Care home staff to receive rapid-result tests to protect against Covid variant
The rollout of rapid testing is being supported by a £149 million grant.
Care home staff in England will receive two rapid-result tests a week in addition to regular testing to help keep the new coronavirus variant at bay.
Health officials have brought forward plans for care home staff to receive bi-weekly lateral flow device tests (LFDs) as concerns grow about the rapidly spreading strain.
Staff in all tiers will be given two LFDs, one mid-week, in addition to the weekly PCR tests, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.
If a case of coronavirus is identified in a care home in a Tier 4 area, all staff members will be tested daily with LFDs for a week.
Public Health England have confirmed that LFDs can detect the new variant.
Published: 23/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub
Boxing Day lockdown for six million due to ‘dangerous’ mutant coronavirus spread
Tier 4 restrictions include a warning to stay at home and a limit on household mixing to two people outdoors
More than 40% of England’s population will be in lockdown from Boxing Day after a further six million people were placed under Tier 4 restrictions.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the variant coronavirus was spreading at a “dangerous rate” as he announced the measures, which include tough restrictions on mixing with people and the closure of non-essential shops.
He also said cases of another new mutant coronavirus linked to South Africa have been found in the UK and placed travel restrictions on the country.
The changes were made as Government figures showed a further 744 people were reported to have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, the highest such figure since April 29 during the first peak of the virus.
Published: 23/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub
Mass testing for lorry drivers aims to ease congestion as French border reopens
A mass testing programme for lorry drivers will get under way on Wednesday to alleviate congestion at ports after an agreement was reached to reopen the border between France and the UK. French authorities announced that journeys from the UK will be allowed to resume after the coronavirus ban was lifted, but those seeking to travel must have a negative test result.
It comes amid reports further areas of England could be placed into Tier 4 restrictions on Boxing Day.
The Daily Telegraph reported that the Covid-O operations committee was expected to meet on Wednesday morning to decide whether more areas should face tougher restrictions, with an announcement the same day.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has written to the Prime Minister to say his party would back any Government moves to tighten restrictions if that is what scientists recommend.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed on Tuesday evening that rapid lateral flow tests – which can give results in about 30 minutes – will be used to test HGV drivers at the ports.
The French authorities will be carrying out similar testing on hauliers entering the UK.
More than 2,800 HGVs were stuck in Kent on Tuesday afternoon as a result of the disruption, and Mr Shapps warned it could take until Christmas for congestion to be relieved near ports.
He said: “We have managed to get all those tests to Kent, enough for all the vehicles which will want to return before Christmas, so that won’t be an issue.
“Obviously there’s a physical issue of providing the test, getting the results. A negative test allows you to leave.
“But all of that requires operationalising and that can’t happen in an instant, so this will take two or three days for things to be cleared.”
The Transport Secretary has urged hauliers not to travel to Kent until further notice.
Elizabeth de Jong, policy director at business group Logistics UK, said it was “vital” that testing procedures are “stood up fast to ensure drivers can be processed and get home for Christmas safely”.
She added: “The backlog of traffic across the region will take time to clear so hauliers should wait for further news before travelling to Kent.”
The protocol agreed with the French government will be reviewed on December 31 – but could run until January 6, the Department for Transport (DfT) said.
The travel ban was imposed in response to fears about the spread of the more infectious coronavirus strain, which is spreading in the UK.
In a press release, the French foreign affairs ministry said that from 11pm UK time (midnight in France) there would be a “limited resumption of the movement of people from the United Kingdom to France subject to negative health tests sensitive to the variant”.
The statement said that a negative test result, taken less than 72 hours before the journey, is required and this can be either a “PCR or antigen test” sensitive to the new variant.
Those who can make journeys include French and EU residents, British or third-party nationals who normally live in France or the EU, as well as some other groups.
The French decision to ease its restrictions came after the European Commission recommended a joint approach from EU members in response to the mutant VUI 202012/1 coronavirus.
The World Health Organisation’s European chief Hans Kluge said limiting travel to contain the spread of the new variant was “prudent” until there was more information, but supply chains for “essential goods” and essential travel “should remain possible”.
– Official figures showed a further 691 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Tuesday and there had been another 36,804 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.
