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‘Surge testing’ to be rolled out in parts of country including North West after South African Covid variant found

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David Dixon & Bill Kasman/Geograph

Household coronavirus testing is set to be rolled out across parts of England.

The South African variant has been found in England after Surrey County Council announced on Monday that two people had caught the more infectious variant with ‘no links to travel or previous variant cases’. 

The government has announced a ‘surge testing’ scheme to begin in eight postcodes in England, Sky News reports. 

Those over 16 in the affected areas will be asked to take the PCR swab test and public health officials will start going door-to-door next week. 

Annie Spratt / Unsplash

Mostly, the affected areas are down south including Maidstone, Guildford, Ealing and Walsall. 

In the North West those in the PR9 postcode will be asked to take the test. 

The testing scheme will begin in the following areas:

  • London – W7 (Ealing), N17 (Haringey) and CR4 (Croydon)
  • West Midlands – WS2 (Walsall)
  • East of England – EN10 (Broxbourne)
  • South East – ME15 (Maidstone) and GU21 (Guildford)
  • North West – PR9 (Preston/Southport)

People in the affected areas do not need to self-isolate unless they have symptoms, have tested positive or have been in close contact with someone else who has the disease. 

The Department for Health and Social Care said: “There is currently no evidence to suggest this variant is more serious than others, or that the regulated vaccine would not protect against it.”

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “It is vital that we do all we can to stop transmission of this variant and I strongly urge everyone in these areas to get tested, whether you have symptoms or not.

“The best way to stop the spread of the virus – including new variants – is to stay at home and follow the restrictions in place. Until more people are vaccinated this is the only way we will control the spread of the virus.”

105 cases of the South African variant have been found in the UK, initially all connected to travel from South Africa, however community transmission has now being detected. 

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The briefing states: “There is currently no evidence that this variant causes more severe illness, or that the regulated vaccine would not protect against it.

“Virus variation and mutation occurs naturally. The more we suppress new variants the more we will avoid variants which cause problems for treatment or vaccination.”

Dr Alison Barnett, a regional director at Public Health England South East, said: “The UK has one of the best genomic systems in the world, which has allowed us to detect the variant originating in South Africa here in Surrey. I urge everyone offered a test to take it up to help us to monitor the virus in our communities and to help suppress and control the spread of this variant.

“The most important thing is that people continue to follow the guidance that is in place: limit your number of contacts, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, keep your distance and cover your face. If you test positive by any method, you must isolate to stop the spread of the virus.”

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First ever permanent pug cafe to open in Greater Manchester

If you’re a fan of pugs, you’re going to love this!

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Cuppapug

A brand new cafe full of adorable and playful pugs is set to open in Greater Manchester.

You could go for a coffee and cake while 10 cute pugs cuddle, play and come for treats from your hands at this brand new cafe concept opening on Chapel Street in Salford.

Already a huge hit in London, with visitors from near and far, Cuppapug will be opening its first café in the North West – and its second venue – with a soft launch on Friday March 1st.

Cuppapug

Pug lovers can book in at the cafe for an hour of crazy or chilled pug time, suitable for all the family to enjoy.

Cuppapug is a cafe concept created by couple – and owners of seven pugs – Aaron Carty and Matthew Pieterse, who opened the doors to their first venue in London in 2022.

Fully opening to the public on March 21st, visitors to Cuppapug can expect the adorable, furry four-legged friends running around the cafe, playing in ball pits and eating carrots and treats from your hands.

The menu will feature a host of doggy-themed drinks and cakes as well as treats for the doggos such as puppuccinos.

Cuppapug

In case you’re wondering where the pugs go at the end of the day, each one belongs to local owners who drop their loveable fur baby off at the cafe for a day of mischief and fun.

Also in the CuppaPug family are Gaston, Bruce, Bowser, Beau, Gizmo, Bebe, and Baloo – Aaron and Matt’s pugs who’ve been staying with them at The Kimpton Clocktower as they prep the site for opening.

Speaking to Proper Manchester about the new opening, Aaron said: “We chose Manchester because we discovered it is a city full of dog lovers who love pugs.

“We get so many people visiting our London cafe from the North, we’ve even people catching flights from Hawaii, so it seemed like the right place to open our next Cuppapug.”

Cuppapug

On why he and Matt love pugs so much, Aaron said: “I think of pugs being a lot like myself and I also love an underdog – and pugs are an underdog of the dog world.

“People think they are unfit, unhealthy and have breathing issues but that’s not true. We actually train our pugs to enjoy carrots, walk a lot, and our pet pugs enjoy a steak night every week – even I don’t get that!”

The Salford Cuppapug will also be partnering with Manchester Pug Thing, who rescue and rehome pugs, with £1 from every ticket going towards the pug rescue charity.

