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.
Energy bills set to rise even higher in worrying new prediction
Households will soon be faced with annual bills of over £4,000
Energy bills are set to rise even higher than previously predicted, according to worrying new figures released today.
Energy consultancy firm Cornwall Insight has forecasted that the average household will be paying £3,582 a year, £200 higher from the £3,359 originally predicted earlier this month.
And from January, the amount is expected to rise even higher to £4,266 before continuing to rise in April to £4,427.
The previous forecast for April was £3,729 – that’s a rise of £650.
Cornwall insight said it had increased its forecast due to the continuing rise in wholesale prices and an expected change in methodology for how the energy price cap is calculated.
Dr. Craig Lowrey, principal consultant at Cornwall Insight, described the predicted increase in January as a ‘fresh shock’.
He said: “The cost of living crisis was already top of the news agenda as more and more people face fuel poverty, this will only compound the concerns.”
However, Dr. Lowrey explained that without the more frequent changes to the price cap, more energy suppliers might be in danger of collapse.
He said the change in how the price cap is calculated was necessary to prevent suppliers going bust, but added: “Rather than critiquing the methodology of the cap, it may be time to consider the cap’s place altogether.
“After all, if it is not controlling consumer prices, and is damaging suppliers’ business models, we must wonder if it is fit for purpose – especially in these times of unprecedented energy market conditions.
“It is essential that the government use our predictions to spur on a review of the support package being offered to consumers.
“If the £400 was not enough to make a dent in the impact of our previous forecast, it most certainly is not enough now.”
Avanti West Coast slashes timetable and suspends ticket sales to Manchester ‘until further notice’
The disruption is expected to last for the rest of the month
Avanti West Coast has slashed its timetables and suspended ticket sales to Manchester ‘until further notice’.
The company said severe staff shortages caused by ‘unofficial strike action’ by ASLEF members is the reason for their reduced services, which are expected to be impacted for the rest of the month.
As a result of this, services will run on a reduced service, with trains between London Euston and Manchester Piccadilly being the worst affected.
Train frequencies between the capital and Manchester will be reduced to as few as one per hour, rather than the usual three.
There will be just four Avanti West Coast trains per hour from Euston travelling to Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham.
Avanti West Coast said that many passengers have experienced short-notice cancellations in recent weeks and they hope the reduced timetable will allow them to run a reliable service.
Ticket sales and closed reservations have also been suspended from August 14th to September 11th ‘to minimise the number of people disrupted’.
A statement from the company said: “From August 14th, until further notice, we will be introducing a reduced timetable on our services. This is due to the current industrial relations climate which has resulted in severe staff shortages in some grades through increased sickness levels, as well as unofficial strike action by ASLEF members.
“As a result of the above, including the majority of drivers declaring themselves unavailable for overtime, our customers have faced multiple short-notice cancellations on our network which has had a severe impact on their plans.
“The reduced timetable is being introduced to ensure a reliable service is delivered so our customers can travel with greater certainty. This decision was not taken lightly, and we are sorry for the enormous frustration and inconvenience this will cause.”
The company went on to urge rail unions to ‘engage in meaningful industry reform talks around modernising working practices and developing a railway fit for the 21st century’.
Their statement concluded: “If you’ve already booked to travel with us from August 14th onwards and your train is cancelled, your ticket will be accepted on the Avanti West Coast service before or after your original booked train.”
Alternatively, passengers can claim a full, fee-free refund from their point of purchase if they can no longer travel due to the amended timetable.
‘Grease’ star Dame Olivia Newton-John has died aged 73
Grease actress Dame Olivia Newton-John has died at the age of seventy-three.
A representative for the Cambridge-born actress confirmed the news tonight, saying Olivia ‘died peacefully at her ranch in Southern California Monday morning, surrounded by family and friends’.
Her death comes after a thirty-year-long battle with breast cancer.
Her husband John Easterling confirmed the news in a Facebook post on her official page, writing: “Dame Olivia Newton-John (73) passed away peacefully at her Ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends.
“We ask that everyone please respect the family’s privacy during this very difficult time.
“Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over thirty years sharing her journey with breast cancer.
“Her healing inspiration and pioneering experience with plant medicine continues with the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, dedicated to researching plant medicine and cancer.
“In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any donations be made in her memory to the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund (ONJFoundationFund.org).
“Olivia is survived by her husband John Easterling; daughter Chloe Lattanzi; sister Sarah Newton-John; brother Toby Newton-John; nieces and nephews Tottie, Fiona and Brett Goldsmith; Emerson, Charlie, Zac, Jeremy, Randall, and Pierz Newton-John; Jude Newton-Stock, Layla Lee; Kira and Tasha Edelstein; and Brin and Valerie Hall.”
Olivia was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 and again in 2013, though she chose to keep her diagnosis private the second time around.
When she was diagnosed for the third time in 2018, she was informed the cancer had spread to the base of her spine. However, she remained optimistic and was determined to beat the disease with the help of her husband.