Allowing quarantined travellers out of hotel rooms is ‘very risky’ – scientist
Allowing travellers quarantining in hotels to leave their rooms for fresh air is “very risky”, an Australian epidemiologist has warned. Professor Michael Toole, from the Burnet Institute in Melbourne, Victoria, said preventative measures in the state had focused on stopping the spread of coronavirus by large droplets.
But he's said that the precautions – such as wearing surgical masks, keeping people in their room and using hand sanitiser – did not prevent airborne transmission.
Prof Toole said there have been Covid-19 cases in the city where an infected guest opened their room door and “with the positive pressure this kind of fog of virus went out into the corridor, travelled down and infected hotel staff”.
Asked for his views on people being allowed to leave their rooms in UK quarantine hotels while accompanied by guards, he said: “We’ve learnt that that is a very risky procedure.”
The state of Victoria has entered a third lockdown after an outbreak of cases thought to be linked to a quarantine hotel.
Australia’s borders are closed but those who can travel, and who are not exempt from quarantine rules, have to stay in a hotel for 14 days.
UK nationals or residents returning to England from 33 “red list” countries will be required to spend 10 days in a Government-designated hotel from Monday.
However, the rules are more relaxed than those in Australia, where people are not allowed to leave their rooms.
Its said the Government’s official requirements for hotel operators state that security staff can “accompany any of the arrived individuals to access outside space should they need to smoke or get fresh air”.
Home Office minister Victoria Atkins defended the policy, saying it is “reasonable” to allow travellers quarantining in hotels a “gulp of fresh air”.
She told Today: “The hotel will of course be adhering to all of the very strict measures that we have in place in relation to social distancing and face masks and so on.
“So I think allowing someone a gulp of fresh air, apart from anything else, we know that being outside is less likely to transmit than being inside.
“But I think allowing someone a gulp of fresh air during a 10-day visit in a hotel, with all the very strict measures that we have, I think is reasonable – but of course we will keep these measures under review.”
Ms Atkins added: “We are confident that the measures that we have in place, ready to go on Monday, are strong and that they will help to protect our country against any of these new variants that are being found.”
Travellers from countries on the banned list can only arrive into one of five airports in England.
Guidance states that anyone from one of those countries with a booking that brings them to a different “port of entry” from February 15 must change it to one of those specified.
The accepted entry points are: Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport, London City Airport, Birmingham Airport and Farnborough Airfield.
The published guidance states that leaving the room for exercise will only be allowed with special permission from hotel staff or security and is “not guaranteed”.
In other developments:
– The UK’s economy shrunk at its fastest rate since the 1920s last year, as the pandemic forced thousands of businesses to remain closed for several months. GDP dropped by 9.9%.
– Wales achieved its target of offering coronavirus vaccines to everyone in its first four priority groups, First Minister Mark Drakeford said.
– The online booking portal for the hotel quarantine system went down shortly after it was launched on Thursday afternoon, and is not expected to be up and running again until around 10am on Friday.
Meanwhile, ministers are reportedly set to discuss a Cabinet Office proposal on Friday to introduce vaccine and testing certificates for future international travel, according to Sky News.
Asked about the reports, a Government spokesperson said: “The UK Government, like most nations, wants to open up international travel in a responsible, safe and fair manner and we continue to be guided by the science.
“We want to ensure there is an internationally recognised approach to enable travel and are working closely with international partners to do so.”
Published: 12/02/2021 by Radio NewsHub
Pandemic sees UK economy shrink at fastest rate since 1921
The UK’s economy shrunk at its fastest rate since the 1920s last year, as the pandemic forced thousands of businesses to remain closed for several months. The Office for National Statistics revealed that gross domestic product (GDP) dropped by 9.9%.
However, after registering a 1.2% growth in December, despite strong restrictions across large parts of the country, the economy looks set to avoid what could have been its first double-dip recession since the 1970s.
A double-dip means two recessions within a short period of time, while a recession is defined as two consecutive quarters where the economy contracts.
Suren Thiru, the head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Despite avoiding a double-dip recession, with output still well below pre-pandemic levels amid confirmation that 2020 was a historically bleak year for the UK economy, there is little to cheer in the latest data.”
