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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Homeless deaths rise for fifth year in a row new data shows

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Homeless deaths rise for fifth year in a row, new data shows The number of people dying while homeless in England and Wales has risen for the fifth year in a row, new data shows. Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that there were an estimated 778 deaths of homeless people in England and Wales registered in 2019. This is an increase of 7.2% from 2018 when there were 726 estimated deaths and the highest number since the data series began in 2013. The number of estimated deaths of homeless people has increased each year from 2014 when there were 475, the data shows. Shelter’s chief executive Polly Neate said the figures showed how dangerous homelessness and rough sleeping can be even before the coronavirus outbreak. She added: “No one should die on the streets or in a temporary bed in a hostel. “It is awful to think so many people spent their final moments without a safe home in 2019. “These figures show how incredibly dangerous homelessness, and especially rough sleeping can be, even before we had a deadly pandemic to deal with. “Coronavirus has made the streets even more dangerous. “At the start of lockdown in March thousands of people were offered accommodation, but with the economic fallout of the crisis resulting in thousands of job losses, many people will be facing the trauma of homelessness this winter. “These are not just statistics, they are real people who have tragically lost their lives during a nationwide housing emergency. “Today, it is important we remember them and we use this terrible loss as a catalyst for positive change.” London and the north-west had the highest numbers of deaths in 2019 with 144 and 126 estimated deaths of homeless people respectively. This compares to 28 estimated deaths of homeless people in the north-east and 33 in Wales. The ONS data, published on Monday, also found that 37.1% of the estimated deaths were related to drug poisoning, while suicides among homeless people increased by 30.2% from 86 estimated deaths in 2018 to 112 in 2019. Most of the deaths in 2019 were among men with 687 estimated deaths (88.3%). Among homeless people the mean age at death was 45.9 years for males and 43.4 years for females in 2019, compared to 76.1 years for men and 80.9 years for women in the general population of England and Wales, the ONS said. Published: 14/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Supreme Court substantially allows FCA appeal on coronavirus insurance claims

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Supreme Court ‘substantially allows’ FCA appeal on coronavirus insurance claims The Supreme Court has “substantially allowed” an appeal brought by the Financial Conduct Authority in a landmark £1.2 billion legal battle over businesses’ ability to claim on insurance for coronavirus-related disruption. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) last year brought a test case, which could affect around 370,000 businesses, over the wording of business interruption insurance policies, which some insurers argued did not cover the Covid-19 pandemic. The City watchdog previously said it was bringing the legal action following “widespread concern” over “the lack of clarity and certainty” for businesses seeking to cover substantial losses incurred by the pandemic and subsequent national lockdown. In September, the High Court ruled on several “lead” insurance policies issued by eight separate insurers largely in favour of the FCA, which welcomed the judgment as “a significant step in resolving the uncertainty being faced by policyholders”. The regulator, however, argued the judgment “paved the way for many insurance policies to pay indemnities on Covid-19 business interruption claims”, but also “took something away with one hand after giving more substantially and in detail with the other”. Six of the insurers – Arch, Argenta, Hiscox, MS Amlin, QBE and RSA – also appealed against aspects of the High Court’s ruling, as did the Hiscox Action Group, which represents around 400 businesses insured by Hiscox. In November, the UK’s highest court heard “leapfrog” appeals – which have bypassed the Court of Appeal – in a case which could have implications for hundreds of thousands of businesses affected by coronavirus. Announcing the Supreme Court’s ruling on Friday, Lord Hamblen said: “The appeals of the Financial Conduct Authority and the Hiscox Action Group are substantially allowed and the insurers’ appeals are dismissed.” Published: 15/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Prime Minister urges people to have a smaller safer Christmas due to Covid fears

