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Families told not to ‘hug elderly relatives’ at Christmas warns Chris Whitty

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Professor Chris Whitty has warned any plans of hugging and kissing elderly relatives over Christmas should be forgotten so 'they want to survive to get hugged again'.

It will not illegal to hug and kiss older family members but Whitty says it "does not make sense."

The UK's Chief Medical Officer Professor made the statement during a Downing Street media briefing on coronavirus on Thursday afternoon.

In response to Mirror journalist Ben Glaze's question about the relaxed coronavirus restrictions over the festive period, Professor Whitty said: "Would I say people should hug and kiss their elderly relatives, no I would not."

The government announced on Monday that measures will be eased over the week Christmas despite the same privileges not being granted to other religious celebrations earlier in the year.

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All four UK nations have agreed to let Brits form a five-day bubble of three households over Christmas.

Professor Whitty said: "Would I want someone to see their family? Of course, that's what Christmas is about, whether people celebrate Christmas as a festival themselves or from any other belief system.

"It is an opportunity for families.

"But would I encourage someone to hug and kiss their elderly relatives? No, I would not.

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"It is not against the law – and that's the whole point.

"You can do it in the rules that are there but it does not make sense because you could be carrying the virus and if you've got an elderly relative, that would not be the thing you want to do in the period where we're running up to a point where we might be able to protect older people.

"I think people just have to have sense and this is very much what I think people will do."

The Prime Minister said that rules would have inevitably been flouted if they remained strict for Christmas.

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Relaxing certain restrictions, he argues provides a "sensible balance".

The Prime Minister said: "It is an incredibly difficult decision. You've got to strike a balance between people's strong desire to celebrate a family holiday, perhaps one of the most important family holidays of the year – which they frankly are going to do anyway – and the need to keep the virus under control.

"What we're trying to set out with the Christmas measures that we've agreed across the whole of the UK, because we want everyone across the UK to be able to travel to see relatives, is I think a sensible balance but it depends, as Chris (Whitty) and Patrick (Vallance) have really tried to stress in this session, on all of us being common sensical and doing the right thing.

"In the end… until the vaccine comes on stream, we are not out of the woods yet and we have to be very vigilant.

"So everybody's individual behaviour at Christmas will matter a great deal."

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What UK’s new ‘Christmas bubble’ rules mean for you and your family in full

There will be a temporary relaxation of social distancing rules over Christmas to allow families to see each other, the UK Government has announced.

Between December 23 and 27, up to three separate households can mingle indoors together for festivities after what will have been nine months of social distancing laws.

The news follows weeks of speculation that Brits would be exempt from coronavirus restrictions during the festive season in the interests of the nation's mental health.

But critics say the move is "risky" and will likely lead to yet another surge in cases early in the New Year.

Here's what the Government says and what it means for your holiday plans.

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Christmas bubble rules

In a break from the new Covid Winter Plan announced yesterday, as many as three different households will be allowed to mingle indoors for up to five days over Christmas.

This is intended to allow family members, many of whom have been separated for much of the year, to spend time together in a temporary "Christmas bubble" between December 23 and 27.

  • There is no limit on the number of people allowed in a bubble as long as they don't come from more than three different households.
  • The bubbles will need to be exclusive and cannot change to allow new members within the five-day-period.
  • A previously established "support bubble" will count as a single household in the formation of a Christmas bubble.
  • Members of a Christmas bubble can meet up in homes, public spaces or places of worship. However they will not be able to meet in their bubbles in pubs or restaurants.

  • Members of a Christmas bubble living in different regions of the UK and thus different "tiers" will be allowed to travel between them during this time.
  • People will also be able to travel to and from Northern Ireland for an extra day either side of that period, to allow for the extra travel time.
  • They can also meet up with non-members of their bubble, but only outside and in accordance with local laws.
  • Children whose parents are separated or do not live together will be allowed to move between two different Christmas bubbles.
  • In England, a group of housemates living together would all be allowed to return home to their separate families for Christmas.

The rule change came about after an emergency COBRA meeting between the UK Government and the devolved administrations on Tuesday.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove chaired the meeting, and Nicola Sturgeon, Mark Drakeford and Arlene Foster, the first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, all attended virtually.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson did not attend and his absence was criticised by Mr Drakeford, who said to the Welsh parliament: "You might think that given the significance of the decisions we are having to take there that the prime minister might think that was a conversation in which he would choose to be engaged."