Aaron added: “We’ve had such overwhelming support and positive messages about our Manchester opening, it’s been absolutely amazing. 

“It’s already a nerve-wrecking experience deciding to open a second venue but we’re really happy to have chosen to do it in Manchester and we’re really happy Manchester has chosen us. We’ve had so many drivers going past and beeping us and people asking ‘is this the pug place?’

“We’re having a launch party on March 21st and are really excited to open.”

CuppaPug officially opens to the public on March 21st 6-10pm, following a soft launch this Friday (March 1st). You can find the cafe and pugs on Chapel Street, Salford – it’s bright pink, you can’t miss it!

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Primary school in Greater Manchester evacuated after nearby ‘gas explosion’

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Tamoor Tariq / Facebook

A primary school in Greater Manchester has been evacuated after a ‘gas explosion’ at a nearby house.

The incident happened earlier today (February 28th) near to St Luke’s primary school in Bury.

Councillor Tamoor Tariq said everyone who lived nearby has also been taken to a place of safety after the blast, which happened in the Fishpool area.

At around 12pm, he posted on Facebook: “Heartbreaking to share there has been a gas explosion in the last few minutes right across from my house.

Tamoor Tariq / Facebook

“I understand everyone has been taken into a place of safety and emergency services are doing all possible to deal with this awful situation.

“St Luke’s primary have also evacuated children, as they are just yards away. I remain out of the country due to a family member being critical, but I am keeping in touch with all relevant people/authorities.”

In a further comment, Mr Tamoor added: “An elderly neighbour has been taken into hospital, all others affected are in a safe and secure place of their choosing. Praying our neighbour will be ok and get the treatment she needs.”

Tamoor Tariq / Facebook

A Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said ‘multiple crews’ had been dispatched to the scene.

They added: “Residents in the area are advised to keep windows and doors closed and avoid the scene while crews carry out their work.”

A woman in her 70s has been taken to hospital with ‘serious injuries’, Greater Manchester Police said.

Tamoor Tariq / Facebook

Issuing a statement on social media, GMP said: “Emergency services are currently responding to a report of an explosion at a property on Nelson Street in the Fishpool area of Bury.

“At this stage, a woman in her 70s has been taken to hospital with serious injuries. A 200 metre cordon is in place around the property and neighbouring homes.

“Local residents and the community will be made aware if they need to take any further action.”

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Iceland announces it’s discounting baby formula to cut price of £7.95

Iceland CEO Richard Walker says says ‘businesses need to step up and do more’

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Edward Hands / Wikimedia & Iceland

Iceland has launched reduced cost baby formula in a bid to do more to help families through the cost of living crisis.

Iceland CEO Richard Walker is determined to bring down the cost of baby formula, and says ‘businesses need to step up and do more’.

The businessman has made it his mission after hearing heartbreaking tales from parents who have been struggling to feed their families amid spiralling costs.

Edward Hands / Wikimedia

Mr Walker, a dad-of-two, told Metro: “We’ve heard terrible stories of customers watering down feeds, skipping feeds or ignoring sell by dates, all of which is really bad for the baby. That prompted us to take action.”

Iceland slashed prices earlier this year, revealing three of its Aptamil formula milk products would sell at £11.20 – a move which led other supermarkets including Asda and Tesco to reduce their own prices. 

Now, Iceland has confirmed it is selling 800g of SMA’s Little Steps formula milk for £7.95 across its stores and online from Tuesday February 27th – £1.80 cheaper than its rivals.

Ben Kerckx / Wikimedia

Mr Walker insisted it’s not just a clever business move either, as he continued: “The price is a mind-blowing £7.95 which makes it the cheapest infant formula milk on the market. I think it will really really help our customers.

“We’re not making any profit out of this now. We’re passing on the savings which we’re managing to persuade the manufacturer to give straight on to our customers.”

The baby formula industry is currently under investigation after prices rose by an average of 25% in the past two years.

Donald_Trung / Wikimedia

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has said it is looking into whether companies have been exploiting parents for profit.

Iceland’s launch of lower priced baby formula has also gained the support of Mumsnet.

The eight-million strong parenting group have announced they are joining forces with Formula For Change – Metro’s campaign to lower baby formula prices.

Mr Walker has also signed the petition and is calling on parents to sign it and help push it over the line.

Politicians may soon be forced to address the scandal as the Formula for Change petition is almost at the 100,000 signatures mark – the crucial threshold needed for a parliamentary debate on the issue.

Mr Walker also told the publication: “Formula for Change is absolutely fantastic. The Prime Minister has said he is ‘sad’ families are watering down formula to try and make it last longer, but again these are just words.”

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