December 7, 2022

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Coronavirus morning headlines as police chief said rule-breakers now ‘increasingly likely’ to face fines

These are the coronavirus morning headlines for Tuesday, January 12 as Britain’s most senior police officer has warned coronavirus rule-breakers they are “increasingly likely” to face fines.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said it was “preposterous” that anyone could be unaware of the need to follow the stringent measures designed to curb Covid-19 cases.

Writing in The Times, she said: “It is preposterous to me that anyone could be unaware of our duty to do all we can to stop the spread of the virus.

“We have been clear that those who breach Covid-19 legislation are increasingly likely to face fines.”

However, her comments came as law enforcement sources told the Guardian that police officers would not enforce mask-wearing in supermarkets despite a crackdown on compliance.

Supermarket chain Morrisons said on Monday that customers who refuse to wear a mask without a medical exemption will be told to leave stores, while Sainsbury’s also said its security staff would “challenge” shoppers who were not wearing masks or entering stores in groups.

Welsh Government ministers are looking at returning stricter enforcement rules for supermarkets in Wales, and health minister Vaughan Gething said people should consider keeping their masks on in public places if they are “out and about”.

Meanwhile, ministers are reported to be mulling over introducing tougher measures in England, with the wearing of face masks outdoors and banning exercise with people not in their household bubble said to be under consideration. In Wales, Level 4 restrictions mean you can’t meet anyone from outside of your household outside. Here are the differences between restrictions in Wales and England.

There are also calls for an end to non-essential takeaway sales, including coffee.

Tory former health minister Steve Brine led told BBC Two’s Newsnight: “There are so many things that we are doing, which are allowed in the rules… but I just don’t think they are wise right now.”

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock told a Downing Street press conference on Monday: “The NHS, more than ever before, needs everybody to be doing something right now – and that something is to follow the rules.

“I know there has been speculation about more restrictions, and we don’t rule out taking further action if it is needed, but it is your actions now that can make a difference.

“Stay at home, and please reduce all social contact that is not absolutely strictly necessary. That’s what is needed: act like you have the virus.”

A&E nurse tests positive after second dose of vaccine cancelled

A nurse working in one of Wales’ busiest emergency departments has tested positive for coronavirus after his second dose of the vaccine was cancelled.

David Longden, 43, was among the first in Wales to be immunised against Covid-19 on Tuesday, December 8 – the inaugural day the first dose of the Pfizer jab was rolled out.

He was meant to receive his second and final dose on Tuesday, January 5, but it was cancelled due to a change in guidance which prioritised giving more people the first jab.

The UK’s four chief medical officers, along with experts on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), advised giving both parts of the Oxford and Pfizer vaccines 12 weeks apart, having initially planned to leave 21 days between the Pfizer jabs.

David tested positive for coronavirus on Friday, January 8, and is now self-isolating in a garden “log cabin” at his home in Pontypridd, away from his partner Andrew Price.

How do you feel about the lockdown? Are you following the rules? Let us know in this survey. (If you’re using the app, please click “View Interactive Content” to take the survey.)

Latest coronavirus and vaccination figures for Wales

Another 17 people have died with coronavirus in Wales and more than 1,700 new cases have been reported.

Latest figures from Public Health Wales published on Monday, January 11 show 1,793 new cases of the virus have been recorded to bring the total since the pandemic began to 171,547. The overall death total now stands at 3,981 in Wales.

Following the latest figures, the infection rate is now 415 cases per 100,000 people based on the seven days up to January 6. That is down on the 435.9 previously reported.

PHW data also shows 86,039 people have now received a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, as at 10pm on Sunday, January 10. There are 79 people who have received both of their vaccine jabs.

The percentage of tests producing positive results in the week to January 6 is now 21.5%. Locally, the areas with the highest positivity are in Bridgend at 29.7%, Wrexham at 29.3%, and Flintshire at 26.9%.

These figures are based on the date tests were done, not the date test results were included on the system. The data is correct up to 9am on January 10.

Public Health Wales has urged people to consider day-to-day fluctuations with caution as “data flo
w issues” may affect the figures.

Boris criticised after bike ride at Olympic Park

Boris Johnson has been accused of hypocrisy by a Labour MP following reports the Prime Minister went cycling seven miles from his home after imposing sweeping Covid restrictions on others.

Mr Johnson was seen at the Olympic Park in east London on Sunday afternoon cycling with members of his security detail, it was claimed.

Official regulations brought in by Mr Johnson for England say that exercise is limited to once a day and you should not leave your local area, in a bid to halt the surge in coronavirus cases.

“He was leisurely cycling with another guy with a beanie hat and chatting while around four security guys, possibly more, cycled behind them,” a witness told the PA news agency.

“When I realised the person looked like Boris I cycled past them to hear his voice and be sure it’s him. It was definitely Boris.”

“Considering the current situation with Covid I was shocked to see him cycling around looking so care free,” added the woman, who asked not to be named.

“Also considering he’s advising everyone to stay at home and not leave their area, shouldn’t he stay in Westminster and not travel to other boroughs?”

A Downing Street spokesman declined to comment on the matter when asked about it at a Westminster briefing.

Labour MP for Hammersmith in west London Andy Slaughter condemned the Prime Minister.

