Lockdown set to ‘lift rapidly’ after schools reopen with pubs ‘open late April’
New plan suggests ‘a desire to reopen rapidly in the weeks after schools readmit most children next month’
While Boris Johnson will be revealing his ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown on Monday, February 22nd, reports of what we could expect have been leaking.
The prime minister is awaiting the latest evidence regarding the vaccine’s effect on both hospital admissions and deaths, which is expected to be delivered to him today.
Mr Johnson said this week that the easing of restrictions should happen in stages, in an ‘irreversible’ way, with a focus on evidence rather than sticking to deadlines to lift lockdown.
However, a new Whitehall blueprint for a timetable has emerged, and according to this plan pubs would reopen by late April as well as some sporting venues, with entertainment venues following in early May, Sky News reports.
The prime minister is still hoping the March 8th date will be used for kids to return to school, with the return of pupils the starting point for the gradual easing of restrictions.
According to Sky News the timetable suggests ‘a desire to reopen rapidly in the weeks after schools readmit most children next month’.
The blueprint suggests higher education and further education students might return in mid-April, with non-essential shops also opening again around this time.
Next would be hospitality venues, hotels, leisure facilities and some sporting venues, which according to these reports would reopen in late April, followed by entertainment venues and sporting facilities in early May.
It’s understood that this proposal, which has been devised by officials, hasn’t yet been signed off by the prime minister, and will only go ahead if Covid rates continue to decline across the country.
According to reports in the Mail earlier this week, the easing of restrictions will take place in ‘four-weekly intervals’, with the route out of lockdown seeing the UK ‘broadly’ back to normal by July.
Mr Johnson said on Wednesday that he’ll undertake a ‘cautious and prudent approach’ to gradually taking England out of lockdown.
Tributes flood in as comedian and presenter Paul O’Grady dies aged 67
Our thoughts are with Paul’s family and friends
Tributes flood social media for much loved comedian and television presenter Paul O’Grady, who has died aged 67.
His husband, Andre Portasio, announced the star had died ‘unexpectedly but peacefully’ after he passed away on Tuesday evening, March 29th.
Born in Birkenhead, Merseyside, O’Grady hosted a number of game shows including Blankety Blank in the late 90s under the guise of his famous persona, Lily Savage. He also presented Blind Date and For The Love of Dogs.
Mr Portasio, who married O’Grady in 2017, said in a statement: “It is with great sadness that I inform you that Paul has passed away unexpectedly but peacefully yesterday evening. We ask, at this difficult time, that whilst you celebrate his life you also respect our privacy as we come to terms with this loss.
“He will be greatly missed by his loved ones, friends, family, animals and all those who enjoyed his humour, wit and compassion. I know that he would want me to thank you for all the love you have shown him over the years.”
The world of showbiz is in mourning after the death of Paul O’Grady as tributes have been pouring in to praise hiss legacy.
This Morning’s Vanessa Feltz, said: “Utterly distraught to imagine a world without beloved Paul O’Grady. I inherited the Big Breakfast bed from him in 1996 and have loved him ever since. Wise witty kind and entirely original. We will never see his like again.”
Former EastEnders star, Martin Kemp, said: “Goodbye my friend… the nicest man in Showbiz… It was such a pleasure spending time with you!!”
Lorraine Kelly wrote: “Such sad news. Paul O’Grady – funny, fearless, brave, kind and wise … I always think dogs are the best judge of character and they ADORED him.”
Battersea Dogs Home said: “We’re deeply saddened to learn that our wonderful, kind friend and beloved Ambassador Paul O’Grady MBE has passed away. He will be so dearly missed by all of us at Battersea. Our love and thoughts go out to all of Paul’s family and friends at this difficult time.
RSPCA wrote: We’re heartbroken to hear the news that the wonderful Paul O’Grady has passed away. He was a shining light for animals with an inspirational passion and drive to help them. Our thoughts are with Paul’s loved ones, his many animals and our friends at @Battersea_.”
A close friend of Paul O’Grady who saw the TV star on the afternoon of his death has paid tribute to his ‘dear friend’ after visiting him just hours before his death.
Radio producer Malcolm Prince said he popped round to Paul’s for a ‘good old catch-up’ on Tuesday afternoon (March 28th) and the former drag queen was ‘laughing, smiling and full of life.’
In a post on Twitter, Malcolm shared ‘a few words’ about his last moments with the TV veteran, saying: “I’m devastated. Yesterday afternoon, I popped round to Paul’s for a good old catch-up. Surrounded by his beloved dogs, he was laughing, smiling and full of life.
