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Festive bubbles mean households will be able to meet up at Christmas for five days

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It has been reported that households will be allowed to meet in bubble over Christmas for a number of days.

It is understood that ministers from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, while not agreed on a final set of regulations, have endorsed a sharing objective of allowed ‘some limited additional household bubbling for a small number of days’ over Christmas.

Families will choose their bubble in advance and then be allowed to spend time indoors with them, including at the pub.

Number 10 is yet to confirm how many days the reprieve will be applied to but reports suggest it could last between December 22nd and 28th. 

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In a statement published on Sunday, the Cabinet Office and the devolved administrations emphasise that the public will have to remain ‘cautious’ and should avoid travel to minimise social contact wherever possible.

The news comes after the prime minister met with the cabinet virtually on Sunday to sign off a ‘Covid Winter Plan’.

It will reportedly see a return to a tougher version of the regional tiered system when England’s lockdown 2.0 ends on December 2nd. 

It is expected more areas will be placed into the higher levels of restrictions, which could mean some regions will face a ban on household mixing until the Christmas period, following criticism from government scientists. 

Mr Johnson is set to address parliament today with the proposals. 

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The Independent reports that Sunak has hinted the government will scrap the 10pm curfew measure on bars and restaurants following the fierce criticism from dozens of Conservative MPs and Sir Keir Starmer. However, the BBC reports the curfew will remain but an additional hour to drink up with be added.

It is expected those hospitality businesses in tier 3 will be able to offer takeaway services and those in tier 2 can serve drinks with substantial meals.

It is also understood that Mr Johnson is set to allow the reopening of non-essential shops in all three tiers in order to boost retail in the festive period. 

On the government’s Christmas plans, the Cabinet Office added: “Welcoming the good progress made by all administrations over the past few days to design a single set of arrangements that can apply across the UK, ministers reiterated the importance of allowing families and friends to meet in a careful and limited way, while recognising that this will not be a normal festive period and the risks of transmission remain very real.

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“In respect of Northern Ireland, ministers also recognised that people will want to see family and friends across the island of Ireland, and this is the subject of discussions with the Irish government.

“Work is continuing to finalise the arrangements, including relating to travel. The UK government, Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland executive hope to conclude this work this week, subject to agreement by each administration.”

Last week, Public Health England warned that for every day restrictions are eased, five days of more stringent measures will be required to combat and keep Covid-19 infections under control.

The BBC added that the exception to the new tier rules will be Christmas, something the government deem as a ‘necessity’. Adding it is a recognition of the break the public need from the slog of the pandemic and that significant numbers of people will ignore any attempt to ban gatherings.

On Sunday, the UK reported another 18,662 new coronavirus cases and 398 deaths within 28 days of a positive test. This brought the UK total to 55,024 deaths.

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Teacher dies on her 25th birthday after contracting coronavirus

‘Claudia was very special, kind, caring and a dedicated teacher’

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Recently-qualified teacher Claudia Marsh died with coronavirus on her 25th birthday.

Claudia’s death has been described as ‘sudden and unexpected’ by the charity that helped her recover from an eating disorder a few years ago.

She had gone on to volunteer at the organisation, becoming a ‘beacon of hope’ for others. 

Her mother, Tina Marsh, said she was ‘very proud’ and ‘blown away’ by the number of tributes after Claudia died at Liverpool’s Royal University Hospital on Wednesday.

Posting on Facebook, Ms Marsh said Claudia was a ‘beautiful daughter and incredible sister’ who was selfless with her work at the Merseyside-based charities, Talking Eating Disorders (TEDS) and The Whitechapel Centre.

Her mother said: “She loved giving back to people less fortunate than herself.”

Founder of TEDS and family friend Leigh Best described the death as ‘heartbreaking’, adding: “Claudia was very special, kind, caring and a dedicated teacher.

“She supported countless families across the UK. Claudia made her own little packs to give out to others with eating disorders with positive affirmations.

“She was full of positivity, kindness and hope, and had a smile that would brighten up the whole room.”

The Whitechapel Centre also released a statement where they said staff were ‘devastated’, adding she would leave behind a ‘legacy of care, dedication and enthusiasm’.

