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Coronavirus infection rates, cases and deaths for all parts of Wales on Friday, December 11 – Wales Online

A further 29 people have died with coronavirus in Wales and more than 2,200 new cases have been confirmed.

The latest statistics released by Public Health Wales (PHW) on Friday, December 11, show another 2,234 people have tested positive for the virus in Wales, a rise on the 1,968 reported the day before.

It brings the number of positive tests since the outbreak began to 98,232 while 2,818 people have died with lab-confirmed coronavirus in Wales.

The infection rate across Wales now stands at 403.8 per 100,000 people based on the seven days up to December 8. This is an increase from 380 on Thursday.

  • Deaths reported today: 29
  • Cases reported today: 2,234
  • Number of tests carried out: 17,313 (Up from 13,888)
  • Total deaths with lab-confirmed coronavirus in Wales: 2,818

On Friday, First Minister Mark Drakeford admitted coronavirus is spreading “faster than all our models have predicted”, adding that it is now “firmly entrenched in many parts of Wales”.

He also announced that outdoor attractions would shut to contain the spread of the virus further, while a new four-tier alert system would be introduced for Wales.

Merthyr Tydfil is now the local authority with the highest infection rate in Wales with a seven day rate of 764.2 per 100,000 population, a huge rise from 668 the day before.

Neath Port Talbot has the second highest rate with 718 per 100,000 population, up from 697.1 the day before.

Newport is in third with 634.9 cases per 100,000 population, up from 589.6 on one day earlier.

There are now a total of nine local authorities with rates higher than 500 cases per 100,000 people.

Survey: How do you feel now about Christmas in Wales

Cardiff has the highest number of new confirmed positive cases on Friday with 254, followed by Swansea with 243, Caerphilly with 219, Rhondda Cynon Taf with 218, Newport with 171, Bridgend with 166, Neath Port Talbot with 145, Carmarthenshire with 139 and Merthyr Tydfil with 108.

Other local authorities reporting high numbers of cases include Torfaen with 75, Vale of Glamorgan with 68, Blaenau Gwent with 64, Flintshire with 56, Monmouthshire with 50, Wrexham and Pembrokeshire with 47

Those reporting case numbers below 40 include Powys with 32, Ceredigion with 30, Denbighshire with 23, Conwy with nine, Gwynedd with eight and Anglesey with one.

Cases per 100,000 for rolling seven days (December 2 to 8)

Aneurin Bevan University Health Board

Newport: 634.9 (Up from 589.6)

Caerphilly: 602 (Up from 546.7)

Blaenau Gwent: 601.2 (Up from 598.3)

Torfaen: 503.4 (Up from 476.8)

Monmouthshire: 327.7 (Up from 320.3)

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board

Wrexham: 243.6 (Up from 230.2)

Flintshire: 203.1 (Up from 175.5)

Denbighshire: 104.5 (Up from 101.4)

Conwy: 92.1 (Up from 88.7)

Gwynedd: 46.6 (Up from 44.2)

Anglesey: 37.1 (Down from 47.1)

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board

Cardiff: 449.2 (Up from 432)

Vale of Glamorgan: 293.4 (Up from 268.7)

Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board

Merthyr Tydfil: 764.2 (Up from 668)

Bridgend: 586.9 (Up from 528.4)

Rhondda Cynon Taf: 564.9 (Up from 539.7)

Hywel Dda University Health Board

Carmarthenshire: 367.1 (Up from 347.5)

Ceredigion: 206.3 (Up from 202.2)

Pembrokeshire: 172.5 (Up from 156.6)

Powys Teaching Health Board

Powys: 119.3 (Up from 110.2)

Swansea Bay University Health Board

Neath Port Talbot: 718 (Up from 697.1)

Swansea: 580.6 (Up from 549.8)

Wales total – 403.8 (Up from 380)

Dr Robin Howe, incident director for the novel coronavirus outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said: “Public Health Wales is concerned at the high levels of coronavirus in nearly every part of Wales and we note that the Welsh Government will be publishing an updated coronavirus control plan next week.

“If we are to have meaningful and safe interactions within the permitted exclusive Christmas ‘bubble’, then everyone should immediately start to limit their interactions with other as much as possible in the lead up to the festive period.

“This means staying out of other people’s homes, limiting the times and the numbers of people that you meet, maintaining social distancing and hand hygiene, working from home if you can, and self-isolating if you show symptoms of coronavirus or are asked to do so by contact tracers.”

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He added: “As the number of cases continues to accelerate in Wales, we would also advise people to consider their plans for Christmas from the perspective of what they ‘should’ do, rather than what they ‘can’ do, in order to protect their families and communities.

“The festive period is important for people across Wales who want to be with loved ones during the holidays, particularly after a very difficult year, but we would remind everyone that we must each continue to take personal responsibility to limit the spread of the virus and protect our loved ones, particularly if they are vulnerable or extremely vulnerable. For many, this will mean that it isn’t possible to celebrate Christmas in the way you normally would.”

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South Wests crucial coronavirus R number the week before tiers are decided – Bristol Live

The South West’s coronavirus growth and R rates are now some of the lowest in the UK as infections shrink across the region.