“He was so proud of ‘Annie’, so happy to be back on Boom Radio and he was looking forward to so many new projects. And now he’s gone. I can’t believe it. We have lost a unique talent – and I’ve lost a dear friend. We were all lucky to have Paul in our lives.
“My heart goes out to Andre, Paul’s family, and friends. Oh how I’ll miss him”.
Mr Prince also shared the final photo he and Paul had together, adding: “Farewell Paul, I’ll miss you my friend xxx.”
Northern train conductor praised for helping return missing girls to their families
A Northern train conductor has been praised for his swift action in ensuring two missing young girls were returned safely to their families.
Paul Wilkinson, who works for Northern, found the missing girls — who are both under 16 — on the Blackpool North to York train on Wednesday evening, March 22nd.
He discovered they had, in their own words, ‘run away from home’ and immediately alerted British Transport Police (BTP). BTP intercepted the teenagers on the train at Leeds and took them both into their care.
Paul Wilkinson said: “I’ve worked on the railway for nearly 16 years and you meet hundreds if not thousands of customers every day — but through experience and training you can feel when something isn’t quite right.”
“You should always trust your instincts,” he added.
Chris Jackson, regional director for Northern, said: “Paul responded as any one of our staff would do when getting the sense that something wasn’t ‘quite right’ – and I applaud his actions.
“I’m glad these young girls were found and returned home.”
BTP Inspector Pete Wilcock said: “As guardians of the railway we are constantly working with and training rail staff on how to look beyond the obvious and spot the signs of children who are vulnerable or at risk.
“And we continue to work together, sharing intelligence and knowledge, to create a network of people who can understand, identify and help support and safeguard children. That’s exactly what this conductor did and, thanks to his quick thinking the girls were returned home once safeguarding checks had been completed.”
In 2022, Northern began the process of training its 7,000-strong workforce in how to spot vulnerable people on the railway and having the confidence to intervene.
The training is provided by the charity ‘Railway Children’, whose work focusses on identifying individuals at risk and helping with early forms of intervention. Anyone can contact British Transport Police via text message on 61016 or call 0800 40 50 40.
Northern is the second largest train operator in the UK, with 2,500 services a day to more than 500 stations across the North of England.
Linda Nolan says she’s ‘not giving up’ as she reveals cancer has spread to her brain
‘I’ve beaten it before so hopefully I can do it again’
Linda Nolan has said she’s ‘not giving up’ and is remaining ‘positive’ after being given the news from doctors that her cancer has spread to her brain.
The singer, 64 – who was part of the family pop-group the Nolans – revealed the devastating news to ITV’s Good Morning Britain, on Monday March 27th, from her home in Blackpool. Nolan has said she will be moving in with her sister and will be using a wheelchair.
She wanted to share the update on her condition after being pictured leaving the hospital in a wheelchair just weeks after her birthday. Speaking to co-hosts Richard and Susanna live via video link, she said: “Unfortunately, sadly for me, my cancer has now spread to my brain, which I only found out on Monday.
“It’s obviously very frightening because there isn’t much out there for brain cancer at the moment, apart from radiotherapy, which I’m going to be having. But there is a new drug that’s been in use for a year, for brain cancer, and they’re going to try me on that as a chemotherapy drug with some other treatment.”
Nolan, whose group had a hit in 1979 with I’m In The Mood For Dancing, added that the treatment will mean she will lose her hair for a fourth time but joked about her sister telling her at least she had ‘some nice wigs out of it’.
She was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in 2005 but was given the all-clear in 2006. In 2017, cancer returned in her hip and spread to her liver in 2020. She had thought there was an issue with her spine before being given the diagnosis, after suffering three ‘quite nasty falls’, as the disease was affecting her balance.
Her sister, Anne, whom she joined on TV series The Nolans Go Cruising was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time three years ago, and is now living cancer free. Her sibling Bernie died of breast cancer in 2013, aged just 52.
Nolan admitted the family history of cancer was ‘really scary’ for her and her other sisters, including Denise, Maureen and Coleen. But remaining hopefull she said: “It’s about making the most of every day and being positive. I’ve beaten it before so hopefully I can do it again.”
She added: “I try not to say why me, because why not me?
“There are so many people suffering with this terrible disease but I talk about it because I can, and maybe I can help someone who is on their own and say it is ok to cry, it is ok to feel angry, it’s ok to feel sorry for yourself, but don’t let it overtake you because then cancer is winning everything and is taking your life from you.”