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Schools could close in January as new Covid strain thought to infect kids more easily

Experts have released an update

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The government is reportedly considering closing schools throughout January as it’s thought the new coronavirus strain could infect kids more easily, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Scientific experts have said that a ‘significantly higher’ percentage of children have returned a positive Covid test in recent weeks, coinciding with the rise of the new strain.

Professor Neil Ferguson, a scientist on the Government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats advisory group (NervTag), said at a press briefing: “There is a hint that it has a higher propensity to infect children that may perhaps explain some of the differences, but we haven’t established any sort of causality on that but we can see that in the data.”

He continued: “What we’ve seen is, during the lockdown in England we saw a general distribution of the virus towards children, and that was true in the variant and the non-variant, and it is what we would expect, given that we had locked down which reduced adult contact but schools were still open.

“But what we’ve seen over the course of a five or six-week period is consistently the proportion of pillar two cases for the variant in under-15s was statistically significantly higher than the non-variant virus.

“We are still investigating the significance of that.”

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Professor Ferguson added: “This is a hypothesis at the moment – it’s not been proven. But if it were true, then this might explain a significant proportion, maybe even the majority, of the transmission increase seen.

“But a lot more work needs to be done to actually explore this in more detail.”

However, fellow NervTag member Professor Wendy Barclay, who is the head of the department of infectious disease at Imperial College London, urged people to be cautious in regards to what is said about the spread among kids.

She said: “We are not saying that this is a virus which specifically attacks children. We know that SARS-CoV-2, as it emerged as a virus, was not as efficient in infecting children as it was adults, and there are many hypotheses about that.

“And again, if the (new) virus is having an easier time of finding an entrance cell then that would put children on a more level playing field.”

Professor Barclay added: “Therefore children are equally susceptible perhaps to this virus as adults, and therefore given their mixing patterns, you would expect to see more children being infected.

“It’s not just the viruses specifically targeting them, but it’s just that it’s now less inhibited, if you like, to get into the children.”

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According to Professor Ferguson, the most current estimates found the virus might be somewhere between 50-70% more transmissible than the old strain, and he added that NervTag now had ‘high confidence’ there is a substantial increase in transmission.

However, uncertainty around the numbers means the group has not attached a final number on it, although he confirmed the new variant of the virus has spread to other parts of the country – Susan Hopkins, from Public Health England, said they were investigating a hotspot in Cumbria.

The virus, both the original and new strain, will decline over the next two weeks, according to Professor Ferguson’s best assessment of the situation.

He explained: “Contact rates tend to be lower over Christmas with the tightening of Christmas measures and Tier4 for in place in the highest areas. I would hope certainly to be seeing virus decrease.

“If we do that will give us some sense of the level of controls which need to be in place, the real question then is, how much are we able to relax measures in the new year, and still retain control.”

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Drivers could soon be fined for parking on the pavement under new rules

Make sure you’re aware of the proposed rule changes

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Jaggery / Geograph

A ban on parking on the pavement could soon be implemented across England, under new laws which are expected to be rolled out this year.

Parking on pavements would be a thing of the past, with £70 penalty fines for offenders coming into effect under the proposed new rules.

According to reports, the new legislation would see a ban on antisocial parking introduced, in a bid to make pavements safer for people with disabilities and visual impairments, as well as families.

The changes to the law which are being considered have already been implemented in London and would be rolled out nationwide.



They come in response to complaints about pavement parking and the risks it brings with it to those whose use pavements, with the Department for Transport (DfT) initially launching a proposal on the subject in September 2020.

The proposals came after a review discovered that almost half of wheelchair users and a third of visually impaired people were less willing to go out on the streets alone due to ‘antisocial’ parking on the pavement.

A spokeswoman from the DfT explained to The Mirror that the government is currently collating responses after receiving ‘overwhelming’ feedback.

The public consultation period for the proposals ended back on November 22nd, and as such a decision on the plan is expected imminently.

Jaggery / Geograph

However, Mark Tongue, director of Select Car Leasing has said that ‘the guidelines are currently quite confusing for motorists’.

The motoring company conducted a report which discovered that local authorities would have the power to dish out £70 fines if a vehicle was considered an obstruction, even if it was parked outside the driver’s house.

Mr Tongue said: “A pavement parking ban is 100% needed nationwide – anything that puts pedestrians at an increased risk requires action.

“However, the information given so far is slightly confusing for drivers. At the moment, there’s no clear guidelines for those who park on the pavement due to having no room on their own drive. Most households have more than one car, so it will be interesting to see where motorists are expected to park if not on the pavement outside their homes.

“Clear guidance is required for drivers so they know the correct location to park in order to avoid a fine.”

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Operation Forth Bridge: the full plan for what happens next after Prince Philip’s death

Buckingham Palace confirmed the sad news of his passing earlier today

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Buckingham Palace announced this afternoon that HRH Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh has died.

The 99-year-old, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday in June, passed away peacefully at Windsor Castle this morning, Friday April 9th.

Buckingham Palace said: “It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

“His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.

“Further announcements will be made in due course. The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.”

There were already strict procedures put in place for when Prince Philip died, which have now begun, and they’re known as Operation Forth Bridge.

According to the plan there are several steps that need to be followed, including everything from national mourning to a burial site for the Duke.

Operation Forth Bridge has been around for many years, with Buckingham Palace, in consultation with both the Queen and Prince Philip, regularly updating and reviewing it.

Part one of the operation was the announcement from Buckingham Palace confirming the death of the Duke, which was distributed to the Press Association and BBC first.

Then the country enters a period of national mourning, meaning a set of rules, like flags being flown at half-mast, must be followed.

According to reports, it’s thought newsreaders and other TV presenters must wear black out of respect.

Jamie McCaffrey / Flickr

Next, plans for the funeral will be drawn up, and while Prince Philip is entitled to a state funeral he reportedly wanted something more discreet – a private service in the style of a military funeral at St George’s Chapel in Windsor, followed by burial at Frogmore Gardens.

The funeral is still expected to be televised despite the current restrictions, although it remains unclear how many people will be able to attend it.

The Queen’s private secretary and senior adviser, Sir Edward Young, will be on hand to help her during the undoubtedly challenging days ahead.

As well as being responsible for supporting the Queen in her duties, Sir Edward is also the channel of communication between the Queen and the government.

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Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, has died aged 99

NEWS JUST IN

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Jamie McCaffrey / Flickr

Prince Philip has died aged 99, Buckingham Palace has confirmed today.

A tweet on The Royal Family Twitter account announced the news.

The Duke of Edinburgh was born 1921, and was married to Queen Elizabeth II for more than 70 years – officially the longest-serving consort in British history.

The official announcement read: “It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

“His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.

“Further announcements will be made in due course.

“The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.”

There’s been no official details about the Duke’s funeral released yet, however it has been reported that he will be given a royal ceremonial funeral rather than a state funeral, in line with his wishes.

 

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