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** Prime Minister urges people to have a ‘smaller, safer Christmas’ due to Covid fears ** People will be left to make their own judgments on whether Christmas celebrations are worth the risk, with warnings to avoid elderly relatives and a recommendation to isolate in the run-up to the festive period. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it would be “inhuman” to ban Christmas entirely and confirmed the festive bubble policy allowing households to mix would remain in place despite warnings it will lead to more deaths. But he said people should “think hard” about what they do and a “smaller Christmas is going to be a safer Christmas”. The original UK-wide plans would have seen three households allowed to form a festive bubble between December 23 and 27. But despite efforts to maintain a four-nations approach, Wales will legislate to restrict mixing to two households and all parts of the UK are issuing tougher guidance. At a Downing Street press conference the Prime Minister: – Stressed that the three households, five days provisions were “maximums, not a target to aim for”; – Suggested that from Friday people mixing with others over Christmas should effectively isolate by reducing their contacts to the “lowest possible”; – Said people should not travel from a high-prevalence to a low-prevalence area; – Urged people to avoid staying away from home overnight where possible; – Suggested people should avoid seeing elderly relatives until they have been vaccinated. The Government said a further 612 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday, bringing the UK total to 65,520. Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies for deaths where Covid-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days, show there have now been 81,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK. The Government said that, as of 9am on Wednesday, there had been a further 25,161 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK. It brings the total number of cases in the UK to 1,913,277. The Prime Minister admitted the coronavirus situation had deteriorated since the festive bubble rules were set by the four nations of the UK as the Government issued updated guidance for what has been dubbed the “Christmas window”. Mr Johnson said: “While it would not be right, we think, to criminalise people who have made plans and simply want to spend time with their loved ones, we’re collectively – across the UK governments at every level – asking you to think hard, and in detail about the days ahead.” He said the laws were remaining the same but “a smaller Christmas is going to be a safer Christmas and a shorter Christmas is a safer Christmas”. He added: “Have yourselves a merry little Christmas – and I’m afraid this year I do mean little. “But with the vaccine, and all the other measures that we are taking, we do know that things will be better in this country by Easter.” England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said modelling indicated the looser restrictions would lead to more deaths. “Any kind of period where people come together in groups that otherwise wouldn’t meet leads to an increase in risks and that will lead to an increase in hospitalisations and deaths,” he said. He suggested it was not worth the risk of meeting the “most vulnerable” until they have been vaccinated. “We are tantalisingly close to the stage where anybody who gets into trouble as a result of actions this Christmas would have been protected in the very near future,” he said. “It is very important people think about that when they make decisions over the next few weeks.” Prof Whitty said his advice for Christmas was: “Keep it small, keep it short, keep it local and think of the most vulnerable people.” The new guidance on Christmas came after talks involving the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove. Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford set out his decision to deviate from the previously agreed approach. He said: “Here in Wales, the position is that only two households should come together to form an exclusive Christmas bubble during the five-day period. “The fewer people we mix with in our homes, the less chance we have of catching or spreading the virus.” The price of the relaxed restrictions will be a tougher lockdown in Wales from December 28. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The safest way to spend Christmas this year for you and for those you love is to stay within your own household and your own home. “My strong recommendation is this is what you should do if at all possible.” In Northern Ireland, First Minister Arlene Foster said the public must take “all and every precaution” at Christmas and proposals for further restrictions will be brought forward on Thursday. Ministers hope that the rollout of a vaccine and improved testing availability will help life return to something closer to normal in the spring. The first vaccination figures showed almost 138,000 people in the UK have received the jab so far. The Government has been under intense pressure to scale down Christmas plans because of fears about a surge in cases, particularly given the experience in the US since Thanksgiving in November. Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, said the easing was a “bad idea” and that people needed to be “incredibly cautious”. “I think, to avoid the preventable deaths that we’re going to have in January as a result of this, we shouldn’t be doing it, but if we do do it then I think we need to do it in the most modest way possible,” she told BBC Breakfast. The focus on Christmas arrangements came as around 10.8 million more people began living under England’s toughest restrictions as London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire moved into Tier 3. With 61% of England’s population now living under the strictest measures, ministers are due to formally review which tiers are appropriate for each area. Health Secretary Matt Hancock will set out the new allocations on Thursday. Published: 16/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Judge rejects US request to extradite Julian Assange