– More than 84,000 deaths involving Covid-19 have occurred in the UK, according to analysis of official statistics.
– Soldiers from the British Army have been called in by the Welsh Ambulance Service to drive its vehicles and support teams responding to emergency callouts.
Published: 23/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub
Nicola Sturgeon apologises for breaching Covid rules
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has apologised after she breached Covid rules by taking off her face mask at a funeral wake. A photograph published in the Scottish Sun showed the First Minister chatting to three women in a bar while standing at a distance but without wearing a mask.
Under Scottish Government coronavirus rules, customers in hospitality venues must wear a face covering except when seated and must wear one when moving around.
Ms Sturgeon was attending a funeral wake for a Scottish Government civil servant.
She said: “Last Friday, while attending a funeral wake, I had my mask off briefly. This was a stupid mistake and I’m really sorry.
“I talk every day about the importance of masks, so I’m not going to offer any excuses.
“I was in the wrong, I’m kicking myself, and I’m sorry.”
The Scottish Sun reported that she was at the Stable Bar and Restaurant after attending a funeral at the nearby Mortonhall Crematorium.
A Scottish Conservative spokesman said: “The First Minister should know better.
“By forgetting the rules and failing to set a proper example, she’s undermining essential public health messaging.
“It’s a blunder that an ordinary member of the public wouldn’t get away with. There cannot be one rule for Nicola Sturgeon and another for everyone else.”
Under coronavirus regulations introduced on September 14 in Scotland, face coverings for customers and staff are mandatory when entering, exiting and moving around hospitality venues.
The rules state: “There is an exemption for when customers are seated for the service of food and drink and for back of house roles such as kitchen staff or staff who are behind protective screens separating them from customers.”
Those who breach the face covering rules can face a £60 fine.
Scotland’s Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf tweeted: “FM has approached pandemic by being upfront from v beginning.
“She has apologised for accidental lapse (which I suspect most of us have had one over last 9 months).
“I’ve known her for 15yrs & she is her harshest critic. I am sure most ppl will understand, accept apology & move on.”
Published: 23/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub
UK debt pile reaches £2.1 trillion after record November borrowing
Government borrowing surged to a record £31.6 billion in November as efforts ramped up to support the economy through the second wave of the pandemic, official figures have shown. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said last month’s borrowing – excluding state-owned banks – soared by £26 billion year on year and marked the highest seen in November and the third highest in any month since records began in 1993.
The latest estimate saw public sector net debt reach a new all-time high of £2.1 trillion at the end of last month.
It means the UK’s overall debt is now around 99.5% of gross domestic product (GDP), which is a measure of the size of the economy – a level not seen since 1962.
Borrowing has hit £240.9 billion for the first eight months of the financial year – £188.6 billion more year on year and breaking yet more records.
Recent official forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predict borrowing could reach £393.5 billion by the end of the financial year in March, which would be the highest seen since the Second World War.
It comes after the Government launched more than 40 schemes across the UK to help households and businesses through the coronavirus crisis.
One of the most costly has been the furlough scheme for workers, which was last week extended again until April 2021.
The most recent figures from HM Revenue & Customs showed another £3.4 billion worth of claims were made between November 15 and December 13, taking total claims to £46.4 billion and 9.9 million furloughed jobs.
The ONS said borrowing rose as tax and National Insurance receipts fell by £38.3 billion – or 8.6% – year on year in the eight months to November.
But government support for individuals and businesses during the pandemic contributed to a 30% or £147.3 billion hike in central government spending.
Published: 22/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub
Talks with France to ease freight curbs ongoing as mutant Covid strain spreads
Talks with France on reopening full trade and transport across the Channel are ongoing as the Government’s chief scientific adviser said more restrictions may be needed at home because cases of a mutant strain of Covid were now appearing “everywhere”. Sir Patrick Vallance gave the grim warning after more than 40 countries banned UK flights because of fears regarding the spread of the coronavirus variant.
The chief scientific adviser’s remarks followed London and parts of southern and eastern England being rushed into the new Tier 4 lockdown regime at the weekend after existing Tier 3 measures proved inadequate to control the spread of the more infectious variant.
Sir Patrick indicated a lockdown may be needed in wider areas of England, particularly as Christmas mixing may result in an increased spread of cases.
