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Boris Johnson set to announce new Covid restrictions later today

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce fresh Covid restrictions in a meeting later on today.

Whitehall officials have told the Financial Times that the government is planning on implementing ‘Plan B’,  which includes the requirement of vaccine passports for large venues and an order to work from home.

It is understood that the new rules will be discussed in a Cabinet meeting this afternoon and then announced at a televised press conference at 5.30pm.

The decision comes amid concerns of the spread of the new Omicron variant, despite a Sage scientist recently stressing that the variant is ‘not a disaster’, and that ‘some people may be ‘hugely overstating the situation’.

Microbiologist Prof Calum Semple says vaccines are ‘still likely to protect you from severe disease’, telling BBC Breakfast: “This is not a disaster, and the headlines from some of my colleagues saying ‘this is horrendous’ I think are hugely overstating the situation.

“Immunity from the vaccination is still likely to protect you from severe disease. You might get a snuffle or a headache or a filthy cold but your chance of coming into hospital or intensive care or sadly dying are greatly diminished by the vaccine and still will be going into the future.”

Alternatively, a number of sources have insinuated that the new rules could merely be a distraction tactic from the Downing Street Christmas party scandal.

A damning video obtained by ITV News shows the Prime Minister’s former spokesperson Allegra Stratton on December 22nd last year being quizzed about a rumoured Christmas party, to which she laughed and joked about it instead being a ‘business meeting’ with no social distancing.

Laughing and gesturing to the camera, Stratton says: “This is recorded … This fictional party was a business meeting and it was not socially distanced.”

Prime ministerial adviser Ed Oldfield could also be seen sitting in the audience, laughing and pointing out that it ‘wasn’t a party… It was cheese and wine.’

Since the footage went viral, people across the nation have been reacting in horror, particularly those from Greater Manchester, who were living under strict Tier 3 restrictions at the time. 

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham tweeted simply: “To think of all the sacrifices they asked people in Greater Manchester to make.”

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Hunt is on for mystery National Lottery winner in Greater Manchester

Could it be you?

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The National Lottery / YouTube & Mariam Antadze / Pexels

The National Lottery is on the hunt for the missing winner of its Set For Life draw in Greater Manchester.

Lottery players in the city-region are being urged to check their tickets and claim their 10k-a-month prize for a whole year.

The search is now on to find the owner of the ticket – which was bought in Greater Manchester – who matched the five main numbers in the National Lottery Set For Life draw on February 5th.

The National Lottery / YouTube

The winning numbers on that date were: 3, 4, 8, 10, 28 and the Life Ball was 1.

But the lucky ticket-holder needs to act fast as they only have until August 3rd of this year to claim their prize. The missing winner, or winners if played as part of a syndicate, could be celebrating in style or jetting off on a luxury vacation now.

Andy Carter, Senior Winners Advisor at The National Lottery said: “If you bought a Set For Life ticket in Manchester for the draw on February 5th, it’s time to look everywhere – in the pockets of clothes you might have been wearing at the time, bags, in the car, wallets and purses and in that sideboard or drawer where we all tend to put bits and pieces – and check your tickets.

The National Lottery / YouTube

“Do you live or work in Manchester, do you have family and friends there who you were visiting or were you just passing through?

“We’re desperate to find this mystery ticket-holder and pay out their life-changing prize – imagine the possibilities for them for the next year.

“We have the champagne on ice and our fingers crossed that the lucky winner comes forward to claim their win.”

The National Lottery / YouTube

To help jog the memories of National Lottery players, here’s was happening in Manchester at the time the ticket was purchased: The day before the draw, Manchester United recorded a 3-0 home win against West Ham United while on February 5th, Manchester City travelled to Brentford and returned with all three points after a 3-1 win.

Players can buy and check their tickets online by downloading the National Lottery app or by visiting national-lottery.co.uk.

Anyone not in possession of their ticket, for whatever reason, but who believes they have a genuine claim to the prize can still write to Allwyn, as long as it is within 30 days of the draw.

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Constance Marten told to say baby died of cot death as tragic details revealed in court

The couple deny all charges

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Greater Manchester Police

Constance Marten’s partner, Mark Gordon, told her to say the baby was a victim of cot death, the Old Bailey has heard.

On Monday (February 19th) jurors were played more of a police interview with Ms Marten, recorded on March 1st last year, just hours after her baby’s body was found in a shed in Brighton.

Marten, 36, and Gordon, 49, went on the run with their newborn daughter Victoria after their car caught flames and was abandoned by the motorway in Bolton in January 2023.

Fire crews recovering the vehicle discovered evidence of a birth in the back seat of the car.

Greater Manchester Police

As reported by the BBC, the court heard how the couple slept in a tent as they evaded authorities, in a bid to keep the baby after Marten’s four other children had been taken into care.

The jury heard Marten tell officers in the interview that she had considered handing herself in to police a couple of weeks after Victoria had died.

The couple are accused of her manslaughter by gross negligence – both deny the charge.

Marten told Gordon to say he was not present when their baby died because she wanted to protect him, ‘because obviously he’s my husband,’ she said.

Greater Manchester Police

She also told detectives that he advised her to say Victoria was a victim of cot death. She said: “Mark advised me to say that it was cot death… and that I wasn’t holding her.

“He advised me to say that I lay her down and then when we woke up she was on her front and she’d passed away.”

