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Blanket travel ban into UK not proportionate – Foreign Secretary
The Foreign Secretary has dismissed the idea of a blanket ban on travel into the UK ahead of the hotel quarantine plan kicking in.
The Foreign Secretary has dismissed the idea of a blanket ban on travel into the UK ahead of the hotel quarantine plan kicking in.

UK nationals or residents returning to England from 33 countries will be required to spend 10 days in Government-designated accommodation from Monday.

Dominic Raab was asked if it is time for a “blanket ban” due to the South Africa variant of Covid-19 being detected in Austria for example which is not on the Government’s red list.

He told Sophy Ridge On Sunday on Sky News: “I’m not sure that’s proportionate, and of course having blanket bans on any, for example, air travel into the UK would be very difficult for the supply chains, things like freight.”

Mr Raab said the data is assessed very carefully and they want to make sure the measures are “as targeted as possible”.

He said: “We think we’ve got the right balance – robust measures, but targeted measures.”

Mr Raab said it is not yet possible to put forward a “workable proposition” regarding a vaccine passport.

Former prime minister Tony Blair had reiterated his calls for a global coronavirus vaccine passport scheme, writing in the Mail On Sunday: “We have the technology which allows us to do this securely and effectively. The need is obvious. The world is moving in this direction. We should plan for an agreed ‘passport’ now. The arguments against it really don’t add up.”

Asked if it will be put on the agenda at the G7, Mr Raab told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “We can certainly discuss those things both internationally and domestically, but the reality is you’ve got to have a workable system, so it’s not something that I think yet is in a place where we can put forward a workable proposition that countries around the world would be able to rely on.

“And the risk of course with anything like that is if you create something which isn’t workable, that isn’t dependable, it creates a false sense of security and no-one wants to do that.”

On Swarbrick On Sunday on LBC, Mr Raab was asked about the idea of a domestic vaccine passport which people would need to show to go into a supermarket for example, and he said: “It’s something that hasn’t been ruled out. It’s under consideration, but of course you’ve got to make it workable.”

He added: “I’m not sure there’s a foolproof answer in the way that sometimes it’s presented, but of course we’ll look at all the options.”

Meanwhile, First Minister Mark Drakeford said there will be no quarantine hotels in Wales for the time being.

Speaking to Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, Mr Drakeford said there were no flights from red list countries coming into Wales, or from abroad, until March.

“For several weeks to come, that will not affect us here in Wales,” he said.

Mr Drakeford said he would have done the “opposite” to the UK Government in regard to its approach to overseas travellers coming to the UK.

He said: “Their approach is to say that ‘everybody can come in, other than the people on the red list’.

“I would have said nobody can come in other than a list of countries where we are absolutely sure that it is safe for people to come without the self-quarantine arrangements that have been suggested.

“I just think we need to build the wall higher to make sure we are not vulnerable to new variants that could appear in any part of the world.”

On Saturday, Heathrow Airport said “significant gaps” remained in the hotel quarantine plan and a spokeswoman said they are yet to receive the “necessary reassurances” from the Government.

One of the Heathrow Airport hotels taking part in the scheme is Novotel London Heathrow T1 T2 T3.

The hotel was charging £65 for members of the public staying on Sunday night, while travellers using it to quarantine from Monday must pay £1,750 for 10 days.

The PA news agency understands that the Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel is also participating in the programme.

Published: 14/02/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Murder investigation launched after stabbing death
A 24-year-old man has died after being stabbed near Reading.

Thames Valley Police said officers were called to Managua Close in Caversham just before 1am on Sunday.

The man was found with a stab wound to his chest and died at the scene, officers added.

The victim’s next of kin have been informed and a murder investigation launched.

Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Inspector Nicola Douglas, said: “Our thoughts are very much with the family and friends of the man who has sadly lost his life.”

“We are in the very early stages of this investigation and we will be working quickly and thoroughly in the community to find those responsible.

“There will be a cordon in place and additional officers in the area and we will be starting house-to-house enquiries as part of this investigation.”

Det Insp Douglas added officers would be conducting house-to-house enquiries as part of the investigation.

She said: “If you have any CCTV or dashcam footage from the area around Managua Close, Nire Road or Ian Mikardo Way between 11pm yesterday and 1am today, please take a look at the footage and, if it captures anything unusual, please share that with us.”

Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

Published: 14/02/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Clinically vulnerable offered Covid jab as vaccine programme enters new phase
Clinically vulnerable people in England are being invited to book their Covid-19 jab as the vaccination programme moves into a new phase on Monday. People aged 65 to 69 are also among more than one million people who have been invited to book their vaccine, NHS England said.
Almost 1.2 million letters were due to have landed on doorsteps by Saturday asking people to log on to the national booking service, with a further 1.2 million due to arrive this week.

Anyone unable to book online can call 119 free of charge between 7am and 11pm seven days a week, and those who receive a letter can choose from more than 100 vaccination centres or almost 200 pharmacy services.

GP-led vaccination sites will focus initially on the clinically vulnerable from cohort 6 because of the relationship between general practice and those with long-term conditions, and continuity of care.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) defines clinically vulnerable people as those with conditions including chronic respiratory disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis and severe asthma.

Anyone aged 65 to 69 who wants to wait to be called by their local GP vaccination service, or who has already received the jab, does not need to respond to their invitation.

NHS England said more high street pharmacists are being invited to take part as the programme continues.

Ministers are confident they will achieve their UK-wide target of getting an offer of a vaccine to those most at risk from the virus – including all over-70s – by Monday’s deadline.

But there is concern in Government at the rate of vaccine uptake among some communities – including some ethnic minorities.

Professor Stephen Powis, the national medical director of NHS England, told the PA news agency that he urges everyone who gets a letter to get the vaccine without hesitation.

He said officials have been working with faith groups and local community leaders to encourage everybody to come forward.

“Don’t hesitate at all. These vaccines are safe, they’re effective against Covid, they’ll protect you, they’ll protect your loved ones, and of course they’ll help get society back to normal again,” he said.

Asked about the idea that society will deal with Covid-19 in a similar way to the flu, Prof Powis said: “Well, we’ll be living with coronavirus for some time to come.

“We’ve already got over 18,000 people still in our hospitals with the consequences of Covid, so it’s really important at the moment that everybody is complying with those social distancing measures.

“Vaccinations will help, and of course as we vaccinate more and more people that means the Government can certainly begin to look at how those restrictions might be lifted.

“But our focus in the NHS is to ensure we get as many jabs into people’s arms as quickly as possible.

“So when you get the call – don’t hesitate, come forward, get your jab.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock issued a direct appeal to anyone over 70 who has not had the jab to contact the NHS over the weekend to book an appointment.

Some regions have already started vaccinating people aged 65 to 69, with NHS England having previously said that people in this age group could get a vaccine if GPs have supplies.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said they had begun contacting some over-50s, while Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she expects many in the 65-69 age group to have had their first jab by the middle of this month after the vast majority of older people were vaccinated.

In Northern Ireland, the Department of Health is offering everyone over 65 a vaccine by the end of February as it works its way through priority groups four and five, although it is expected to help the UK meet its overall target.

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “After a strong start the NHS vaccination programme, the biggest and fastest in Europe, is entering a new phase tomorrow.

“Thanks to the hard work of staff the NHS has protected more than 12 million of the most vulnerable people against Covid in a matter of weeks.

“This is an exciting moment as we now move on to those aged 65 and over and the clinically vulnerable as part of our plan to vaccinate as many people as possible who can benefit from it.

“However, if you have already been offered a jab but have not taken it up it is not too late. Please come forward and help us to help you.”

Mr Hancock said: “The vaccination programme is continuing at an unprecedented speed and, as we’re on target to offer vaccines to all those in the first four priority groups by Monday, we are determined to keep up the momentum by expanding it even further.”

Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “The NHS is working tirelessly to protect our loved ones from this terrible virus and I’m delighted the majority of people who are most at risk have now been offered a vaccine.”

Published: 14/02/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Trump acquitted of inciting Capitol attack in second impeachment trial
Former US president Donald Trump has welcomed his acquittal, saying that his movement “has only just begun”.
The US senate has acquitted former president Donald Trump of inciting the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.

The vote gave Mr Trump a historic second acquittal in an impeachment trial.

House Democrats, who voted a month ago to charge Mr Trump with “incitement of insurrection”, needed two thirds of the senate, or 67 votes, to convict him.

