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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

New commemorative 50p coin celebrates The Snowman

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New commemorative 50p coin celebrates The Snowman One of Britain’s most famous festive characters will feature on a new collectable 50p coin. The Snowman, the much-loved animation created by illustrator Raymond Briggs, will feature on the commemorative coin this month. The design was created by animator Robert Shaw, who was also the art director on The Snowman And The Snowdog, the sequel to the original Oscar-nominated film. First published in 1978 and adapted for television in 1982, Raymond Briggs’ heartwarming story has become a Christmas tradition for many families and continues to delight young and old alike. The 2020 Snowman coin, which comes in a range of finishes including silver proof, gold proof and colour, shows the character James and The Snowman hugging. It is the third commemorative Snowman coin released by the Royal Mint, with previous coins released in 2018 and 2019. Mr Shaw said: “In a year where many of us have been separated, The Snowman helps remind us of the importance of a hug and our love for one another. “In creating the 2020 design I wanted to capture this unique bond between The Snowman and James in recognition of Raymond Briggs’ timeless tale which unites us each Christmas.” To celebrate the new coin, the Royal Mint has worked with Mr Shaw to create a “sketch-a-long” for fans on its website, which will provide hints and tips to help budding animators create their own Snowman drawings to share online with the hashtag #SnowmanSketchalong. “I’m looking forward to seeing all the fantastic drawings created through our special The Snowman sketch-a-long,” Mr Shaw said. “As a child I was inspired by Raymond Briggs’ 1978 book and the 1982 television adaptation, so I’m excited to see what this generation of budding illustrators and animators comes up with.” Clare Maclennan, divisional director of the commemorative coin division at the Royal Mint, said: “Raymond Briggs’ classic characters are a tradition of the festive season for many families across the country, and we’re delighted to continue The Snowman and James’s adventures on a 50 pence. “Each year our coins celebrating The Snowman prove incredibly popular with adults and children alike, and we hope this year’s design depicting a hug will be a poignant addition to the collection.” The coin is for commemorative purposes only and will not be released into general circulation. Prices range from £10 to £1,125 on the Royal Mint website. Published: 01/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Commons backs Johnsons Covid tiers despite threat of rebellion from Tory MPs

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Commons backs Johnson’s Covid tiers despite threat of rebellion from Tory MPs MPs have backed the new system of coronavirus tiers for England as Boris Johnson survived the threat of a significant revolt from Conservative rebels to pass the restrictions. The support paves the way for 99% of England to enter the toughest Tier 2 and 3 restrictions when the second national lockdown ends on Wednesday. The House of Commons voted by 291 votes to 78 – a Government majority of 213 – for the new restrictions on Tuesday evening. With Labour ordering its MPs to abstain, the measures passed despite senior Tories having lined up to criticise the measures. In an attempt to lessen the scale of the rebellion, the Prime Minister announced a one-off payment of £1,000 for pubs forced to remain closed under the restrictions, though the move was branded “derisory” by the trade. Mr Johnson acknowledged concerns of a perceived “injustice” in the allocation of tiers but reassured MPs that the Government would look at a more focused approach in the future. The House of Lords was expected to approve the plans later on Tuesday. Published: 01/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Debenhams future in doubt as JD Sports pulls out of rescue talks

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Debenhams’ future in doubt as JD Sports pulls out of rescue talks JD Sports has pulled out of rescue talks for troubled department store chain Debenhams, putting 12,000 workers at risk. It was the last remaining bidder for Debenhams, which has been in administration since April. In a brief statement to the London Stock Exchange, the company said: “JD Sports Fashion, the leading retailer of sports, fashion and outdoor brands, confirms that discussions with the administrators of Debenhams regarding a potential acquisition of the UK business have now been terminated.” Debenhams has already cut 6,500 jobs across its operation due to heavy cost-cutting after it entered administration for the second time in 12 months. It is understood that the collapse of the deal is partly linked to the administration of Arcadia, which is the biggest operator of concessions in Debenhams stores. Arcadia tumbled into insolvency on Monday evening, casting a shadow over its own 13,000 workers and 444 stores. Published: 01/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Debenhams future in doubt as JD Sports pulls out of rescue talks

