CORONAVIRUS cases are on the rise in the UK once again sparking fears for the lockdown roadmap.
A report of the REACT study, which swabbed 165,456 people for COVID across England between 4 February and Tuesday last week, read: “We observed a suggestion of plateauing or small rise in some areas, most notably in London
Revealing covid cases have split the capital in half, the report added “while prevalence in north and east London appeared to be declining, there were apparent increases in parts of west and south London.”
And today is was revealed Britain’s’s official coronavirus R rate had crept up again this week and could be as high as 1 in hotspot areas.
The R rate – which represents the number of people an infected person will pass Covid onto – is between 0.7 and 0.9 across the UK, Sage said today.
The increases coming even before the first steps are taken on the lockdown roadmap are a concern as Boris Johnson made clear steps could be delayed if troubling surges are detected.
The news comes as Cyprus vowed to allow all vaccinated Brits to on holiday in the country without restrictions in May.
Brits won’t even have to have a negative coronavirus test or quarantine upon arrival if they’ve had both jabs, according to plans unveiled by Cyprus’ deputy tourism minister Savvas Perdios.
Although the UK government has warned Brits they won’t be able to travel abroad before May 17, Cyprus statement is a massive boost for those looking for a bit of Mediterranean sunshine this summer.
Follow our coronavirus live blog below for the very latest news and updates on the pandemic…
UK COVID R NUMBER 0.7-0.9, EPIDEMIC STILL SHRINKING
The estimated COVID-19 reproduction “R” number in Britain is 0.7-0.9, compared to 0.6-0.9 last week, and the epidemic is shrinking roughly as quickly as it was before, the health ministry said on Friday.
An R value between 0.7 and 0.9 means that, on average, every 10 people infected will infect between 7 and 9 other people.
The daily growth rate of infections was estimated between -5% and -3%, compared to -6% and -2% last week.
WELSH GOVERNMENT TO DISCUSS LIFTING RESTRICTIONS NEXT WEEK
The Welsh Government will consider whether stay at home coronavirus regulations can be lifted when ministers carry out a review next week.
Health minister Vaughan Gething told a press conference in Cardiff that the seven-day incidence rate across Wales had fallen to 50 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people – the lowest rate since mid-September.
The R number remains below one and the test positivity rate is 5.4%.
“Yesterday, there were fewer than 450 people with confirmed coronavirus in hospitals across Wales – that’s the lowest number since October 17,” Mr Gething said.
“As more people are vaccinated in Wales, we may be seeing a faster than anticipated fall in the number of people admitted to hospital.”
BREAKING: SCOTLAND RECORDS 11 NEW COVID DEATHS 498 NEW CASES
Scotland has recorded 11 deaths from coronavirus and 498 positive tests in the past 24 hours, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
It brings the death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 7,409.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing, she said the daily test positivity rate is 3.1%, up from 2.5% the previous day.
There are 666 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, down 52 in 24 hours, and 64 patients are in intensive care, down three.
PRISON GUARDS AT COVID-HIT JAIL ISSUED WITH ‘PROXIMITY SENSORS’ WHICH BEEP WHEN INMATES GETS WITHIN 2m OF THEM
PRISON guards at a Covid-hit jail have been issued with PROXIMITY SENSORS which emit a loud beep when inmates or other staff get within two metres of them.
The ‘innovative’ scheme – in which prison officers at the Serco-run HMP Lowdham Grange in Nottinghamshire wear the sensors – was revealed today (Fri) in a report by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Charlie Taylor.
The report into the jail – with most of the inmates serving stretches of at least 10 years – stated that sensors helped enforce social distancing among both staff and prisoners.
There was a large outbreak of Covid-19 at the jail in September last year, when 200 inmates and 160 prison staff tested positive for the virus – leading to the sensors being brought in.
The report stated: “The prison is part of the long-term high security estate and at the time of our visit held around 880 prisoners, the majority of whom were serving sentences of 10 years or more. We found a well-led prison that had faced some considerable challenges during the pandemic, including a serious outbreak of Covid-19 in late September 2020 in which nearly 200 prisoners and 160 staff had tested positive for the virus.”
