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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Government tells firms to stockpile medicines for end of Brexit transition

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Government tells firms to stockpile medicines for end of Brexit transition Pharmaceutical companies should stockpile six weeks’ worth of drugs to guard against disruption at the end of the Brexit transition period, the Government has warned. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has written to medicine suppliers advising them to make boosting their reserves a priority. The letter, published online on Monday, reiterates that ministers will not be asking for an extension to the transition period past December 31, despite the coronavirus pandemic. There are concerns that the Covid-19 crisis has led to a dwindling of some medical stocks and that a disorderly exit without a trade deal could cause significant disruption. Suppliers were advised all scenarios must be planned for, including reduced traffic flow at short crossings such as between Calais and Dunkirk, and Dover and Folkestone. “We recognise that global supply chains are under significant pressure, exacerbated by recent events with Covid-19,” the letter says. “However, we encourage companies to make stockpiling a key part of contingency plans, and ask industry, where possible, to stockpile to a target level of six weeks’ total stock on UK soil.” The advice comes amid continued uncertainty over whether the UK and the EU will be able to strike an agreement on a future relationship before time runs out. Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier said last month that London’s position made the prospects of a deal “at this point unlikely”. The British Medical Association, the trade union representing doctors, warned the stockpile is “at best a short-term solution”. Deputy council chairman Dr David Wrigley said: “With the transition period only months away and at the height of what will be an undoubtedly difficult winter, this is incredibly concerning. “The BMA has consistently warned that a no-deal Brexit could have a potentially devastating impact on the NHS and consequently the health of the nation. Now, more than ever, it is absolutely crucial that the Government secure a relationship that protects the future health of this country.” Published: 04/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Scott Parker Fulham forward Aleksandar Mitrovic keen to make up for lost time

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Scott Parker: Fulham forward Aleksandar Mitrovic keen to make up for lost time Aleksandar Mitrovic is eager to make up for lost time when Fulham face Brentford in the Sky Bet Championship play-off final, according to manager Scott Parker. The ex-Newcastle striker only scored three times after football resumed, with his availability affected by a three-match ban and then a hamstring injury, but still ended the regular season as the division’s top goalscorer. Mitrovic’s 26 goals came in fewer minutes than Brentford rival Ollie Watkins and the duo will go head-to-head at Wembley on Tuesday. A lot of the focus in the build-up to the fixture has been on the Bees ‘BMW’ strike force of Said Benrahma, Bryan Mbeumo and Watkins, but Fulham possess their own secret weapon with their talisman fit again. “He has missed a lot of football since lockdown finished,” Parker said. “He obviously had his suspension and then he has had to come out of the side through a slight injury. “There is no bigger stage than now and 26 goals, the top goalscorer in the league, he has worked for this moment to be able to take to the field and help us achieve what we want to achieve. “He is raring to go along with everyone else. Everyone else is in the same position, raring to go and can’t wait for the occasion and what it brings. “This is what you work for and what we’ve all worked for so we are all looking forward to going there and trying to perform.” Sports financial analysts Deloitte predict Brentford could earn £160million over three years if they beat Fulham and the story of Thomas Frank’s young guns has captured the imagination of neutrals. The Bees also bid farewell to their Griffin Park home last month and will move into a new ground in September, but Parker has seen his group go through a journey. Relegation from the Premier League last season hurt Fulham, especially after they spent over £100m in transfer fees ahead of their top-flight return. Several managerial changes later and they were back in the Championship with rookie boss Parker the man to pick up the pieces. He added: “It was a mammoth challenge because I realised the squad was fragile and the football club was fragile and it was separate. “The fans were distant from where the team were and there were different ways. We had a lot of signings in and the whole dynamics of the place was hard. “I realised as much as there was an element of trying to put a stamp and identity on this football team, there was a much bigger issue and something at the forefront of my mind was to bring the club back together a little bit. “I was trying to create an environment and culture which oozed that we would be successful because all successful clubs and businesses, it comes from a core foundation.” Fulham and Brentford, who both finished on 81 points, have one final fixture left to play to decide who follows Leeds and West Brom into the Premier League. Southampton midfielder Harrison Reed could be in the top flight next season regardless of what happens at Wembley, but he is desperate to help loan club Fulham get there. “We go into this game full of confidence and we know if we turn up, we can get the job done,” the 25-year-old said. “I feel like this season has probably been the year where I’ve come on the most and that is down to the staff and the players I’ve trained with. “Then it is down to me to go out on the pitch and perform. I am happy with my form of late, but there is still more to come.” Published: 04/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Behaviour issues and family problems rise among children in poverty report