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Debenhams’ future in doubt as JD Sports pulls out of rescue talks JD Sports has pulled out of rescue talks for troubled department store chain Debenhams, putting 12,000 workers at risk. It was the last remaining bidder for Debenhams, which has been in administration since April. In a brief statement to the London Stock Exchange, the company said: “JD Sports Fashion, the leading retailer of sports, fashion and outdoor brands, confirms that discussions with the administrators of Debenhams regarding a potential acquisition of the UK business have now been terminated.” Debenhams has already cut 6,500 jobs across its operation due to heavy cost-cutting after it entered administration for the second time in 12 months. It is understood that the collapse of the deal is partly linked to the administration of Arcadia, which is the biggest operator of concessions in Debenhams stores. Arcadia tumbled into insolvency on Monday evening, casting a shadow over its own 13,000 workers and 444 stores. Published: 01/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Ireland eases out of second lockdown

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Ireland eases out of second lockdown Some non-essential retail and other businesses are reopening to the public as Ireland eases out of its second lockdown. A Government decision to lift Level 5 restrictions will also see the hair and beauty industry and gyms and leisure centres open their doors after six weeks of closures. Restaurants and pubs that serve food will remain shut until Friday in line with the Government’s plans to reopen on a phased basis. As Covid-19 restrictions ease country-wide, health chiefs have issued warnings not to gather in crowded areas. Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan also said that office Christmas parties should not be happening and pointed out the link between infection and socialisation while urging people to reduce their number of contacts. He said alcohol has been “a very significant common factor in a lot of the kinds of social experiences in which transmission has occurred”. HSE boss Paul Reid said on Tuesday morning that the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital has come down to 222, with 30 people in ICU. Mr Reid tweeted: “Today, as society and the economy opens up, let’s all take precautions to value and protect into December the great progress that we’ve made. “We all want to open up and stay safe.” Gardai will also scale back many of their check points as the country moves from Level 5 to Level 3. The fixed checkpoints on motorway and dual carriageway routes will no longer be in place. However, under Operation Fanacht more than 100 checkpoints will remain in place on main routes to monitor inter-county travel. Gardai said there will also be patrols that will focus on the night-time economy. As restrictions are eased, wedding guests and mourners at funerals will be limited to 25 while no organised indoors events are permitted. Gatherings of up to 15 people are allowed outdoors, while non-contact training may take place outdoors and in pods of 15, while individual training is permitted indoors. Gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools were reopening for individual training from Tuesday. Hotels, B&Bs and non-essential retail were also resuming trading. People are still being urged to work from home and public transport is limited to 50%. People have also been advised to stay within their own county. Places of worship, museums, galleries, libraries and cinemas will also reopen, but wet pubs are closed except for takeaways. The Government has also recommended that the public should wear face coverings in crowded places. Published: 01/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Boris Johnson faces Tory revolt over new Covid controls

