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Lockdown easing could see shops open ‘in weeks’ and self-catered holidays at Easter

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to lay out dates for lockdown easing on February 22nd. 

Mr Johnson is set to lay out the ‘roadmap’ to leave lockdown a week from now, giving a light at the end of the tunnel.

Speaking to broadcasters in Orpington, he said: “If we possibly can, we will be setting out dates.

“And just to help people think about what we’re trying to do on February 22nd, remember what we did around about this time last year, or a little bit later – we set out a road map going forward into the summer looking a little bit beyond, that’s what we’re going to be trying to do.”

The Daily Mirror reports that the reopening of non-essential shops could happen in a few weeks time and households could be allowed to take self-catered holidays by Easter.

The government is set to priorities the reopening of schools which looks to be on March 8th. 

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Mr Johnson added: “The dates that we will be setting out will be the dates by which we hope we can do something at the earliest, if you see what I mean – so it’s the target date by which we hope to do something at the earliest.

“If, because of the rate of infection, we have to push something off a little bit to the right, to lay it for a little bit, we won’t hesitate to do that.

“I think people would much rather see a plan that was cautious but irreversible and one that proceeds sensibly in accordance with where we are with the disease.”

The Daily Mirror added that reports show that some socialising with other households and the reopening of pubs could be unveiled on February 22nd.

It is also reported that grandparents could be given the green light to socialise with grandchildren once again when provisions allow limited socialising between households.

The Times reports that ministers are examining plans that could allow people to take breaks as early as the Easter holidays. A government source told the paper: “There’s an active discussion about how soon we can do it and we’ll be guided by the data.

“There’s talk of April at the earliest, but a lot of things have to go right. It’s unlikely but it is being talked about as a possibility.”

Number 10/Flickr

According to the Daily Mail, high street shops could be ‘about to reopen’ if the rate of infection continues to fall. The paper said a source expected it to happen ‘towards the end of March, or the beginning of April at the latest’.

However, Boris Johnson said no decision had been made on whether year groups will return to schools in England together or staggered.

He said: “No decisions have been taken on that sort of detail yet, though clearly schools on March 8th has for a long time been a priority of the Government and of families up and down the country.

“We will do everything we can to make that happen but we’ve got to keep looking at the data, we’ve got to keep looking at the rates of infections, don’t forget they’re still very high, still 23,000 or so Covid patients in the NHS, more than in the April peak last year, still sadly too many people dying of this disease, rates of infections, although they’re coming down, are still comparatively high.

“So we’ve got to be very prudent and what we wanted to see is progress that is cautious but irreversible and I think that’s what the public and people up and down the country will want to see.”

The latest coronavirus figures show that the number of cases in the UK has risen by 10,972 and the number of deaths has increased by 258, a decrease from the week before.

NHS England has also announced that those aged between 65 and 69 are set to be invited to have their first dose of the vaccine. 15 million people have now been vaccinated. 

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Band of Gold and Fat Friends creator Kay Mellor dies aged 71

A cause of death is yet to be confirmed

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ITV

Kay Mellor, the creator of Band of Gold and Fat Friends, has died at the age of seventy-one.

Leeds-born Mellor was known best for creating and writing the ITV series Fat Friends, which is credited with launching James Corden’s career.

She also wrote comedy and drama series such as The Syndicate, Girlfriends and Band of Gold, and spent time working on ITV soap Coronation Street.

A spokesperson for her TV production company, Rollem Productions, has today confirmed ‘with profound sadness’ that Mellor passed away on Sunday, May 15th.

The spokesperson said: “It is with profound sadness that we announce the untimely and sudden passing of our beloved friend, mentor and colleague Kay Mellor on Sunday 15th May 2022.

“We have lost a phenomenal talent and a true luminary. We ask that you please respect the privacy of the family and friends at this time.”

The BBC’s chief content officer Charlotte Moore has also paid tribute to Mellor following her death, saying she is ‘shocked’ and ‘deeply saddened’ by the news.

Moore said in a statement: “Kay was an outstanding writer and the creative force behind many of the nation’s best-loved television dramas.

