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Sadiq Khan is calling for ‘urgent action’ to protect Londoners and struggling businesses ahead of imminent new restrictions:


Welsh holiday sites urged to reject half-term bookings from UK hotspots

First Minister Mark Drakeford said holiday providers in Wales should not accept half-term bookings from people in areas of the UK with high levels of coronavirus.

Asked about existing bookings, he told BBC Breakfast: “I’m afraid those bookings will no longer be able to be honoured.

“It’s why we’re taking this action now to give people a good period of time to understand that, if you did book a holiday in those parts of Wales, I’m afraid that holiday will now no longer be able to take place.”


Police to help stop cross-border travel, Welsh minister confirms

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has said police forces will carry out extra patrols on main roads to enforce a planned travel ban to prevent people entering Wales from Covid hotspots in the UK.

He told BBC Breakfast that officers will explain the rules to people but could also issue fixed penalty notices to those who “knowingly and flagrantly” breach them.

“They will take the action that they need to take but enforcement is the final resort, not the first resort,” he said.

Mr Drakeford added that he has discussed the plans with police forces and Police and Crime Commissioners in Wales.

Officers will use a “range of techniques” to police the travel ban, he said.


World update: Singapore and Hong Kong agree to new travel bubble

Hong Kong and Singapore say they have agreed to a bilateral air travel bubble, re-establishing travel links as coronavirus infections in both cities decline.

This means that tourists from each region will be able to visit the other without facing any restrictions.

Both Hong Kong and Singapore temporarily closed their borders earlier this year, banning short-term visitors from entering as they fought to reduce infections.

Under the air travel bubble, travellers will also not be subject to compulsory quarantine, provided they have taken Covid-19 tests mutually recognised by both cities, and received a negative result.

Additionally, passengers are required to fly on dedicated flights, which will only serve air travel bubble travellers between Hong Kong and Singapore.

The launch date has yet to be announced.



Health update: Interesting new research has emerged

People with blood type O may be less vulnerable to Covid-19 and have a reduced likelihood of getting severely ill from the virus, according to two new studies.

The two independent studies, carried out by researchers in Denmark and Canada and published in the journal Blood Advances, found that individuals with blood types A and AB are most vulnerable to the disease.

The research provides further evidence that a person’s blood type may play a role in their susceptibility to coronavirus and could shed further light on why the illness proves deadly for some but others only experience mild symptoms, or none at all.

Read more…


Economic damage to North ‘could last a decade’

Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson tweeted: “We are making the same mistakes again.

“The deadly dithering by @BorisJohnson is causing untold grief we need a ‘circuit breaker’ now and continuous 80% financial Furlough for businesses, the economic damage being caused could last a decade.”


Manchester needs to accept Tier 3 move – Sage expert

Professor Calum Semple told BBC Breakfast that, in his opinion, Manchester needs to enter Tier 3 measures, as do other regions.

He added: “There is always going to be some friction between the focus on the numbers of case, and the need to keep the economy going.

“But from a purely academic point of view – where I’m coming from – if you allow the numbers to rise it inevitably has an impact on the economy because you start to lose the capacity to deliver these other essential services.”


This is now about more than just protecting the NHS – Sage expert

Prof Calum Semple said unless something happened to stem the spread of coronavirus, “the numbers will keep rising, there’ll be further hospital admissions and further deaths.

“But it’s not just the Covid disease in the hospital we have to think of.

“When you start to get levels of infection like this in the community, it starts to affect other services such that, so many teachers will be off sick off with Covid that the schools will have difficulty delivering education.

“And eventually, it starts pushing into other service essential services such as fire brigade or telecommunications, delivering bread and petrol, because many of these systems are already running at the limits on reduced staff.

“So, this isn’t just now about protecting the NHS, this is actually now about protecting other aspects of how we run our communities in Liverpool.”


Liverpool NHS staff falling sick or being left totally ‘burnt out’ 

Calum Semple, professor of outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told BBC Breakfast the health system in Liverpool was “highly, highly stressed” by having so many Covid-19 cases.

“There’s also a high level of (NHS) staff absence because of, essentially burnout but also sickness, and that within our infrastructure within Liverpool is cause for concern.

“And these cases are from infections that occurred 10 days ago.

“The current infections… are baked into the system so we’re predicting quite a dire situation within a week or so, and that’s why we’ve been making these very public announcements.”


Half-term lockdown could come ‘too late’ to stem infections

Imposing a two-week lockdown on universities in England before Christmas may come too late to prevent widespread infections, a scientist who advises the Government suggested.

Dr Ellen Brooks-Pollock, who sits on the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “In our analysis before the start of term we estimated that the R value could be up to 30 per cent higher in a university setting, which could mean in an unmitigated setting it could be around 3.5 or 4.

“Our analysis suggests that reducing face-to-face teaching to essential teaching only does have the impact of slowing down the rate of spread and preventing more disseminated outbreaks.

“However it needs to happen early on in the outbreak because if infection is already widespread then having this quiet period at the end of term is unlikely to prevent outbreaks within halls of residence.

“Two weeks might be enough for students living in smaller households, living with two or three other people, but in these halls of residence where there’s really a lot of people living together it could just lead to an outbreak in those halls of residence.

“And if there’s already disseminated infections, many of which are unobserved, two weeks wouldn’t be long enough at the end of term – it’s too late essentially.”


More on the talks happening today:

Talks are continuing between the government and local leaders as further lockdown restrictions loom for more parts of England.

