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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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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. 

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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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Manchester ruled out of hosting Eurovision 2023

BREAKING: The decision now lays between two northern cities

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Manchester has been ruled out of hosting the Eurovision song contest for 2023 as the shortlist for cities is cut from seven to two.

The BBC has announced today that Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Newcastle and Sheffield have been axed from the shortlist of wannabe hosts for the competition.

This leaves Liverpool and Glasgow as the last standing contenders.

The BBC said the two remaining cities, which both have riverside arena venues, had ‘the strongest overall offer’.

A final decision will be made ‘within weeks’, the broadcaster added.

If Liverpool is selected as the host, the competition would be staged at the 11,000-capacity dockside M&S Bank Arena, which is next to a conference centre and near the city centre’s hotels and rail links.

In Glasgow, alternatively, the 14,300-capacity OVO Hydro venue would play home to Eurovision.

Liverpool and Glasgow will be scored on a set of criteria, the BBC said, including:

  • “Having a suitable venue and sufficient space to deliver the requirements of the Song Contest.
  • “The commitment that can be made by a city or region to hosting the event, including the financial contribution.
  • “The strength of the cultural offer which includes off screen local and regional activity as well as showcasing Ukrainian culture and music.
  • “And alignment with the BBC’s strategic priorities as a public service broadcaster, such as providing value to all audiences and supporting the creative economy in the UK.”

It was announced last month that the UK would host the annual song contest for the first time in twenty-four years after organisers decided it could not go ahead in Ukraine – who won this year’s competition – due to the ongoing conflict with Russia.

The UK came in second place thanks to Sam Ryder’s smash-hit ‘Spaceman’, prompting the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) to open talks with the BBC.

A statement from BBC director general Tim Davie read: “It is a matter of great regret that our colleagues and friends in Ukraine are not able to host the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest.

“Being asked to host the largest and most complex music competition in the world is a great privilege. The BBC is committed to making the event a true reflection of Ukrainian culture alongside showcasing the diversity of British music and creativity.”

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Kwasi Kwarteng reportedly said ‘who cares if Sterling crashes?’ after Brexit

This comes as Labour overtakes the Conservatives in a new opinion poll for the first time in 20 years

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Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng said ‘who cares if Sterling crashes?’ in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, a new report is claiming today.

The then-Tory backbencher, who publicly backed the Leave campaign, was heard making the comment outside of private members club Groucho Club in Soho, London, the Evening Standard claims. 

In her Londoner’s Diary column for the Evening Standard, journalist Joy Lo Dico said she found Kwarteng with ‘his white shirt hanging out of his trousers’ and talking ‘feverishly’ into his phone after the Brexit result in 2016.

Dico says she then overheard the Brexiteer saying: “Who cares if Sterling crashes? It will come back up again.”

This revelation comes as Labour overtakes the Conservatives in the latest YouGov poll as the pound hits an all-time low.

With the fallout of the tax-slashing budget still unfolding, Labour has opened up a seventeen-point lead over the Tories – the party’s biggest poll lead in over twenty years. 

According to YouGov, Conservative support has dropped by four points to 28% in the wake of the budget, while Labour’s has surged by five points to 45%.

The Lib Dems remain unchanged on 8%.

Sir Keir Starmer is set to deliver his keynote speech at Labour’s conference in Liverpool today, with him expected to promise to get the UK ‘out of this endless cycle of crisis’.

Starmer is expected to say: “What we’ve seen from the government in the past few days has no precedent. They’ve lost control of the British economy – and for what? For tax cuts for the richest one per cent in our society.”

The party has also pledged to bring the nation’s railways back into state ownership if it wins the next general election, as well as hire ‘thousands’ of NHS doctors and nurses. 

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Tragedy as 6-year-old boy killed in front of mum on her birthday

The youngster was killed after being hit by a van in 2014

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A mum has spoken of her heartache after her son was killed in front of her on her birthday.

Bobby Colleran was just six-years-old when he died after being hit by a van in West Derby, Liverpool, in October 2014. His mum, Joanne, witnessed the full tragedy.

And just last week ahead of the eight-year anniversary of Bobby’s death, Joanne watched as a teenage boy was knocked off his electric bike by a car in a chillingly similar incident.

According to the Liverpool Echo, last week’s incident in West Derby left the teenager with a serious head injury.

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For Joanne, witnessing the incident brought the heartache of losing Bobby back, with her telling the paper: “It’s bizarre because we were just there as it had happened, but your whole inside turns over.

“You think whoever it is, their parents, their family, I hope they’re ok. You kind of go through all of your emotions again and then it just puts stuff in your mind.

“I used to love September and October, the run up to autumn, it was one of my favourite times of year – and now the minute the chill comes in the air it’s horrible. I just relive everything, everyday – what we were doing when he was here.”

Speaking on the upcoming anniversary of Bobby’s death, Joanne added: “It is a difficult day. What makes it harder is it’s my birthday on the day he died.

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“People say grief gets easier and it doesn’t. It’s like every milestone, everything that happens you’re like where is he? He was the middle one of the kids.”

In the wake of Bobby’s death, Joanne established the Bobby Colleran Trust which campaigns for better road safety on roads across the city.

And back in March 2021, the charity announced the launch of its ‘Take Care for Bobby’ campaign to support the mental health of children and young people in the Liverpool City Region.

The trust is set to open its very own centre next to Blackmoor Park Infant School in the coming months, where it will run counselling sessions for children and young people.

You can read more about the new centre and donate here.

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