Scotland and Northern Ireland have already announced new lockdowns from Boxing Day while Wales’ tough restrictions will only be eased for Christmas Day before being reimposed.
Sir Patrick’s stark warning came as:
– Boris Johnson spoke to French president Emmanuel Macron as lorries queued in Kent after Paris banned them from travelling across the Channel.
– More than 500,000 people have now received the first dose of a vaccine in the UK.
– The Prime Minister refused to guarantee that schools in England will reopen after Christmas, saying “we want, if we possibly can, to get schools back in a staggered way at the beginning of January” but “the commonsensical thing to do is to follow the path of the epidemic”.
After the Government moved to impose Tier 4 restrictions, France shut its border with the UK for 48 hours prompting delays for freight lorries heading across the Channel.
The M20 in Kent was closed on Monday night to allow for the implementation of Operation Brock – contingency measures which involve using a moveable barrier to keep traffic moving on the motorway whenever there is disruption at the Channel – as confusion surrounded how many lorries were impacted by the border shutdown.
Mr Johnson said at a Downing Street press briefing the number of lorries waiting on the M20 had been reduced from 500 to 170, but Highways England later said Kent Police had told them there were 900 lorries parked on the motorway as of 6pm on Monday.
Government sources told us that discussions with the French Government were “ongoing” after the PM said on Monday evening the two countries were working “to unblock the flow of trade as fast as possible”.
There are also reports that plans to reopen the border will come into effect from Wednesday, citing French Europe Minister Clement Beaune.
At the Downing Street news conference Sir Patrick said: “The evidence on this virus is that it spreads easily, it’s more transmissible, we absolutely need to make sure we have the right level of restrictions in place.
“I think it is likely that this will grow in numbers of the variant across the country and I think it’s likely, therefore, that measures will need to be increased in some places, in due course, not reduced.”
The New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) met again on Monday to consider the new variant and said, while it does not appear to alter the course of the disease, it does spread more easily.
“That again reinforces the point that it’s important to get ahead of this and to make sure that the tiering system is adequate to stop things going, and not to watch it and react in retrospect,” Sir Patrick said.
Given the “inevitable mixing” over Christmas “I think there will be some increases in numbers over the next few weeks”, he added.
The closure of cross-Channel routes alarmed businesses, including those relying on the trouble-free passage of produce into the UK, as well as holidaymakers looking to leave for the continent – all with the added complication of the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31.
The Northern Ireland Executive held an emergency late-night meeting amid a row over whether a Great Britain travel ban should be introduced, proposed by Sinn Fein but voted down by the executive.
Supermarket giant Sainsbury’s warned that disruption in Kent could hit supplies of lettuce, some salad leaves, cauliflowers, broccoli and citrus fruit, all of which are imported from mainland Europe in the winter.
– The Government said a further 215 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday, while there had been 33,364 more lab-confirmed cases as of 9am Sunday.
– Official figures indicated Wales has had more than 600 cases of the new variant but this is “almost certainly a significant underestimation”, First Minister Mark Drakeford said.
– Analysis by us found that, of the 127 acute hospital trusts with a 24-hour (type 1) A&E department in England, 42 (33%) had more Covid-19 patients on December 18 than at the peak of the first wave in the spring.
Published: 22/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub
Nuno Espirito Santo risks FA charge after stinging criticism of ref Lee Mason
Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo could face a Football Association charge after launching a scathing attack on referee Lee Mason following his side’s 2-1 defeat at Burnley on Monday night. Nuno’s side were arguably lucky to finish the match with 11 men after Joao Moutinho survived a VAR check on what looked like a stamp in stoppage time, while their goal came from the penalty spot after Fabio Silva was fouled by Josh Benson late on.
But despite his side getting those key calls, Nuno used a post-match interview to claim Mason was not good enough to referee in the top flight, saying he did not want the Bolton official in charge of one of their games again.
“The referee does not have the quality to whistle a game in the Premier League,” he said on Sky Sports. “This is a problem that we knew – we had Lee Mason before.
“It is not about the crucial mistakes or decisions, it is about the way he handles the game. The players get nervous, too much voices, he whistles by the voices when some players are shouting.
“We are talking about the best competition and clearly he doesn’t have the quality to whistle the game. I’m very disappointed to say this but I would not feel right if I didn’t say it.
