The South African doctor that first discovered the Omicron Covid variant has accused the UK of ‘overreacting’ with talks of a potential lockdown.
Speaking to Sky News yesterday, Dr. Angelique Coetzee stressed that many of her patients infected with the Omicron variant have only mild symptoms, noting that there is a ‘huge gap’ between ‘the science and what is actually happening’.
She said: “If Omicron really were such a deadly variant, we would expect the numbers to have shot up, yet that simply isn’t happening here.
“This makes it all the more peculiar to see what’s happening in the UK.
“This huge overreaction is scaring people unnecessarily, and if your Government does decide go to for a hard lockdown in the New Year, that could end up doing far more harm than good.”
Dr. Coetzee went on to compare Omicron to the previous Delta variant, which she described as ‘heartbreaking’ and ‘terrible’, saying she simply has not witnessed the same hospitalisations and severe symptoms this time around.
She explained: “What do I give to [Omicron] patients? Do I give them the same treatment as Delta? No, you don’t have to. There is no need for that.
“You need to take precautionary measures, you have to be prepared but don’t hype it up, [don’t say] that people are going to die from viral infection, that hospitals will be overwhelmed. It is better to wait and see.”
In its fight against the new variant, the government has a number of plans in place, including their last resort known as Plan E, which would see a return to lockdown with all pubs, cafes, restaurants and non-essential retail being forced to closed.
Under this plan, people would only be permitted to leave their homes for essential reasons like work, food shopping and medical appointments.
The UK is currently under Plan B restrictions, which includes the use of face masks in public spaces and transport and Covid passes for nightclubs and large venues.
The Prime Minister is expected to host a Covid press conference from Downing Street at 5pm this afternoon.
Police search abandoned home near where missing Nicola Bulley’s phone was found
Officers have tracked down a man who they believe to be a ‘potentially key witness’.
In a huge search operation to find missing Lancashire mum-of-two Nicola Bulley, police have now scoured an abandoned house close to where she was last seen.
Ms Bulley, 45, disappeared after she left her home in Inskip to walk her dogs on Friday morning January 27th. She was walking her pet Springer Spaniel, Willow, along the river towpath off Garstang Road, in St Michael’s on Wyre and was last sighted at 9.15am by a member of the public.
Her mobile phone was found on a bench connected to a conference call and her dog was left roaming loose close to the same bench by the River Wyre. Rescuers have searched an abandoned home located on the opposite side of the river and the site where she left Willow and her phone.
It comes after police confirmed today they have tracked down a man who they believe to be a ‘potentially key witness’, describing him as around 70-years-old, white, six feet tall and well-built.
He is said to have ‘spoken to a woman in the area’ before walking in the direction of Rowanwater. Lancashire officers are now speaking to him to see what information he can provide.
Police said previously there was no evidence of any criminal activity or that Nicola had been attacked. It is understood Nicola had dropped her two young children off at St Michael’s-on-Wyre Church of England Primary School, and leaving her car parked nearby, went on the walk with her dog.
Kev Camplin, of Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue, led a team of 25 trained volunteers on the day Nicola – known as Nikki – went missing. Speaking to the Mirror, he said: “The abandoned house is right opposite the bench on the other side of the river, over a 10ft garden wall. It’s quite posh.
“We didn’t go into the house. As a volunteer search and rescue team, we don’t actually go into buildings. We might go into a barn or something. We leave that to the police. While the team was searching the grounds, the owner was there for some reason, and we asked him to go in and he had a quick look around and she wasn’t there.”
The team used equipment including a pickup truck and trailer in-tow, carrying floatation devices. One of their Land Rovers, which stores medical kits, broke down during the search.
All the volunteers carry mountain rescue radios and are coordinated by an operator inside a control van with mapping systems. Kev said the team was contacted at around midday on Friday and he was at the search site within an hour, before they left at about 8pm.
“We probably searched a mile north upstream and then we probably searched three miles downstream. We covered quite a bit,” he said.
Kev said his team only gets called out to ‘high risk’ cases that are not considered dangerous; for example, suspected criminals on the run. “We only go to despondents, and suicidal cases and people with dementia – and people who are generally lost,” he added.
“Nicola lives in Inskip, about three miles from where she went walking. She drops her kids off at St Michaels and then apparently she walks eastwards to where the woods and the river are, something she does daily with her dog. So it’s not an unknown area for her, and it is a popular area for walkers and dog walkers alike. It’s actually quite a beautiful spot”, Kev said.
“Leaving the phone on the bench and then disappearing, it is quite odd. We don’t normally get that. Sometimes we go to a search, classed as a lowland search. You do get a car… where somebody has left their car. That’s the initial planning point.
“But her car was at the school and her phone was the initial planning point. Later we find out she was on a team’s work call. We didn’t know that on Friday. I knew the phone was there, but not on a work call.”