All four chief medical officers worked on the Christmas bubble plan, and have said it strikes the right balance between caution and much-needed emotional relief for lonely Brits.

However public health experts have warned that each day of loosened restrictions will have to be made up for with an extra five days of tough measures in order to avoid a spike in cases.

Devi Sridhar, professor of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, told a Commons committee on Tuesday the five-day bubble scheme was a "risky" move.

"I guess I have to speak bluntly – the virus doesn't care if it's Christmas," she said.

"We still have pretty high prevalence across the country. It is risky for people to mix indoors with alcohol with elderly relatives at this point in time."

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UK’s rat population soars to 150m as lockdown sees rodents breed like crazy

Britain’s booming rat population has soared to 150million – with 2.2 rodents for every person.

They have been breeding like crazy during the two national lockdowns in empty buildings and gorging themselves on piles of leftover food.

While Britain's pubs and shops have stayed shut, rodents have found endless shelter to multiply.

And it means the UK’s rat population has now increased by 30million in just one year.

Pest control experts have been swamped with call-outs as families discover the vermin living in their homes.

They are warning the problem will only become worse as they try to bed down in warm homes for winter.

The size of the rat infestations they have found have been a whopping 25% higher than usual, according to the pest control company

The firm’s Jenny Rathbone warned: “They say you are only ever 6ft away from a rat – and in typical 2020 fashion it’s now more likely than ever this year.

“We are seeing a huge increase in rat problems throughout the country as lockdown has really helped them breed in relative peace with closed shops and poor waste management practices providing them with plentiful food and shelter.

“The problem we have right now is that rats are trying to bed down for winter, and this will happen when we get a few cold snaps.”

She added: “The main thing to remember is rats need food and shelter to breed, so any food source should be quickly cleaned away – keeping yard areas clean and tidy is key to keeping rats under control.”

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London has the highest rat population in the UK, with 19.9million living in the capital’s streets.

Birmingham is second with 2.4million rodents, followed by Leeds with 1.7million, Glasgow with 1.3million and Sheffield with 1.2million.

Manchester has 1.1million rats, Edinburgh has the same figure while Liverpool is home to 1million of them.

Bristol, with 950,000 of the critters, and Cardiff’s 760,000 rats make up the rest of the top ten.

Experts are urging Brits to block up holes, clear cupboards and prepare traps before winter really hits hard.

It comes after warnings Christmas could be ruined by giant rats who are invading homes.

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World News

5 things that determine which Tier your area will be in when lockdown ends

When the national lockdown ends on December 2, England will face new, tiered restrictions until the end of March 2021.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined the government’s winter plan in an announcement on November 23.

What tiers different areas will be placed in won’t be confirmed until Thursday.

But the new tier lockdown rules will be tougher than the previous system, after the government’s scientific advisors said it didn’t do enough to tackle the spread of coronavirus.

However, it has been confirmed which system ministers will use to determine which tier each area will be placed in, reports The Mirror.

In order to decide which Tier your area will be in, the government will look at these five things:

  • Analysis of cases across all age groups

This involves looking at the total number of coronavirus cases in your area, their geographical spread and if they are on the rise.

  • Analysis of cases specifically among the over-60s

Older people are considered particularly vulnerable and more at risk of becoming seriously ill due to Covid-19, which is why they will be considered separately from the rest of the population.

  • Rate by which cases are rising or falling

Officials will look at how the R rate is changing, meaning how fast the virus is spreading.

  • Boris Johnson warns Christmas is the season to be 'jolly careful' despite vaccine hopes

  • Percentage of those tested in local populations who are found to have Covid (e.g. cases per 100,000)
  • Current and projected pressures on the NHS

In some areas the determining factor might be the ability of the NHS ICU facilities to cope, even if cases are on a downward swing

However, when it comes to actually weighing up all these factors, it becomes quite complicated.

The government has said they will need to "maintain some flexibility to weight these indicators against each other as the context demands".