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Behaviour issues and family problems rise among children in poverty – report The majority of support workers have seen a surge in behaviour problems and family issues among children living in poverty during the pandemic, a report suggests. Around three in four frontline workers report a greater need for mental health support (77%), more behaviour issues (75%) and difficulties in parent-child relationships (74%) amid the Covid-19 crisis. More than four in five (84%) support workers have seen increases in young people’s mental health problems during lockdown, according to the survey by children’s charity Buttle UK. Struggling to afford basics such as food, and parents not having any down time away from their children, has led to “increased tensions in many families,” the report warns. Nurseries, schools and colleges across England closed their doors to the majority of pupils in March, except for the children of key workers and vulnerable young people, which means some pupils will have been out of the classroom for nearly six months when they return in September. The poll, of more than 900 child support workers across the UK, found that more than a third (36%) of respondents said there would be barriers around getting back into a structured routine, while 30% warned that there would be issues around gaps in schooling and catching-up. The biggest barrier to home-schooling among vulnerable children during lockdown was digital access, the report suggests, as many children have been trying to access their schoolwork through parents’ phones as this is often the only form of digital equipment in their home. More than one in seven (15%) respondents said children have not been home-schooled at all during the lockdown period. More than half (57%) of families receiving frontline support could not afford essential household items during lockdown, 47% were unable to afford food and 27% of children did not have access to a proper bed to sleep in. Buttle UK is calling for longer term solutions to the “digital divide”, as well as support for children which looks beyond just catching up academically and focuses on young people’s wellbeing. Joseph Howes, CEO of Buttle UK, said: “For many children and young people, the pandemic has only amplified the difficulties that already existed in their lives, increasing their isolation and forcing them to spend many hours in homes that lack the bare essentials and comforts most of us take for granted. So many are not getting their basic needs met. “Not all families were the same going into this crisis and they are certainly not the same coming out. As we attempt a recovery from the crisis, there are going to be some very big challenges facing the most vulnerable sectors in society. Without considering the interconnectedness of issues, additional funding alone will not address them. “We know that whilst the Government cannot do everything, it can show leadership and put children at the heart of the recovery. But if we are going to make a dent in these seemingly intractable issues, we must act now to prevent a lost generation.” A Government spokeswoman said: “The safety and wellbeing of the most vulnerable children remains our priority, with schools, nurseries and colleges staying open to them throughout the pandemic and social workers working hard to support them. “We know that being in the classroom is often the best place for these children, which is why – ahead of the full return in September – we have invested in mental health charities to reach those most in need, prioritised wellbeing in our guidance for schools, announced £1 billion to tackle the impact of lost teaching time and launched the Covid Summer Food Fund to help families eligible for free school meals over the school holiday. “We are also expanding the number of social workers placed in hundreds of schools to help teachers identify children at risk, and have invested over £100 million in remote education, including for devices and routers that help vulnerable children keen in contact with schools and social workers.” Published: 04/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Fuel prices up for second month in a row

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Fuel prices up for second month in a row Average petrol and diesel prices both rose by 3p per litre in July, new figures show. The average cost of a litre of petrol increased from £1.11 to £1.14 while diesel was hiked from £1.15 to £1.18, according to RAC Fuel Watch data. That added nearly £2 to the cost of filling up a typical 55-litre family car. It was the second consecutive monthly fuel price rise, and means petrol is now 7p per litre more expensive than it was at the end of May. The RAC believes retailers should be cutting forecourt prices by a few pence per litre within the next fortnight as the wholesale cost of fuel fell by 2p per litre for petrol and a fraction of a penny per litre for diesel last month. The organisation’s fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “July was another bad month for drivers with a 3p-a-litre rise in the price of fuel. “This means petrol’s 7p a litre more expensive than it was at the end of May and diesel is 6p more, something drivers will no doubt have noticed as each complete fill-up is costing almost £2 more. “The higher prices at the pump have been driven by the cost of oil increasing steadily to around 42 US dollars a barrel from a low of 13.21 US dollars in April. “But drivers may well be given some respite as oil producers are planning on ramping up production despite the risk of renewed lockdowns around the world. “This could easily lead to supply outstripping demand and therefore a reduction on the forecourts of the UK. “There is some scope for retailers to already be reducing their prices. If they play fair with drivers we ought to see 2p a litre come off the price of unleaded and nearer 4p come off diesel.” Published: 04/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