Our reproduction (R) number is likely to be between 0.8-1.0, meaning ten people with the virus will pass it on to eight to ten others.

Only North East and Yorkshire and the North West has a lower R than our region, at 0.7-0.9.

The UK’s R is slightly above our area at 0.9 to 1, but this crucial number still means the virus is no longer spreading exponentially.

However, the South East, East of England and London all have a R that is between 0.9- 1.1 – meaning ten infected people could spread the virus to 11 others.

Meanwhile, our region’s growth rate also remains low, and now stands at -4 to 0. This shows the virus could be shrinking by up to four per every day.

The East of England had the highest growth rate, with -1 to +2, which suggests Covid could be spreading by up to two per cent every day.

Two weeks ago, the UK’s R rate fell below 1 for the first time in three months to between 0.9 and 1.0.

If the R value is above one then the Covid-19 epidemic can grow exponentially, but if it is below one it shows the outbreak is in retreat.

The latest data gives hope that Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire could soon escape the toughest category of restrictions.

These are the latest values by region, with the R number followed by the growth rate, based on data up to December 7:

  • UK: 0.9-1.0, -2% to 0%
  • England: 0.8-1.0, -2% to 0%
  • East of England: 0.9-1.1, -1% to +2%
  • London: 0.9-1.1, -1% to +1%
  • South East: 0.9-1.1, -1% to +1%
  • Midlands: 0.8-1.0, -3% to -1%
  • South West: 0.8-1.0, -4% to 0%
  • North East and Yorkshire: 0.7-0.9, -4% to -2%
  • North West: 0.7-0.9, -4% to -2%

A Sage statement read: “The R estimate for England remains broadly consistent with previous weeks, at between 0.8 and 1.0.

“All NHS England regions have R estimates that are below or span 1.

“This suggests that the epidemic continues to shrink in some NHS England regions and Sage is confident that this is the case in the North West and North East and Yorkshire.

“Sage is not confident that R is currently below 1 in the East of England, London, and South East.”

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Covid in Scotland: Shops most common mention in traced virus cases – BBC News

Since 1 November, Public Health Scotland (PHS) has published .css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link{color:#3F3F42;}.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited{color:#696969;}.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited{font-weight:bolder;border-bottom:1px solid #BABABA;-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:focus,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:focus{border-bottom-color:currentcolor;border-bottom-width:2px;color:#B80000;}@supports (text-underline-offset:0.25em){.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited{border-bottom:none;-webkit-text-decoration:underline #BABABA;text-decoration:underline #BABABA;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-skip-ink:none;text-decoration-skip-ink:none;text-underline-offset:0.25em;}.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:focus,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:focus{-webkit-text-decoration-color:currentcolor;text-decoration-color:currentcolor;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:2px;text-decoration-thickness:2px;color:#B80000;}}“events and settings” data for people who have tested positive.

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Shop and restaurant staff first in line for mass testing – York Press

SHOP staff, restaurant and hospitality workers and people with jobs in transport will be the first to have access to mass asymptomatic coronavirus testing in York before Christmas.

City leaders decided that people working in retail, transport and leisure should be given priority over those working with vulnerable people in the voluntary sector.

The testing, for people without symptoms of the virus, will be carried out at a hub at York St John University and could start within days.

Workers will not be forced to get tested and if demand is low the test centre will open to more key groups.

Up to 4,000 people could be tested each week.

The rapid lateral flow tests are not as accurate as laboratory tests and any positives will be followed up with a PCR test.

York’s outbreak management board was asked if the first mass tests should focus on workers in retail, hospitality and transport – who come into contact with lots of people on a daily basis – or on people who work with vulnerable residents.

Fiona Phillips, from York’s public health team, said there are likely to be more asymptomatic cases of coronavirus among hospitality workers.

But that there are worse consequences if people who work with vulnerable residents pass the virus on without realising it.

She said from a scientific viewpoint it would be better to test hospitality staff because more asymptomatic cases are likely to be confirmed.

And she added that it is unlikely that large numbers of retail and hospitality staff will need to self-isolate because rates are low.

But Alison Semmence, from York Centre for Voluntary Services, said: “We know there are lots of people in York that we haven’t been able to reach that are lonely and vulnerable and very isolated.

“My hope is that if we can test the workforce – paid or unpaid – we’d be able to reach those people.”

“From my point of view they are a priority group but I completely understand there is a dilemma.”

Lisa Winward, chief constable of North Yorkshire Police, added that people may be reluctant to sign up for a test and risk being told that they have to self-isolate for two weeks before Christmas.

Keith Aspden, City of York Council leader, said: “There seems to be general acceptance that this is a very tough choice that nobody would like to make.”

He said both groups were important, and asked for an update on how soon testing can be expanded.

He added: “Both those categories of people are important, those working in transport and retail that contact lots of people and will be working throughout Christmas, but also those that are coming into contact voluntarily or through work with vulnerable people or with their families.”

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Readings council tax to rise to fill £5m black hole – Berkshire Live

People in Reading could be paying up to five per cent more in tax to help the council fill a £5 million black hole in its finances.

