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We’re a ‘long, long, long way’ from easing lockdown, Hancock says

Coronavirus cases are still too high.

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Number 10 / Flickr & Peter McDermott / Geograph

Matt Hancock has warned that we are a ‘long, long, long way’ from coronavirus cases being low enough to start easing restrictions.

Speaking on Sky News on Sunday this weekend, Matt Hancock said: “There is early evidence that the lockdown is starting to bring cases down.

“But we are a long, long, long way from that being low enough because the case rate was incredibly high.

“You can see the pressure on the NHS you can see it every day. The NHS are doing an amazing job in incredibly difficult circumstances.”

He added: “I am confident in the measures that we’ve got in place now.

“What really matters is that everybody follows them. The reason for that is not just the death toll each day which is far too high.

“The pressure on the NHS is enormous. That has knock-on consequences for people who suffer from all other illnesses.

“It is very important that we continue to follow the rules. That’s at the core of it. Even whilst we do everything we can to support the NHS through this.”

Speaking on the Andrew Marr show later on Sunday, Hancock explained that the ‘good news’ is that there are ‘early signs that certainly the rise in the number of cases has been halted’.

He continued: “In many parts of the country, cases are starting to come down.

“The vaccine roll out programme is going really rapidly. We’ve now vaccinated three-quarters of over 80s in the country and we’re really proud of that.”

Hancock went on to explain that we know the vaccine stop people from dying with a ‘high degree of confidence’ but that ‘we don’t know about the effect on transmission’. 

Number 10 / Flickr

He continued: “We are essentially monitoring the effectiveness of the vaccine right across the country, right now. Our goal here is to be able to start to lift restrictions as soon as safely possible.

“It is not going to be 2028, Andrew. It’s one of those questions we don’t know the answer to.”

One of the leading figures in the Covid Recovery Group of MPs, former minister Steve Baker said that public compliance could not be expected indefinitely with no hope in sight. 

He said: “Covid causes death and serious harm and we must control it, but these lockdowns, restrictions and school closures are causing untold damage to people’s health, livelihoods and prospects.”

Adding that the top four risk groups should have immunity by March 8th where ‘the government should start easing the restrictions in a way that is safe and proportionate. But the public need to hear today what the plan for easing restrictions is.’

He said it was ‘not enough to expect public compliance with prolonged severe measures, without giving some hope, and showing some optimism and light at the end of this very dark tunnel’.

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Manchester Christmas Market mug design has been revealed for 2021

The council has also confirmed how much it’ll cost if you want to keep your mug as a souvenir

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Manchester City Council & Andrew Stawarz / Flickr

Exciting Christmas news: The mug design for this year’s Christmas Markets has officially been unveiled. 

For those who descend upon Manchester’s Christmas Markets each year, the highlight is undisputedly the warm (and boozy) drinks served in the trademark mugs, which feature different designs each year.

In previous years, designs have included interactive reindeer noses, Santa Clause, snowflakes, Christmas trees and mistletoe. 

And as for this year? 

@nicolenavigates / Instagram

Well, the design has officially been unveiled and, for the first time in the markets’ history, the mugs won’t feature the date; this is  because they were originally designed for the markets that never happened in 2020.

This year’s design will instead feature a simple ‘Manchester Christmas Markets’ graphic with the words ‘Christmas is what you make it’ alongside an abundance of stars and snowflakes.

The mugs will be available in two sizes – a smaller navy gluhwein mug and a larger white mug for coffees and hot chocolates.

There will be around 80,000 mugs in total in circulation at the Christmas Markets, and as always there’s the option to take yours home as a souvenir.

Manchester City Council

Visitors will be required to pay a £3 deposit when ordering a hot drink, or £1.50 for beer and wine glasses, which will then be given back to you if you return your mug.

Manchester City Council’s Christmas spokesperson Councillor Pat Karney said: “Second only to the disappointment of the cancellation of last year’s Christmas Market was the realisation that there would be no Christmas Market mug!

“We know that some visitors have a complete collection of mugs going back more than 10 years – and we expect those people to be first in line for a warming gluhwein or hot chocolate.”