NHS Test and Trace needs scaling up to reopen schools safely researchers say

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NHS Test and Trace needs scaling up to reopen schools safely, researchers say The NHS Test and Trace programme needs to be scaled up in order to reopen schools safely, researchers have said. A new modelling study has implied that reopening schools in September must be combined with a high-coverage test-trace-isolate strategy to avoid a second wave of Covid-19 later this year. The study comes as Australian research found there were “low” levels of coronavirus transmission in schools and nurseries. The modelling study – which simulates various scenarios – examined the possible implications of schools reopening in the UK coupled with broader reopening of society, such as more parents returning to the workplace and increased socialising within the community. The authors found that “with increased levels of testing… and effective contact tracing and isolation, an epidemic rebound might be prevented”. But in a worst-case scenario, a second wave could be 2.3 times higher than the first, according to the study published in The Lancet Child And Adolescent Health. The modelling comes after suggestions that pubs may need to be shut, or social freedoms curbed, in order to allow schools to reopen while keeping the spread of Covid-19 down. In other developments: – The Government came under criticism after admitting laws underpinning new lockdown restrictions for Greater Manchester, parts of east Lancashire and West Yorkshire are yet to be implemented four days after the rules were introduced. – Downing Street said powers to ban movement in and out of coronavirus hotspots could be used to curb the spread of Covid-19. – Trade unions criticised the Government’s decision to press on with measures to get people back into the office on the first weekday since the guidance changed. – Britons began dining out at a discount under the Government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme to try to boost the ailing economy. In the new study, researchers from UCL and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) simulated what would happen in an “optimistic” scenario assuming 68% of contacts of people who tested positive could be traced. In the more pessimistic scenario the system had 40% coverage. But one of the authors, Chris Bonell, professor of public health sociology at LSHTM, said the current testing system has “about 50% coverage”. “Our findings suggests that it might be possible [to avoid] a secondary epidemic wave in the UK, if enough people with symptomatic infection can be diagnosed and their contacts traced and effectively isolated,” he said. “Reopening schools fully in September, alongside reopening workplaces in society, without an effective test, trace, isolating (TTI) strategy could result in a second wave of infections between two and 2.3 times the size of the original wave. “Currently, TTI is not achieving the levels that we modelled. Looking at the NHS reports from the TTI system, it looks like it’s about 50% coverage.” The authors said that without appropriate levels of testing and contact tracing, reopening of schools together with gradual relaxing of the lockdown measures are “likely to induce a second wave that would peak in December 2020 if schools open full-time in September”. The model assumes that around 70% of people would return to workplaces once their children returned to school and up to a 90% increase of mixing within the community with schools reopening. Dr Jasmina Panovska-Griffiths, senior research fellow and lecturer in mathematical modelling, at the Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care, UCL, added: “Our result show that reopening schools fully in September will not lead to a second wave if accompanied by a comprehensive test, trace and isolate strategy.” The research from Australia, also published in the same journal, examined real world data from the first wave of Covid-19 in New South Wales. The data from January to April examined lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in educational settings. Researchers investigated onwards transmission. Data from 15 schools and 10 nurseries showed that although 27 children or teachers went to school or nursery while infectious, only an additional 18 people later became infected. A Government spokesman said: “Plans have been put in place to ensure schools can re-open safely. Local health officials, using the latest data, will able to determine the best action to take to help curb the spread of the virus should there be a rise in cases.” Published: 04/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Toy bears brought in to enforce social distancing at Balham restaurant

