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Surge testing to start in Manchester today after new Covid-19 variant is found

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Surge testing is being introduced in parts of Manchester after cases of the Kent variant have been confirmed. 

The testing will focus mainly in South Manchester following the news that four cases of a mutation of the Kent variant have been found in two unconnected households. 

More than 10,000 tests are planned with volunteers offering house-to-house tests to those over 16 and primarily for those who are not showing symptoms. 

The council said it is working with Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace and everyone in the designated areas would be given a PCR swab test with results returned within days.

Surge testing begins today, targeting people who do not have symptoms but who live and work within the boundary area.

The council are calling for those who live in any of the following postcodes to attend one of the testing sites if they are offered: M14 4, M14 7, M15 5, M15 6, M16 7 and M16 8, which covers parts of Moss Side, Hulme, Whalley Range and Fallowfield. 

There are testing sites located at Our Lady’s R C Church on Raby Street and Guru Nanak Dev Ji Gurdwara on Monton Street. 

The sites will be walk-in centres with no requirement to book a test in advance. More testing sites are set to be made available within the next few days. 

If someone has already had the vaccine they should still take the test as the programme is designed to understand the spread of the new variant in the local community. 

David Regan, Director of Public Health, Manchester City Council, said: “We all know that the virus will change over time and it’s important that we investigate new strains to understand how they might spread. This is exactly what we’re doing with the intensive testing in parts of Manchester with local testing units and people going door-to-door to offer people tests.

“There is no evidence that this variant will be resistant to the vaccines or causes a more severe illness, and it is not yet known if the strain can be passed more easily between people. But it is really important that everyone who lives in the boundary area and is over the age of 16 plays their part and gets a test.

“The best thing we can all do it to keep following the rules – Hands, Face, Space – get a test if you have symptoms, and keep your vaccination appointment when you are called.”

Cllr Bev Craig, Manchester City Council’s executive member for adult health and well-being, said: “It’s understandable that some residents in the area may be concerned by all this, but we need to remember that it’s very normal for viruses to mutate. The important thing is that this mutation has been identified and that we’re taking action to stop its spread.

“We are following the public health approach to react to the new variant and we will be working with community groups, local champions, MPs and councillors to ensure as many people as possible know how to get a test so we can understand more about this version of the virus.

“There are no changes to the restrictions in Manchester and if you do have to go out for one of the permitted reasons, please make sure you carry on following the rules on social distancing, and wearing a face covering, as well as washing your hands regularly.”

Dr Will Welfare, Deputy Director for Health Protection at PHE North West, said: “As part of our testing work, Public Health England (PHE) has identified in the Moss Side area of Manchester a small number of COVID-19 cases of the variant first identified in Bristol and South Gloucestershire.

“PHE is working closely with and supporting Manchester City Council, as we monitor the situation closely and ensure all necessary measures are being taken to reduce the spread of the virus.

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

Find out more on the council site

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Text message scammer found and arrested by police in Manchester city centre hotel

44,000 mobile phone contacts were found on the man’s devices

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A man suspected of sending over 26,000 fraudulent text messages was arrested by police officers yesterday afternoon.

The twenty-one year old, who has not yet been named, was found by officers in a hotel down Charles Street in the city centre, at around 3pm. Equipment used as part of a text message scam to defraud people – known as phishing – was also found in his hotel room.

The man was subsequently arrested at the scene.

GMP

Detectives from the City of Manchester Central division and Cybercrime Team seized the electronic equipment and his car as a part of their enquiries.

It is estimated that yesterday alone, around 26,000 text messages had already been sent from the devices, all claiming to be from Hermes asking for bank details after a missed delivery.

A total of 44,000 mobile phone contacts are also believed to have been stored on the devices.

Detective Inspector Mark Astbury, of GMP’s City of Manchester Central division, said: “What we have uncovered here are potentially the components of a highly sophisticated and authentic scam that I know many people not just in Greater Manchester but across the country have been potential victims of in recent weeks and months.

@glvrdru / Unsplash

“We have a man in custody and various items of potential evidence that we have seized and this is due to the initiative of the hotel staff, who acted on their suspicions, and the subsequent response from our neighbourhood officers in the city centre.