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The government plan continues: "For example, hospital capacity in a given area will need to be considered in the light of the capacity in neighbouring areas and the feasibility of moving patients.

"Case detection rates will need to be weighted against whether the spread of the virus appears to be localised to particular communities. Given these sensitivities, it is not possible to set rigid thresholds for these indicators, as doing so would result in poorer quality decisions.

"The Government will, however, be transparent about the decisions that it takes and make available the evidence informing those decisions."

According to the government report, there are also six less explicit indicators that will be factored in.

It adds: "The movement of areas up and down tiers will also be informed by broader economic and practical considerations, such as the anticipated movement of individuals between areas."

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Fears Covid mutations will make vaccines useless as experts monitor new strains

Scientists are braced for an explosion in new strains of coronavirus – as the vaccination could force it to mutate into an even deadlier strain.

British scientists have had a cash injection worth millions of pounds to fund research into new strains of the killer bug that could be resistant to vaccines and treatments currently in production.

Viruses often mutate after the release of a vaccine, but the deadly potency of Covid-19 has left researchers concerned.

The Sun reports that it is believed that there are currently 4,000 new strains that could directly affect the UK.

Professor Sharon Peacock, director of the Covid-19 Genomics UK, said: "Once we start to use vaccines in the general population, that will put an evolutionary driver, a selection pressure, on viruses.

"Viruses are going to want to escape the effect of vaccines because that’s what evolution is about."

She explained that monitoring new strains was important as many of the vaccines target the same spike protein on the virus surface.

It's estimated there are now tens of thousands of mutations circulating globally since the virus first took hold last year.

While not all mutations thrive, Prof Peacock says that mutations that involve the spike protein in the genetic formula of coronavirus are most worrying.

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This needle-like part of the virus allows it to attack the human body – and it is this section that Pfizer and Moderna have used to make their successful vaccines.

A change to the spike could make vaccines less effective, or even totally useless.

In Denmark, a mutated strain of coronavirus has infected humans after spreading from mink kept at huge fur farms.

Politicians ruled to cull 15 million mink at more than 1,100 farms in a bid to stop it spreading further.

Six countries have now reported Covid outbreaks linked to mink farms after the mutant strain was discovered in Denmark.

The Netherlands, US, Spain, Sweden and Italy have also found coronavirus cases in minks, the World Health Organisation has confirmed.

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World News

Full list of reasons you can leave your home during coronavirus lockdown

Boris Johnson plunged England back into a new lockdown when he ordered millions of people to stay home.

All non-essential shops have been closed and pubs and restaurants have been told to move to takeaway only.

In a bid to stop coronavirus from spreading and killing more Brits, the government's restrictions are law until December 2.

Until that date, leaving the house without a reasonable excuse or essential purpose could see you slapped with a £200 fine.

And repeat offenders face huge bills for breaking the rules.

Police don’t need to prove you broke the law to give you a fine – only to suspect you did so. That means you could find yourself fighting a fine in court.

With all-but-essential stores closed, leaving only supermarkets and grocery stores operating, there are only a handful of reasons English households should be venturing outside, The Mirror reported.

Remembering the rules will be vital to playing your part in the lockdown – with politicians being told that at least half of adults didn’t follow the letter of the law during the first shutdown in Spring.

It comes as a poll of 2,000 adults found that 3 in four Brits are actually more worried about the impact of lockdown than catching coronavirus.

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But the rules will remain in place until December 2, when Boris has promised his cabinet colleagues he will return us to the three-tiered system.

An extension of a full, national lockdown would require Boris to be backed with a vote in the Commons – something that might be harder to do at a third time of asking.

So until December 2, you can only leave for the following reasons:

  • If it is ‘reasonably necessary’ to “buy goods or obtain services from” businesses that remain open – either for yourself, household members, or a “vulnerable person” or their household member.
  • To withdraw or deposit money in a bank or building society or similar business.
  • To “take exercise outside”, either alone, with members of your household or support/childcare bubble, or with one person from another household. Under this exemption, there must just be two of you in total – though kids under 5 don’t count towards the limit.
  • To attend a place of worship (though they’re only staying open for private prayer)
  • To visit estate or letting agents or show homes; view properties to buy or rent; prepare a property to move, buy, rent or sell; or move house.
  • To visit someone in your support bubble or childcare bubble. A childcare bubble is when two households join together for informal childcare for a child under 13.
  • To pick up takeaway food or drink.
  • To visit a waste disposal or recycling centre.
  • To attend work, education or training, or provide voluntary or charitable series, if it’s not reasonable to do so from home.
  • To provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person.
  • To provide emergency assistance to any person.
  • To fulfil a legal obligation, including attending court or satisfying bail conditions.
  • To access social services, DWP services, victim of crime services, and asylum and immigration services and interviews.
  • If you’re an elite athlete, to continue training or competition.
  • To seek medical assistance, including to donate blood, attend medical trials or take Covid tests or a vaccine.
  • To avoid injury or illness or escape risk of harm.
  • To be with a mother giving birth, at her request.
  • To visit a household, close family member or friend who is being treated in hospital, a hospice or care home (local rules on visits permitting).
  • To attend a support group, including for domestic abuse victims, addicts and LGBT people, or provide or receive respite care.
  • To visit a household, close family member or friend you reasonably believe is dying.
  • To attend a funeral or wake, or burial ground or garden of remembrance, though there are limits on the numbers who can attend.
  • To attend a marriage or civil partnership, but again there are strict limits on numbers.
  • To allow children with separated parents to move between those two parents’ homes.
  • There are also certain exemptions for children in care and those preparing to be adopted.
  • To visit a vet.
  • To walk or otherwise exercise your pet.
  • To return home if you were on holiday before the lockdown came into force.
  • To visit a close family or friend in prison.

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Record Covid spike due to drinkers heading to pub before lockdown, experts claim

Brits enjoying one "last hurrah" before the second lockdown began earlier this month are responsible for this week's record rise in daily Covid cases, experts have claimed.

On Thursday, November 12, the UK posted its highest ever rise in daily coronavirus cases as 33,470 people tested positive, and there are fears a pre-lockdown splurge may be to blame.

England's second lockdown began on November 5, and the weekend before was filled with riotious scenes up and down the country.

And those in power think that may have something to do with the large spike we're seeing in Covid-19 cases now.

A government source reportedly told the Sun: “The dates tally up. It’s very likely it is people who picked up Covid during the last hurrah before lockdown.”

And Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, agreed that Brits hitting the town one last time before lockdown may have fuelled the spike.

He said: “It is certainly plausible. It is a big jump in a single day and it’s hard to make a judgement on one piece of data.

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“But if cases remain this high for another day or so then it will pretty much be down to people having more social contacts – partying before lockdown.”

And Professor Carl Heneghan, from the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University, added: “These figures are going through the roof, and it’s not really surprising when we saw scenes like Christmas Eve last week before we went into lockdown.

“The problem is when these policies are drawn up the Government assumes everyone will behave, and they just don’t take account of the fact that many people saw it as a last chance to get out.

“We had some quite crazy scenes last week, with pubs and restaurants full."

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Hairdresser handed £3,000 in fines for refusing to shut salon during lockdown

A defiant hairdresser has been slapped with £3,000 in fines for ignoring lockdown rules.

Sinead Quinn, the owner of Quinn Blakey Hairdressing in Oakenshaw, near Bradford, West Yorkshire, continued to trade this week.

The refusal to shut came despite salons and barbers being ordered to close during the second national lockdown introduced to curb coronavirus cases, YorkshireLive reports.

Kirklees Council officials visited the business on Thursday to issue a £2,000 fixed penalty notice for ignoring the regulation.

It follows a £1,000 fine issued earlier this week, bringing the total to £3,000.

The council issued the notices for trading on two separate days, although the salon was shut on Thursday.

But it warned officials will visit again on Friday and it continues to operate, it will issue a £4,000 fine.

Earlier this week, it slammed the actions of the salon as being 'selfish and irresponsible'.

A council spokesman said on Thursday: "We’re visiting today to issue a £2,000 Fixed Penalty Notice. At the same time we’ll check if they are open/trading.

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"If trading is still continuing, we will then have to issue a £4,000 Fixed Penalty Notice tomorrow."

The spokesman later said the premises was closed on Thursday during an inspection, adding: "But we’ll check again tomorrow.”

