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Senior Medics issue warning of a second wave after ‘mixed’ government message regarding face masks

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Senior doctors have expressed concern at ‘mixed’ government messaging about face masks, pleading the public to help prevent a second wave that will ‘devastate’ the NHS. 

The British Medical Association (BMA) said a second peak of COVID-19 combined with seasonal flu could be ‘devastating for the NHS’ and have voiced criticism of government guidance on the use of face masks.

Previously, wearing face coverings has been compulsory on public transport and will be compulsory in shops in England from Friday.

They have warned that a hefty £100 fine will be issued to those who ignore this new law. 

However, there has been significant confusion as to why masks aren’t compulsory in other situations where social distancing is difficult to maintain such as offices or pubs and restaurants. 

Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Prof Carrie MacEwen, said that medics and healthcare workers felt ‘totally reliant on the public understanding that this has certainly not disappeared and could come back and cause even more suffering for the population’. 

Dr Alison Pittard, head of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine also said: “People might think COVID is over with, why do I have to wear a face mask, but it isn’t over. We still have COVID patients in intensive care. If the public don’t physically distance and don’t wear face coverings we could very quickly get back to where we were earlier this year.”

Downing Street has announced that its scientific advice shows that new infections are falling at a rate of between one and five per cent a day across the UK.

On Sunday, the Scottish government confirmed new cases for the fifth consecutive day and reaching their highest daily rate since June 21st.

Meanwhile, Dominic Harrison, director of Public Health said that the national tracing system is only managing to reach half of those who had been in close contact with a coronavirus patient, reports the Guardian.

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has said: “When you’re in close proximity with somebody that you have to work closely to, if you’re there for a long time with them, then a mask doesn’t offer that protection.”

Council chair of the BMA, the trade union and professional body for doctors in the UK, Dr Chaand Nagpaul said “Everyone has their role to play, but there needs to be clear, concise public messaging,”

“To introduce measures for shops, but not other situations where physical distancing is not possible – including some workplaces – is illogical and adds to confusion and the risk of the virus spreading.”

The warning from medics comes after the government continues to ease national restrictions as the reproduction rate stands between 07 and 0.9, meaning the virus is not growing exponentially. 

Last week, the Academy of Medical Sciences said a second wave could kill 120,000 people in a worst-case scenario, despite Boris Johnson saying a second national lockdown would not be necessary and that normality could return by Christmas.

As part of the new lockdown easing, Johnson has instructed that the ‘work from home where possible’ advise will be lifted, conflicting with the Chief Scientific Officer, Sir Patrick Vallance who told MPs he could see ‘absolutely no reason to change’. 

When asked to clarify the position by reporters Johnson said: “We want to encourage people to think it is safe to come into work, provided employers have done the work … to make their premises COVID-secure.”

The Department of Health and Social Care has defended the track and trace system, which this weekend emerged was finding 37% of people with COVID-19 when this number needs to be 50% to be effective.

A spokesperson said.“It has already helped test and isolate more than 180,000 cases – helping us control the spread of the virus, prevent a second wave and save lives,”.

The government is set to allow local councils to access names and data of people in areas who have tested positive which may improve the performance of the system. 

MacEwen explained that a second surge could be bigger than the last, could ‘economically cripple us’ and ‘damage the NHS in the long-term’.

She said: “Going into winter the situation is much bleaker [than handling a pandemic in spring] and against a background of economic disaster. The public has begun to think we are free of this, but we are not.”

She added: “The most important thing about being prepared for this winter is the population gets the flu vaccine if they need it and they behave in a way that reduces the risk of them catching COVID which is to socially distance, wash hands, wear masks and isolate if symptomatic or told to do so by test and trace.”

Pittard added that the public is vital in this and that “it is down to the public again”. 

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Boris Johnson reveals plan to offer all adults booster jabs by the end of January

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The government plans on offering all adults booster vaccines by the end of January, Boris Johnson has revealed today.

The Prime Minister spoke at a Downing Street conference this afternoon where he announced the planned booster rollout will take place across 1,500 pharmacy sites across England in age order. 

Over 400 military personnel will help with the rollout, Johnson added.

Noting that it’s ‘time for another Great British vaccination effort’, Johnson said: “The target we’ve set ourselves is to offer a booster to everyone eligible by the end of January.

“As with the first jabs, we’ll be working through people by age group going down in five year bands, because it’s vital that the older and more clinically vulnerable get that added protection first.”