The draft budget released by Reading Borough Council reveals the authority’s intentions for expenditure over the next three years.

The papers detail a proposal for a minimum council tax increase of three per cent.

All local authorities must deliver a balanced budget every year by law but the council’s current draft budget leave it with a £5 million gap for 2021/22.

Council leader Jason Brock said savings need to be delivered but “frontline services will be protected”.

With the council pushing ahead with all of its “flagship investments”, including its £9 million road resurfacing programme, two new swimming pools and the introduction of food waste collection, savings are needed elsewhere.

The council has outlined savings of £14 million but, to balance the books, the council will need to generate extra savings or generate additional income.

One method the council has suggested is increasing the adult social care precept, a council tax which can only be used for social care, from one to three per cent.

Along with the maximum two per cent general council tax rise, this would hike tax up by five per cent this year and reduce the budget gap to £3 million.

The council also has £4.6 million of reserves but says this would not address the underlying need for ongoing savings over the coming years.

Another method to balance the budget would be to find savings in the council’s departments through reducing services or being more efficient.

The draft budget will be approved for consultation at next Monday’s Policy committee.

A further report with a finalised budget – and the chosen method of removing the £5 million budget gap – will be brought to the committee on February 15 to be voted on and passed onto the full council for a final decision on February 23.

The Covid impact

The council has revealed its funding gap due to the coronavirus pandemic is down to just £700,000, as part of its new draft budget announcement.

In terms of the impact of Covid, the council is forecasting it will leave the council with a budget deficit of £0.7 million up until the end of September 2020.

A £19.2 million overspend due to Covid will be mostly cancelled out by £16.6 million from three rounds of government funding to assist the council during the pandemic.

This combined with an underspend in the corporate budget of £2 million brings the funding gap down to £700,000.

The government has since given the council a fourth tranche of funding, giving it £3.5 million to respond to the pandemic, but it is not yet clear where this will leave the funding gap, as officers explained in the budget papers.

They said: “With a further national lockdown throughout November in response to a second wave of the virus and the relaxation over Christmas, albeit with the promise of a widescale vaccine rollout in the new year, the situation remains volatile and it is likely costs will increase.

“Hence continued close monitoring is required.”

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Live Northern Ireland Covid-19 updates as circuit breaker restrictions lifted – Belfast Live

The MAC is back

Visitors returned to the MAC this morning following an eight week period of closure at the leading arts venue.

(Image: Darren Kidd/Press Eye)

The galleries and exhibitions include works from Peter Liversidge, Frederic Huska and a special display of work by the public, children and professional artists entitled ‘In a Rainbow of Coalitions’,

Anne McReynolds, Chief Executive at the MAC said:

Like the rest of society, the arts and culture sector has suffered greatly as a result of closures throughout the pandemic. This year, the MAC has been open just 6 weeks and all of our staff and customers are excited to get back. We worked hard over the summer to put Covid-secure measures in place to ensure everyone’s safety and have been waiting for clarity from the Executive on when we can open our doors again. Today is a huge boost and a lifeline not just for us, but for those across Northern Ireland who find solitude, comfort and joy in the arts.

We have a responsibility to protect public health which we take very seriously, but we also want to contribute to the recovery of our communities and the survival of the arts. This would typically be Christmas show season and our theatres, music venues and organisations would be bustling with audiences from right across NI and beyond. Without a reopening date for the resumption of live events, we are all finding ways to do things a little differently this year. We remain hopeful of receiving guidance from the Executive on the path back to re-opening and recovery for NI’s arts venues.

The MAC is one of the most stunning buildings in the city, and it has been so sad to have our doors closed for so long. We are delighted to welcome the public back into our specially adapted Luminaire Cinema and galleries, to enjoy this unique, shared space once again.

The MAC has also designed a festive film series, in association with Belfast Film Festival. A secure bubble-style cinema, exclusively for 32 guests, will screen a variety of Christmas classics and family favourites in the newly repurposed ‘Luminaire Cinema’.

Christmas movie screenings open tomorrow, Saturday 12th September with ‘The Polar Express’ and will run until Christmas Eve.

All of the family shows at 10.30am are relaxed, meaning there’s a relaxed attitude to noise and lights are turned up a bit brighter and sound turned down.

The MAC has achieved the ‘We’re Good to Go’ industry-standard mark under Government and public health guidance, having implemented a carefully planned social distancing system, pre-booking of its galleries to monitor visitor numbers and an enhanced hygiene regime throughout the venue.

All visitors are also asked to sanitise their hands regularly and wear a face covering during their visit.

For more information and updates on shows at the MAC, visit www.themaclive.com.

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Coronavirus live as Covid-19 vaccination campaign to get country protected continues – Hull Daily Mail

The self-isolation period for contacts of a positive coronavirus case will be cut from 14 days to 10 days, the UK’s chief medical officers have announced.

Those required to quarantine after returning from countries which are not on the travel corridor list will also see their isolation period reduced, in an approach agreed by all four nations.

Health chiefs said in a joint statement that following a review of the evidence, they were “confident” that the self-isolation period could be shortened.

