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June 21st lockdown easing ‘could be pushed back by four weeks’

The talks of a delay come after a surge in cases across the country

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@stbartshospital / Instagram & Andrew Parsons / Flickr

Boris Johnson is considering delaying the next stage of lockdown restrictions being lifted by up to four weeks, new reports are claiming. 

The final stage of the lockdown road map is set for June 21st, however, after a recent surge in cases across the country – Greater Manchester, in particular – the Prime Minister has been under mounting pressure to push back the date.

Johnson has previously stressed that he will be using ‘data not dates’ to make his decisions on lockdown restrictions but, more recently, had said that there was ‘nothing in the data’ to suggest the now famed June 21st date should not be adhered to.

Andrew Parsons / Flickr

However, The Times reported last night that the Prime Minister is considering pushing back the lockdown easing by as much as four weeks, with Rishi Sunak reportedly accepting a delay in the roadmap.

It was reported that plans are currently being discussed for either a two-week or four-week delay thanks to the spike of the Delta variant, which accounts for 91% of new cases in the country.

For the lockdown easing to go ahead as normal on June 21st, four key tests have to passed, as outlined by the government in March.

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The four tests are: if the vaccine deployment programme is continuing successfully; whether vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospital admissions and deaths in those vaccinated; if infection rates risk a surge in hospital admissions which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS; and whether the government’s assessment of the risks is fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.

By Step 4, which will take place no earlier than June 21st, the government hopes to be in a position to remove all legal limits on social contact.

Johnson is expected to make an announcement on Monday, June 14th, after chief scientists have presented the latest scientific data on the pandemic to him.

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Fears more people could be going to A&E due to shortage in face-to-face GP appointments

Councillors are worried that residents are resorting to A&E departments as a result of lengthy GP waits

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A local council has expressed concerns over the rise in residents using A&E services as a result of the waiting times for GP appointments.

In its latest meeting, Rossendale Borough Council discussed concerns over the current booking systems and availability of in-person appointments since the pandemic. 

Councillor Alan Neal fears that patients are visiting NHS walk-in centres and accident and emergency departments as an alternative to the lengthy waiting times to see their own doctors.

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Speaking at the meeting, Neal said: “This is not a criticism of the medical profession. It is a criticism of the organisational system.

“A few years ago, CCGs [clinical commissioning group] were were set up across the country but, sadly, that system is not fit for purpose.”

Council Leader Coun Alyson Barne added: “I do not want to appear critical of healthcare workers at this time. They have had a terrible time and some of our GPs have been at the forefront of the Covid vaccine programme.

“But I know there have been difficulties with getting through to GPs. Some of the problem appears to be with technology and I hope that will be looked at the in the scrutiny exercise.”

Since the start of the pandemic, the number of people waiting for NHS treatment in England grew by a fifth, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, who found that 5.3 million people were waiting for treatment in May 2021, a jump of 4.4 million from February 2020. 

Karen Apricot / Flickr

Health Secretary Sajid Javid, previously warned that the crisis is ‘going to get a lot worse before it gets better’, writing on Twitter: “The Covid backlog for appointments is sadly going to get a lot worse before it gets better, as more people start to come forward. Tackling that is going to take time – but it will be one of my top priorities.”

Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged that the waiting times need to be addressed, saying  backlogs ‘need to be cleared as fast as possible’.

He told the BBC that around nine million NHS treatments could be funded by a newly proposed government investment while also urging people – particularly younger age groups – to get vaccinated against Covid.

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UK county becomes first place in country to ban outdoor smoking by 2025

The plan is for the whole country to be completely smoke free by 2030

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@ barneyibbotson / Instagram & Max Pixel

The UK’s first ever outdoor smoking ban is set to be implemented as councils clamp down on cigarette use across the country.

Oxfordshire will become the first county in the country to enforce the controversial ban, with many others set to follow in an attempt to be ‘cigarette-free’ by 2025, just four years from now.

Oxfordshire council has also put in place their own goals to reduce smoking, including bringing the percentage of teenagers who smoke down to 3% and decreasing smoking among manual workers to 10%.

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They also aim to reduce the amount of smokers with mental illness to under 20% and pregnant smokers to below 4%, according to Oxfordshire Live. The report claims that the government plans to award areas with the smoke free title once 5% or less of the population smoke.

Though the council has stressed that this is not a ban as such, but rather an attempt to create an environment where people are encouraged to not smoke.

Dr. Adam Briggs, the health official leading the plans, said in a report that smoking was the number one factor that lead to preventable deaths in Oxford and had cost a huge £120 million each year.

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The NHS seconded this, saying that second-hand smoking alone can lead to a whole array of illnesses and diseases, such as lung-cancer. According to their figures, living with someone who smokes increases a non-smokers chance of having lung cancer by 25% alone.

England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty has also warned of the consequences of smoking, saying the habit has killed more people than Covid has since the beginning of the pandemic, with an estimate that 900,000 people a year die as a result of smoking.

Back in June, it was reported that Manchester City Council is one of the five councils starting to slowly implement measures to reduce smoking in public spaces and outdoor hospitality venues. 

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Everything Boris Johnson just announced in his winter Covid-19 plan

Johnson says the government is continuing to advise people to be sensible and responsible.

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Number 10 / Flickr

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has today detailed his strategy to combat Covid-19 throughout the winter months, which will focus heavily on booster jabs and people behaving ‘sensibly and responsibly.’

In a Downing Street conference this afternoon, Johnson announced that booster jabs and testing will take priority over the once-proposed ‘Covid passports’ and any possible future lockdowns throughout the winter months.

The booster jabs will be offered to those who remain the most vulnerable to the virus, including those with weakened immune systems.

Number 10 / Flickr

Johnson reminded viewers that Covid still exists but, with 90% of the adult population now having Covid antibodies and the vaccines clearly working, there is no need for the return of any major restrictions.

He also stressed that he is eager to keep all nightclubs and bars firmly open over Christmas but, in order to do so, people need to be sensible, with plenty of venues having already been using Covid-status certificates.

The Prime Minister said that the return of restrictions, or ‘plan B’, as he called it, will only happen if the NHS is to come back under strain. If the restrictions are brought back, they wouldn’t be implemented all in one go.

Prof. Chris Whitty added that there are three key factors to implementing Covid restrictions: the number of people going into hospital, the rate of change, and the state of the NHS.

Gov.uk

Whitty also stressed that any new variants remain the biggest concern as the winter months approach, with him labelling the Delta variant as a ‘very bad’ variant.

He said: “We have not had a winter with the Delta one, so it is possible that the combination of Delta plus winter conditions could persuade the government to trigger plan B.”

Plans for the scrapping of the controversial ‘traffic light’ system currently in place for travel abroad will be outlined later this week.

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