Mr Slaughter said: “Once again it is do as I say not as I do from the Prime Minister.

“London has some of the highest infection rates in the country. Boris Johnson should be leading by example.”

New rules for travellers from Friday

New rules that will require international travellers to test negative for coronavirus before arriving in England will come into force from Friday, a transport minister has said.

From 4am on January 15, passengers arriving in England by boat, train or plane – including UK nationals – will have to take a test up to 72 hours before leaving the country of departure.

They will need to present proof of a negative test result to their carrier on boarding while the UK Border Force will conduct spot checks on arrivals.

New arrivals who flout the rules will face a minimum £500 fine, while the operator who transported them will also be fined.

Passengers will still have to quarantine for 10 days regardless of their test results, transport minister Robert Courts said in a statement.

British nationals attempting to return home who test positive must not travel and must follow the local guidance in their host country, and contact the nearest consulate if they need support.

“If a passenger arrives in England without a pre-departure negative test result they will be fined,” Mr Courts said.

“We will amend the International Travel Regulations so that fines, starting at £500, can be levied on non-compliant passengers.”

The United Arab Emirates has also been added to the UK’s travel quarantine list, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced, meaning anyone who arrives in the UK from the UAE after 4am on Tuesday will need to self-isolate.

£180m fund for hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses opens this week

The Welsh Government’s latest £180m Economic Resilience Fund package to support tourism, hospitality and leisure businesses affected by coronavirus restrictions will open for applications at 12pm on Wednesday (January 13).

The funding, announced in December, is part of a £450m package of support that the hospitality, leisure and tourism sectors as well as their supply chain can access.

The Welsh Government estimates that under the package of support a typical hospitality business in Wales with the equivalent of six full-time staff could be eligible to receive between £12,000 and £14,000 in total.

Economy Minister Ken Skates said: “Accelerating coronavirus rates meant we have had to make difficult but necessary decisions to protect people’s health and save lives. We know these decisions have a knock-on effect on our businesses and there is no doubt that latest restrictions mean very real challenges for firms who have already had to deal with so much.”

Further information and details on how to make an application for the package of business support is available on the Business Wales website . The fund will remain open for two weeks or until funds are fully committed.

Confusion over the rules in England

Sitting on a park bench for a “short pause” during exercise is reasonable, but leaving the home just to sit in public is unlawful under coronavirus rules, Downing Street said amid confusion over the regulations.

No 10 drew criticism earlier on Monday after the Prime Minister’s official spokesman was unable to confirm if a single person could sit down on a bench under the restrictions.

But a Government source has now clarified that while a “short pause during the course of exercise would be reasonable”, it would be “unlawful to leave the house just to sit in public”.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesman was pressed on the restrictions during a Westminster briefing on Monday afternoon.

He was also asked whether people can consume takeaway teas or coffees in public and said that “people are allowed to leave their homes if it’s for exercise, not socialising”.

Asked if someone can sit on a park bench and have a coffee under current coronavirus regulations, the spokesman said: “We have set out clearly the rules.

“We have been clear in the exemption for the stay-at-home rule: we are permitting one person to meet another person for exercise.”

Asked if walking outside with a takeaway tea is against the rules, the spokesman said: “Going for a walk, obviously, does count as exercise.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock later stressed that people should stay two metres apart if going for a walk with another person.

He told a Downing Street press conference: “Yes, you can go and exercise in the park with one other person, but only one other person.

“And we have been seeing large groups and that is not acceptable. And you should be two metres apart from the other person.

“If there are too many people breaking this rule then we are going to have to look at it.

“But, I don’t want to do that because for many people being able to go for a walk with a friend that often is their only social contact.

“It is OK to go for a walk with one other person around a park, but you should stay two metres apart from that other person.”

Royal Mail publishes list of Covid blackspots

Royal Mail has published a list of 28 areas suffering from limited delivery services as more of its workforce is affected by Covid-19.

The zones – comprising 27 in England and one in Northern Ireland – are no longer receiving regular post because of the high numbers of Royal Mail staff who are either off sick or self-isolating.

The affected areas include 13 in or near London, while others include Leeds City, Chelmsford, Widnes and Margate.

With some affected residents complaining of not having had mail delivered for more than a month, fears have also arisen that elderly residents will not receive notifications of when a coronavirus vaccine is available to them.

The issue has prompted calls, including from MPs and the Communication Workers Union (CWU), for postal workers to be added to the priority list of people receiving coronavirus vaccinations.

In a statement published with the list on its website, Royal Mail said it was “working hard to deliver the most comprehensive and high quality service we can to all our customers” despite the pandemi
c and the associated rise in pressure on delivery resources due to increased online shopping.

“The combination of greatly increased uptake of online shopping, and the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, mean that all delivery companies are experiencing exceptionally high volumes,” the statement said.

“Every single parcel and letter is important to us. Despite our best efforts and significant investment in extra resource, some customers may experience slightly longer delivery timescales than our usual service standards.

“This is due to the exceptionally high volumes we are seeing exacerbated by the coronavirus-related measures we have put in place in local mail centres and delivery offices to keep our people and customers safe. In such cases, we always work hard to get back to providing our usual level of service as quickly as we can.”