She went on to explain that what happened was not a cot death and that Mr Gordon might try to tell them it was ‘in order to protect’ her and her ‘interests’.

In the interview, Marten explained how Victoria died.

Metropolitan Police

Warning: some readers may find the following information distressing.

She said she was feeling ‘extremely tired’ and had fallen asleep hugging Victoria, who was in her jacket. But she said the baby ‘wasn’t moving when I woke up’.

Marten wept as she told police how she came to realise their baby was not breathing. She said they had both tried to resuscitate Victoria but that there was no response to their attempts to revive her.

She said: “I tried to breathe in her mouth and pump her chest. So I wrapped her in a scarf and cradled her for a few minutes. I didn’t know what to do.”

Asked by a detective whether they called for help, Marten replied: “No because she was definitely not alive. I mean she wasn’t alive, so who’s going to help?”

Metropolitan Police

In another police interview conducted on March 2nd, 2023, Marten said that they wrapped Victoria’s body in a black scarf and put her inside a supermarket bag. She explained: “It’s not particularly graceful but that’s all we had.”

She also said her and Gordon would take Victoria’s body out with them, saying: “We always carried Victoria with us… just because I didn’t want to leave her in a tent… a bit strange.”

She told detectives the bag became too heavy to carry and so they sometimes left it inside the tent they were sleeping in.

Marten said she and Gordon were both ‘distraught’ when Victoria died.

Metropolitan Police

Asked how she was feeling after the birth of their daughter, she said: “I was feeling fine. I was elated to be with her actually. To be with one of my children. With Mark, together and parenting.

“It was a really nice Christmas period. I was very happy actually. Until all the media attention – that’s my experience.”

The court heard how the couple married in Peru seven years before Victoria’s death but that the marriage was ‘not recognised over here’.

As well as manslaughter, Marten and Gordon, of no fixed address, are also accused of four other offences: cruelty to their baby; concealment of the baby’s birth; causing or allowing her death; and perverting the course of justice by concealing the body. They deny all charges.

The trial, taking place at the Old Bailey, continues.

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Survey finds hedgehog sightings in UK on rise after years of decline

Have you taken steps to make your garden hedgehog friendly?

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Pexels / stock photo & HibaHaba / Flickr

Hedgehog numbers may finally be on the rise after a survey found sightings of the tiny, spiky creatures in gardens had increased.

Readers of the magazine Gardeners’ World were asked to record the wildlife in their gardens and reported that sightings of hedgehogs had gone up by 2%.

Great news for the little spiny animals after the magazine’s previous annual survey had found them to be in decline.

According to last year’s reports, the hedgehog population had fallen by 30%-75% across the UK countryside since 2000, reports the Guardian.

Pexels / stock photo

Their decline in numbers in British gardens is thought to be caused by habitat loss and fragmentation – as hedgehogs like to travel around but walls and fences stop them from doing so.

There are also concerns that pesticides could be killing off the insects they eat as well as hedgehogs ingesting poisonous pellets left out for slugs and snails.

The survey, which is conducted annually by the magazine, asked respondents whether they had seen a hedgehog in their garden in 2023.

Last year, 33% of respondents reported they had seen a hedgehog in their garden compared to 31% the previous year.

Никол Стоянова / Pexels

When the respondents were asked how their sightings had changed from 2022, 21% said they had either seen them for the first time since they had then, or more often.

Recent campaigns have called for residents living in urban areas to leave their gardens ‘messy’ with longer grass, plants and logs for hedgehogs to nest and hunt for insects to eat.

British wildlife lovers have even been creating ‘hedgehog highways’ by making holes in the bottom of fences for the little creatures to be able to wander around.

Of those who took the survey, 77% said they had taken steps to make their gardens more wildlife friendly, including strimming less, avoiding the use of slug pellets and maintaining ‘messier’ more natural gardens.

HibaHaba / Flickr

In urban areas, 18% of respondents said they had seen hedgehogs in the last year, up 2.7% from 2022. While in rural areas, 43% of respondents had seen hedgehogs in their gardens – up 1% form the previous year.

Fay Vass, the CEO of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, said: “Valuable as the Gardeners’ World survey is, we need to remember that these figures are only a snapshot.

“Populations change year to year, and these findings might not necessarily represent the underlying trend.”

But, she said data in the State of Britain’s hedgehogs 2022 report – which BHPS published with the People’s Trust for Endangered Species – suggested that urban populations were just about stable and may even be beginning to recover in some areas.

Professor Hog / Wikimedia

Ms Vass continued: “Our ‘State of’ report is the most comprehensive overview of the UK’s hedgehog population and although the results give us cause for cautious optimism, urban populations are still much lower than they should be.

“Therefore it’s essential that we continue to gather more data to understand how these populations, and rural hedgehogs, are changing year on year and that community action – like making gardens havens for hedgehogs – continues.

“To help, become a Hedgehog Champion and make your garden as hedgehog-friendly as possible.”

PickPik / stock photo

Kevin Smith, editor of BBC Gardeners’ World, said: “It’s wonderful to witness an increase in sightings.

“Our ongoing efforts to educate people about wildlife-friendly gardening, such as creating openings in fences and providing secluded spaces for nesting and hibernation, are helping turn our gardens into the havens that hedgehogs have long enjoyed.”

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