“I just don’t want to see him more – that’s what I told him. I hope he doesn’t whistle a game of ours again because all the games we have with Lee Mason are always the same.
“He cannot control the players, the players are constantly arguing – both teams. With all the other referees the game flows, there’s dialogue. He’s just not ready to do it.”
Burnley boss Sean Dyche – who saw his side win thanks to goals from Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood – felt it was “impossible” to see how Moutinho had survived the VAR check.
“Everyone knows I’m a fan of VAR but I was surprised the lad didn’t get sent off,” he said. “It’s not a vicious stamp but it’s a stamp nonetheless. With VAR, some things they see and some things they don’t.
“I don’t understand how it’s not given. It was looked at. I just find that impossible.”
However, Dyche defended the official’s performance overall.
“The three hardest jobs in the match are the two managers and the referee,” he said. “Players go down and scream, that’s not helpful.
“It’s really difficult for referees. If players took more responsibility then the refs would be helped.”
Published: 22/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub
UK travel restrictions: What do we know so far?
A growing number of nations have banned flights from the UK in a bid to stop a mutant strain of coronavirus crossing their borders. Here the we answer some key questions on the latest changes to international travel rules:
– Which European countries have banned flights from the UK?
France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Belgium, Austria, Bulgaria, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands have all said they will halt flights arriving from the UK.
The Czech Republic has imposed stricter quarantine measures for people arriving from Britain.
-Which other countries have implemented travel bans?
Turkey and Morocco have announced they will be suspending air travel from the UK, while the official Saudi Press Agency reports Saudi Arabia is also suspending international flights for one week.
El Salvador is barring entry to anyone who has visited the UK in the preceding 30 days.
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said from midnight Sunday, Canada was putting a 72-hour stop on flights from the UK.
– When do the flight bans start and how long do they last?
The Netherlands ban came into force on Sunday morning, with it due to last for at least the rest of the year.
Belgium’s prime minister Alexander De Croo issued a flight ban order for 24 hours starting at midnight on Sunday.
Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza said an order was signed on Sunday blocking flights from Britain and preventing anyone who had been to the UK in the last 14 days from entering Italy. The order bans plane travel until January 6.
Austria’s ban on flights from the UK starts at midnight on December 22 and anyone arriving in the country before that date must quarantine for 10 days. It is unclear how long the ban will last.
Germany said it was banning flights from the UK starting at midnight, Berlin time, on Sunday, with the German dpa news agency reporting it would remain in place until at least December 31.
France has banned all travel from the UK for 48 hours from midnight on Sunday.
Bulgaria said it was temporarily ceasing flights to and from the UK from midnight on Sunday.
Finland is due to suspend all passenger flights with the UK for two weeks from Monday.
Poland is also due to halt flights from midnight on Monday, though it is not yet known how long the ban will be in place.
Denmark said all flights from Great Britain would be halted for 48 hours from Monday.
– What is the situation with Ireland?
The Irish Government said on Sunday that it was imposing a 48-hour ban on flights from Britain to Ireland.
The restrictions come into force at midnight on Sunday.
– Is anyone exempt from the bans?
Ireland’s transport minister Eamon Ryan said ferries will continue to operate for freight between Britain and Ireland.
“We need haulage coming in to keep our shelves full but other passengers will be restricted,” he said.
The German government said exemptions from its flight ban include repatriation flights of planes and their crews, postal, freight or empty flights and aircraft carrying medical personnel.
The Bulgarian embassy in London said on its website that Bulgarian citizens and their families, as well as permanent residents in Bulgaria, were able to enter the country subject to a 10-day quarantine if they fly through a different country or enter Bulgaria on land or by sea.
– What discussions are taking place between governments?
An EU crisis meeting has been called for Monday to discuss the coordination of the response to coronavirus among the 27 member states.
The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) regards other countries’ travel restrictions as a matter for their own governments.
It was previously understood to be in touch with international partners and monitoring the situation closely.
But late on Sunday night No 10 revealed that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to chair a meeting of the UK Government’s Cobra civil contingencies committee on Monday.
– Why is this all happening?
A mutant strain of coronavirus sweeping across London and the south east of England has prompted the EU nations to start restricting inbound flights from the UK.