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Judge rejects US request to extradite Julian Assange WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has won his fight to avoid extradition to the United States. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said at the Old Bailey that, due to the real risk of suicide, the 49-year-old should not be extradited by “reason of mental health”. Assange, who sat in the dock of Court 2 in a blue suit and wearing a green face mask below his nose, closed his eyes as the judge read out her ruling. He is not expected to be freed from high-security Belmarsh Prison immediately as the US government are likely to appeal, but he can make a fresh application for bail. Assange is wanted to face an 18-count indictment, alleging a plot to hack computers and a conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information. The case follows WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents in 2010 and 2011 relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, as well as diplomatic cables. Prosecutors say Assange helped US defence analyst Chelsea Manning breach the Espionage Act in unlawfully obtaining material, was complicit in hacking by others, and published classified information that put the lives of US informants in danger. Assange denies plotting with Manning to crack an encrypted password on US Department of Defence computers and says there is no evidence that anyone’s safety was put at risk. His legal team argued that the prosecution is political and said Assange, who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and severe depression, is a high suicide risk if he is extradited. In her judgment, Judge Baraitser referred to Assange’s mental state. She said that “facing conditions of near total isolation” in US custody, she was satisfied that authorities there would not be able to prevent Assange from “finding a way to commit suicide”. Assange’s lawyers had said he faced up to 175 years in jail if convicted, although the US government said the sentence was more likely to be between four and six years. Published: 04/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub

New Years Eve activity breaks WhatsApp records

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New Year’s Eve activity breaks WhatsApp records New Year’s Eve 2020 was the busiest day ever for voice and video calls on WhatsApp, the messaging app has said. Facebook, which owns the platforms, said it also saw a spike in group video calling on Messenger and in live broadcasts on Instagram and the native Facebook app. According to the social network, more than 1.4 billion voice and video calls were made on WhatsApp on December 31, which the company confirmed was the highest number of calls in single day. On Messenger, twice as many group video calls were made compared with a normal day on the service, and 55 million live broadcasts on Facebook and Instagram were also registered as users flocked to share New Year with others. The coronavirus pandemic and ongoing lockdown restrictions around the world meant New Year celebrations were notably more muted than in previous years as people stayed at home instead of joining large gatherings. Throughout the pandemic, Facebook said it has seen significant increases in video calling as users looked to stay in touch with friends and family while social distancing measures have been in place. Caitlin Banford, technical program manager at Facebook, said: “Before Covid-19, New Year’s Eve generated Facebook’s biggest spikes in messaging, photo uploads and social sharing at midnight across the world. “However, in March 2020, the early days of the pandemic produced traffic spikes that would dwarf New Year’s Eve several times over – and it lasted for months. “Behind the scenes, Facebook Engineering came together to drive unprecedented efficiency improvements and make our infrastructure more resilient. This work includes load testing, disaster recovery testing and shuffling capacity. “This year, New Year’s Eve looked a lot different, and we had engineering teams across Facebook’s apps, ready to support any issue, so the world could ring in 2021.” Published: 04/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub

US Senate resumes debating GOP challenge to Joe Bidens election

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US Senate resumes debating GOP challenge to Joe Biden’s election The Senate has resumed debating the Republican challenge against Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential election victory, more than six hours after pro-Trump mobs attacked the Capitol and forced lawmakers to flee. Scores of Republican representatives and 13 GOP senators had planned to object on Wednesday to the electoral votes of perhaps six states that backed Mr Biden. President Donald Trump has falsely insisted that the election was marred by fraud and that he actually won. He reiterated those claims in remarks to thousands of protesters outside the White House early on Wednesday and goaded them to march to the Capitol, which many of them did. The mayhem had forced the House and Senate to abruptly end the day’s debates and flee to safety under the protection of police. And it prompted bipartisan outrage as many lawmakers blamed Mr Trump for fostering the violence. As the Senate reconvened, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said President Donald Trump “bears a great deal of the blame” for the actions of the mob, adding the events “did not happen spontaneously”. Mr Schumer also said January 6, 2021, will “live forever in infamy” and will be a stain on the democracy. He said: “The president, who promoted conspiracy theories that motivated these thugs, the president, who exhorted them to come to our nation’s capital, egged them on.” House speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress’ certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s election win will show the world it will not back down. She said: “Despite the shameful actions of today … we will be part of a history that shows the world what America is made of.” Multiple Republican senators have reversed course and now say they will not object to congressional certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Senators Steve Daines of Montana, Mike Braun of Indiana and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia all said in light of the violence they would stand down from planned objections to Mr Biden’s win. Ms Loeffler said that the “violence, the lawlessness, and siege of the halls of Congress” were a “direct attack” on the “sanctity of the American democratic process”. All three had previously signed on to Mr Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud to explain his defeat. Both the Senate and the House voted overwhelmingly to reject an objection to Mr Biden’s win in Arizona. Other objections to results from Georgia, Michigan and Nevada fizzled without adequate support from senators. An objection to Pennsylvania backed by Republican senators Josh Hawley and Scott Perry forced deliberations, though senators quickly derailed the attempt to overturn the state’s support for the Democrat. Published: 07/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Key points from Boris Johnsons lockdown announcement

