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Coronavirus may have been spreading around the UK for two months before it was detected

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Alex Watson

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Studio Incendo / Flickr

Reports suggest that coronavirus may have been spreading across the UK since late 2019, months before it was detected.

The World Health Organisation has said that it was struggling to obtain information regarding coronavirus from China in the early days, before it was declared a global pandemic. 

The Guardian reports that genetic analyses of the new coronavirus suggested the virus emerged in humans in China in late November to early December 2019, with some data suggesting the first known case was observed on November 17th.

China’s official submission to the WHO states the first infection was December 8th. 

ThisisEngineering RAEng / Unsplash

The first confirmed date of coronavirus in the UK was January 31st. But as our understanding of the range of distinct symptoms of the virus has grown, many people wonder if they or their loved ones could have had it earlier. 

Dr Stephen Baker at Cambridge University’s Infectious Diseases Institute told The Guardian: “People are on heightened awareness about any sort of respiratory infection and it is easy to retrofit stories to things.

“Let’s say it was kicking off fairly substantially in Wuhan and people weren’t being informed: could there have been people travelling to and from China at that point who may have been infected by coronavirus? That is completely possible. Is it then possible that they transmitted the virus to other people when they were in the UK? Yes, of course that’s possible.”

Last month it was reported that swabs from a man, thought to be suffering from pneumonia, tested positive for Covid-19 in Paris on December 27th. This would mean that COVID-19 was in Europe a month earlier than previously thought.

Last month Tim Spector, an epidemiologist professor reporting on the symptom-tracking app developed at King College London, said: “The reports I am getting are from people who were ill from early January onwards and strongly suggest they had Covid-19 but were not recognised as such.”

On March 13th, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies concluded that: “there are more cases in the UK than previously thought and we may therefore be further ahead of the epidemic curve”.

Dr Baker explained that it would take an influx of infected people to cause real growth in the epidemic in the UK. He attributes this potentially people coming back from holidays in February half term such as ski holidays in Italy.

He said: It’s really at the point when you get a number of introductions in one go that onward transmission is more likely to happen … as soon as you get a certain number of the population infected in one go then you make that expansion of an epidemic [more likely].”

CDC / Unsplash

Baker also says that not everyone who has coronavirus is equally infectious and earlier cases might have been people who did not come into contact with others. He said: “When you’re ill, you tend to stay at home, so people may have been self-isolating on the basis that they didn’t feel very well.”

A clinical lecturer in infectious diseases at King’s College London, Nathalie MacDermott, has said that the virus could have been spreading silently and gaining access to more vulnerable sections of the population. 

The WHO has encouraged countries to investigate other suspicious cases to better understand the circulation of the virus. 

Public Health England has also acknowledged that it ‘cannot exclude the possibility that Covid-19 was in the UK in December or early January’.

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Bonfire Night, Christmas lights switch-on and NYE fireworks cancelled in Manchester

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Proper Manchester

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Mike Peel / Wikimedia

Some of the biggest festive events in Manchester have been cancelled, in some sad news this afternoon.

The council has scrapped its official Bonfire Night displays, as well as the city centre’s Christmas lights switch-on and the New Year’s Eve fireworks.

With coronavirus still affecting our everyday lives, it was always likely this could be the case, especially considering Manchester has overtaken Bolton as the worst affected hotspot in our region.

David Dixon / Geograph

However, there is still a glimmer of light, as it’s also been revealed there’s hope the Manchester Christmas Markets might still return to our streets this year.

The event remains ‘under review’, as the council works out whether they can safely go ahead.

Some parts of the event have already been given the green light to return, like the ice rink in Cathedral Gardens, which will be open from November 7th to January 3rd as things stand – with a larger rink and reduced capacity so people can social distance.

And Christmas lights will still be put up around Manchester, even though there’s no switch-on ceremony.

The giant LED Santa – who appeared in Piccadilly Gardens for the first time last year – will also be back, accompanied by a trail of light sculptures throughout the city.

David Dixon / Geograph

Councilor Pat Karney, Manchester’s Christmas spokesperson, said: “Christmas in Manchester is an incredibly important time for the city’s economy.

“The city attracts millions of visitors each year, which local businesses rely on – and it’s important to the city’s recovery that we can bring people back into the city safely.

“Covid means that Christmas will be different this year, but we are working hard towards celebrating the festive season as safely as possible. So watch this space.”

However, the council has made it clear that all events are subject to coronavirus restriction updates at both a local and national level.