WALES RECORDS 230 NEW COVID CASES AND 12 FURTHER DEATHS
There have been a further 230 cases of coronavirus in Wales, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 204,692.
Public Health Wales reported another 12 deaths, taking the total in the country since the start of the pandemic to 5,378.
PARENTS’ MENTAL HEALTH ‘GOING UNDER RADAR’ DURING PANDEMIC, NSPCC WARNS
The number of child welfare concerns reported to the NSPCC because of parental mental health has risen 44% during the coronavirus pandemic, new figures show.
The child protection charity received 3,608 contacts about the mental health of parents between April 2020 and January 2021.
This is 44% higher than the pre-pandemic monthly average.
The NSPCC is warning that the pandemic has reduced opportunities to identify mental health problems during pregnancy and in the child’s first year.
It is concerned that restricted access to services means mental health problems are “going under the radar” and making it harder for parents to get the help they need.
MATT HANCOCK TO GIVE PRESS CONFERENCE TODAY AT 5PM
Matt Hancock will lead a Downing Street press conference today at 5pm after a huge backlash over the NHS’ one per cent pay rise next year.
As part of measures to tighten the belt, pay rises across the public sector are to be paused from April, but NHS staff and the lowest paid will get a small, below-inflation rise.
WAITERS, BRICKLAYERS AND AIR CABIN CREW ‘WORST HIT BY PAY CUTS’ DURING PANDEMIC
Restaurant staff, IT engineers, bricklayers and air travel assistants are among the workers most likely to have had their pay cut since the Covid-19 pandemic began, analysis suggests.
These professions have been classed as “high vulnerability jobs” by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), meaning they are non-key worker roles very unlikely to be done from home.
Just under a third (32.4%) of employees in the UK fall into the high vulnerability group, and may have been more likely to see a reduction in working hours or wages during the pandemic.
More than half of employees (53%) who were furloughed last April worked in high vulnerability jobs, the ONS said.
Occupations in this group made up 88% of jobs with a median hourly wage below £9.12 – the threshold for low pay.
ONLINE CHILD ABUSE AND FRAUD INCREASE DURING PANDEMIC, POLICE STATISTICS SHOW
Online child sexual abuse and fraud increased sharply during the pandemic in Scotland, according to latest figures.
Police Scotland said there was a 43.4% increase in fraud between April and December compared to the same period last year and a 13.4% increase in the online abuse.
The statistics are covered in the force’s 2020-21 Quarter 3 Performance Report and also show a 1.8% increase in domestic abuse crimes.
This is despite overall recorded crimes reducing from 187,334 during the same period last year to 174,999. The number of 999 calls received reduced by 5.1% but 101 calls increased by 3.4%.
A total of 1,993,318 calls were recorded during the period to both numbers.
KATE GARRAWAY TARGETED BY SPAMMERS SAYING SOUTH AFRICA CORONAVIRUS VARIANT IS IN HER AREA
ABOUT 35% OF HOLIDAYMAKERS CONSIDERING BOOKING TRIP ABROAD AMID HOPES OF TRAVEL BAN LIFT IN MAY
Research by Hoo, the hotel room offer platform, has found that the hope of international travel restrictions being lifted in May has been enough to tempt more of us into considering a holiday abroad this year.
Just a month ago, Hoo surveyed the UK on holiday plans for 2021 and found that 87% of people didn’t think the government should lift travel restrictions, while 88% had no plans to book a vacation abroad this year.
With the UK government suggesting that dreams of a trip abroad could now become a reality from 17th May, this negative sentiment surrounding international travel has started to show signs of a reversal.
Just 70% of people now think the government should keep travel restrictions in place, a 17% swing in favour of heading away on holiday abroad in just one month.
SIR KEIR STARMER BRANDS PROPOSED NHS PAY RISE ‘A REAL INSULT’
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said the Government’s recommendation of a 1% pay rise for nurses and other health workers is a “real insult”.
He told reporters: “This is insulting to NHS staff on the front line – they have been on the front line throughout this pandemic.