This reduction already applies in Wales following an announcement by the Welsh Government earlier this week, while it will take effect in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland from Monday.

The new rules will apply to all those who are currently self-isolating, including those who began doing so before Monday.

For more details on this, click here.

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Meanwhile another five deaths were recorded at Hull hospitals it was announced in data released on Thursday.

The figures come after Wednesday saw the first day in over a month in which neither Hull Royal Infirmary nor Castle Hill Hospital recorded a single coronavirus death – the first time since the start of the second lockdown.

In Thursday’s data, cases in Hull increased by 59, down from Wednesday’s increase of 75.

The new numbers bring the total amount of cases in Hull since the start of the pandemic to 11,088.

That is a rate of 4,245.5 per 100,000 people.

It’s good news for Hull, which saw record breaking numbers during the second wave of the virus.

East Riding however saw an increase of 69 cases, slightly more than Wednesday’s 65 new cases. The region now has now seen a total of 10,462 cases – a rate of 3,066.5 per 100,000 people.

Follow our live blog below for all the latest updates.

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Londoners should expect the WORST: Capital is on brink of imminent move to Tier Three – Daily Mail

The government was warned today to think hard about the ‘devastating effect’ on the hospitality industry of coronavirus restrictions, as London teetered on the brink of Tier 3.

Teenagers have been blamed for the huge uptick in cases, prompting a mass testing programme to be rolled out in secondary schools in the worst-hit boroughs.

MPs were briefed on Thursday night to ‘expect the worse’ after a surveillance survey by PHE revealed that the capital now had the highest rate of coronavirus infections in England. 

It is understood many MPs representing constituencies in the capital are poised to lobby Prime Minister Boris Johnson to keep it in Tier 2.

They believe the death rates in London are comparatively low and the NHS is able to cope.

A move to Tier 3 would be devastating for the pubs, restaurants and shopping sectors, especially so soon after the second national lockdown. 

UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: ‘The impact of the restrictions on the hospitality sector has been so severe that it has effectively halved the country’s economic growth. Ours is the only sector seeing real negative growth. 

‘The restrictions being placed on us are having a devastating effect and go well beyond anything being experienced in other sectors. The frightening reality is that these figures are going to look tame compared to those for November and December when the lockdown was in effect and as the new, harsher tier system began to bite.

“The Government needs to look carefully at these figures before making a decision to plunge more areas into higher tiers – the burden of which falls almost exclusively on hospitality businesses.’

Commuters waiting on the platform for the Overground Train at Canada Water underground Station this morning in London

Commuters waiting on the platform for the Overground Train at Canada Water underground Station this morning in London

Commuters waiting on the platform for the Overground Train at Canada Water underground Station this morning in London

Workers on a Jubilee line train this morning mostly wore masks and attempted to social distance, but found it difficult

Workers on a Jubilee line train this morning mostly wore masks and attempted to social distance, but found it difficult

Workers on a Jubilee line train this morning mostly wore masks and attempted to social distance, but found it difficult

Commuters getting the escalator down to the train line had to bunch up at the top to wait to get down the stairs today

Commuters getting the escalator down to the train line had to bunch up at the top to wait to get down the stairs today

Commuters getting the escalator down to the train line had to bunch up at the top to wait to get down the stairs today 

People sit outside a pub in Covent Garden on December 5, 2020 in London, while the capital was in Tier 2 restrictions

People sit outside a pub in Covent Garden on December 5, 2020 in London, while the capital was in Tier 2 restrictions

People sit outside a pub in Covent Garden on December 5, 2020 in London, while the capital was in Tier 2 restrictions

People queue to get in to the Punch and Judy pub in Covent Garden after the second national lockdown was lifted

People queue to get in to the Punch and Judy pub in Covent Garden after the second national lockdown was lifted

People queue to get in to the Punch and Judy pub in Covent Garden after the second national lockdown was lifted

Tiered restrictions have had a disastrous effect on the hospitality industry and left many businesses on the brink

Tiered restrictions have had a disastrous effect on the hospitality industry and left many businesses on the brink

Tiered restrictions have had a disastrous effect on the hospitality industry and left many businesses on the brink

But Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the university of East Anglia, today admitted the tier switch was probably imminent.

He said: ‘It does sadly look like we are heading that way for London. If the epidemic is restricted to teenagers then the impact on hospitals in the area won’t be that great.

‘But we know from the past that once its prevalent in one age group it tends to leak to the other age groups and ultimately in the age groups that are most vulnerable,’ he added to Radio 4

Number 10 said yesterday they would will deploy rapid lateral flow tests which give a result within half an hour to secondary schools in the seven boroughs with the highest infections rates in a bid to curb spiralling cases and prevent the capital from being plunged into a Tier 3 lockdown.  

Eton College CLOSES due to outbreak of coronavirus

Eton College has temporarily closed due to a coronavirus outbreak among students and teachers.

The £42,500-a-year school’s headmaster Simon Henderson wrote a letter to parents saying ‘a number of symptomatic boys and staff tested positive’ for the virus.