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Manchester bars launch #CancelTheCurfew campaign to end ‘disastrous’ 10pm curfew

Everything you need to know about the campaign…

Alex Watson

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Louis Hansel/Unsplash

A new campaign, launched by the hospitality industry in Manchester, is calling for the government to scrap the 10pm curfew in a bid to save the industry.

Hospitality professionals from around the country have grouped together to help launch the #CancelTheCurfew campaign.

It’s been designed to raise awareness to consumers about the impact the 10pm curfew is having on the industry, and with hopes that the government make a U-turn on their policy. 

The curfew is a devastating blow to the hospitality industry that reopened just 12 weeks ago to the public, after being closed throughout lockdown.

The curfew means some businesses are losing multiple hours of trade a day, including over 40 hours a week in some of those worst hit. 

Tom Lord, founder of Hospitality Gin and hospitality consultant, says: “The industry that we love is in grave danger of being suffocated by this curfew. Some venues were starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel before it was announced as customers returned and we all settled into ‘the new normal’. Now we’ve been plunged back into uncertainty.

“We want the British public to know the impact that the curfew is going to have, not just on our businesses, but on our friends and colleagues. We have borne the brunt of the measures announced over the past fortnight.

“We are vilified as breeding grounds for the virus, yet Public Health England’s own figures show this is not true. In fact, the latest figures show that we have one of the lowest infection rates outside of the home.

“Hundreds of thousands of people will lose their jobs as a direct result of this disastrous policy, thousands of businesses will close their doors forever, and the hospitality industry will never be the same again. Stop blaming hospitality, let us serve”

In an Instagram post, @cancelthecurfew wrote: “The UK Hospitality Sector directly employs 10% of the working population and contributes £39 Billion in tax revenue.

“The newest legislation and government advice is paralysing our industry and we must be heard; as a unified voice, to protect what we have left and what our futures might hold for us.

“You can show your support by using the hashtag #cancelthecurfew and by signing our Google sheet document. We hope to raise awareness of our cause and get to those who make these decisions before it’s too late.”

The movement started this week on social media, with the explanation that the worst hit venues are reporting a more than 60% drop in revenue since the curfew has been imposed. 

Adding to that, they said: “Latest figures from PHE show that only 3% of transmissions outside of the home are from the hospitality sector.”

Mojo’s Manchester has also now banned the MPs from their bars until the curfew is changed.

Michael Greenhow of Mojo said: “With neither evidence to support the assumption that hospitality is driving infection – only 35 cases reported in the sector and as of yet no sign of the threatened dramatic upturn in deaths, the move to curtail the operational hours of our already crippled industry seems unjust and punitive, not to mention illogical and irrational.

“Are people more infectious after 10pm? Hospitality has slaved to work responsibly within the constraints laid out for us and now we are being thrown aside with scant concern for the impact these measures will have on our businesses and the wider economy.”

The movement begun this week by asking hospitality leaders, operators, employees, and anyone with a love for the hospitality industry to share the #CancelTheCurfew images on social media.

They are then following this up with a silent protest and social media ‘thunderclap’ at 10pm this Saturday, October 3rd, with venues and workers all over the country standing outside their venues and posting images of this on their social media.

You can show your support by signing the contact form here, and there’s also a petition in the pipeline pending approval from government. 

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‘Hero’ Asda worker pays for customer’s shopping after he forgot his card

What a top bloke!

Alex Watson

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Asda/Facebook

An Asda worker that paid for a shopper’s food after he forgot his debit card has been hailed a ‘hero’.

Alex works at the Omagh branch of Asda in Northern Ireland, and has been hailed a hero on the internet after he footed the bill for a customer who forgot his wallet.

Asda shared the news on their Facebook page, writing: “A big well done to our colleague Alex who went out of his way to help a customer at our Omagh store who’d realised he’d forgotten his debit card when he went to pay for his shopping just as the store was closing.

“Rather than leaving the customer stuck, kind-hearted Alex went ahead and paid for the shopping himself.”

Asda/Facebook

Alex said: “I just didn’t want to leave the customer stuck. It was very late at night, and I wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone!”

His store manager added: “This is just one example of Alex going the extra mile for our customers.

“Not many would trust that the person would come back to pay for their goods, but Alex did as he didn’t want to see them stuck.

“He’s a very caring member of our team, and I think he has a very bright future here.”

Facebook users have congratulated Alex, one saying ‘What a top block. Give the guy a medal”.

Another added: “Well done young man I bet your parents are really proud, they have every reason to be.”

A third wrote: “Well done Alex, not many would have been so kind. So glad your store manager applauded you on your kindness to one of its customers.”

Well done Alex! 

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