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Government urges overweight people to lose five pounds to save the NHS £100m

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Alex Watson

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The Health Secretary has called for the nation to lose weight and save the NHS £100m.

Matt Hancock has explained that anyone who is clinically classed as overweight should lose at least five pounds to save lives and spare the NHS £100 million. 

The latest government strategy comes after last week’s announcement about a ban on advertising of unhealthy food before the watershed. 

Mr Hancock explains that coronavirus has been a ‘deadly wake-up call’ that Britain needs to tackle obesity. 

Obesity in the UK has steadily been increasing since the early 1990s, with figures estimating this now stands at over 60% of the population.

The UK has one of the highest levels of obesity in Europe, with almost two-thirds of adults being overweight or obese in England – figures are similar for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

One in three children in the UK are leaving primary school overweight while one in five are living with obesity, the government data explains. 

Research by Public Health England reported that obesity increases the risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19. 

Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “Losing weight can bring huge benefits for health – and may also help protect against the health risks of Covid-19. The case for action on obesity has never been stronger.”

The government has outlined their policy, entitled ‘Tackling obesity: empowering adults and children to live healthier lives’ on their website, here

It explains that ‘COVID-19 has given us a wake-up call’ and that we should use this ‘to kick start our health, get active and eat better.’ 

The ‘Better Health‘ campaign promotes evidence-based tools and apps with advice on how to lose weight and keep it off. 

This will be supported by a 12-week weight loss plan app, ‘expansion’ of the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme and ‘continued’ support for those that need to lose weight.  

The policy also acknowledges that obesity is not just an individual’s effort, instead, it recognises the environment and subsequent information intake that navigate an individual’s choices. 

For this, the government turns to nutritional labelling, acknowledging the seven years that have passed since the ‘traffic light’ scheme was first introduced. 

The new legislation will require (large) cafes, takeaways and restaurants to provide calorie labels. They also intend to make companies provide calorie labelling on pre-packaged alcohol.

The policy also states that ‘the right information is important’ and looks to marketing tactics supermarkets use. 

Research shows that 43% of food and drink products located in prominent areas, such as checkouts and aisle ends, are sugary – with less than one per cent being fruit and veg. 

The government states they ‘will legislate to end promotion of HFSS products by volume’, for instance removing buy one get one free on high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) items. 

Similarly, to protect children, advertisements for HFSS products will be banned on TV before 9pm and consultations regarding online media will be taken. 

ready made/pexels

Director of Public Affairs at the Advertising Association, Sue Eustace, said the ‘extreme’ and ‘unnecessary’ measures will have ‘little effect’ on reducing obesity. 

Instead, she explains they will have ‘wide-ranging ramifications’ for food businesses and online publishers who are currently trying to recover from the pandemic and lockdown. 

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This deadly virus has given us a wake-up call about the need to tackle the stark inequalities in our nation’s health, and obesity is an urgent example of this.

“If everyone who is overweight lost five pounds it could save the NHS more than £100 million over the next five years. And more importantly, given the link between obesity and coronavirus, losing weight could be life-saving.

“Obesity is one of the greatest long-term health challenges that we face as a country.”

Most health experts have welcomed the moves but state that the government need to go further in addressing the multiple factors that contribute to obesity.

For instance, Adam Briggs, of the Health Foundation think-tank, said economic and social factors such as poverty and unemployment ‘drive poor health and inequalities’.

He pointed out that public health budgets held by councils have been cut – falling year on year – by £700 million between 2014/15 to 2019/20. 

However, Chief Nutritionist at Public Health England explained that the ‘bold measures’ will ‘save lives’. 

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “This is a landmark day for the nation’s health.

“Being overweight or obese puts people at risk of many diseases, including 13 different types of cancer, and disproportionately affects people from poorer backgrounds so the plan will hugely help to level-up the country and build a healthier population.”

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Coronavirus outbreak at Royal Mail sorting office in Manchester

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Alex Watson

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A Royal Mail delivery office in Manchester has been hit by an outbreak of coronavirus, with 19 workers testing positive. 

A mobile testing unit has been set up at the delivery office, and a programme of contact tracing has begun, according to the BBC

The centre on Oldham Road remains open and staff are continuing to work as normal. 

A Royal Mail spokesperson said: “Following further positive tests for coronavirus at the Manchester Delivery Office, as a precautionary measure, we are working with Public Health England to provide tests for all of our staff from a mobile unit on site. An enhanced clean of the building has already been carried out.”

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They continued: “We have put in place a range of preventive measures to protect both our customers and our colleagues. As well as encouraging good hand hygiene, standard ways of working have been revised to ensure that colleagues stay two metres apart at all times.”

The Director of Public Health for Manchester, David Regan, said partners ‘acted quickly’ to ‘contain and limit further potential spread’. 

He said: “We have been testing staff – and have arranged for a mobile testing unit to go to the site for the rest of the week – and contact tracing is already underway.

“According to government guidance, the period of self-isolation for any contact is 14 days. We will be working with Royal Mail until that period of time has ended to ensure all the relevant action has been taken.

“At this stage everyone who has tested positive has been given specific advice to monitor their health.”

A spokesman for the CWU said the union was working with health and safety representatives on site, and expect all staff to be tested in three days. 