“It is not good enough just to clap them: this is a real insult. They need to be properly recognised and properly rewarded.
“The Prime Minister tries to take credit for the vaccine rollout whilst cutting the pay of those who are actually delivering it, and it is insulting.”
Sir Keir said a pay cut is “completely the wrong thing in this situation” as he called for NHS workers to be given a pay rise above inflation.
‘UNSUSTAINABLE’ PRESSURE ON SCHOOL STAFF COULD THREATEN EDUCATION RECOVERY PLANS
“Unsustainable” pressure on school staff could put the Government’s education recovery plans at risk, a school leaders’ union has warned.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the Naht school leaders’ union, believes an “exodus” of headteachers could take place post-Covid after an “exhausting” and “stressful” year for school staff.
His comments came as a poll by the union revealed that nearly half (46%) of school leaders said they had 31% or more of their normal roll attending class in person before February half-term.
More than one in eight (13%) said they had 41-50% of pupils come into school amid the lockdown, according to a survey shared with the PA news agency.
The overwhelming majority (91%) of school leaders said demand for places – among children of key workers and vulnerable pupils – had increased since the beginning of the current lockdown.
THAMES VALLEY POLICE CHIEF: PUBLIC SHOULD BE OUTRAGED AT COVID ‘SPIT ATTACKS’
The chief of one of Britain’s biggest police forces says there should be public outrage at the number of times his officers are the victims of Covid ‘spit attacks’.
John Campbell, Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, said there’s been a leap in cases of disgusting ‘spittle assaults’ on his crime busters.
Sometimes entire groups of people have turned on the police and spat at them, leaving them in fear of being infected with coronavirus.
Other times, prisoners have deliberately left dribbles of spit on officers’ faces – even yelling ‘You’ve got Covid now!’ The appalling attacks usually happen when police have arrived to break up groups of people congregating or partying, often in defiance of the coronavirus restrictions.
Mr Campbell, whose force cover Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, said his officers ‘have been spat at hundreds of times by people using coronavirus as a weapon’.
STUDY: UP TO 61% OF PEOPLE IN MANAUS SUSCEPTIBLE TO REINFECTION FROM P.1 VARIANT
A study this week found that between 25% and 61% of people in the Brazilian city of Manaus were susceptible to reinfection with the worrying P1 strain, which has also been found in six people in the UK.
Vaccine manufacturers are working on updated vaccines to tackle variants, which could be fast-tracked for approval by the autumn.
EXPERT SAYS COVID-19 MORTALITY WILL CONTINUE TO BE SUBSTANTIAL, BUT WORST IS OVER
Society will need to learn to live with a “substantial” degree of Covid-19 mortality, but the worst seems to be over, a Government scientific adviser has said.
Professor Andrew Hayward, from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the number of deaths will continue to drop as vaccination kicks in, and death rates could begin to look more like those for flu.
Other experts including Professor Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia, have said the UK can expect a wave of deaths next winter, mostly among the unvaccinated and those for whom vaccines do not provide total protection.
Prof Hayward told Times Radio: “I think given the societal trade-offs, we are going to have to live with a degree of mortality that will be substantial.
“I think it will get less over time as more people get vaccinated, and as more people get immune, and I do believe that we’ve been through the worst of this.”
TORY MP DEFENDS PROPOSED NHS PAY RISE
Many people working in the private sector have worked throughout the pandemic and lost their jobs, a Conservative MP has said as he defended the Government’s proposed 1% pay rise for NHS staff.
The MP, who asked not to be named, told the PA news agency: “(NHS staff) have done a fantastic job during the pandemic, there’s no doubt about it, but there are plenty of others in the private sector who have worked throughout as well and they’ve lost their jobs.
“It’s a difficult situation and we’ve got to make sure that they are rewarded appropriately, and I think the fact that they have been excluded from the public sector pay freeze kind of says that, really.”
TEACHING UNION CALLS FOR ‘EDUCATION-LED RECOVERY’ FROM COVID-19
A teaching union has called for an “education-led recovery” from the coronavirus pandemic.
