travel into the UK on Monday in a bid to keep out new coronavirus variants.

The new policy means arrivals from every destination will need to self-isolate for 10 days, or receive a negative result from a coronavirus test taken at least five days after they enter the UK.

Published: 17/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub

What are the new travel rules and how do they affect passengers?
All travel corridors will be scrapped from Monday in an attempt to curb coronavirus cases, the Government has announced. The new measures come after a travel ban was announced on arrivals from South America, Portugal and Cape Verde due to the emergence of a new variant in Brazil.

Here the we look at the new travel rules and what they mean for passengers.

– What has happened to the travel corridors?

The travel corridors will be scrapped from 4am on January 18 to “protect against the risk of as yet unidentified new strains” of coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

The new policy means arrivals from every destination will need to self-isolate for 10 days, or receive a negative result from a coronavirus test taken at least five days after they enter the UK.

The previous travel corridors exempted arrivals from having to complete the isolation period on return to the UK.

– Do I need to get a negative test if I want to come back to the UK?

In addition to the travel corridors being dropped, from Monday January 18, all arrivals into England – including British citizens – must test negative for Covid up to 72 hours before leaving the country of departure.

Travellers will need to present proof of a negative test result to their carrier on boarding, while the UK Border Force will conduct spot checks on arrivals.

New arrivals who flout the rules will face a minimum £500 fine while the operator who transported them will also be fined.

Passengers will still have to quarantine for 10 days regardless of their test results, or receive a negative result from a coronavirus test taken at least five days after they enter the UK.

There are limited exemptions, including hauliers, young children, train crew and people arriving from countries which do not have the infrastructure for testing.

Travellers will have to take an internationally approved test, and guidance released by the Department for Transport said they could include PCR tests, nasal and throat swab tests, which take between 12 and 24 hours to return results.

Loop-mediated isothermal amplification (Lamp) tests, which can return results in two to three hours, and lateral flow tests, which generate results in less than 30 minutes, are also acceptable.

Results can be produced as physical documents or by email or text but must be in English, French or Spanish. Translations will not be accepted.

Scotland and Wales have adopted similar policies.

– Can I travel abroad at all?

Current lockdown restrictions dictate that people must stay at home and holidays are not allowed in the UK or elsewhere.

Limited exemptions such as travelling for work reasons are still permitted, but passengers will need to self-isolate for 10 days on their return and show a negative Covid test result.

Arrivals into England who do not self-isolate can face fines between £1,000 and £10,000.

In Scotland, fines are up to £480 and in Wales they vary from £500-£4,000.

– Which countries are subject to travel bans?

Travel to and from all of South America, Portugal and Cape Verde was banned from 4am on Friday.

British and Irish nationals as well as people with residency rights will be exempt, but will have to self-isolate for 10 days with their household on returning from any countries on the banned list.

A similar travel ban was put into place for South Africa last month, and later neighbouring nations after scientists identified another new variant.

Since December 23, entry into England has been banned for people arriving from South Africa, apart from British nationals or residents who have been subject to an isolation period.

On January 9, the same rules were applied to Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Eswatini, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Mozambique and Angola, as well as Seychelles and Mauritius.

Published: 16/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub


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