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Toy bears brought in to enforce social distancing at Balham restaurant A restaurant in Balham has engaged the services of 12 large toy bears to help enforce social distancing measures for diners. Tagine, which serves north African cuisine in south London, reopened on July 4 after closing for months during the coronavirus pandemic. And to keep post-lockdown customers apart from one another, as well as to relax the diners, owner Zizou Hammoudi, 50, has seated a dozen ursine toys since he returned to business. “Let’s say there is a table where people cannot sit, I put the teddy bears there with a Moroccan hat as well,” Mr Hammoudi told the PA news agency. “A lot of people that are coming in (ask) ‘can I have a table next to the teddy bears?’ People (are) stopping, taking pictures, it’s been great.” Mr Hammoudi bought the 12 bears online before adding the hats himself, and said the bears are even encouraging children to talk about the pandemic. “Kids, six, seven years old, they are telling each other that it is for distancing,” he said. “Even the kids, they know about it. I’m so happy.” Published: 03/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Premier League start date too early for Chelsea boss Frank Lampard

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Premier League start date ‘too early’ for Chelsea boss Frank Lampard Frank Lampard has called on the Premier League to give Chelsea a fair start to the new campaign and not risk further injury to his players. The Blues lost Saturday’s FA Cup final 2-1 to London rivals Arsenal, but even though the 2020-21 league season is set to kick-off on September 12, Chelsea are still not finished with the current campaign. Lampard’s side take on Bayern Munich on Saturday in the rescheduled second leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie. Chelsea face a monumental task to progress further in the competition having lost the first leg 3-0 at Stamford Bridge back in February. Even if they fall to defeat in Bavaria, Chelsea will have just 35 days before the new season is due to begin. In the unlikely event they progress – and then go on to reach the final – that gap drops to just 20 days. It is understood that when Premier League clubs agreed a September 12 start date, it was also clear that there would need to be at least a 30-day break for Chelsea and any of the other teams playing in the end-of-season European competitions. Lampard, who saw Willian and Ruben Loftus-Cheek pull out on the eve of the FA Cup final through injury, then lost Cesar Azpilicueta and goalscorer Christian Pulisic during the game to hamstring problems. “I am guessing we will be told when we start and that will be dependent on how we will go against Bayern Munich,” he said. “It is not ideal if we carry on against Bayern – the players need to be given a break to play at the level and the quality product that the Premier League is. “Even in a worst-case scenario, we don’t go through against Bayern, the 12th feels too early for me for the players to start playing again. “The players need a break. That is why we have pulled two hamstrings and had players pull out of the game before this.” Lampard then implored the Premier League to make sure clubs start the next season with a level playing field. “I would like to think the Premier League would look seriously at that,” he added. “Hopefully they give us a fair start next season. We deserve to be (given a fair start) as a Premier League club competing in the Champions League.” Published: 03/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Simon Weaver ecstatic as Wembley win takes Harrogate up to League Two

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Simon Weaver ‘ecstatic’ as Wembley win takes Harrogate up to League Two Harrogate manager Simon Weaver admitted feeling ecstatic after his side stunned Notts County to claim a place in League Two. The North Yorkshire side reached the English Football League for the first time in their history as they stormed to a 3-1 victory in the Vanarama National League play-off final at Wembley. Harrogate, who were second in the table when the regular season was curtailed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, will now join champions Barrow in the League ranks. Weaver told BT Sport: “I’m ecstatic at the moment. It hasn’t really penetrated my brain yet. We’ve won the game and it’s a brilliant feeling. “It’s down to the hard graft of honest lads and honest backroom staff. The culmination of all that has seen us at Wembley and beating Notts County. “It’s been a great season. I’m so glad we had the chance to finish it off and we have done. “You could feel it and sense it throughout the season, that something special could happen, and it has done. Everyone has played their part in a brilliant win. “The only sad thing is we haven’t had the fans with us but we’ve got it all to look forward to now. What a challenge. We’re going to enjoy the moment.” George Thomson and Connor Hall struck for Harrogate in a dominant first half and Jack Diamond settled the contest 20 minutes from time after Callum Roberts gave County hope. The result condemned the Magpies, founder members of the Football League, to a second successive season outside of it. Manager Neal Ardley said: “We knew they would come out fast. They have got a record of scoring first and coming at teams. “We worked hard to be ready for it but ultimately, on the day, the best team won. “In the first half they were at it. We were little bit at sixes and sevens. “We changed things around at half-time and got some momentum, got that goal, and that’s when it was in the balance. “But we needed to make sure we didn’t concede and unfortunately we didn’t. That killed us off.” Published: 03/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Nine out of 10 medium sized firms make staff redundant amid Covid 19 crisis