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Key points from Boris Johnson’s lockdown announcement The Prime Minister has set out further measures as part of a lockdown in a bid to halt the spread of coronavirus - Here are the key points from Boris Johnson’s address to the nation: – People will only be allowed to leave their house for limited reasons Mr Johnson said residents can leave their homes for shopping for necessities such as food and medicine, but only as infrequently as possible. Exercise will be allowed – preferably limited to once a day – with members of your household or support bubble or one other person from another household, such as if going for a walk or run. People will be able to go to work if it is impossible to work from home, such as those working in the construction sector or who are critical workers. All others must work from home. Cleaners and other tradespeople will still be able to work in people’s homes. – The lockdown is expected to stay in place until the middle of February and police will have enforcement powers The lockdown comes into force immediately and is expected to go on until the middle of February. The start of the February school half-term is scheduled for the middle of the month. – All schools will move to remote learning All primary and secondary schools and colleges will move to remote learning, except for the children of keyworkers or vulnerable children. Early years settings such as nurseries and childminders can remain open, and existing childcare bubbles will be allowed to stay in place. University students will not be allowed to return to campus and will be expected to study from their current residence. In-person university teaching will only take place for a small number of critical courses. – Churches can stay open Places of worship can remain open for individual prayers and communal worship, but people should only visit with their household or support bubble. Weddings, civil partnership ceremonies and funerals are allowed with strict limits on attendance. – Shops will close in all areas All non-essential shops, hairdressers and personal care venues must close. Supermarkets, builders’ merchants and garden centres can stay open. Restaurants and other hospitality venues can continue delivery or takeaway, but people will not be able to add alcohol to that order. – Those who shield should not go to work Those who are clinically vulnerable and who were previously told to shield should stay at home and only leave for medical appointments and exercise. They are advised not to go to work even if they cannot work from home. – Playgrounds will remain open But outdoor gyms, tennis courts and golf courses must close, and outdoor team sports will not be permitted. Premier League and other elite sports that already have in place strict testing regimes and their own bubbles will be allowed to continue. Published: 04/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Intensive care risks being overwhelmed as UK tops 100000 Covid related deaths

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Intensive care ‘risks being overwhelmed’ as UK tops 100,000 Covid-related deaths Boris Johnson made the comments in his appearance at the Commons Liaison Committee Boris Johnson has admitted that hospital intensive care units face being overwhelmed unless coronavirus rates are brought under control. The Prime Minister said there was a “very substantial” risk that ICUs would be unable to cope if numbers kept increasing. Mr Johnson’s stark warning came as the daily reported death toll reached a new high, with 1,564 fatalities recorded within 28 days of a positive test. The latest figures mean the grim milestone of more than 100,000 deaths involving coronavirus has now been passed in the UK, according to official data. Published: 13/01/2021 by Radio NewsHub