Mr Henderson said there is a ‘real danger’ the number could spiral out of control this weekend if action isn’t taken in a letter seen by MailOnline. 

He did not specify how many pupils tested positive at the boarding school – which houses boys between the ages of 13 and 18.

Students will continue to learn remotely until the end of term.

The letter sent today read: ‘Having been largely Covid free since Long Leave, a number of symptomatic boys and staff have tested positive in the past few days. We are awaiting results on several others, with more scheduled to be tested.

‘We also now have a significant number of boys and staff self-isolating as close contacts.’

He said it was clear there is ‘Covid within the school’.

Although Health Minister Matt Hancock did not name which boroughs would be involved in the scheme, Government data shows Havering, Barking and Dagenham, Waltham Forest, Redbridge, Newham, Bexley and Tower Hamlets, are recording the highest number of cases of the disease. 

Schools in parts of Essex and Kent will also be involved in the programme amid concerns youngsters are driving the epidemics there. Mr Hancock said the tests would be rolled out ‘immediately’, but he did not give a specific date. Mr Hancock said more detail will be set out today.

The Health Secretary also did not mention how often children will be swabbed and how many pupils it will affect. But London’s seven hotspot boroughs are home to 640,000 children aged between 11 and 18, according to Office for National Statistics 2019 population estimates.  

It comes as the Department of Health announced a spike in infections across the country, with the UK recording another 20,694 positive tests, which was up from 16,578 yesterday and 39 per cent more than last Thursday. In the same announcement another 516 deaths were confirmed.

Tier 2 London was yesterday named Britain’s Covid-19 hotspot after official data showed it had the highest case rate of anywhere in the country, surpassing Tier 3 areas in northern parts of the country. Infections have been spiking among children aged 10 to 18 in the capital at a much higher rate than any other age groups. 

Mr Hancock told a Downing Street press conference on Thursday: ‘We have decided to put in place an immediate plan for testing all secondary school age children in the seven worst affected boroughs of London, in parts of Essex that border London and parts of Kent.

‘We want to keep schools open because that’s both right for education and for public health. We are therefore securing mobile testing units and will be working with schools and local authorities to encourage these children and families to get tested in the coming days. 

‘We know from experience that a sharp rise in cases in younger people can lead to a rise amongst more vulnerable age groups later. We’ve seen that happen before. So we need to do everything we can to stop the spread amongst school age children in London.’  

Mr Hancock added: ‘I want to urge all those involved to step forward for the testing. It’s important that 11-18 year olds get tested in these boroughs irrespective of if they have symptoms. 

‘One in three people with Covid have no symptoms at all, but can still pass it on to others and I know that nobody wants to be responsible for endangering those around them so I urge everyone involved to get a test.’ 

Citing the successful mass testing programme in Liverpool, the Health Secretary added: ‘We know that community testing can work and it requires a collective spirit of determination and resilience and of people coming together to do the right thing, something I have confidence that everybody involved will find in the days to come.’

Experts told MailOnline it was inevitable London would be plunged into a Tier 3 lockdown within days after Public Health England data showed the city had more cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people than anywhere else int he country.

The case rate per 100,000 people in the capital stood at 191.8 on December 6, up from 158.1 in the previous week. It puts the capital ahead of regions in the highest level of Tier 3 restrictions, such as the West Midlands, where cases fell to 158.4 per 100,000 from 196.8 a week ago.

TEST AND TRACE CLAIMS IT’S REACHING 86% OF CLOSE CONTACTS… THANKS TO NEW RECORDING METHOD 

NHS Test and Trace claims it is now reaching 86 per cent of the close contacts of Covid-19 patients.

Just three few weeks ago the beleaguered system was struggling to find 60 per cent of people who’d spent time with a positive Covid case.

Yet bosses behind the programme said it reached 85.7 per cent of the 195,355 people who came into close contact with a positive Covid case in the week to Dec 2, up from 72.5 per cent the previous week.

However, the system has completely overhauled the way it records ‘close contacts’, which makes it easier to boost success rates and harder to compare to older figures.

Tracers have stopped trying to contact under-18s separately to ask them to self-isolate if a parent says they will tell their child for them.

This method has since been extended to cover adults in the same household, who can now be recorded as having been reached via a single phone call.

NHS testing officials said the change was made after feedback from people who were frustrated at receiving multiple phone calls from the service if there were several people in the same household being traced.

Meanwhile, the contact tracing scheme’s chief Dido Harding said regular coronavirus testing in workplaces, pubs and theatres could be rolled out under plans to ramp up the service.

Serial testing to reduce the isolation period for contacts of positive cases and a rollout of community testing in Tier 3 areas of England are also on the cards.

Publishing a business plan for the coming months, NHS Test and Trace said it aims to increase the speed and reach of its service and make better use of data to help identify and react to virus clusters and outbreaks.

For its next phase, objectives include expanding the scale of testing to ‘enable our largest employers, critical industries and the cultural and hospitality sectors to run regular testing programmes’.

Serial testing pilots, which officials hope could be a game-changer in cutting the isolation period from 14 days to seven for contacts, are under way whereby people are sent a box of lateral flow tests to take each day for a week.