“These are the very early stages of what promises to be a complex and dynamic investigation, and I would like to take the opportunity to remind the public to ensure they keep remaining alert to the daily risks that unscrupulous cyber criminals pose to them by sending these fraudulent messages.”

GMP advise that anyone believing to be affected by this scam, any other phishing attempts or for more information, they can get in touch here.

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Teen stops young girl being taken by stranger claiming to be ‘dad’s friend’ as she walked home from school

Emma’s quick thinking saved the school girl from being taken by a stranger

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A teenage girl has been praised for her quick thinking as she prevented a child being taken from a stranger.

Fifteen year old Emma Carlile was walking home from school through Wallasey Village in Wirral, Merseyside, when she noticed a man approaching a school girl and telling her that he was her ‘dad’s mate.’

Emma noticed that the girl, who is believed to be around eleven years old, looked alarmed, so decided to intervene.

Emma’s dad, Rik, told the Liverpool Echo: “She said she was walking along and she saw a ‘creepy looking man’ approach a young girl and put his arm around her, which she thought looked odd.

Emma Carlile / Facebook

“She noticed when the man approached her she looked a bit startled and then she heard the man say, ‘I’m your dad’s friend, don’t you remember me? I’ve been to your house before’.”

Rik continued: “The girl was saying ‘no, I don’t remember’ but he kept going on saying, ‘I’m your dad’s friend, I’ve met you before.’ At one point, the girl tried to get her phone out and the man said, ‘no you don’t need to ring anyone, you know who I am, I’m your dad’s mate.’”

Emma followed them around a corner and, as they approached a crossing, shouted the first name that came into her head. 

She said: “Hey Bethany! Dad will be home tonight from police training.”

The girl apparently looked at her and looked startled but relieved at the same time. As soon as Emma spoke, the man quickly walked away down towards Wallasey Village train station.

Rept0n1x / Wikimedia Commons

Rik said that Emma walked with the girl until she was home safely and informed her parents about what had just happened. 

Rik shared his daughter’s encounter on Facebook to warn people with children walking home alone from school. He wrote: “WARNING! My 15 year old daughter was walking home from Weatherhead today through Wallasey village and witnessed an older man walk up to a girl with a Harry Potter backpack and a green coat.

“The man put his arm around her claiming he was her “dads friend,” My daughter recognised that the girl looked alarmed and didn’t know the man and followed them from by the co-op to the crossing by the petrol station.

“Please make your children aware if they walk home alone.”

Emma described the man as being around 6ft tall with short grey hair and stubble. He was of large build wearing a green t-shirt and black trousers.

If you have any information, you can contact Merseyside Police on 0151 709 6010 or, alternatively, you can get in touch online here.

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Leaked documents reveal which Covid restrictions may remain after July 19th

We might have to wear our face masks for a little bit longer…

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Number 10 / Flickr & Kristoffer Trolle / Flickr

Leaked documents are claiming that the current social distancing rules and restrictions will be staying in place after the revised ‘freedom day’ on July 19th.

The memo, obtained by Politico, listed a number of restrictions that the government plans to keep in place for the foreseeable future.

According to the leaked documents, face masks may have to remain mandatory in certain settings for the long term, employers and employees will be told to decide amongst themselves as to whether they want to return to the office or work from home.

As well as that, it says some form of border control and quarantine will be needed for a significant period of time to prevent new variants entering the country.

Number 10 / Flickr

The memo also states that plastic screens – such as those currently used in hairdressers and restaurants – may actually spread Covid rather than prevent it.

Ministers are also considering bringing in new rules for businesses to keep workplaces better ventilated, the documents claim. 

Cabinet office sources have since stressed that the document was one of several including multiple options – with nothing signed off by ministers yet or anywhere near being announced.

This comes just days after Prime Minister Boris Johnson pushed back the highly anticipated ‘freedom day’, June 21st, by just short of a month to July 19th. 

Johnson said this was a result of the new Delta variant, which makes up for 90% of new cases across the country: “I think it is sensible to wait just a little longer.

“I am confident we won’t need more than four weeks – it’s unmistakably clear that the vaccines are working – but now is the time to ease off the accelerator.

“We have the chance to save many thousands of lives by vaccinating millions more people.”

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