Tier 3 coronavirus curbs to cover almost 40 million from Saturday

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Tier 3 coronavirus curbs to cover almost 40 million from Saturday More than two-thirds of England’s population will be living under Tier 3 restrictions from Saturday amid rising concern about the spread of coronavirus in the run-up to Christmas. Health Secretary Matt Hancock placed large parts of southern and eastern England into the top tier and dashed hopes in northern regions of an easing of restrictions. Mr Hancock told MPs he regretted having to impose the curbs but “there is a strong view right across Government that these actions are necessary”. Under Tier 3 conditions pubs and restaurants can only offer takeaway or delivery services and indoor entertainment venues are shut. Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Peterborough, Hertfordshire, Surrey (with the exception of Waverley), Hastings and Rother (on the Kent border of East Sussex), and Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant in Hampshire will all move into Tier 3. The changes mean a total of 38 million people will be living in Tier 3 from Saturday – 68% of the population of England. The little good news came for Bristol and North Somerset, which will move from Tier 3 to Tier 2. Herefordshire will go down into Tier 1, although the county’s public health director raised concerns about the relaxation of measures there. The announcements added to unease on the Tory benches about the Government’s response to the pandemic. Tory MP Stephen McPartland said it was “ridiculous” and “totally unacceptable” that his Stevenage seat was “being dragged into Tier 3”. Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers and a Greater Manchester MP, questioned what more the region could do to get out of Tier 3. “The statement will be greeted with dismay in Greater Manchester where we have had severe restrictions for nine months – where in nine of the 10 boroughs rates are below the national average,” he said. Former minister Steve Baker, the deputy chair of the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown-sceptic Conservatives, said: “After a full and damaging national lockdown, millions more people and businesses across the country are heading into tougher restrictions. “The Government must urgently clarify what the criteria are for moving areas between, and especially down, the tiers.” The latest areas to join Tier 3 come after London and parts of Hertfordshire and Essex were placed under the top level of restrictions earlier this week. Covid-19 case rates are rising in all but one region of England, according to the latest weekly surveillance report from Public Health England. The highest rate is in London, which stood at 319.3 cases per 100,000 people in the week to December 13, up from 199.9 in the previous week. In eastern England the rate has risen from 152.9 to 249.1, while in south-east England the rate has increased from 167.6 to 238.7. The only region that recorded a week-on-week fall was Yorkshire and the Humber, where the rate dropped slightly from 153.6 to 148.5. Mr Hancock said: “I regret having to take the action that we have to take. “I deem it necessary and there is a strong view right across Government that these actions are necessary.” He urged people to take “personal responsibility” for their actions to help curb the spread of the virus. The cautious approach to the tiering arrangements comes after warnings that the relaxation of measures between December 23 and 27 could lead to increased cases and deaths. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told reporters that he was concerned the tier system was “just not strong enough to control the virus”. Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said he was “not surprised but very disappointed” to remain in Tier 3. “It feels like if the North has rising cases, the North goes under restrictions; if London and the south-east has rising cases, everyone stays under restrictions,” he told BBC Radio 4’s World at One. Mr Hancock said the Government “looked very closely” at the area but there continues to be “significant pressure” on the NHS in the north-west. Herefordshire’s acting director of public health, Dr Rebecca Howell-Jones, raised concerns about the county’s move to Tier 1. “I think the relaxation of the rules now, just ahead of the Christmas mixing and the further relaxation that is inevitably going to result in more infections. It feels like it is too soon,” she told BBC Radio 4’s World at One. Gerald Vernon-Jackson, the Liberal Democrat leader of Portsmouth City Council, said the decision to put the Hampshire city into Tier 3 was “bizarre” when other authorities that required care provided by the city’s Queen Alexandra Hospital had not been moved up. Meanwhile ministers in Northern Ireland agreed to introduce a six-week lockdown from Boxing Day to curb rising cases. The Stormont Executive agreed to close non-essential retail and contact services, as well as restricting the hospitality sector to takeaway only, with an overarching message to the public to stay at home. Christmas relaxations will not be affected with up to three households still able to mix between December 23 and 27, while travel to and from Northern Ireland is also permitted on December 22 and 28. In other developments: – A further 532 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 and as of 9am there were a further 35,383 confirmed cases, including 11,000 from Wales which were not recorded in official figures between December 9 and 15 due to a computer glitch. – The Government announced that the return to class of secondary school and college pupils’ in England will be staggered in the first week of January to allow headteachers to roll out mass testing of children and staff. – Hospitals were showing signs of pressure, with Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust postponing some non-urgent operations and London’s Barts Health NHS Trust deferring some routine procedures. – Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board became the third in Wales to suspend non-urgent care, saying pressure had increased on services in Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil in the last week as the equivalent of almost four people acquired the virus every 10 minutes. – The furlough scheme was extended for an extra month until the end of April with Government loan schemes extended two months until the end of March in a sign that ministers fears the economy will still need support into the spring. Published: 18/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub

Ireland to re enter Level 5 restrictions for at least a month

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Ireland to re-enter Level 5 restrictions for at least a month Plans have been announced by the Taoiseach, Micheal Martin Ireland will face Level 5 coronavirus restrictions for at least a month, the Taoiseach has announced. In an address to the nation Micheal Martin described the state of the pandemic as “extremely serious”. Rising case numbers will “deteriorate further over the coming days”, he warned as he announced the measures. This will include a ban on visitors in private homes or gardens unless they are providing care to children or the elderly or vulnerable, or part of a support bubble. No social or family gatherings in any setting will be permitted, with an exemption for weddings with up to six guests, and funerals with up to 10 mourners. Published: 30/12/2020 by Radio NewsHub