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Everything you can now be fined for in Greater Manchester under new stricter lockdown rules

The new laws are now in place.

Alex Watson

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William McCue/Unsplash

Local coronavirus restrictions were tightened in the North from last Friday, but the new rules have now been turned into law. 

Police can now take action against those who break the new rules, including asking people to disperse or issuing fines.

Fines start at £100 and halve to £50 if paid within the first 14 days. They’ll also double for repeat offences – so £200 if you’re caught a second time, £400 a third time, £800 a fourth, £1,600 a fifth and £3,200 for the sixth time you’re caught. 

The restrictions are in place across Greater Manchester, as well as some areas of Lancashire such as Blackburn, and some areas of West Yorkshire such as Bradford. 

Under the new restrictions you are advised to not:

  • Socialise with people you do not live within indoor public venues such as pubs, restaurants, cafes, shops, places of worship, community centres, leisure and entertainment venues and any other visitor attractions
  • Visit friends or family in care homes other than in exceptional circumstances

You can now be fined for:

  • Meeting people you do not live with inside a private home or garden (excluding support bubbles)
  • Visiting someone else’s home or garden even if they live outside the affected areas
  • Meeting in groups of more than 30 people at once in an outdoor public space 

Although the advice released on Friday regarding meeting friends and family remains the same, it does not appear in the legislation.

This means, according to the clarification released on Friday, you can meet outside a pub or restaurant in groups of no more than six, as long as that is no more than two households. 

By law, your household is defined as only the people you live with. 

If you have formed a support bubble (which must include a single adult household, i.e people who live alone or single parents with children under the age of 18), these can be treated as if they are members of your household and follow the new rules accordingly. 

However, under the new guidance you can meet up in groups of no more than 30 people at a time in outdoor public spaces, including parks and public roads.

People in Greater Manchester, it appears, can still go on holiday, including staying in a hotel, bed and breakfast, caravan site or ‘members club’.

Greater Manchester Police has yet to comment on the new legislation and how they will be enforcing it. However, they have previously stated that their approach will remain ‘consistent with the four E’s’.

The new legislation is set to be reviewed at least every fortnight, which means by August 19th. 

You can read the full legislation here.

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House prices set to be cut by 30% for first time buyers across the UK

Good news for first time buyers.

Alex Watson

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Petr Kratochvil

Buying your first house will become a little easier in the UK, as the government is set to announce new plans to lower house prices by 30%. 

The government is set to announce later today new plans that could make it easier for first time buyers.

First revealed as part of the budget, the first time buyers discount is set to feature in the White Paper, and will save first time buyers tens of thousands of pounds. 

The new First Homes that are set to be discounted will stay at a lower price for all future first-time owners. 

Key workers such as nurses and police officers will also be given priority in the scheme.

Roger Cornfoot/Geograph

The pilot of the scheme will contain 1,500 First Homes. Once the scheme is up and running 25% of an affordable homes development must be First Homes. 

After the 30% discount is applied, the price will be capped across England at £250,000 and £420,00 in London. Similarly, those buying First Homes will be subject to a household income of £80,000 (or £90,000 in London). 

A list of non-first-time buyers who are also eligible is yet to be confirmed. 

For those who are after cashing in and selling on with a hefty profit in a few years, the government are putting a ‘restrictive covenant’ on the price. This means that ‘the original level of discount, are passed on to future purchasers’. 

Petr Kratochvil

Many people are concerned that the plans will harm the environment and see Tories ditch a requirement for big developments to contribute to infrastructure around new developments. This, protesters say, could pile more pressure on cash-strapped councils. 

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick claims the major overhaul will speed up the house building process and ‘cut red tape but not standards’. 

Jenrick added that the project will ‘protect green spaces’ while making it easier to build on ‘brownfield land’.

The planning system will propose three categories of land in the White Paper; earmarked for growth, renewal and protection. However, campaigners said this risks a ‘disconnected landscape, one in which wildlife continues to decline because nature doesn’t slot into neat little boxes’, according to the Mirror

Roselyn Tirado/Unsplash

The plans are on going, and Jenrick says it takes seven years to agree local housing plans and five years before any work will begin. 

He added: “These once-in-a-generation reforms will lay the foundations for a brighter future, providing more homes for young people and creating better quality neighbourhoods and homes across the country.

“We will cut red tape, but not standards, placing a higher regard on quality, design and the environment than ever before. Planning decisions will be simple and transparent, with local democracy at the heart of the process.

“As we face the economic effects of the pandemic, now is the time for decisive action and a clear plan for jobs and growth. Our reforms will create thousands of jobs, lessen the dominance of big builders in the system, providing a major boost for small building companies across the country.”

Tom Fyans, deputy chief executive of CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England), said: “The key acid test for the planning reforms is community involvement, and on first reading, it’s still not clear how this will work under a zoning system.”

Director of campaigning and policy at The Wildlife Trusts, Nikki Williams says ‘tree-lined streets’ are not enough. 

She added: “Parks, green spaces and all the areas around our homes must be part of a wild network of nature-rich areas that will benefit bees and birds as much as it will enable people to connect with on-your-doorstep nature every single day.

“We live in one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world.

“Protecting isolated fragments of land is not enough to help wildlife recover nor will it put nature into people’s lives – something that is now recognised as vital for our health and wellbeing.”

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