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Boris Johnson faces Tory revolt over new Covid controls The Prime Minister is braced for a damaging Tory rebellion as MPs vote on a new toughened system of tiered coronavirus controls for England. The Government is expected to win today's Commons vote on the new rules – which are due to come into effect the following day – after Labour said it would abstain. Sir Keir Starmer – who has previously backed Government measures – said while his party had “serious misgivings” it would not be in the national interest to vote them down when the virus still posed a “serious risk”. However, with scores of Conservative MPs deeply unhappy at the extent of the restrictions, the vote is likely to throw Tory divisions into sharp relief. Many backbenchers are furious their constituencies face stricter controls than before the latest lockdown which ends on Wednesday. At a No 10 news conference on Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he hoped some areas could be moved into lower tiers when the restrictions come up for their first fortnightly review on December 16. But scientists advising the Government have made clear they see little scope for any widespread easing before Christmas. It could mean most areas of England will go into the new year in one of the toughest two tiers with a ban on households mixing indoors and strict controls on the hospitality sector. Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have been designated for the lightest Tier 1 restrictions. Meanwhile, the Government said a rapid coronavirus test that gives results in 20 minutes has been confirmed as having high sensitivity to the virus. An evaluation carried out by NHS trusts and universities found the OptiGene RT-Lamp test to be effective in identifying infectious cases, including for people not displaying symptoms, in contrast to a report by the Guardian earlier this month claiming the test identified only 46.7% of infections during a trial in Manchester and Salford. It comes as the head of operations for the mass community testing programme, General Sir Gordon Messenger, said the scheme may not be able to reach areas in Tier 3 until “January and beyond”. The Government said a further 205 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday, bringing the UK total to 58,448. On Monday the Government published its promised impact assessment of the health, economic, and social effects of the pandemic and its tiered approach. But while it acknowledged there would be “significant costs” to individuals, society and the economy, it said the consequences for public health in allowing the virus to run unchecked would be “much worse”. It said that without strong measures in place, the R number – the rate of reproduction of the virus – was likely to rise significantly above 1, leaving the NHS unable to cope. However Mark Harper, chairman of the Covid Research Group of Tory MPs opposed to tougher restrictions, said the document acknowledged the “precise size and duration” of any breach in the capacity of the NHS to cope was “not possible to predict”. There was frustration among MPs that the analysis did not include a detailed breakdown of the effects of the measures on different sectors of the economy – particularly hospitality, which has been among the hardest hit. Some relief was offered for drinkers hoping to get around restrictions in Tier 2, with Cabinet minister George Eustice saying that ordering a Scotch egg with a pint would constitute a “substantial meal” under the rules which will only allow alcohol to be served with food in Tier 2 areas from Wednesday. And the minister responsible for the rollout of a vaccine said it would be not be compulsory to receive an injection but pubs and restaurants could demand to know if a customer has received a coronavirus jab before permitting entry. Asked whether people who get the Covid-19 jab will receive some kind of “immunity passport” to show they have been vaccinated, Nadhim Zahawi told the BBC: “We are looking at the technology. “I think you’ll probably find that restaurants and bars and cinemas and other venues, sports venues, will probably also use that system – as they have done with the (test and trace) app.” Such a regime could result in people without the vaccine facing severe restrictions. Mr Zahawi said: “I think people have to make a decision. “But I think you’ll probably find many service providers will want to engage with this in the way they did with the app.” Published: 01/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

