UK could go into a month-long lockdown to ‘pay’ for five days off at Christmas
The UK could face a month-long lockdown to ‘pay’ for five days of eased restrictions over Christmas, experts have said.
According to scientists, 25 days of lockdown – which would most likely come in January – would be needed in exchange for a long weekend with friends and family over the festive period.
Initially, Dr Susan Hopkins, the medical director of Test and Trace, explained to a Downing Street briefing that we would need ‘two days of tighter measures’ for every day restrictions were eased.
However, Public Health England (PHE) has now said it would actually need to be five days rather than two, meaning a substantial lockdown would be needed to balance it out.
A spokesman for SAGE, the government’s advisory body, said: “Susan Hopkins referred to ‘Sage advice previously’ as showing that for every one day of ‘release’ two days of tighter restrictions would be needed.
“She misspoke here, the Sage advice actually referred to modelling indicating that for every one day of relaxation five days of tighter restrictions would potentially be needed.”
This follows reports this week that the government is considering relaxing the current lockdown rules, allowing people to meet indoors over Christmas.
Christmas Eve is on a Thursday this year, and Monday December 28th is a Bank Holiday, so the proposals would allow friends and family to meet for five days between these dates.
While it’s unknown how many people would be allowed to meet up over this period, reports suggest there might be a limit of ten.
Dr Hopkins also warned that everyone still need to be ‘very careful’ about the number of people we come into contact with to avoid spreading the virus as much as possible.
She said: “So coming into Christmas, we’ll need to be very careful about the number of contacts we have to reduce transmission before Christmas and get our cases as low as possible.
“Hopefully the government will make the decision that will allow us to have some mixing but we will wait and see what that is.
“And then I think once we’ve got past the Christmas period, if there’s been a release and some socialisation, we’ll all have to be very responsible and reduce those contacts again.”
She added: “We are very keen that we have a Christmas as close to normal as possible.
“That requires all of us to make every effort over this national restriction period and even in early December to get the cases as low as possible and to reduce the risk of transmission within households and between families.
“A final decision of course will rest with the government and we look forward to hearing what those plans are.”
Elderly Manchester jewellers fight off armed robber in terrifying footage
‘I don’t think he expected us to do what we did. But the adrenaline kicked in’
A couple of grandparents from Manchester who own a jewellery shop have revealed how they fought off an armed robber.
Malcolm Abelson, 78, and his wife Elise, 73, spoke of how ‘the adrenaline kicked in’ when they confronted an armed robber as he tried to steal a necklace and diamond bracelet from their shop in St Ann’s Arcade.
During a scuffle the man attempted to hit Mr Abelson with a claw hammer before he was overpowered. Mrs Abelson said: “He must have thought two old people were an easy target.”
The couple, who have four children and 10 grandchildren, said the man had visited the city centre shop earlier that morning before returning an hour-and-a-half later — The BBC reports.
“He asked to look at a necklace and diamond bracelet and he said they were for his girlfriend,” Mrs Abelson said.
“As I was showing him them I realised he was wearing thick black plastic gloves, and then he tried to snatch them. He said ‘give them to me’, but there was no way in the world I was going to give him them.”
It was at this point Mr Abelson realised what was happening and confronted the assailant, who suddenly pulled out a claw hammer. Mrs Abelson said: “I set the panic alarm off and was screaming the police are coming.”
She said her husband was able to get the thief outside before he ran away, dropping his phone, hat and the hammer. “I don’t think he expected us to do what we did. But the adrenaline kicked in,” she said. “I look back and think it was stupid really. Why did we do that? He could have had a knife. I don’t know what made us do it.”
The shop was originally founded by Mr Abelson’s grandfather Julius Abelson in 1895 and the family have run the business ever since. Mr Abelson, who had a quadruple heart bypass four years ago, has worked in the shop since he was 16 years old.
Mrs Abelson, who has worked at the shop for 40 years, said the pair had experienced crime at the store in the past but this was the first time they had faced an armed robbery. “We’ve had the odd snatch and grab but we’ve never had an armed attack like this,” she said.