Throughout the pandemic Claudia spent her time providing food and clothing to those who need it, the centre said, adding: “Claudia always put others before herself and her memory will live on through the impact and contribution she made to our organisation.

“She was instrumental in bringing together our volunteer community.”

Her mother has set up an online fundraising page for the two charities which has already raised £16,495.

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Opening schools is a national priority, government says

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Schools Minister, Nick Gibb told the commons that schools in England will be reopen ‘as soon as possible’. 

Responding to an urgent question brought by Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green, Mr Gibb said the government would ‘prioritise the reopening of schools as we begin the process of lifting lockdown restrictions’.

Ms Green went onto say that the government had ‘failed  to give parents, children and staff the credible plan they deserve’.

Adding: “We simply don’t know what the government’s plan is for school reopening – other than what we read in the newspapers,”

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“In recent days, we’ve had reports that the prime minister wants pupils back before Easter, the health secretary saying he wants pupils back after Easter, Public Health England saying overnight the primary schools are already safe to reopen – so which is it?

“What is the plan for full reopening? The schools minister mentioned some metrics but was vague about the required performance against them – can he give us some more clarity?”

Mr Gibb said it was the government’s ‘strong desire to reopen all schools, colleges and universities as soon as possible’.

“We are acutely aware of the damage to children’s education and development – particularly to the most disadvantaged pupils by being away from school and of the increased burdens placed on parents.

He added that the ‘government has been clear that education is a national priority’ throughout the pandemic.

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“We had worked hard to keep all schools, colleges and universities fully open but scientific advice we received in January meant we had no choice but to close schools and colleges to all but vulnerable children and the children of critical workers.

“And to restrict in-person teaching in university to those studying to be future critical workers.” He said. 

He added that there will be an announcement in the next few days as remote learning is no substitute for face-to-face learning. 

“We want to give two weeks’ notice so parents can make arrangement for the care of their children and we will be making announcements in the next few days.” He said.

Chairman of the education select committee, Robert Halfon, told Mr Gibb that parents and children were suffering.

“We need to get our schools open again sooner rather than later,” he said.

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All of Manchester’s care home residents have now received first vaccine dose

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All residents of Manchester’s care homes have received at least one dose of their Covid-19 vaccination.

Among the first people to be prioritised for the vaccine rollout, the residents of the city’s 56 care homes for older people have now all received at least their first dose of the vaccine. 

Carolyn Ball, general manager of Belong Morris Feinmann Care Village in Didsbury, said: “We are absolutely delighted that our residents have had this opportunity to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. This is the additional protection we have long been waiting for and it’s great to be starting the new year knowing that our residents are at reduced risk.

“The commitment of the NHS in Manchester to rolling the programme out promptly, and the team from gtd healthcare delivering it in our care setting in spite of the complex logistics, is really impressive. We’re so grateful as their well-organised approach meant our residents and colleagues were amongst the first in the UK to receive the vaccine.”

Manchester City Council’s executive member for adult health and wellbeing, Councillor Bev Craig said she was ‘so proud’ of the work gone into protection the most vulnerable people in the region. 

She added: “We are already also seeing a really encouraging take up of the vaccine amongst care home staff, we cannot stress how important this is and we’d urge any staff member who is still unsure to talk to their colleagues who have already had it so they can see how easy and safe the process has been.

“They can book an appointment through their home managers and we really want to encourage them to take this opportunity as soon as possible.”

 
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Across the country, 6.5 million people have been vaccinated so far with around 80% over over 80s in England. 

Manchester’s care home residents can expect their second jab (if they haven’t already received it) no later than 12 weeks after their initial dose under the current scheduling.

This comes after the government changed the course of the rollout from two weeks after the first dose to six weeks to vaccinate more vulnerable people.

Chief medical officer, Chris Whitty described the change as ‘simple maths’ adding: “…if a vaccine is more than 50% effective, if you double the number of people who are vaccinated over this very risky period when there is a lot of virus circulating, you are overall going to get some substantial benefit.”

He said: “I think most people would agree that the risk that was identified was a relatively much smaller risk than the risk of not having people vaccinated, which essentially was the alternative.”

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