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Nine out of 10 medium-sized firms ‘make staff redundant amid Covid-19 crisis’ Nine out of 10 medium-sized businesses have made staff redundant due to the Covid-19 crisis, a study suggests. Just under a third of 500 firms surveyed said they had already made around a fifth of their workforce redundant, despite the Government’s Job Retention Scheme running until the end of October. More than four-fifths of those questioned by business advisers BDO said they will only be able to continue trading for up to nine months with current funding arrangements. Medium-sized businesses have taken an average of £21 million in loans as a direct result of the virus, said the report. While most companies plan to repay the debt, 10% do not expect to be able to pay the full amount back. Paul Eagland, managing partner at BDO, said: “This data shows us that, while challenges remain, businesses have acted decisively to protect themselves and weather the storm. “Some businesses have taken on large amounts of debt to survive the crisis, which prefaces a long road to recovery. “But at the same time, some companies will use this as a moment to rethink their operations and business models.” Published: 03/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Academic freedom in danger at universities as staff self censor report warns

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Academic freedom in danger at universities as staff self-censor, report warns Academic freedom within British universities could be in danger as academics with right-leaning or pro-Brexit views feel they have to censor what they teach, research and discuss, a report has warned. The Policy Exchange think tank argues that higher education institutions and the Government must do much more to ensure that all lawful speech is protected on university campuses across the country. The paper, entitled Academic freedom in the UK, suggests there is a “structural discriminatory effect” against the minority of academics at British universities who identify as being on the right. “Hostile or just uncomfortable attitudes signal to those subject to such discrimination that they should conceal their views and narrow their research questions to conform to prevailing norms, if they wish to progress and enjoy a positive workplace experience,” it warns. A YouGov poll, of 820 both current and former academics, found more than one in seven said there was a hostile climate towards people with their political beliefs in their department – but the figure is higher among those who identify as being right-leaning, or among those who voted to leave the EU. Just over half of respondents said they would feel comfortable sitting with a colleague who is a Leave supporter at lunch, in a meeting or in the staff room. Meanwhile, more than a third said they would feel comfortable sitting with a colleague who opposes admitting transwomen to women’s refuge centres. But more than four in five said they believed academics who were pro-Remain would feel comfortable expressing their views to colleagues, the poll found. The report suggests that right-leaning academics are more likely to choose to “self-censor” compared to colleagues who are centrists or on the left. Some pro-Leave social sciences and humanities academics said they had refrained from publishing or airing views in research and teaching for “fear of consequences” to their careers, according to the think tank paper. It warns: “The challenge today is that a serious threat to academic freedom may now, in addition, arise from within universities. “This internal threat derives from the way that some in the university—both students and faculty members—relate to others on campus, being willing to penalise them on the basis of their perceived or actual political views.” In a foreword to the report, Ruth Smeeth, former Labour MP and chief executive of Index on Censorship, says: “It does the country no good if our educators, our academics, our scholars and most importantly our students feel that they can’t speak or engage without fear of retribution.” The report calls on the Government to make it explicit in law that universities have a direct duty to protect academic freedom and freedom of speech. It adds that a “Director for Academic Freedom” should be created as part of the Office for Students (OfS) to investigate claims that freedom of speech have been violated and to promote tolerance for viewpoint diversity in the sector. Universities minister Michelle Donelan said: “University leaders must do much more to champion freedom of speech, and this Government is committed to bringing forward measures to strengthen free speech and academic freedom, potentially including legislation.” She added: “It is deeply concerning the extent to which students and academics with mainstream views are being silenced and discriminated against in our universities.” But Jo Grady, general secretary of University and College Union (UCU), dismissed the findings of the think tank’s report. She said: “The idea that academic freedom is under threat is a myth. “The main concern our members express is not with think tank-inspired bogeyman, but with the current Government’s wish to police what can and cannot be taught at university.” The OfS said it is planning to issue guidance on how universities can meet principles relating to academic freedom and free speech in the autumn. A Universities UK (UUK) spokesman said: “Academic freedom and freedom of speech are critical to the success of UK higher education and universities take seriously their legal obligations on both. “Robustly protecting these characteristics in a constantly evolving world is of the utmost importance to universities.” Published: 03/08/2020 by Radio NewsHub