The vote was 57-43, short of the two-thirds needed for conviction. Seven Republicans broke party ranks to find Mr Trump guilty.

Mr Trump later welcomed his acquittal, saying that his “Make America Great Again” movement “has only just begun”.

In a lengthy statement, the former president thanked his lawyers and defenders in US congress, who he said “stood proudly for the Constitution we all revere and for the sacred legal principles at the heart of our country”.

Mr Trump slammed his trial as “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country”.

And he told his supporters that “our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun”, and that he will have more to share with them in the months ahead.

The Democrats argued in the short trial that Mr Trump caused the violent attack by repeating for months the false claims that the November 2020 election was stolen from him, and then telling his supporters gathered near the White House that morning to “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat by Joe Biden.

Five people died after a mob laid siege to the Capitol.

Mr Trump’s lawyers argued that the rioters acted on their own accord and that the former president was protected by freedom of speech, an argument that resonated with most Republicans.

They said the case was brought on by Democrats’ “hatred” of Mr Trump.

Published: 13/02/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Chief mouser Larry the cat celebrates 10 years in Downing Street
Britain’s chief mouser is celebrating 10 years prowling the corridors of political power at Number 10 Downing Street.
Britain’s chief mouser is celebrating 10 years prowling the corridors of political power at Number 10 Downing Street.

This Monday marks 10 years since Larry the cat left Battersea rescue centre for a new home with the Prime Minister.

He was the first cat to hold the rat-catching portfolio since stalwart ratter Humphrey was retired in 1997.

Lindsey Quinlan, from Battersea, said: “It seems like only yesterday that Larry came to our cattery as a stray in need of a home. I don’t think anyone back then could have imagined just how incredible his life would turn out to be.

“Throughout his time at Number 10, Larry has proven himself to not only be a brilliant ambassador for Battersea but also demonstrated to millions of people around the world how incredible rescue cats are.

“His rags to riches tale is yet more proof of why all animals deserve a second chance — one minute they may be an overlooked stray on the streets, the next they could become one of the nation’s beloved political figures, with fans around the world.”

During his tenure, Larry has been a trusted companion to three Prime Ministers, beginning with David Cameron.

Despite rumours he disliked the feline, Mr Cameron, in his final speech to Parliament, confirmed the pair were friends and said: “Sadly, I cannot take Larry with me — he belongs to the house and the staff love him very much, as do I.”

Larry stayed on to offer his support to Theresa May and was notably caught live on camera being forcibly removed from his sunbathing spot and escorted away by security to ensure he would not upstage her outgoing announcement.

The 14-year-old now works under Boris Johnson and in December 2020 was seen adding to the Brexit drama by getting caught in a scuffle with a pigeon.

The tabby stalked the bird outside the Prime Minister’s official residence as members of the press — who were waiting to hear from Mr Johnson — watched on with their cameras poised.

He has met a number of world leaders, including President Barack Obama who visited in 2011. Although Larry is normally unfriendly towards men, he did not appear to mind Mr Obama.

When the next US president Donald Trump visited in 2019, Larry was seen creating a potential security threat by taking his afternoon nap under Mr Trump’s car.

Even something as simple as getting caught in the rain was enough to melt the hearts of the nation, and in 2018 video of a damp Larry being escorted through the front door by a kind policeman went viral.

However, Larry was less popular with feline rival Palmerston, who lived at the Foreign Office until he retired in August 2020.

A Number 10 spokesperson said it was “proud” to support Battersea: “A much-beloved member of the No 10 team, Larry plays a vital role as Chief Mouser and in delighting staff and the public alike with his playful antics.”

Published: 13/02/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Charles sets youngsters a half-term nature challenge
The Prince of Wales is encouraging children to take up his half-term challenge and discover the natural world.
The Prince of Wales is encouraging children to take up his half-term challenge and discover the natural world.

Charles has set inquisitive youngsters six tasks, from spotting birds and planting seeds to decorating pebbles, stones or shells during the school break next week.

In a video message to launch the project, he admitted he was “frustrated” about not being unable to get outside as much as he would like during the pandemic, and how it had been “an incredibly hard year for everyone”.