All four sectors tracked by the ONS saw a drop in output, the statisticians said, with the highest drop coming in the construction sector, which contracted by 12.5%.
ONS deputy national statistician for economic statistics Jonathan Athow said: “Loosening of restrictions in many parts of the UK saw elements of the economy recover some lost ground in December, with hospitality, car sales and hairdressers all seeing growth. An increase in Covid-19 testing and tracing also boosted output.
“The economy continued to grow in the fourth quarter as a whole, despite the additional restrictions in November.”
The economy was helped in December by an easing of lockdown restrictions that had been in place in parts of the country in November. It was also aided by increased buying in the run-up to Christmas, and stockpiling ahead of the end of the Brexit transition period
The health sector grew by 2.4% after being involved with running coronavirus testing and tracing schemes across the UK.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the figures revealed the “serious shock” the pandemic has had on the economy.
He added: “At the Budget I will set out the next stage of our plan for jobs, and the support we’ll provide through the next phase of pandemic.”
Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said: “These figures confirm that not only has the UK had the worst death toll in Europe, we’re experiencing the worst economic crisis of any major economy.
“Businesses can’t wait any longer. The Chancellor needs to come forward now with a plan to secure the economy in the months ahead, with support going hand-in-hand with health restrictions.”
She called for a “smarter furlough scheme” as the current system is set to run out in April, as well as an extension to the business rates holiday and the VAT reduction for hospitality and tourism companies.
The 9.9% fall marks the worst year for the UK economy since records began.
GDP was first measured in the aftermath of the Second World War, and the measure has never previously dropped by more than 4.1%.
That last big drop was in 2009, but the Bank of England has also estimated historic GDP going bank centuries.
These measures come with caveats, but if correct, 2020 would be the worst year since 1921.
James Smith, research director at the Resolution Foundation, said: “The ability to sustainably lift lockdown restrictions without the virus caseload increasing will determine when a true recovery can begin, but the strength of that recovery will also be shaped by decisions taken at the upcoming Budget.
“That should include an extension, and gradual phasing out, of the furlough scheme, along with additional grants targeted at sectors most affected by continuing restrictions.”
Published: 12/02/2021 by Radio NewsHub
Butcher guilty of murdering Libby Squire
Student Libby Squire died because “it was her sheer misfortune by a terrible twist of fate” to stray into the path a serial sexual offender who was on the prowl for vulnerable women.
Miss Squire, 21, had been stumbling around in a confused, upset and drunken state after a night out when she was picked up by 26-year-old butcher Pawel Relowicz, who had been cruising the streets of Hull’s student area for hours, a court heard.
Sheffield Crown Court heard how Polish-born Relowicz took Miss Squire to the nearby Oak Road playing fields where he raped her and dumped her in the tidal River Hull either alive – leaving her to drown – or after killing her.
Her body was found nearly seven weeks later in the Humber Estuary, off Spurn Point.
The second year Hull University philosophy student did not know the danger she was in when she began talking to Relowicz in the early hours of February 1 2019, jurors heard.
The pork processing plant worker had committed a series of strange, sexually motivated burglaries and acts of voyeurism in the 18 months before that night and later admitted that he was out patrolling for further victims, the court heard.
Miss Squire, who is originally from the High Wycombe area of Buckinghamshire, had set off from her shared student house in Wellesley Avenue, Hull, at 8.30pm on January 31 2019 for a typical student night out.
By the time she arrived at The Welly club at 11.20pm she was so drunk that door staff refused her entry and her friends put her in a cab, paying the driver to take her home, the court heard.
But Miss Squire did not go into her house, instead finding herself wandering drunk in Beverley Road in freezing cold temperatures, falling over and even lying in the snow.
A number of concerned people spoke to her to see if she was OK but she refused all offers of help until Relowicz noticed her, got her into his car and drove her to her death at the playing fields by the river, the court was told.
Prosecutor Richard Wright QC told the jury: “Libby Squire died because it was her sheer misfortune, by a terrible twist of fate, to stray into the path of a man who was looking out for just this opportunity.”
After the killing, Relowicz went home, had a bath and changed clothes before heading back to the Oak Road playing fields – either to put Miss Squire’s body into the river or to tidy up the crime scene.