It is understood if the person tests negative each morning they can then carry on as normal, and if they test positive they would be asked to take a PCR test to confirm the result and isolate as appropriate.

Key objectives for the Test and Trace service include an expansion of testing capacity and increased support for those self-isolating.

An end-of-January target for an improved contact tracing system, aiming to reach 90% of cases and 85% of the contacts they name, is also set out.

There is also an aim to reach contacts faster, with a March target of approximately 80% being notified within 72 hours of the person who has tested positive booking an in-person test.

Another objective outlined in the business plan is using wastewater analysis alongside contact tracing data to identify and quickly react to clusters.

NHS Test and Trace said its model-based estimates suggested that in October, testing, tracing and self-isolation reduced the R number by around 0.3–0.6, compared with a scenario with only social distancing, restrictions and no self-isolation.

It said with its new efforts, which it expects to have in place by March, the R reduction could increase to around 0.5–0.7, and in areas with high prevalence where rapid community testing is rolled out, it could cut the local R number further.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘With up to a third of people with coronavirus not showing any symptoms, it is incredibly important to test those who could be infecting others unknowingly, so we are rolling out community testing to bring down local transmission rates.’

Meanwhile, it was announced people can now claim the £500 Test and Trace support payment through the Covid-19 app, but they will have to give up their anonymity to do so.

It is hoped the payment – which was already available outside the app under certain eligibility criteria – will encourage more compliance with the rules on self-isolation.

NHS Test and Trace confirmed people who want to access the payment will have to give up their anonymity, in order to verify they have received an official notification telling them to isolate.

Interim executive chair of the National Institute for Health Protection Baroness Dido Harding said: ‘The extensive work NHS Test and Trace has done to accelerate development, and the introduction of innovative technologies, is giving us new possibilities.

‘With new lateral flow tests, we can turbo-charge our testing capacity and enable rapid, regular testing in hospitals, care homes, workplaces, universities and other areas that we value and that we need as a society to stay open and stay safe, enabling everyone to move towards a more normal way of life.’

 A shake-up of the current Tier system is due to happen on December 16, when infection, hospital and death rates will be reviewed to decide whether to tighten or loosen curbs across the country. 

Covid-19 cases rose in 28 of London’s 32 boroughs in the most recent seven-day period, with Havering recording the highest incidence at 389 infections per 100,000 people. It is followed by Barking and Dagenham, at 319.9 and Waltham Forest at 313.7.

Richmond still has the lowest infection rate in the capital, at 90.9 per 100,000, slightly lower than the rate in Westminster, at 91.1, and Camden, at 97.8.

Pub bosses have warned upgrading the capital into a Tier 3 — which would see the hospitality sector forced to shut down again — would be like slapping a ‘do not resuscitate’ order on the city’s struggling businesses.

NHS medical director Stephen Powis, also speaking at tonight’s Downing Street conference, said there was a ‘worrying’ rise in infections in the capital but said  hospitals were well-equipped to deal with the current demand.

He said: ‘We are seeing worrying rises in infections, pressure in the NHS, particularly in the east of the city, but we’re not at the levels we saw in April. Therefore, we can manage within existing hospitals in London.

‘But the Nightingale is important. We’re keeping it under review and we’re also keeping under review different uses for the Nightingale in London.

‘It’s really important we don’t see further rises in London and pressure on the NHS, but the Nightingales will be there as an insurance policy.’ 

Figures show infections are rising in two other regions of the country — in the South East, where it increased from 142.2 to 160.8 and East, where it rose from 116.2 to 147.2.

All other regions of England recorded a week-on-week fall, with the South West reporting the lowest rate of 77.3 per 100,000, down from 91.2.

In contrast to London, every local authority in Tier 3 Manchester saw a drop in its infections in the week up to December 3.

The sharpest fall was in the city’s former hotspot of Oldham, with cases falling 27.9 per cent to 159 per 100,000.

Tameside saw the second sharpest decline, at 26.9 per cent to 108.2 per 100,000, while the third biggest dip was in Rochdale where cases fell by 26.5 per cent to 198.7 per 100,000.

And all ten local authorities under Tier 3 in the West Midlands also saw Covid-19 infections fall, with Dudley seeing the sharpest drop by 32.5 per cent to 195. 

The second highest fall was in Walsall, by 28 per cent, followed by Coventry, where they dipped by 25 per cent.

In the North East – also under the strictest measures in the country – infection rates declined in all but two of its 12 local authorities, showing yet another mismatch with the capital.

The only two areas to record a rise were Middlesbrough, up by 2.4 per cent to 180.2 per 100,000, and Sunderland, up 0.7 per cent to 164.9 per 100,000.

Covid-19 infections also fell across seven of the eight East Midlands local authorities under Tier Three restrictions, with only Leicestershire seeing infections rise by three per cent. 

The sharpest decline was recorded in Derby, where they fell by 11.5 per cent to 147.3 per 100,000, followed by Lincolnshire, down by 10.3 per cent to 234.8 per 100,000, and Nottingham, by 9.9 per cent to 145.1 per 100,000.