“It’s happened now, and we carry on. Thankfully it is very rare.” She said they were both left shaken but unhurt and continued to open the shop as usual on Tuesday March 14th.
After CCTV footage of the incident was shared on Twitter by the couple’s grandson, several social media users described Mr Abelson as a ‘hero’.
One woman tweeted: “Well done that man, deserves a medal, you should be very proud.”
Greater Manchester Police confirmed officers were investigating the incident.
How emergency alert will affect your mobile phone next month and what you need to do
Here’s what will happen…
An emergency warning will be sent by the government to mobile phone users across the UK next month to test a new public alert system.
The loud siren-like emergency test will be issued to mobile phone users, with the nationwide trial due in the early evening of Sunday April 23rd. A message will appear on the home screens of people’s devices during the test, with vibration and a loud warning sound that will ring for about 10 seconds – even if the phone is set to silent mode.
Phone users will be unable to use other features on their devices unless they acknowledge the alert. According to the government website, it reads: “Emergency Alerts is a UK government service that will warn you if there’s a danger to life nearby.
“In an emergency, your mobile phone or tablet will receive an alert with advice about how to stay safe. The government does not need to know your phone number or location to send you an alert.”
It has been modelled on successful services already used in a number of other countries, including the US, Canada, the Netherlands and Japan, where it has been widely credited with saving lives, for example, during severe weather events.
Emergency Alerts will be used very rarely – only being sent where there is an immediate risk to people’s lives – so people may not receive an alert for months, or even years. Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Dowden said: “We are strengthening our national resilience with a new emergency alerts system, to deal with a wide range of threats – from flooding to wildfires.
“It will revolutionise our ability to warn and inform people who are in immediate danger, and help us keep people safe. As we’ve seen in the US and elsewhere, the buzz of a phone can save a life.”
People who do not wish to receive the alerts will be able to opt out in their device settings, but officials hope the life-saving potential of the messages means that users will keep them on. The alerts will only ever come from the government or emergency services. They will include the details of the area affected, and provide instructions about how best to respond.
Mark Hardingham, chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council, welcomed the system, saying: “Together with every fire and rescue service in the country, I’m looking forward to having emergency alerts available to help us to do our jobs and to help communities in the event of emergencies.
“We’ve seen this type of system in action elsewhere across the world and we look forward to having the facility here in the UK – by working together with fire services and partners we want this system to help us to help you be as safe as you can if a crisis does hit.”
The Cabinet Office said the alerts are secure, free to receive, and one-way, insisting they do not reveal anyone’s location or collect personal data. Tests of the service have already taken place in East Suffolk and Reading.
The scheme could eventually be expanded to cover terrorist incidents, but officials acknowledged that much more information about how the alerts system operates in the UK would be needed before that could happen in response to a fast-moving attack.
What will an emergency alert look like?
Emergency Alerts will appear on your device and you will hear a loud siren-like sound for up to 10 seconds. It will appear on your device’s home screen and you must acknowledge it before you can use other features. They appear as a notification and may include telephone numbers or website links containing further information. A loud, siren-like sound and vibration will accompany the message to raise awareness of the hazard or threat.
What will they be used for?
Emergency alerts will be used to inform people about severe threats to life in particular areas, such as flooding or wildfires. They will not be used to spam you.
Are emergency alerts free?
Emergency alerts are a free service provided by the UK Government.
How accessible are they?
If you have a vision or hearing impairment, audio and vibration attention signals will let you know you have an emergency alert. Emergency alerts will be sent in English. In Wales, they may also be sent in Welsh. People in all parts of the UK will receive them.
Which devices will receive them?
Emergency alerts work on all 4G and 5G phone networks widely used by smartphones. This will not include older ‘non-smart’ phones but the 3G technology that they use is being switched off next year. If you do not have a compatible device, you’ll still be informed about an emergency as the emergency services have other ways to warn you when there is a threat to life.
What shall I do when I receive the National Test Message on April 23rd?
When you receive the Welcome Message you do not need to take any action. The siren will stop automatically after ten seconds. A welcome message will stay on screen until you acknowledge it, just like a ‘low battery’ warning. It will not affect your battery life.