But he went on to say: “So, here’s a challenge for you. While you have a little time off from all your online learning, can you encourage your family to go out with you to take a really close look at the wonderful things nature is now doing, and how the same patterns occur over and over again?”

He added: “See for instance, how many birds you can spot; plant the seeds left from cooking vegetables and see how long it takes them to sprout; decorate pebbles, stones or shells.

“But whatever you do, look closely. Notice the way nature organises everything so precisely, using the sorts of shapes I’m sure you have drawn in school with a pair of compasses – circles, spirals, five-pointed stars.

“I promise you, once you start looking at nature and searching for these common shapes, you will see them everywhere. And that’s because they are so useful to nature.

“The more you look at every leaf or seed or feather, you see that they have so much in common; they all work in the same way to keep life going.

“And don’t forget that we have those patterns in us too, which is why it’s so important to spend this time looking at how nature works – it teaches us how we work too.”

The half-term challenge came about after Charles, a life-long environmentalist, was approached by one of his charities and asked to consider encouraging children to explore outside and engage with nature.

The project will run from Monday to Saturday and involve six of the prince’s patronages – Garden Organic, Elephant Family, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, The Wildlife Trusts and the Prince’s Foundation.

Other tasks over the week include drawing an elephant and using leaves as the ears or creating a garden scene on a plate using materials from the garden, the park or kitchen cupboards.

Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “We know how vitally important establishing and maintaining a connection with the natural world is for our mental and physical wellbeing.

“Plenty of studies have proved the positive impact that time spent outdoors can have for young people.”

The daily tasks will be set via Charles’ Clarence House Instagram page and the challenges have been curated to ensure they are accessible wherever children may live, and can be carried out locally, with any travel on foot only.

Participants can share their creative efforts in the form of drawings, photographs or even short film, online.

Published: 13/02/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Special constable suffers serious bite marks during police raids
A police officer needed hospital treatment after a man bit off a chunk of his skin during raids in Manchester.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) arrested six males aged between 16 and 31 on Friday following warrants in Harpurhey in relation to violence in the area.

Officers swooped on nine properties after a series of incidents in the area since the start of the month, including three shootings.

Police said one of the six people arrested was taken to hospital after complaining of being unwell, and then became aggressive towards officers and assaulted four of them.

A 69-year-old special constable suffered serious bite marks which required hospital treatment, with pictures showing his skin seemingly ripped off his arm.

Another constable was also treated for a leg injury suffered during the attack.

A GMP spokesman said: “The officers were left understandably shocked by what happened with two of them sustaining serious bite marks.

“Despite this they finished their shifts and will be back on duty for their afternoon shift later.”

Police said all six males were arrested on suspicion of firearms offences and taken into custody.

A 17-year-old boy was also arrested on suspicion of wounding/grievous bodily harm with intent, assault occasioning bodily harm and assault of an emergency worker, and remains in custody, police added.

Published: 13/02/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Senators set for vote in Trump impeachment trial
US senators are poised to vote on whether Donald Trump will be held accountable for inciting an insurrection.
US senators are poised to vote on whether Donald Trump will be held accountable for inciting the deadly attack at the Capitol after a speedy trial laid bare the violence and danger to their own lives and the fragility of the tradition of a peaceful transfer of presidential power.

Closing arguments are set for the historic impeachment trial as senators arrive for a rare Saturday session, all under the watch of armed National Guard troops still guarding the building.

The outcome of the quick, raw and emotional proceedings are expected to reflect a nation divided over the former president and the future of his brand of politics in America.

The nearly week-long trial has been delivering a grim and graphic narrative of the January 6 riot and its consequences for the nation in ways that senators, most of whom fled for their own safety that day, acknowledge they are still coming to terms with.

Acquittal is expected in the evenly divided Senate, a verdict that could heavily influence not only Mr Trump’s political future but that of the senators sworn to deliver impartial justice as jurors as they cast their votes.

House prosecutors have argued that Mr Trump’s rallying cry to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell” for his presidency just as Congress was convening to certify Joe Biden’s election was part of an orchestrated pattern of violent rhetoric and false claims that unleashed the mob.

Five people died, including a rioter who was shot and a police officer.

Defence lawyers countered in a short three hours on Friday that Mr Trump’s words were not intended to incite violence and impeachment is a “witch hunt” designed to prevent him from serving in office again.