In the South West all three of its authorities under Tier 3 – Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire – recorded dips in their infection rates by 32.4 per cent, 28.9 per cent and 15.6 per cent respectively.

And in the Yorkshire and Humber region – all but one of its 13 local authorities under Tier Three recorded falls in their coronavirus infection rates. Doncaster was the only one to see a rise, at 3.4 per cent.

In the region North East Lincolnshire saw its infections fall the fastest, by 36 per cent, followed by Barnsley, by 30 per cent, and Kirklees, by 28.2 per cent.

TIER THREE ‘WILL KILL LONDON’S BARS AND BUSINESSES’

Moving London into Tier Three would be the equivalent of slapping a ‘do not resuscitate’ order on the city’s struggling businesses, Boris Johnson was warned last night.

Coronavirus cases are rising sharply in the capital, sparking fears that it could be placed under the most severe restrictions in days.

Yesterday Sadiq Khan, the city’s mayor, pleaded with Londoners to stick to social distancing rules and the wearing of masks.

A decision on whether to move the capital into the top tier – which would see pubs and restaurants closed – will be made in the next few days and will come into force on December 16. 

But last night the British Beer and Pub Association said Tier Three would be the ‘writing on the wall’ for many more of the capital’s locals. 

And UK Hospitality said moving London into Tier Three before Christmas could cost 150,000 jobs in pubs, restaurants and hotels.

Kate Nicholls, the trade body’s chief executive, said it would be a ‘killer blow’ to hundreds of struggling businesses in the capital.

London Chamber of Commerce and Industry told the Prime Minister that his dream of a Global Britain would not materialise ‘without London operating at full power’.

But the Public Health England data also suggested that Tier Two areas outside the capital – where pubs and bars are allowed to remain open – had also mostly seen their infections drop.

All four of the local authorities in the second-highest tier in the West Midlands – Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, Worcestershire, and Herefordshire – saw their coronavirus cases drop.

It was the same for the two areas of Yorkshire in Tier Two – city of York and North Yorkshire – and across Liverpool, which was moved into the lower tier after restrictions successfully contained the outbreak of the virus.

Of the two East Midlands councils in Tier Two Rutland saw its infections surge by 21.4 per cent to 85.2 but in Northamptonshire they dipped by 1.8 per cent to 126.8 per 100,000. 

Commenting on the figures, medical director at Public Health England Dr Yvonne Doyle said: ‘Everyone’s sacrifices over the past few weeks means cases have reduced significantly in many parts of the country.

‘However, the decline has started to stall and overall, infection rates remain high so we must all stay vigilant. About one in three people who have coronavirus have no symptoms and will be spreading it without realising it. 

‘Whatever your plans over the next few weeks, remember to keep your distance, wear a face covering in enclosed spaces, and wash your hands regularly. 

‘It’s also a good idea to think about reducing your contacts prior to Christmas to reduce the risk to you and your loved ones.’

Case rates remained at a similar level in the week up to December 6 compared to the previous week across all age groups, PHE said.

The highest case rates were seen in those aged 40 to 49, with a rate of 195.8 per 100,000 population. 

Case rates per 100,000 have continued to fall across the West Midlands, North East, and Yorkshire and the Humber – where swathes are in Tier 3 lockdowns. 

It comes as a local director of public health in London warned the national lockdown only had a ‘minor and short-lived’ impact on infections in the capital’s worst-hit boroughs.

Dr Mark Ansell said plunging the country into shutdown in November had failed to sufficiently drive down cases in his borough of Havering, in the far east of the city, because many of its residents need to work and can’t afford to self-isolate.

‘A lot of our residents are working in health and social care, a lot of them are self-employed or they’re in small to medium-sized sorts of enterprises,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. ‘They need to work and they need to keep working to maintain their financial viability.’

He added: ‘I think the work at home sort of message has benefited some other parts of London but doesn’t necessarily have a great impact in Havering.’

London’s mayor Sadiq Khan claimed it was not inevitable that the capital would be moved into Tier Three, despite growing concern among public health officials over rising infections. 

He added that officials are ‘working incredibly hard with Londoners across the city to make sure they follow the rules’.

There have been mounting warnings for the city’s nine million residents to stick to social distancing rules – including no mixing with other households – in order to avoid being plunged into Tier Three.

But Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious disease expert, said that high infection rates among secondary school children and working people meant that closing hospitality businesses – a key part of Tier Three rules – might not have the desired effect.

And Britain’s Beer and Pub Association said last night that pushing the capital into the toughest restrictions would be like putting a ‘do not resuscitate’ order on the city, putting dozens of thousands of jobs at risk.

Despite climbing infection rates, hospital admissions and deaths from the virus are still flatlining, data shows, and are far below the levels seen during the first wave.

Just 159 Covid patients are being admitted to hospital every day, on average. In contrast, they topped 800 during the peak of the first wave in April. And Department of Health statistics show the capital is just recording 27 coronavirus deaths a day — a fraction of the scale of the city’s crisis in April.