When will the Covid 19 tiers be reviewed and how are they decided

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When will the Covid-19 tiers be reviewed and how are they decided? MPs are due to vote later today on a tougher tier system in England to follow when the second national lockdown ends on December 2. The three-tier approach would see 99% of the country placed in the two highest levels of restrictions. But when will the restrictions be reviewed and what will be considered when deciding an area’s tier? – How many people are to face tough restrictions? More than 55 million people will be placed into Tier 2 and Tier 3 measures on December 2, meaning mixing between households indoors will effectively be banned for the vast majority of the country. Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly – accounting for little more than 1% of England’s population – face the lightest Tier 1 coronavirus restrictions. Large swathes of the Midlands, North East and North West are in the most restrictive Tier 3, which accounts for 41.5% of the population, or 23.3 million people. The majority of authorities – including London – will be in Tier 2, which will cover 57.3% of the country, or 32 million people. – What are the key indicators that will primarily determine the restrictions in each area? Five factors are considered: – case detection rates in all age groups; – case detection rates in the over-60s; – the rate at which cases are rising or falling; – the positivity rate – the number of positive cases detected as a percentage of tests taken; – Pressure on the NHS, including current and projected occupancy. – Why are there not rigid thresholds? The Government has said it needs to maintain flexibility to weigh the indicators against each other – such as whether hospital capacity in neighbouring areas is lower. Another example given in the coronavirus winter plan is that case detection rates would need to be weighed against whether the spread of the virus is localised to particular communities. The plan states “given these sensitivities, it is not possible to set rigid thresholds for these indicators, as doing so would result in poorer quality decisions”. – Is there widespread support for the tier system? A number of the PM’s Conservative colleagues have been openly critical of the three-tier system. But the Government is expected to win Tuesday’s Commons vote on the new rules – which are due to come into effect the following day – after Labour said it would abstain. Sir Keir Starmer – who has previously backed Government measures – said while his party had “serious misgivings” it would not be in the national interest to vote them down when the virus still posed a “serious risk”. – If the vote is won and the tier system comes into effect, when can any changes be made to it? The first review of the tiers is set for December 16. Mr Johnson has said the allocation of tiers will be reviewed every 14 days from that date and suggested mass testing could make households exempt from restrictions. He also said that at the first review of the measures in mid-December he would move areas down a tier where there is “robust evidence” that coronavirus is in sustained decline. He has written to Tory MPs offering them another chance to vote on the restrictions early next year, saying the legislation will have a “sunset of February 3”. That vote after Christmas will determine whether the tier system stays in place until the end of March. – What are the scientists saying about the prospect of easing measures? Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, said it would be a “terrible mistake” to relax restrictions just months before vaccines “start to have an effect”. Prof Openshaw, who is a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said: “We scientists are very concerned indeed about relaxation of precautions at this stage. The rates are still too high, there’s too many cases coming into hospitals, too many people dying. “And if we take the brakes off at this stage, just when the end is in sight, I think we would be making a huge mistake.” Published: 01/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Lewis Hamilton to miss Sakhir Grand Prix after testing positive for coronavirus

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Lewis Hamilton to miss Sakhir Grand Prix after testing positive for coronavirus Lewis Hamilton will miss this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain after testing positive for coronavirus. The seven-time Formula One world champion is in isolation after his positive result. An F1 statement said: “The FIA, Formula One and Mercedes Team can today confirm that during mandatory pre-race PRC testing for the Sakhir Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton has tested positive for Covid-19. “In accordance with Covid-19 protocols, he is now isolating. All contacts have been declared. The procedures set out by the FIA and Formula One will ensure no wider impact on this weekend’s event.” Hamilton’s Mercedes team said Hamilton, 35, reported “mild symptoms” on the morning following Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix where he claimed his 11th win of the season. “Lewis was tested three times last week and returned a negative result each time, the last of which was on Sunday afternoon at the Bahrain International Circuit as part of the standard race weekend testing programme,” a statement from the Formula One team read. “However, he woke up on Monday morning with mild symptoms and was informed at the same time that a contact prior to his arrival in Bahrain had subsequently tested positive. “Lewis therefore took a further test and returned a positive result. This has since been confirmed by a retest.” The Mercedes statement continued: “Lewis is now isolating in accordance with Covid-19 protocols and public health guidelines in Bahrain. “Apart from mild symptoms, he is otherwise fit and well, and the entire team sends him its very best wishes for a swift recovery.” Hamilton, who wrapped up his record-equalling seventh world championship in Turkey last month, is the third driver to have contracted the illness. Sergio Perez missed the British and 70th Anniversary Grands Prix at Silverstone in August, while his Racing Point team-mate Lance Stroll also tested positive following October’s Eifel Grand Prix in Germany. Sunday’s race will be the first Hamilton has missed since his debut at the 2007 season-opening race in Australia. Mercedes have yet to confirm who will replace the Englishman for Sunday’s grand prix on the Outer Loop of the Bahrain International Circuit. Mercedes reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne, formerly of McLaren, is in the running, while the world champions could also turn to British driver George Russell. Russell, 22, is in his second season with Williams, but is a member of the Mercedes junior driver programme. Published: 01/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