How can I opt out of emergency alerts?
You can opt out of emergency alerts, but you are advised to keep them switched on for your own safety. To opt out, search your settings for ‘emergency alerts’. Then turn off ‘severe alerts’ and ‘extreme alerts’. If you still get alerts, contact your device manufacturer for help. You will not receive alerts if your device is turned off or in airplane mode.
Manchester University students ‘forcefully dragged’ out of building by bailiffs
Manchester University students have been forced out of buildings on the grounds which they had locked themselves inside in a strike over rent.
Student protesters occupying a building at the University of Manchester were forcibly removed by court bailiffs this morning (Wednesday March 22nd).
Students in the ‘UoM Rent Strike’ group have been occupying the Simon building on Oxford Road since February 13th as part of an ongoing protest over rent costs and living conditions in university-owned accommodation.
Prior to that, they occupied a further three buildings on the campus before vacating them, and this week they also staged a ‘sit-in’ at the John Owens building and protested outside the Board of Governors.
The students are demanding a 30% cut to their rent dated back to October — a cap on rent for the next three years — for the university to aim to provide student halls that meet the NUS definition of ‘affordable’, and for no disciplinary action to be taken against strikers.
University officers began action to remove the students occupying the Simon Building last week. They say the action was illegal and was causing disruption to other students and staff.
On Monday, the High Court granted a possession order for the whole of the university’s South Campus with notice being served on the occupiers. However, the group said on social media that they had ‘no intention to leave the occupied Simon Building until forced by bailiffs’.
As reported in the Manchester Evening News, officers of the court arrived early on Wednesday morning to forcibly remove them. The group said the bailiffs ‘arrived with no warning’ at around 5.20am and after ‘forcing entry through the door’ they ‘expected the roughly 20 current occupiers to rapidly clear their belongings’.
“Occupiers refused to leave of their own accord, so bailiffs forcefully dragged and carried them out the building”, they said.
In a statement, the group said: “The University has made it clear that they would rather drag their students out of a building than listen to our concerns. The cost of living crisis isn’t going anywhere and neither are we. Occupations are only one of many tactics, and this eviction will not slow down our campaign one bit.”
The group calls on the university to ‘listen to the concerns of students and open negotiations with students engaged in the rent strike and occupations.’
A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “This morning officers of the High Court attended the Simon Building to enforce a court order, following a small group of students who had been illegally occupying rooms there since February 13th 2023.
“This action follows multiple requests to those occupying the building to leave, and court hearing papers being served on the occupiers on March 15th 2023. The Court granted the University a possession order on Monday, and copies of the order were served to the occupiers.
“We very much regret having to do this, but the situation has been going on for a significant amount of time and has caused ongoing disruption to students and the people who work in the building.”
The Rent Strike group claim that in January over 350 students at the university announced that they were withholding rent, which they say amounted to £500,000, in protest at bosses increasing the ‘already sky-high rent by up to £450 for the 2022 academic year.’
In a statement published on the university website last month, Patrick Hackett, Registrar, Secretary and Chief Operating Officer (RSCOO), said: “A small number of students are withholding rent from us, but the profile of rent payments in January 2023 remains wholly in line with those in previous periods.
“We are continuing to collect outstanding payments as normal, with the vast majority of our students having paid.”
Although he said the university ‘absolutely recognise that the shortage in supply of housing and particularly student accommodation is a national issue, and one which is affecting the whole of Greater Manchester.’
He also added: “We offer a wide variety of accommodation types, and our costs are very competitive both in the city and across our university peer group.
“We recognise the need to continually invest and there is ongoing investment in residences to update and modernise facilities as they age. Around £25m has been invested in refurbishments at Hulme Hall in the past 5 years, we are beginning a £20m programme of refurbishment work in Dalton Ellis and Oak House this summer and, have spent £90m on building Unsworth Park.
“Uttley House also saw £1.5m of refurbishment work to provide accommodation, a café and a study hub. We’re also working on a major investment and development strategy, to accelerate the planned modernisation of our student accommodation.”