New Year’s Eve parties are OFF: Matt Hancock dashes hopes for December 31 as he insists rules will only be relaxed ‘for Christmas’ and tells the nation ‘don’t blow it with the vaccine on the horizon’

By Jack Maidment for MailOnline 

Matt Hancock today ruled out loosening coronavirus restrictions on New Year’s Eve as he insisted the Government’s relaxed measures are ‘just for Christmas‘. 

The Health Secretary told a Downing Street press conference that ‘we have got to be careful’ as he urged the nation not to ‘blow it, especially with the vaccine on the horizon’. 

He admitted that keeping strict rules in place on December 31 would be ‘frustrating’ for many people but he insisted ‘unfortunately it is necessary’. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock today ruled out easing coronavirus rules on New Year's Eve

Health Secretary Matt Hancock today ruled out easing coronavirus rules on New Year's Eve

Health Secretary Matt Hancock today ruled out easing coronavirus rules on New Year’s Eve

England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have agreed a joint plan to relax rules over the Christmas period to allow people to travel to see their loved ones. 

The eased measures will enable people to form a ‘Christmas Bubble’ and meet indoors between December 23 and December 27. 

Christmas bubbles will be able to include people from up to three separate households.

The Government has faced pressure to extend the relaxed rules to cover New Year’s Eve with critics arguing it is a more important occasion for some people than Christmas. 

But Mr Hancock categorically ruled out the move this evening as he said people will only be allowed to celebrate indoors on December 31 with people in their own household.  

He said: ‘We are not bringing in a special set of rules for New Year as we have for Christmas. 

‘I know this has been such a tough year for so many of us, 2020, and so we brought in the rules around Christmas to make sure that people have that opportunity to see some members of their family who they haven’t been able to all year. 

‘But we have got to be careful and let’s not blow it, especially with the vaccine on the horizon and let’s make sure that we all take the actions that we need to to look after other people, to look after especially those who are vulnerable to the disease over Christmas. 

‘We therefore haven’t put in place a specific set of rules for New Year or indeed for lots of other holidays, special occasions, throughout this crisis. Just for Christmas. 

‘I know that that is frustrating but unfortunately it is necessary to keep the virus under control.’  

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Promising Covid vaccine in Australia abandoned after trial participants test false positive for HIV – The Independent

Australia has abandoned the trial of a locally developed vaccine against Covid-19 after some trial participants showed false HIV positive results.

The vaccine was being developed by the University of Queensland (UQ) and biotech firm CSL, which was one of the four main candidates contracted by the Australian government for coronavirus vaccines.

According to a statement from the Australian government, the evidence from the University of Queensland’s phase one clinical trials showed the vaccine to be safe and that it produced a strong immune response able to neutralise the Covid-19 virus.

But it explained that as part of the vaccine’s design, the university’s researchers included a small fragment of a protein taken from the HIV virus, glycoprotein 41 (gp41), which was used to create a “molecular clamp” to hold the vaccine’s synthetic virus in place.

“Although the university’s researchers have confirmed the protein fragment poses absolutely no health risk to people who have taken the vaccine, they have identified a partial antibody response to it among trial participants. This has the potential to interfere with some HIV screening tests that look for these antibodies – leading to a false positive test result,” the statement said.

It was “this impact on HIV screening – and in the context of other promising vaccine candidates becoming available” that led to the Australian government’s decision, it said.

“Importantly, pathology testing that directly looks for the HIV virus has confirmed negative results for the trial participants who have taken the vaccine,” the statement clarified.

“While this is a tough decision to take, the urgent need for a vaccine has to be everyone’s priority,” said University of Queensland professor Paul Young.

CSL was originally contracted to produce 51 million doses of the UQ vaccine. As a result of abandoning its development, the drugmaker will now instead divert its resources to produce an extra 20 million doses of the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.  

“This will mean a total delivery of 53.8 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses in 2021, covering the whole of [the] population’s requirements,” the statement said.

The government also announced that it will purchase 11 million doses of a vaccine produced by US biotech firm Novavax, bringing the total for this vaccine to 51 million.

“This provides an additional whole-of-population vaccine for Australia if proven safe and effective,” the statement said.

The Australian government has secured more vaccines from other companies as well. It has an agreement with Pfizer/BioNTech for 10 million doses of its vaccine, which is scheduled for delivery in Australia in early 2021.  

The Australian Government is also part of the international Covax facility that allows the purchase of over 25 million doses of a range of other potential vaccines.

Altogether, it means Australia has secured over 100 million units of vaccines and potential vaccines for its population of about 25 million. The government is expected to start the vaccination process in March 2021, and says it will complete it by the end of 2021.  

Australia is among the countries that have emerged from the pandemic faster than other nations. According to the World Health Organisation, Australia has so far recorded 27,993 confirmed cases of Covid-19 with 908 deaths.

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General

The 14 areas of Wigan where Covid-19 infection rates are highest – Wigan Today

Currently the national average rate of infection across England is 149.2 per 100,000 of the population.

Below are the areas of Wigan borough with the highest infection rates, listed from lowest to highest (Images are for illustration purposes only).

All the areas are individually above the national average but some figures have been combined.

All the areas of Wigan borough show a vast reduction from one month ago.

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