The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) has launched a manifesto calling for a progressive expansion of the teaching workforce so class sizes can be reduced and to put an end to zero-hours supply lists.
Ahead of the Holyrood election in May it is calling on all political parties to commit in their manifestos to delivering the investment required to make education recovery possible.
The manifesto, entitled For an Education Led Recovery, outlines EIS policy in key areas including early years education, primary and secondary schools, additional support needs (ASN), instrumental music, the impact of poverty and tackling inequality.
STAFF NURSE DESCRIBES GOVERNMENT’S PROPOSED PAY RISE AS AN ‘INSULT’
Mel, a staff nurse, said the Government’s proposed 1% pay rise for NHS staff was an “insult” and “hypocrisy in its greatest form”.
She told the PA news agency the increase for her would equate to an extra £3.50 a week.
“It really isn’t true remuneration for the real-time pay cut that we have seen over the last decade,” she said.
“We have healthcare staff using foodbanks, so £3.50 is not going to improve their situation in any way, shape or form.
“I am angry beyond words, both for myself (and) for my colleagues, who I see struggle daily.”
TORY BACKBENCHER SAYS 1% NHS PAYRISE ‘IS NOT ENOUGH’
Conservative backbencher Sir Roger Gale accused the Government of acting in an “inept” way as he said a 1% pay rise for health workers is not enough.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think more is needed. I think the way that this has been presented and handled has been inept, and I have to say that.
“I’m not going to try and put a figure on this and it is expected that the Government will start low and the unions will start high, and normally there is an agreement reached somewhere in the middle.
“But we are facing exceptional circumstances and yes, I know, that over a period of three years nurses have had a considerable pay increase, but that is not what I think the public wants in terms of recognition of a wholly exceptional situation.
“And by the way, this isn’t just about nurses; this is also about ancillary staff, the people who do the mopping up when people are dying or have died. We need to remember that as well. They seem to get forgotten, and they shouldn’t be.”
SOME PEOPLE WITH SEVERE ASTHMA ‘REFUSED COVID-19 VACCINE’
Some people with severe asthma who are eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine have been refused one by their GP, a charity has warned.
Asthma UK said there is widespread confusion over the guidance for who should be in priority group six, after some GPs appeared to say only those with recent hospital admission – rather than any history of admission – should be included.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) guidance for group six says anyone with asthma that has resulted in admission to hospital should be given a vaccination, alongside those who have had three tablet or liquid steroid prescriptions over a three-month period.
People with asthma who were shielding have already been vaccinated in group four, while those with milder asthma must wait for a jab according to their age.
Following reports that some GPs have told patients they must have been in hospital in the last 12 months to qualify, Sarah Woolnough, chief executive of Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said: “We know that there are different interpretations of the official guidance from GP surgery staff and we’re not sure why exactly this is happening.
CYPRUS WILL ALLOW BRITS WITH BOTH COVID JABS IN FROM MAY 1
Cyprus says it will allow Brit tourists who have had both Covid jabs into the country without restrictions from May 1.
And they will not have to supply a negative coronavirus test or have to quarantine, according to plans unveiled by its deputy tourism minister Savvas Perdios.
JAPAN’S TAKEDA SEEKS GOVT APPROVAL FOR MODERNA COVID-19 VACCINE
Japan’s regulators were asked on Friday to approve use of the COVID-19 vaccine of Moderna Inc , the third such vaccine in the nation that began its inoculation effort last month.
The filing was announced by Takeda Pharmaceutical Co , which is handling domestic approval and imports of about 50 million doses of the Moderna shot. Takeda has previously said approval could be given in May.
AROUND 6% OF FRENCH COVID CASES ARE BRAZILIAN/SOUTH AFRICAN VARIANTS
Around six percent of COVID-19 cases in France are from the more contagious variants first found in Brazil and South Africa, French Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Friday.
Veran also told BFM TV that France was doing all it could to avoid a new national lockdown, although the government would keep all options open, and that there were reasons to believe France’s COVID situation would improve in 4-6 weeks time as more of its population gets vaccinated against the virus.
On Thursday, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said around 60% of French COVID-19 cases were from the variant first discovered in England.
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