Mr De Croo said Belgium’s flight ban was “out of precaution”, adding: “There are a great many questions about this new mutation and if it is not already on the mainland.”
The German embassy in London tweeted that flight restrictions were the result of “the coronavirus mutation”.
On Saturday, Mr Johnson said there was “no evidence” the new variant “causes more severe illness or higher mortality” but “it does appear to be passed on significantly more easily”.
He said the new strain could be up to 70% more transmissible than the old virus variant.
– Are international train and ferry links running?
Eurostar said it was unable to run trains from London to Paris, Brussels, Lille or Amsterdam on Monday or Tuesday.
Trains to London from Paris will continue to operate, with the rail company saying it planned to resume services to and from the UK on Wednesday.
Eurotunnel said access to its UK site was prohibited from 10pm after its last train left at 9.34pm.
Dover’s ferry terminal has also closed to “all accompanied traffic leaving the UK” after France moved to shut its border.
– Am I allowed to travel abroad from England?
If you are living in one of the newly created Tier 4 areas, which encompasses London and parts of the south east and east of England, you must not travel abroad.
Government guidance states people can only travel internationally if you are “legally permitted to do so, for example, because it is for work”.
Across England people are advised to stay local and avoid travelling outside their area.
For those living in Tier 1, 2, and 3 areas, the guidance advises potential international travellers to “carefully consider whether they must travel abroad”.
It advises them to “follow the rules in their area” and consider the public health advice in the country they plan to visit.
Someone living outside Tier 4 can transit into or through a Tier 4 area to travel abroad if they need to.
People are also warned to check travel advice from the FCDO and what rules are in place at their destination. For many countries the FCDO is advising against “all but essential travel”.
Published: 21/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub
Scottish Cup win for Celtic
Celtic have won the Scottish Cup, beating Hearts 4-3 on penalties after the Hampden Park final had finished 3-3 at the end of extra time.
Conor Hazard was the Celtic hero as the Hoops rewrote the history books yet again with a dramatic 4-3 Scottish Cup final penalty shoot-out win over Hearts following a 3-3 draw after extra-time at Hampden Park.
Neil Lennon’s side seemed to be cruising at half-time after Ryan Christie’s stunning opener after 19 minutes preceded Odsonne Edouard’s ‘Panenka’ penalty 10 minutes later.
However, Jambos striker Liam Boyce reduced the deficit three minutes after the break and defender Stephen Kingsley levelled in the 66th minute, both with headers, to make it 2-2 before extra-time.
Leigh Griffiths – who had replaced Edouard after 96 minutes – put Celtic ahead before fellow substitute Josh Ginnelly levelled for the Jambos.
Then came the chance for the 22-year-old Northern Ireland goalkeeper to shine in only his third game for Celtic.
Griffiths and Callum McGregor scored from the spot before Jambos stopper Craig Gordon saved from Christie.
Steven Naismith, Michael Smith and Olly Lee netted their penalties before Hazard saved from Kingsley and Craig Wighton and – with Mikey Johnston scoring – Kristoffer Ajer hammered home the winning penalty to seal an unprecedented quadruple domestic treble.
It was also a record fourth-successive Scottish Cup win with the club’s 12th-successive trophy in the delayed final from last season.
Published: 20/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub
Barnier says Britain must respect EU sovereignty in trade talks
Michel Barnier has warned that Britain must be prepared to respect the EU’s sovereignty if talks on a post-Brexit trade deal are to succeed.
Brussels chief negotiator said the EU remained committed to achieving “a fair, reciprocal and balanced agreement” but said both sides needed to be able to act when their interests were at stake.
His comments came after a UK Government source warned that the negotiations would fail unless there was a “substantial shift” in the EU’s position in the remaining days of the talks.
The British side has accused the EU of making “unreasonable demands” and of failing to respect UK sovereignty over fishing rights and fair competition rules.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Mr Barnier said the talks with the UK’s chief negotiator Lord Frost were at a “crucial moment”.
“The EU remains committed to a fair, reciprocal and balanced agreement. We respect the sovereignty of the UK. And we expect the same,” he said.
“Both the EU and the UK must have the right to set their own laws and control their own waters. And we should both be able to act when our interests are at stake.”
Published: 20/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub