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Fears for ‘second wave’ of coronavirus after resurgence in Europe

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Richard Townshend / Wikimedia

There have been reports of a ‘second wave’ of coronavirus in Europe, due to spikes in Spain and France. 

Matt Hancock has said he is ‘worried’ about a ‘second wave starting to roll across Europe’ and that the UK must ‘do everything to prevent it reaching these shores’. 

The news comes after the Belgian government has warned the country could be put back into a ‘complete lockdown’ due to significant spike in infections. 

Similarly, Catalonia in Spain may also reintroduce lockdown if the outbreaks are not controlled within 10 days. 

The health minister in France has called for greater vigilance due to a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases in young people, while Germany’s public health body has said it is ‘deeply concerned’  about the rise over the past few weeks. 

However, experts are divided about whether this actually is a second wave of infections and what the term ‘second wave’ actually means. 

Scientists in the field actively avoid using the term ‘second wave’ as it is ill-defined and instead opt for ‘resurgence’, according to COVID expert at Norwich Medical School, Professor Paul Hunter.

The World Health Organisation has made it clear that it is, in fact, ‘one big wave’ spreading across the globe and for a second wave to exist, the virus would need to have gone completely away.

Similarly, ‘second wave’ also assumes that COVID-19 will act the way flu acts with seasonal peaks and troughs and rapid mutations, however ‘we don’t know that’, according to Dr Tom Frieden, who served as director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for eight years under Barack Obama.

Nevertheless, 36 countries in Europe are seeing an increase in infections, based on a seven-day rolling average. And while it has been six months since the WHO declared the highest possible alert under international law, global health emergency, cases are still acceleration.

There have been a total of 16 million cases detected worldwide but the overall figure has doubled in the last six weeks, according to the Telegraph. 

Between July 17th and July 23rd, Belgium saw a 71% increase on the seven-day average of infection number. 

The regional president of Catalonia, Quim Torra, has confirmed the current resurgence is a situation similar to that before the national lockdown was introduced in March. 

Mr Torra said: “We’re in the 10 most important days of the summer and during that time, we’ll see whether we’re capable of sorting out the situation through solidarity, cooperation and a collective effort.

“But the situation is critical and if we don’t manage to, then we will have to go backwards.”

According to the ministry, six people have died from coronavirus in the past seven days. At its peak, Spain had 9,222 new infections in a single day. On Monday, the Spanish health ministry reported 855 new cases in 24 hours. 

Many people in Barcelona have ignored advice to stay home and flocked to beaches instead and many young people have been holding ‘drinking parties’ in the streets. 

French health minister, Olivier Véran said at the weekend: “When we carry out mass testing we are seeing a lot of young patients … more youngsters than during the previous wave.

“This is particularly the case in the Île-de-France [Paris] region where we are seeing young people who are infected without knowing how it happened. Clearly, older people are still being very careful, while young people are paying less attention.”

Germany is seeing outbreaks in urban areas and among holidaymakers. But abattoir and harvest workers have demonstrated how quickly the virus can flare up again.

While Spain makes headlines due to a resurgence in cases and the government’s response to introduce quarantine for travellers returning to the UK from Spain, other parts of Europe are also on a worrying trajectory. 

Dr Kluge (WHO’s regional director for Europe) warned against complacency: “We consider about a three to four week lag time between case incidence and severe cases and mortality. We also know that the epi-curve is never linear, but rather exponential. 

“So in that sense, we absolutely need to be vigilant as these raising numbers could, could, prefigure a return to community transmission in many countries.”

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Government to review Omicron Covid rules on December 21st

The rules are expected to stay in place until the new year

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Number 10 / Flickr & Gov.uk

The rules and regulations brought in to tackle the Omicron variant of Covid-19 will reportedly be reviewed on December 21st.

According to new reports today, while the rules will be reviewed four days before Christmas Day, they are unlikely to be lifted and will instead be kept in force until the new year.

It has also been suggested that the government’s Plan B – which will enforce mandatory masks in pubs and restaurants and advice to work from home – is not yet needed. 

Nickolay Romensky/Flickr

A Government source told the MailOnline: “In terms of Plan B, we are not there yet. The ambition is that people can have a much more normal Christmas than last year.

“That depends on what the data shows about the new variant. But certainly the hope is that things stay as they are in the next couple of weeks.”

The current rules mean face masks in shops, hairdressers, banks and post offices are now mandatory, as well as on public transport.

The rules also require anyone who comes into contact with someone who tests positive for Omicron to quarantine for ten days – even those who are fully vaccinated.

arturo-rey/Unsplash

However, a Sage scientist recently said the new 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.”

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Stevenson Square set to be fully pedestrianised and turned into a proper public square under new plans

Local residents have been encouraged to come forward and contribute towards the planning of the new space

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@williamkan__ & @barneyibbotson / Instagram

Plans to permanently pedestrianise the Northern Quarter’s Stevenson Square have been released to the public.

A large proportion of the popular square has been closed off from traffic since last summer, when the council closed several roads to encourage pedestrians back into the city centre. 

It was also hoped that the closure of roads would help bars, restaurants and cafes to expand out into the streets to enable social distancing throughout the pandemic

Yet while some city centre road closures were reversed in October when the emergency Covid legislation came to an end, many roads remained closed around the Northern Quarter after the council were put under pressure deliver improved walking and cycling routes.

@adventurepostcards / Instagram

And Stevenson Square was one of them, with new plans for the area released detailing proposals for at least twenty new trees, seating, bike racks, a ‘rain garden’ and sustainable draining systems.

Further trees could potentially be planted subject to future surveys to find optimum space, and make allowances for underground utilities.

Traffic will still be able to pass through Lever Street but, where it would usually meet the square, the road will instead become a raised carriageway with a controlled pedestrian crossing.

Jon-Connor Lyons, Labour councillor for the Piccadilly ward, said on the plans: “We really welcome this final consultation on the proposals to permanently pedestrianise Stevenson Square.

“The Northern Quarter is a tightly-packed neighbourhood with buildings of various heights, history and architectural merits, though it is lacking public space for people to relax.

“What I’d like to see is more non-commercial seating in the square that is also age-friendly, as well as a friendly environment for artists and creatives to help further the space. I encourage residents to come forward and contribute towards the planning of this space.”

Councillor Tracey Rawlins, Manchester City Council’s Executive Member for Environment, added: “I’m incredibly pleased that we’re able to take the next step towards creating a more accessible and thriving Northern Quarter.

“Making more space available for people to walk and cycle as well as introducing more green space were just two of the many priorities highlighted to us by residents and businesses throughout the consultations we’ve run.”

For more information and to have your say on the pedestrianisation, visit the Manchester City Council website here.

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Yellow weather warning for heavy snow and wind issued in Greater Manchester

As the country continues to recover from Storm Arwen, another spate of bad weather is on its way…

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The Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning in various areas across Greater Manchester ahead of the arrival of Storm Barra.

The second named storm of the season is expected to hit tomorrow (Tuesday December 7th) with forecasters saying plummeting temperatures and heavy snow are to be expected across a vast proportion of Northern England and Scotland, including parts of Oldham and Tameside in our region. 

The warning is in place from 11am tomorrow until midnight.

@manc_wanderer / Instagram

Another yellow weather warning for wind has also been issued for most of the UK, which is in place from 9am tomorrow until midnight.

Forecasters say travel disruption is ‘likely’, especially over higher routes, as is delays to rail and air travel. There is also the ‘slight chance some rural communities may become cut off’. 

The Met Office said: “A deep area of low pressure moving in across the UK from the Atlantic is likely to bring high winds to many parts of the UK.

“Strong winds arriving into the west through the morning, spreading inland and reaching eastern areas through the afternoon and early evening. Gusts of 45-50 mph are expected widely, with 60-70 mph in exposed coastal locations.

@adventurecat__ / Instagram

“Strongest winds will ease across inland areas into the overnight period.”

This comes as many parts of the country continue to recover from the effects of Storm Arwen, which has left thousands of people in the North without power heating and hot water. 

The Energy Networks Association (ENA) said, as per The Independent, that 3,190 homes were still waiting to be reconnected as of 2pm on Sunday. This was down from 4,025 homes on Sunday morning.

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