MPs in Greater Manchester and London been invited to join ministerial calls on Thursday morning.

While Liverpool is the only area in the top tier of restrictions, Greater Manchester and Lancashire are both at risk of being placed under the “very high alert” category, which would see the closure of bars, gyms and betting shops.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham is also to hold talks with Boris Johnson’s team today over the issue.


Government isn’t budging on furlough wind-down

Joe Anderson told BBC Breakfast that regional leaders were “categorically told” by Westminster officials that there would be no changes to the package of Government funding.

“I was told ‘well look, it doesn’t matter what you say, the Chancellor, the Prime Minister made their decision and made their mind up that the furlough scheme, and then the Government system for unemployed people and for businesses, it’s going to stay the same no matter what you say.

“Basically forget about it because you’re not moving us on it.”

The Liverpool mayor said ministers should stop listening to economic advisers “telling us the country is in a mess when we’ll be in an even bigger mess if businesses go to the wall, don’t come back and we lose jobs and then we have to pay unemployment rates and benefits of Universal Credit.

“It seems to me that the Government has to accept that there’s got to be economic intervention to support businesses and support people to keep them open.”


Northern leaders ‘desperately trying to cobble together’ funding for local businesses

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said the city was facing a “tough month” and that some businesses that close under the latest coronavirus restrictions may not reopen.

He told BBC Breakfast: “It’s a very tough time for us. We’re all really anxious and really worried about that and also the infection rates are continuing to climb.

“We’ve got 3,300 cases of Covid, 30 deaths in the last week, it’s spreading by around about 630 cases (in the) last week.

“It’s a really worrying time for us, a really anxious time.”

He said leaders were “desperately trying to cobble together” a package of funding to help businesses stay open.


Underground parties to put pressure on police as restrictions close pubs

The closure of pubs could “drive” people to break the law, Northumbria’s police and crime commissioner has suggested.

Kim McGuinness told the Today Programme the number of fines handed out to people for holding house parties has gone up “substantially”.

“Tier 3 means pubs or non-food pubs closing so the concern is that that would drive any people who are seeking to break the law underground and makes it more challenging for police, Ms McGuinness said.

“The police prior to this phase, the initial phases of lockdown, saw a real reduction in crime and burglary and so on.

“And now those levels are back and there’s the expectation that police will enforce Covid regulations as well, which is really difficult and puts pressure on them.”


Transport update: Ryanair to cut third of routes 

Ryanair is to axe more than one in three of its flight routes this winter due to low demand amid coronavirus travel restrictions across Europe.

The budget airline announced that it will only maintain up to 65 per cent of its route network between November and March.

It will close its bases in Cork and Shannon, both in Ireland, and Toulouse in France during the five-month period.

Routes that do survive will be served with a lower frequency of flights than normal.


Scotland ready to enforce cross-border travel bans

Scotland could implement measures to prevent non-essential travel from coronavirus hotspots, the SNP’s Westminster leader has said.

Ian Blackford told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “We of course have the opportunity to put in place appropriate public health measures.

“What we can do, if necessary, is say that people should not travel from hotspots, whether they should be from in Scotland or people coming to Scotland from other parts of the United Kingdom.

“But that will be done on an evidence-based approach where we think it’s appropriate to protect the people in all parts of the country from people travelling where it’s not necessary.

“When people have to travel for business, for work, and so on – essential journeys – they will still be allowed, but what we’re talking about is non-essential journeys, where it’s appropriate to do that.”


Northern MPs vent frustration at silence from No10

William Wragg, Conservative MP for Hazel Grove in Greater Manchester, was among those complaining at a lack of communication from the Government despite reports on Wednesday night that Tier 3 restrictions had been signed off for the region.

After Labour’s Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Manchester Norton MP Afzal Khan both said they had not been informed of the plans being reported last night, Mr Wragg wrote: “Sadly, I’ve received no email… says it all really.

He then posted earlier this morning: “Email now received. However, it is frustrating to keep learning of these developments from second-hand sources, alongside the speculation and hearsay.”


Hancock expected to announce new measures for northern England at 11.30am today

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will address parliament at 11.30am, in what is expected to be an announcement of tough new measures across swathes of northern England.

Asked by Sky News’s Kay Burley if Manchester and parts of Lancashire will be placed into Tier 3, business minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “I’m not going to speculate. 

“Matt Hancock is going to make a statement to parliament as to where we are at but you can clearly see the numbers.”


Minister promises decisions will be made ‘jointly’ after MPs not invited to briefing

Business minister Nadhim Zahawi has apologised to MPs after some claimed they weren’t invited to Government meetings on new restrictions to be held today.

Quizzed on claims by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and Lucy Powell, the Labour MP for Manchester Central, that they had found out about the briefing from the media Mr Zahawi told Sky News’s Kay Burley he was sorry.

He said it is a “fast-moving situation” but added: “I hope they can be at the meeting so they can hear directly from the deputy chief medical officer as to why we’re going to have to take this action.

“Decision will be made jointly with the local leaders,” he stressed.


The latest figures for London explain why the city is on the brink of ‘high risk’ rules:

London is today on the brink of tighter Tier 2 Covid-19 restrictions as 11 boroughs saw more than 100 new cases in a week per 100,000 people, according to official figures.

The capital as a whole is also close to breaching this potential trigger point for a new clampdown, having reached 97 cases per 100,000 in the week to October 10.

A swathe of west London, as well as several council areas in East London, have seen the disease rise above this level.

Read more…