He watched pornography and masturbated in the street, the court was told.
A massive search operation – the biggest in Humberside Police’s history – was launched after Miss Squire “vanished as if into thin air”.
Even after her body was found, detectives trying to work out how Miss Squire died had two major problems.
The first was that she had been in the water so long that a pathologist could not establish the cause of her death. And the second was that they never found any direct evidence to establish how she got into the River Hull.
But police did have key pieces of information.
Analysis of semen found in Miss Squire’s body proved that Relowicz had had sexual intercourse with her.
And a combination of extensive CCTV footage and witness accounts meant they could trace virtually every movement made by both Relowicz and Miss Squire through the whole night, except for the fatal moments on the Oak Road fields.
Relowicz, of Raglan Street, Hull, had no choice but to admit the series of sexualised offences he committed in the previous months and his motive for being out prowling the streets on the night of her death.
He also had to admit that he picked up Miss Squire in his car.
Giving evidence through an interpreter, Relowicz told the court he was driving around Hull on the evening of Ms Squire’s disappearance because he was “looking for a woman to have easy sex”.
But he continued to deny that he raped and murdered Miss Squire, telling the jury – in the last of six different versions of events he gave to police and, later, to the jury – that he had consensual sex with her before leaving her to walk home very much alive.
Published: 11/02/2021 by Radio NewsHub
Gregor Townsend forced to make changes as Scotland trio ruled out of Wales clash
Gregor Townsend has been forced into three changes for Scotland’s Guinness Six Nations clash against Wales.
Flanker Jamie Ritchie, centre Cameron Redpath and winger Sean Maitland all drop out through injury following last weekend’s memorable victory over England.
Scarlets back-row forward Blade Thomson, Harlequins midfielder James Lang and Edinburgh winger Darcy Graham come into the side for the BT Murrayfield encounter.
All three played in Scotland’s Six Nations win over Wales in October, which was their first away win against their opponents in 18 years.
Head coach Townsend said: “It was a very encouraging performance at Twickenham and the squad performed to a level which has to be the benchmark throughout the tournament.
“Wales are also coming into this game after a win and will have the same objective, so it will be a tough challenge as always.
“Both teams were involved in physical contests last weekend, and that is evidenced by the injuries Wales and we ourselves have picked up.
“For us, we are able to bring in three quality players in Blade, James and Darcy. They have been training well and are highly motivated to make the most of this opportunity.”
Townsend’s bench is unchanged following last Saturday’s 11-6 triumph, Scotland’s first win at Twickenham for 38 years.
Published: 11/02/2021 by Radio NewsHub
England turn to George Ford at fly-half for Six Nations clash with Italy
England have restored George Ford at fly-half and moved Owen Farrell to inside centre for Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations match against Italy
England have turned to George Ford to ignite their Guinness Six Nations title defence after restoring him at fly-half and moving Owen Farrell to inside centre for Saturday’s clash with Italy.
Ford was dropped for the Calcutta Cup debacle against Scotland but is reinstated with Eddie Jones resisting calls to axe Farrell, who disappointed in the 11-6 defeat that opened their Championship.
Ollie Lawrence has been jettisoned from the 23 altogether to make room for Farrell despite having to wait until the 63rd minute to make his first carry against the Scots.
Otherwise the backline remains unchanged and is identical to the one fielded for the Autumn Nations Cup final, when France were edged in sudden death.
Jones has performed more extensive surgery up-front where props Kyle Sinckler and Mako Vunipola return from suspension and injury respectively, displacing Will Stuart and Ellis Genge to the bench.
They start as part of an all-new front row that includes hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie with Jamie George surprisingly demoted to the replacements.
The second row partnership of Maro Itoje and Jonny Hill are retained, but Courtney Lawes is chosen at blindside flanker in place of Mark Wilson, who is left out of the squad altogether.
Jones has opted for a six-two split on the bench with Jack Willis joining flanker Ben Earl and lock Charlie Ewels among the reinforcements.
“As always, we’ve picked what we think is our strongest 23 to try and win the game,” Jones said.
“We’re pleased to have Mako and Kyle back into the team and we’ve made some changes to our starting XV, but our finishers are just as important to our game plan. We look at the whole 80 minutes.
“We’ve trained very well this week, I’ve been very pleased with the players’ attitudes and work-rate.
“We’re hoping to put on a good performance on Saturday and kick on with our Six Nations campaign.”
Published: 11/02/2021 by Radio NewsHub
Survivors describe sex abuse within Scottish football
Survivors of abuse in Scottish football have described how they were raped and sexually assaulted, in a report into allegations of abuse within the sport.
The Scottish Football Association (SFA) has published the final report of a review commissioned at the end of 2016 following an “unprecedented” number of allegations of non-recent sexual abuse in the sport, mainly said to have occurred in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s.
An interim report published in 2018 made 95 recommendations for change and improvement in the protection of young people and the reduction of risk in Scottish football pending the final report.
As part of the review, 33 people, some of whom waived their anonymity, provided personal accounts of their experiences.
They included P Haynes, who alleged that in 1979 he was abused by a registered referee, coach and scout, referred to as A, who died in 2004.
He said he was subjected to sexual abuse and rape and felt unable to extricate himself or tell anyone because he felt he would be stigmatised and that it would jeopardise his football career.
Another man, J Cleland, who also waived his anonymity, told how he was abused by a coach, referred to as D, who worked at Hutchison Vale Football Club and later at Hibernian and Rangers and died in 2014.
Mr Cleland joined Hutchison Vale (Youth) Football Club in the early 1980s when he was 10 and alleged he was raped by D on eight to 10 occasions, in addition to being sexually assaulted or abused on numerous other occasions.
The review found most of the young people who experienced sexual abuse did not report it to anyone else at the time, and in the majority of cases no-one in Scottish football knew about it.
However it said this does not necessarily mean there was no “level of suspicion” among some in the game.
The review authors said they were “struck by how easy it was for these adults (with a sexual interest in children and young people) to navigate Scottish football in such a way as to make their activities accomplishable and to maximise secrecy and concealment”.
It said there were sometimes flaws in decision-making and omissions in the actions which were taken which meant that “regrettably sometimes this meant that little or no action was taken at all”.
The review said it is “encouraging” that the Scottish FA and its members have taken serious steps to deliver on many of its recommendations for improvement in the interim report.
However it said it would be a “grave mistake” to believe sexual abuse in Scottish football is therefore a “historical” issue and that the sexual abuse of children and young people is not something which can be easily “eradicated”.
It added culture change within football in Scotland is imperative, including challenging negative and harmful attitudes to mental health and challenging homophobic attitudes and behaviours.
The report called on all clubs and organisations involved to apologise to those directly affected by the abuse.
SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell said: “I am deeply upset by the contents of the final report into sexual abuse in Scottish football and, in particular, by the deeply personal, traumatic experiences endured by young players who were abused by people in whom they and their families placed their trust.
“I reiterate my sincerest apology on behalf of Scottish football to all who have experienced abuse in our national game.
“The report also recognises the progress that the Scottish FA and its members have made to achieve the highest standards of wellbeing and protection for children and young people to play our national sport safely today.
“Since the board issued a directive in 2016, we can report that 80% of the original recommendations are either completed or in progress.”
Martin Henry, chair of the Independent Review of Child Sexual Abuse in Scottish Football, said: “It is to be hoped that the voices of those affected will now be heard and I hope today provides some assurance and a sense of personal justice and vindication.
“I am heartened by the progress made so far in Scottish football, but today should not be considered the end of this journey but a critical juncture to provide context to the work that is under way and which must continue.”
Published: 11/02/2021 by Radio NewsHub
Obesity contributes to more deaths than smoking in Scotland and England – study
Obesity is now a bigger cause of deaths in Scotland and England than smoking, according to new research. Since 2014, obesity and excess body fat has been a higher contributor of deaths than smoking in both Scotland and England, research published in the BMC Public Health journal has shown.
The authors, from Glasgow University, analysed data collected between 2003 and 2017 as part of the Health Surveys for England and Scottish Health Surveys of 192,239 adults across England and Scotland. The respondents were 50 years old on average.
The team found that between 2003 and 2017, deaths attributable to smoking decreased from 23.1% to 19.4%.
In the same period, deaths attributed to obesity and excess body fat have increased from 17.9% to 23.1%, with the overtake occurring in 2014.
Jill Pell, who was one of the authors of the article, said: “For several decades smoking has been a major target of public health interventions as it is a leading cause of avoidable deaths.
“As a result, the prevalence of smoking has fallen in the UK. At the same time the prevalence of obesity has increased.
“Our research indicates that, since 2014, obesity and excess body fat may have contributed to more deaths in England and Scotland than smoking.”
However, the researchers found that while obesity was likely to cause more deaths in older adults, smoking was still more likely to contribute to deaths in younger adults.
The data showed that among those aged 65 and over and 45-64 respectively, obesity and excess body fat contributed to 3.5% and 3.4% more estimated deaths than smoking in 2017.
However, in the 16-44 age group, smoking was 2.4% more likely to have contributed to deaths than obesity.
Researchers also found that there was a gender division in the statistics.
Obesity and excess body fat was likely to have accounted for 5.2% more deaths in 2017 than smoking in men, compared to 2.2% more deaths in women.
Professor Pell said: “The increase in estimated deaths due to obesity and excess body fat is likely to be due to their contributions to cancer and cardiovascular disease.
“Our findings suggest that the public health and policy interventions aimed at reducing the prevalence of smoking have been successful and that national strategies to address obesity and excess body fat, particularly focusing on middle-aged and older age groups and men, should be a public health priority.”
Jess Kuehne, of the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “The discussion around obesity often focuses on children but, as these figures confirm, obesity is a major concern for people in later stages of life.
“With more of us living longer but increasingly in much poorer health, it is time we turned our focus to tackling obesity at every stage of life – including older ages.”
Published: 11/02/2021 by Radio NewsHub
Key questions as Hancock sets out health and care reforms
The Government is setting out plans for wholesale changes to the way the health and care systems work in England. Here we look at some of the key issues in the White Paper:
– What do the plans aim to achieve?
The measures effectively sweep away some of the bureaucracy and organisational changes introduced by then health secretary Andrew Lansley in the heavily criticised 2012 Health and Social Care Act which increased competition in the NHS.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) acknowledged that under the current system NHS staff waste a significant amount of time on unnecessary tendering processes for healthcare services.
The new proposals mean the NHS will only need to tender services when it has the potential to lead to better outcomes for patients.
– What about social care?
The White Paper promises better integration between the NHS and social care, which is usually funded privately or by local authorities.
Making it easier to treat people outside hospitals and making it safer and easier for medics to discharge patients into the community could ease pressure on the NHS while also improving care.
The Government’s plans would allow the NHS and local government to come together legally as part of integrated care systems to plan services around their patients’ needs, including a greater focus on preventative healthcare outside hospitals.
– Will ministers have a greater role?
Ministers will assume greater responsibility, although officials insisted the clinical and day-to-day operational independence of the NHS will be protected.
The reforms will give Health Secretary Matt Hancock “the right levers to ensure accountability back to Parliament and taxpayers”, DHSC officials said.
– Anything else?
The coronavirus pandemic has starkly illustrated the dangers of an obese population and the White Paper includes new requirements about calorie labelling on food and drink packaging and the advertising of junk food before the 9pm watershed.
– What has the reaction been?
Richard Murray, of the King’s Fund health think tank, said there was “much to welcome in the ambition of the White Paper, but the history of the NHS is littered with reform plans that overestimated benefits and underestimated disruption”.
He also questioned the timing of the proposed shake-up, with the health and care sectors still battling Covid-19.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Boris Johnson must explain why a reorganisation in the midst of the biggest crisis the NHS has ever faced is his pressing priority.”
Published: 11/02/2021 by Radio NewsHub
We will do whatever is required to protect fishermen post-Brexit, vows Gove
Britain is prepared to do “whatever is required” to support its fishermen post-Brexit, Michael Gove said amid calls to board EU vessels if export barriers remain. The Cabinet Office minister acknowledged there are “bureaucratic obstacles” to negotiate and navigate with Brussels, as he was pressed to support “retaliation” against member state vessels given the current difficulties experienced by the British industry.
Conservative MPs were among those raising concerns over extra paperwork and additional costs faced by UK fishermen despite a free trade agreement with the EU.
Mr Gove also used Cabinet Office questions to announce a £20 million Brexit support fund to help small and medium-sized businesses “adjust to new customs rules of origin and VAT rules” when trading with the EU.
Speaking in the Commons, Conservative MP Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall) said: “Fishing exporters in my constituency are having problems exporting to the EU.
“We signed a deal that said we could export to the EU.
“What action is (Mr Gove) taking to ensure these exports happen without hindrance and will he start boarding EU vessels in retaliation if we still see this obstructive action on the part of the European Union?”
Mr Gove responded: “What we do need to do is make sure that any bureaucratic obstructions which individual EU member states may still be applying are lifted and of course as I mentioned… we
will reserve our rights as an independent coastal state to do whatever is required in order to make sure that our fishermen are backed up every step of the way.”
Conservative MP Lia Nici (Great Grimsby) said: “Grimsby fish exporters are reporting to me that despite the EU agreement for free trade, French ports are introducing additional paperwork and extra costs. They’re even insisting that we hire EU nationals to do that additional work.
“Will (Mr Gove) take this matter up so that we can make sure the people of the EU continue to enjoy the highest quality seafood in Europe processed in Great Grimsby?”
Mr Gove responded: “Well, (Ms Nici) is absolutely right, the highest quality seafood in the whole of Europe is produced in Great Grimsby, indeed I remember my dad when he ran a fish processing business sending some of the fish that he bought at Aberdeen fish market to Grimsby for subsequent processing and it was enjoyed on tables across Europe.
“And she’s absolutely right that there are still some bureaucratic obstacles that we need to negotiate and navigate.
“We have set up a specific seafood exports working group which meets twice weekly and we’re also engaging with our friends in France in order to make sure they can continue to enjoy Great Grimsby fish.”
For Labour, shadow Cabinet Office minister Jack Dromey urged Mr Gove to apologise for the disruption “inflicted” upon British businesses.
The DUP’s Ian Paisley (North Antrim) warned: “(Mr Gove) boasts of his unionist credentials, indeed he even boasted once in my local paper that he could sing the Sash.
“Today he has the chance to protect the union in his meeting with (European Commission vice president) Maros Sefcovic.
“Will he make clear that the Protocol is causing societal and economic damage to the union, and will he press on with the alternative arrangements that he previously supported and signed up to?”
Mr Gove, in a nod to Scotland’s Six Nations victory over England, replied: “I do have a formidable singing record but I can also sing the Fields of Athenry and Flower of Scotland, not to mention Swing Low, Sweet Chariot – though of course the last of those songs was perhaps sung with a little less fervour last Saturday than is normally the case.
“I am a convinced unionist, I do believe in the strength of the United Kingdom, all of us working together, and I look forward to working with him and all representatives from Northern Ireland to ensure our United Kingdom can flourish in the future.”
Published: 11/02/2021 by Radio NewsHub
Heather Watson bows out of Australian Open
Britain’s hopes in the Australian Open women’s singles ended when Heather Watson was beaten by Anett Kontaveit in the second round. After Johanna Konta and Fran Jones had fallen at the first hurdle, it was left to Watson to fly the flag but, despite winning the first set, she succumbed 6-7 (5) 6-4 6-3 to the 21st seed.
It was a battling display by Watson, though, whose participation in the tournament will always be remembered for her gruelling 15-day hard lockdown in a Melbourne hotel after arriving into Australia on a plane where another passenger had coronavirus.
The 28-year-old occupied herself in quarantine by running a 5k in her hotel room and she had to put in some more hard yards as Kontaveit surged into a 4-1 lead in the opening set.
But Watson, ranked 60 in the world, began to find her range and a number of impressive winners saw her win five of the next seven games to take it to a tiebreak, where she again rallied from 2/5 to take it 7/5.
An exchange of breaks saw the second set finely poised at 4-4 before the Estonian pounced, winning the final two games to claim the set and send it to a decider.
Kontaveit, who reached the quarter-finals of this tournament last year, sensed blood and rattled through the final set, reeling off five successive games to book her place in the third round as Watson’s campaign ended.
Published: 11/02/2021 by Radio NewsHub