“She wrote with such heart, humanity, humour and passion with strong female characters often taking centre stage.”

Katherine Morley, who worked with Kay on The Syndicate, also paid tribute to Mellor in a touching post on Twitter, writing: “I am in complete shock and utterly heartbroken to hear about Kay Mellor.

“She showed me so much kindness from the moment we met and she made everyone’s lives that bit brighter.

“I’m honoured to have known her and even more grateful for the opportunity she gave me.”

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Three-year-old boy mauled to death in ‘devastating’ dog attack in Rochdale

GMP have confirmed they are probing ‘previous incidents involving dogs’ at the same property

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Michael Ely / Geograph

A three-year-old boy has died following a ‘devastating’ dog attack in Rochdale yesterday afternoon.

Officers were called out to a property near Carr Lane in Milnrow, Rochdale, at around 1:15pm on Sunday, May 15th, to reports of a dog attack.

Upon their arrival, the toddler was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, where he was tragically pronounced dead.

Police said they believe he ‘succumbed to injuries received as a result of a dog attack’.

Detective Superintendent Jamie Daniels of GMP’s Public Protection and Serious Crime Division said the force was probing ‘previous incidents involving dogs’ at the property.

No arrests have been made at this stage, though officers are continuing their enquiries today.

Detective Superintendent Daniels said: “This is a tragic, devastating incident and our thoughts are with the family at this horrendous time.

“We are investigating the incident and previous incidents involving dogs at this address.

“While our enquiries to find out what happened will be thorough and are very much in their infancy, we suspect that this little boy has, sadly, succumbed to injuries received as a result of a dog attack.

“I understand this is an extremely distressing incident for all concerned and this news will rock the local community.

Greater Manchester Police / Facebook

“I can only assure everyone that we will work relentlessly to establish the full circumstances that led to this tragedy and while we retain an open mind, this is now being dealt with as a criminal investigation.

“There will be a significant police presence in the area – we will be there to carry out an investigation and address any concerns residents may have.”

Anyone with information should call police on 0161 856 5413 quoting incident 1615 of 15/05/2022.

Information can also be reported online or by using the LiveChat function at www.gmp.police.uk. If you can’t report online, call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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Andy Burnham reveals new Clean Air Zone plan would be a ‘non-charging zone’

Greater Manchester’s Clean Air Zone was supposed to come into force this month, but was pushed back following region-wide back lash

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Mayor Andy Burnham has revealed he will be requesting permission to have a non-charging clean air zone for Greater Manchester.

Since its announcement last year, the controversial plans to charge certain motorists to drive within Greater Manchester was met with overwhelming backlash, with many saying the proposed Clean Air Zone would leave small and independent businesses bankrupt.

The charges, which were originally poised to come into force in this month, would have included £60 for HGVs, buses and coaches, £10 for vans and £7.50 for taxis and private hire cars.

Following region-wide protests on the matter, Greater Manchester Councils voted to refer the scheme back to the government at the start of the year, with them now having until July 2022 to revise the plan.

And giving an update on the progress of the revised scheme at a press conference this morning, the mayor unveiled his plans to introduce a new ‘non-charging’ zone for the region.

As reported by the BBC’s Kevin Fitzpatrick, Burnham outlined a new plan for a ‘non-charging zone’, that affects buses, coaches, HGVs and taxis.

Read More: Boris Johnson says Greater Manchester’s Clean Air Zone is ‘completely unworkable’

These vehicles will reportedly be offered grants to ‘upgrade to cleaner vehicles rather than face daily charges’, though the government will have the final say on this. 

Burnham will be requesting permission from the government to implement this newly revised scheme before the July 2022 deadline.

The Clean Air Zone was originally designed in an attempt to ‘protect everyone’s health by bringing harmful nitrogen dioxide air pollution at the roadside within legal limits’.

The government initiated the idea after the Supreme Court found it had broken the law by failing to protect people from polluted air.

In response, they placed legal instructions to ‘clean up the air’ on local councils across the country, with all ten Greater Manchester councils being directed to collectively reduce air pollution across the region by 2024.

Visit the official Clean Air Greater Manchester website for more information.

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