No last minute rescue deal for Arcadia Group report

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No last-minute rescue deal for Arcadia Group – report Plans for an emergency multimillion-pound loan to Sir Philip Green’s struggling Arcadia Group have reportedly fallen through. Sir Philip’s retail empire, which includes the Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Burton brands, has been revealed to be on the brink of collapse with around 15,000 jobs at risk. Senior sources at the company have told the BBC they do not expect a last-minute rescue deal, which had been flagged by Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group. Arcadia Group will enter administration on Monday, the broadcaster said, with Deloitte to be appointed as administrators in the coming days. The offer from Frasers Group, which runs Sports Direct and House of Fraser, amounts to a £50 million loan, Mr Ashley’s company confirmed. Frasers Group said: “The company can confirm that it has made an offer and provided draft terms to the Arcadia Group for a loan of up to £50 million and is now awaiting a substantive response. “Should the Company and the Arcadia Group’s efforts to agree an emergency funding package fail and the Arcadia Group enter into administration, the company would be interested in participating in any sale process.” Sky News quoted Chris Wootton, Frasers’ chief financial officer, as saying: “We hope that Sir Philip Green and the Arcadia Group will contact us today to discuss how we can support them and help save as many jobs as possible.” Arcadia had been in emergency talks with lenders in a bid to secure a £30 million loan to help shore up its finances. If the insolvency is confirmed, it is expected to trigger a scramble among creditors to get control of company assets. It is the latest retailer to have been hammered by the closure of stores in the face of coronavirus, with rivals including Debenhams, Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group and Oasis Warehouse all sliding into insolvency since the pandemic struck in March. The group has more than 500 retail stores across the UK with the majority of these currently shut as a result of England’s second national lockdown, which will end next week. Earlier this year, Arcadia revealed plans to cut around 500 of its 2,500 head office jobs amid a restructure in the face of the coronavirus crisis. Published: 30/11/2020 by Radio NewsHub

What are the latest coronavirus restrictions around the UK

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What are the latest coronavirus restrictions around the UK? Large swathes of England face the toughest lockdown restrictions of the tier-based system from December 2, but different rules are in place across the four nations of the UK. This is the current picture in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. – England Much of the Midlands, North East and North West will be in the most restrictive Tier 3, meaning a ban on households mixing, except in limited circumstances such as parks, while bars and restaurants will be limited to takeaway or delivery services and people will be advised to avoid travelling outside their area. The majority of England will be in Tier 2 – including London and Liverpool – where the restrictions mean a ban on households mixing indoors, and pubs and restaurants only able to sell alcohol with a “substantial meal”. Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly will be placed in the lowest Tier 1 set of restrictions. A vote on the new tier system is due to take place in Parliament on Tuesday. – Northern Ireland From November 27, pubs, restaurants, non-essential retail and close contact services had to shut for two weeks to help curb the spread of the virus. Many businesses across Northern Ireland had only just opened up again following a circuit-breaker lockdown. Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said the decision on further restrictions was “difficult but right”, while the hospitality sector is seeking assurances from Stormont that it can reopen on December 11. – Wales Further national restrictions will come into effect across Wales this week after a steady rise in infection rates – especially among the under-25s – since a 17-day “firebreak” ended on November 9. Cinemas, bowling alleys and other indoor entertainment venues will close and new rules will be introduced for the hospitality industry on Friday. But the new restrictions will not apply to non-essential retail, hairdressers, gyms and leisure centres. – Scotland The toughest coronavirus restrictions in Scotland have been imposed on 11 council areas. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that moving parts of west and central Scotland from Level 3 to Level 4 for three weeks was “unpalatable but necessary” as infections remained “stubbornly and worryingly high”. The restrictions mean that non-essential shops, hospitality, gyms and beauty salons are among the businesses forced to close in these areas until December 11. Published: 30/11/2020 by Radio NewsHub