While it is unlikely the Senate will return the two-thirds vote needed to convict, several senators appear to be still weighing their vote. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell will be widely watched for cues, but he is not pressuring his side of the aisle and is telling senators to vote their conscience.

Mr Trump is the only president to be impeached twice, and the first to face trial charges after leaving office.

Unlike last year’s impeachment trial in the Ukraine affair – a complicated charge of corruption and obstruction over his attempts to have the foreign ally dig up dirt on then-rival Mr Biden – this one brought an emotional punch over the unexpected vulnerability of the nation’s tradition of peaceful elections.

Published: 13/02/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Flight to Bucharest halted on tarmac as police make child abduction arrest
Police halted a taxiing plane just before it was due to take off from Heathrow Airport to arrest a man on suspicion of child abduction.
Nottinghamshire Police said it received a report of a man taking a four-year-old without his mother’s permission at 4.57pm on Thursday.

Officers used intelligence and number plate recognition cameras to track a car to the London airport and used border checks to ascertain the suspect was booked on the Bucharest flight due to leave at 6pm.

Detective Sergeant Ruth Walker, who is leading the investigation, said: “When the report came in it was a race against the clock to find them.”

A 32-year-old man, who is known to the girl, has been arrested on suspicion of child abduction. The girl has been safely returned to her mother.

Det Sgt Walker added: “The plane was taxiing ready for take-off, but we were able to get there just in time before it took flight. The plane then returned to the terminal and the man was arrested.

“This was a hugely complex and challenging case, with its obvious pressures.”

The man was questioned by detectives on Friday and has been released on police bail, with conditions, pending further enquiries.

Published: 13/02/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Quarantine hotel regulations published just days before scheme comes into effect
Regulations requiring people from “red list” countries to quarantine in hotels have been published, just three days before the scheme becomes law. UK nationals or residents returning to England from 33 countries will be required to spend 10 days in Government-designated accommodation from Monday.

The law sets out new requirements for people to book their “managed self-isolation package” which includes a hotel, transport and testing.

But Lucy Moreton, of the Immigration Services Union which represents Home Office immigration staff, said members had not received information about how the system would work.

She told The Guardian: “They can watch the media, read statements from ministers, but that’s pretty much it.

“I recognise the complexity of the logistics, but this is all really difficult for the staff, more so than the other changes.

“We’re hearing a lot of concern from people who are concerned about encountering someone who has been in a red-list country and hasn’t declared it. Could they face abuse? Are they expected to detain them?”

Human rights barrister Adam Wagner, who studies coronavirus rules and tries to simplify them for the public, criticised the timing of the legislation’s publication, so close to the rules becoming law.

He tweeted: “Inexcusable that these have been published *zero* working days before they come into force and will not be scrutinised by Parliament at all before they do.”

People must quarantine in the room but exceptions allowing them to leave include the need for urgent medical assistance, to exercise or attend the funeral of a close family member.

The regulations state that leaving for these exceptional reasons should only happen if the person “has been given prior permission by a person authorised by the secretary of state for this purpose”.

The legislation, called the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (England) (Amendment) (No. 7) Regulations 2021, comes into force at 4am on Monday.

People may only arrive into Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport, London City Airport, Birmingham Airport, Farnborough Airport or any military airfield or port, the legislation states.

Travellers are required to have booked a “testing package”, which includes provision for a test on days two and eight of their quarantine.

The accompanying explanatory memorandum to the legislation says travellers “can only leave managed quarantine or self-isolation once they have received a negative result from their day eight test and quarantined until the end of the 10-day period”.

Passengers arriving into England face fines of up to £10,000 for failing to quarantine, and those who lie on their passenger locator forms face up to 10 years in jail, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced earlier this week.

The cost for a quarantine hotel stay is £1,750 for a single adult.

The regulations say the secretary of state or a person designated by him “may impose a charge in relation to the accommodation, transport and testing package” and that the secretary of state “may recover any sum owed by P (the traveller) pursuant to such a charge as a debt”.

Guidance published by the Government on Thursday said people on income-related benefits can apply for a deferred repayment plan when making their quarantine package booking and repay the cost in 12 monthly instalments.

Published: 13/02/2021 by Radio NewsHub

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