Police dive teams, fire service drones, search dogs, helicopters and mountain rescue volunteers have all been deployed to the area to carry out extensive searches. Officers say they are also supporting Nicola’s family and remain in close contact with them.
Late night trams set to run so bar workers and revellers can get home safe
A campaign for trams to run until late at night on the Altrincham line has been unanimously approved by Trafford Council, following the example of neighbouring Greater Manchester borough, Salford.
The move, put forward by Timperley ward Liberal Democrat councillor Will Frass, has been welcomed across all parties on the Labour-controlled authority. Trafford Council has requested that trams run beyond 11.55pm on the Altrincham to Bury line to carry both hospitality workers and revellers home.
The motion said: “Trafford residents, either working in the hospitality sector or enjoying the night-time economy, face a curfew for the tram, expensive taxis, or a risky walk home in the dark. Tackling both violence and against women and girls and gender-based violence more widely are priorities for Greater Manchester Police across the region.”
Addressing the meeting, Councillor Frass said: “If levelling-up ever meant anything beyond a political slogan, then concrete steps like late-night transport must become a reality.
“It’s the norm in big cities around the world like Stockholm, Berlin and London which all have late-night transport. There is absolutely no reason why Greater Manchester should be any different.”
His colleague Councillor Meena Minnis added that she had only ever taken the last tram home to her Timperley home when out with a friend or her husband, saying: “I’ve always believed that the most highly-developed economies in the world are not the ones where everyone owns a car.
“I’ve never done it alone. Many people have had a fair few drinks and there are groups of men on there. It’s not worth the risk of staying out for longer so I would therefore leave for home earlier.”
It highlighted what metro mayor Andy Burnham announced as his ambition to make the city’s tram network the ‘11th district’ in the conurbation for policing. The motion continued: “This means that a late-night tram service across Greater Manchester is increasingly becoming the best transport option to ensure thousands of people across the region can get home safely.”
Council leader Tom Ross said he would be writing to Mr Burnham in support of the campaign and asked other members of the council to ‘feed in’ their views which would be sent off ‘in collaboration’ with other parties on the council.
Trafford Council also ask Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) to run a three month trial of the night tram to monitor its success. If a trial is granted, the council would aim to work in close partnership with British Transport Police to ensure that resourcing is in place to keep a late night service safe for all users, with an emphasis to preventing gender based violence.
Police offer £10k reward for information on missing couple with baby
‘Every single bit of information we get will assist us with finding them.’
Police detectives are offering a £10,000 reward in the search for Constance Marten, her partner and their newborn baby.
Police believe that Constance and her partner, Mark Gordon, are rough sleeping along with their newborn baby. The 35-year-old new mother was last seen with convicted sex-offender Gordon, 48, in Newhaven, Sussex, where they were dropped off in a taxi at 4.56am on Sunday January 8th.
They are thought to be using recently purchased camping equipment to live off-grid and police fear that their baby has been ‘exposed to sub-zero temperatures’.
The Metropolitan Police also stressed concern for the couple, who are thought to have been ‘constantly moving and awake for at least a few days – which must be especially draining on someone who had recently given birth with no medical attention’.
The pair were seen carrying a blue two-man tent, sleeping bags and pillows that they had bought from Argos the previous evening.
Officers believe they are still in the UK but warned ‘they could be anywhere’, encouraging people to ‘keep your eyes peeled’ around waste ground, beauty spots, or while walking the dog, as they confirmed: “the baby was alive and with them when they got the taxi to Newhaven”.
Detective Superintendent Basford appealed for information, asking anyone who might be helping the couple to come forward, saying: “It does not matter why you did not speak to us earlier. Maybe you saw them wandering the streets? Perhaps they asked you for directions?
“Maybe they got into your taxi, or they came into your establishment to buy food and drink?
“Please contact us with any information you have, because every single bit of information we get will assist us with finding them.”
He continued: “I’d like to stress that if you have taken cash to provide a service to the family, whether that’s giving them a lift, accommodation or something else, that you are not in any sort of trouble, we just need to hear from you.”
The search began for the couple after their car broke down, caught fire and was left abandoned on the side of the M61, near Bolton on January 5th.
Firefighters discovered placenta on the backseat and it was soon discovered that Ms Marten had given birth without receiving any medical treatment or assistance, just a few days before.
Ms Marten has been estranged from her aristocratic family since the couple began their romantic relationship in 2016.
Police say the couple left their home in Eltham, south-east London, in September 2022 when Ms Marten began showing signs of pregnancy, and have since led a nomadic lifestyle.
Gordon has been registered as a sex offender in the UK since 2010 for a rape he committed aged 14 in the US – he served a 20-year sentence in the United States before being deported to Britain.
Anyone who has information on the family’s whereabouts should call police on 020 7175 0785.
Alternatively, information can be reported 100 per cent anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 — they never ask for personal details and they do not trace your device.