The Prime Minister stressed that even those who had their second jab over three months ago should wait until the NHS contacts them about a booster appointment.

This announcement comes as face masks are made compulsory once again in all shops and on public transport.

The government made the decision as part of its response to the new Omicron variant, which is said to be ‘more transmissible and have more mutations which could weaken the effect of vaccines and natural immunity.’ 

The change in rules was announced by the Prime Minister after cases of the new variant were detected at several locations across the UK. 

The Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed yesterday that all adults will be offered a COVID-19 booster vaccine as part of a reaching expansion of the jabs programme to deal with the potential impact of the new variant.

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Child abusers could face mandatory life sentences under government-backed law

Child abusers are sentenced to a maximum of ten years behind bars under the current law

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People who abuse children could be handed mandatory life sentences under new plans backed by the government. 

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is currently going through parliament, and could see an increase in maximum punishments for several child cruelty offences.

Tougher planned sentences could also mean that anyone who causes or allows the death of a child or vulnerable adult in their care will face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment – as it stands, child abusers can only face a maximum of ten years behind bars.

The changes, known as Tony’s Law, follow a campaign by MP Tom Tugendhat and the adoptive family of seven-year-old Tony Hudgell, who had to have both his legs amputated in 2017 as a result of abuse suffered at the hands of his birth parents.

Tony was attacked as a baby and was left with broken fingers and toes, plus torn ligaments in his legs. He was left untreated and in agony for ten days, and eventually had to have both legs amputated.

His birth parents were sentenced to the current maximum jail term of 10 years. 

In a statement, Tony’s adoptive mother Paula Hudgell said: “We are delighted that Tony’s Law is being backed by the Government. It’s been our hope since those who abused our son were jailed in 2018 that more could be done to protect other children, the most vulnerable members of our society.

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“I can’t thank the public enough for the support they have shown through this nearly four-year campaign, but especially thanks to Tom Tugendhat who has worked tirelessly with me, also my friend Julia Roberts, a court reporter and my friends and family.

“It was definitely a team effort.”

Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab said the changes were needed because ‘the law must provide maximum protection to the most vulnerable and no-one is more vulnerable than a young child’. 

He added: “I pay tribute to the courage of young Tony Hudgell and his adoptive parents, Paula and Mark.”

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New Covid-19 Rules: Everything you need to know as masks become compulsory in shops and on transport

The new rules will come into place tomorrow at 4

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From tomorrow, November 30th, the use of face masks and coverings will once again be compulsory in shops and on public transport.

The government made the decision as part of its response to the new Omicron variant, which is said to be ‘more transmissible and have more mutations which could weaken the effect of vaccines and natural immunity.’ 

The change in rules was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson after cases of the new variant were detected at several locations across the UK. The Health Secretary Sajid Javid gave more detail yesterday, November 28th, saying the masks rule would apply from 4am on Tuesday

Here’s everything you need to know:

Where will face masks be compulsory after November 30th? 

Face masks and coverings will be mandatory in all shops and on all forms of public transport.

A statement from the Government says: “From 4am Tuesday November 30th, face coverings will be compulsory in shops and other settings such as banks, post offices and hairdressers, as well as on public transport unless individuals are exempt from doing so.”

However, all hospitality will be exempt from the rule change, with the Prime Minister saying further details would be outlined by the Health Secretary ‘in the course of the next day or so’. 

Will face masks be compulsory in schools?

While staff and secondary school students are being ‘strongly advised’ to wear face masks in communal areas from Monday, the rule won’t be mandatory in schools

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi recommends that staff, visitors and pupils in Year 7 and above should wear masks in communal areas in schools, colleges and universities such as corridors, canteens and halls.

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What other measures are being brought in?

Passengers arriving into the UK from Tuesday will have to take a PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result. PCR tests must be purchased from private providers as free NHS tests are not valid for this purpose.

All close contacts of anyone who has tested positive for the Omicron variant must also self-isolate for ten days regardless of their vaccination status.

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty also said during Saturday’s press conference that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation will consider extending boosters from the over-40s to the over-18s.

Will more restrictions be brought in?

The Health Secretary said during Saturday’s press conference that it was ‘nowhere near’ the time to reintroduce social distancing rules and work-from-home guidance, and was hopeful the mask mandate would be removed ‘within weeks’.

Also speaking on Saturday, Boris Johnson added that the measures are simply a ‘precaution’ and are in place to ‘buy time for scientists’ while more is learned about the Omicron variant.

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