On Wednesday, Ms Quinn posted a video on the salon's Instagram page which showed her arguing with police and council officials who had turned up at her premises.

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The video is titled: "Police 5th Visit & Council 2nd Visit."

During the conversation, she says: "I am not closing. I am not answering any questions."

A police officer warned her there is "potential harm to people from coronavirus."

But Ms Quinn replied: "I am not complying. I am not answering any more questions."

In the clip, she added: "I am standing up for my rights."

Earlier this week she placed a sign in the door which cited the Magna Carta in defence of her decision to defy the lockdown. She argued she had a right to "earn a living".

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World News

Locations where you’re most likely to catch coronavirus, according to study

Millions of Brits are currently staying at home after Boris Johnson plunged England into a second lockdown.

As the UK surpassed the grim milestone of 50,000 coronavirus deaths, households are entering a second week of strict restrictions.

The R rate has, thankfully, dropped below 1, according to new research – but the country will still be shutdown until December 2.

And when it reopens, cities and towns facing higher numbers still face being placed under tough rules as we revert back to the tiered system.

Meanwhile, a huge new study has revealed the locations that you are most likely to catch the bug.

An investigation into 98 million people’s mobile phone data revealed that a staggering 80% of infections take place in the same locations.

The US study found that gyms, restaurants, hotels and churches account for nearly four-fifths of new cases, The Mirror reported.

“These are places that are smaller, more crowded, and people dwell there longer,” said study co-author and Stanford University Professor Jure Leskovec at a media briefing on the research, CNN reported.

According to the professor, reducing capacity at those establishments by just 20% could curb new transmissions by 80%.

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“Our work highlights that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing,” Leskovec said.

The researchers tracked people’s movements to locations such as restaurants, cafes, supermarkets, gyms and hotels, as well as to the doctors and places of worship, while looking at the coronavirus counts in their areas.

“On average across metro areas, full-service restaurants, gyms, hotels, cafes, religious organisations, and limited-service restaurants produced the largest predicted increases in infections when reopened,” the study said.

The study focused on Americans in 10 major cities, including New York, Philadelphia, and Washington DC.

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Residents of low-income areas suffer the worst, the study suggested.

That’s at least partly because the residents have fewer of these locations available to them, so the sites become more crowded.

In the UK, mass testing is being rolled out across 67 towns and cities in a bid to better understand hotspots.

The UK is the fifth country to pass 50,000 deaths, coming after the US, Brazil, India and Mexico.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the figures showed, despite hopes for a vaccine, "we are not out of the woods".

He said: "Every death is a tragedy," but added: "I do think we have got now to a different phase in the way that we treat it."

There have been some 1.2 million confirmed cases in the UK since the epidemic began, and more than 185,000 people have been admitted to hospital with the virus.

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‘Lockdown’ named Word of the Year 2020 by Collins Dictionary

‘Lockdown’ has been declared the word of the year for 2020 by Collins Dictionary.

A phrase that many will not want to hear in 2021, the term has symbolised a period unlike any other in modern history.

Collins said it “encapsulates the shared experience of billions of people” as they honoured 2020 as the year of the Lockdown.

The word was used more than 250,000 times this year, according to lexicographers, who found just 4,000 examples in 2019.

Lockdown wasn’t the only pandemic term on the top 10 list, with furlough, self-isolate and coronavirus all being recognised.

Key worker and socially-distanced were also phrases that recorded a huge increase in usage this year, as you can imagine.

'Megxit' also made its way into the top ten, after it was coined to describe the split between Meghan Markle and Prince Harry from the Royal Family.

The abbreviation BLM, for Black Lives Matter, also made this year's shortlist.

Defined by Collins as “a movement that campaigns against racially motivated violence and oppression”, it registered a 581% increase in usage.

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TikToker was also a new phrase recognised in 2020, having been created to describe users on the video sharing app.

If today’s announcement has made you wonder what previous words of the year have been, then look no further as we have the list below.

Published in Glasgow, there has been a Collins English Dictionary since 1819.

The word of the year has been an annual award held since 2013.

2013: Geek

2014: Photobomb

2015: Binge-watch

2016: Brexit

2017: Fake News

2018: Single-use

2019: Climate strike

2020: Lockdown

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