This comes just a week after it was announced that the markets’ ‘main hub’ will be moved from its usual spot at Albert Square to Piccadilly Gardens.

@mcrchristmasmarkets / Instagram

The area will be transformed into the ‘Winter Gardens’, with all the usual yuletide bars, market stalls and food huts.

Plans for the Winter Gardens also include a one-way system and separate entrances and exits, as well as a strict limit on visitors to limit the spread of Covid-19.

They are also adding a fully accessible toilet to make the Winter Garden as inclusive as possible.

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Bonfire Night events and fireworks cancelled across Manchester

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Joshua Harkon / Unsplash

For the second year in a row, Bonfire Night firework displays and celebrations across Manchester have been cancelled.

As a result of ongoing fears surrounding the spread of Covid-19 and the current Government advice around large-scale events, the eight free council-organised events scheduled to take place next month will no longer be going ahead.

The events were planned for Heaton Park, Platt Fields Park, Wythenshawe Park, Crumpsall Park, the Eithad Campus, Cringle Park, Debdale Park and Brookdale Park.

David Dixon / Geograph

Manchester City Council said that the guidance around Covid-19 safety has made the events ‘unworkable’ and that the ‘health of Manchester people has to come first’.

Councillor Rabnawaz Akbar, executive member for neighbourhoods, said: “This is not a decision we have taken lightly and I know that many people who look forward to these events will be disappointed, especially when we could not host them last year because of coronavirus restrictions.

“But the health of Manchester people, and the logistical considerations around that, has to come first.”

@alexjones / Unsplash

This comes after Greater Manchester Police Chief said he would ban fireworks if ‘given half the chance’; while appearing as a guest on BBC Radio Manchester, Chief Constable Stephen Watson said he has long held the view that ‘it’s only a matter of time before somebody gets killed’, stressing that it simply ‘cannot happen’.

When asked if he would ban fireworks altogether, he replied: “Given half a chance – yes I would. We’ve had people almost pointing rockets at passing vehicles and buses and putting them into telephone kiosks and all the rest of it.

“This goes a long way away from kids knocking around a bonfire and letting off a few fireworks and having fun. It’s that of course that we want to preserve. This is something we’re very much alive to.”

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‘Smoking kills’ could be printed on every individual cigarette to encourage smokers to quit

The new proposal comes as the government clamps down on smoking across the UK

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Pixabay & @iriser / Unsplash

Tough new proposals to get more people to quit smoking could have ‘smoking kills’ printed on individual cigarettes. 

MPs have submitted an amendment to the health and care bill going through parliament which would allow the health secretary to make graphic health warnings mandatory.

Mary Kelly Foy, the Labour MP behind the move, said, as per The Guardian: “We know that cigarettes are cancer sticks and kill half the people who use them. So I hope that health warnings on cigarettes would deter people from being tempted to smoke in the first place, especially young people.

Pixabay

“I hope it would encourage some smokers to give up because if they are putting that in their mouth and seeing that message on cigarettes every time they smoke, I hope it would have the desired effect.”

The other amendments proposed by Foy include raising the legal age for buying cigarettes from eighteen to twenty-one, preventing e-cigarette manufacturers from using marketing tactics that could encourage children to try them, such as sweet flavourings and cartoon characters, and making it illegal to give e-cigarette samples away for free, something that many companies have done in the past.

Though this isn’t a UK government’s first attempt to stamp down on the toxic habit; in 2008, a law was passed that required graphic images warning of the deadly effects of smoking to be shown on all cigarette packets.

A set of fifteen images were rotated while tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide emission numbers were also shown on the side of packages.

@koalink / Unsplash

Plain packaging was then fully implemented in the UK nearly a decade later in May 2017 for all cigarette and tobacco brands. This policy forced the removal of all brand images, colours and promotions, and instead required all packaging to be standardised in terms of shape, colour and text design.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said on the proposed requirements: “Warnings on cigarettes were suggested over forty years ago by then health minister George Young.

“The tobacco companies, with breathtaking hypocrisy, protested that the ink would be toxic to smokers. The truth is cigarette stick warnings are toxic to big tobacco and this is an idea whose time has come.”

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