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Law change means wills can be witnessed via video link until 2022 as Covid battle continues 

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law change means wills can be witnessed via video link until 2022 as covid battle continues

The Government is set to legalise the remote witnessing of wills to make it easier for people to record their final wishes during the coronavirus pandemic.

The new law will be backdated to January 31 and will remain in place as long as necessary, the government has said as they move to reassure the public that wills witnessed via video link are legally recognised.

Currently, the law states that a will must be made ‘in the presence of’ at least two witnesses.

The Government has now announced that wills witnessed over video calls will be legally recognised as more people rely on platforms like Zoom and FaceTime because of lockdown

The Government has now announced that wills witnessed over video calls will be legally recognised as more people rely on platforms like Zoom and FaceTime because of lockdown

The Government has now announced that wills witnessed over video calls will be legally recognised as more people rely on platforms like Zoom and FaceTime because of lockdown

However during lockdown, many people have turned to video link software as a solution – using platforms like Zoom or FaceTime.

Today, ministers have announced that as long as the quality of the sound and video is sufficient to see and hear what is happening at the time, wills witnessed over video calls will be deemed legal.

These changes will be made via new legislation in September, which amends the law to include video-witnessing.

The new rules maintain the vital safeguard of requiring two witnesses – protecting people against undue influence and fraud.

Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP, said: ‘We are pleased that more people are taking the incredibly important step to plan for the future by making a will.

The law currently says you must: 

Be 18 or over

Make it voluntarily

Be of sound mind

Make it in writing

Sign it in the presence of two witnesses who are both over 18

Have it signed by your two witnesses, in your presence

You cannot leave your witnesses (or their married partners) anything in your will

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‘We know that the pandemic has made this process more difficult, which is why we are changing law to ensure that wills witnessed via video technology are legally recognised.

‘Our measures will give peace of mind to many that their last wishes can still be recorded during this challenging time, while continuing to protect the elderly and vulnerable.’

The measures will be backdated to January 31 – the date of the first confirmed coronavirus case in the UK – meaning any will witnessed by video technology from that date onwards will be legally accepted.

The change will remain in place until January 31 2022, or as long as deemed necessary, after which wills must return to being made with witnesses who are physically present.

The Government has said the use of video technology should remain a last resort, and people must continue to arrange physical witnessing of wills where it is safe to do so.

Wills witnessed through windows are already considered legitimate in case law as long as they have clear sight of the person signing it. 

Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, Rt Hon Robert Buckland, pictured, has said the law will be backdated to January 31 2020 and will remain in place until 2022 or as long as necessary

Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, Rt Hon Robert Buckland, pictured, has said the law will be backdated to January 31 2020 and will remain in place until 2022 or as long as necessary

Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, Rt Hon Robert Buckland, pictured, has said the law will be backdated to January 31 2020 and will remain in place until 2022 or as long as necessary

Simon Davis, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, said: ‘The government’s decision to allow wills to be witnessed remotely for the next two years will help alleviate the difficulties that some members of the public have encountered when making wills during the pandemic.

‘The Law Society is glad to see that guidance has been issued to minimise fraud and abuse. We look forward to working with government to ensure the reform is robust and successful.’

Emily Deane, Technical Counsel at STEP, a professional body comprising lawyers and accountants, added: ‘We are delighted that the Government has responded to the industry’s calls to allow will witnessing over video conference.

‘By removing the need for any physical witnesses, wills can continue to be drawn up efficiently, effectively and safely by those isolating.

‘STEP also welcomes the move to apply this retrospectively, which will provide reassurance to anyone who has had no choice but to execute a will in this manner prior to this legislation being enacted.

‘We hope the policy will continue to evolve and enable more people to execute a will at this difficult time.’

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Over 3.8m EU citizens apply to stay in UK after Brexit transition

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over 3 8m eu citizens apply to stay in uk after brexit transition

More than 3.8million EU citizens have applied to stay in the UK permanently after freedom of movement ends – with two million granted approval so far.

Nationals from the bloc and their families must go through the Home Office’s settlement scheme by June next year to carry on living and working in the country after the Brexit transition period.

According to the latest figures, 2,041,200 people had been granted settled status up to the end of last month. 

A further 1,475,500 were granted pre-settled status, where they will need to reapply again after living in the country for five years to gain permanent residence.

More than 3.8million EU citizens have applied to stay in the UK permanently after freedom of movement ends - with over two million granted approval so far

More than 3.8million EU citizens have applied to stay in the UK permanently after freedom of movement ends - with over two million granted approval so far

More than 3.8million EU citizens have applied to stay in the UK permanently after freedom of movement ends – with over two million granted approval so far

Some 4,600 applications were refused, 36,500 were withdrawn or void and 34,900 were invalid – where the Home Office decides someone is not eligible to apply or has failed to provide sufficient proof of residence.

In total, 3,805,200 applications have been received so far, with 3,516,700 processed.

The number of applications being submitted and processed dipped during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

But the Home Office said it received 92,000 in July and dealt with 133,100 during the month.

Immigration minister Kevin Foster said EU citizens were an ‘integral part of UK society’ and 3.5 million had already secured their rights in UK law.

‘There’s plenty of time left to apply before the June 30 2021 deadline and a wide range of support is available online, over the telephone and in person if you need it,’ he said. 

But the Liberal Democrats repeated calls for EU citizens to be given an automatic right to stay in the UK and special documentation to avoid ‘a new Windrush-style scandal’.

The party’s home affairs spokeswoman Christine Jardine said: ‘With so many people being refused settled status, granted only temporary ‘pre-settled status’ or still waiting for a decision, it’s clear that this Conservative Government’s scheme is anything but automatic.

‘And without physical proof of their rights, EU citizens will be at the mercy of the Conservatives’ hostile environment. They must not become the victims of a new Windrush-style scandal.’ 

The next official quarterly figures on how the scheme is progressing are due to be published towards the end of the month.

After Boris Johnson (pictured in Northern Ireland today) secured a Brexit deal, EU nationals and their families must go through the Home Office's settlement scheme by June next year to carry on living and working in the UK

After Boris Johnson (pictured in Northern Ireland today) secured a Brexit deal, EU nationals and their families must go through the Home Office's settlement scheme by June next year to carry on living and working in the UK

After Boris Johnson (pictured in Northern Ireland today) secured a Brexit deal, EU nationals and their families must go through the Home Office’s settlement scheme by June next year to carry on living and working in the UK

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Coronavirus: UK deaths and cases on Thursday

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coronavirus uk deaths and cases on thursday

Another 13 people have died of Covid-19 in England’s hospitals but no-one else has died of the illness in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, officials revealed today.

Scotland today marked four full weeks without a single death from coronavirus north of the border, according to its official government statistics.

A full round-up of the total number of fatalities — which will include all settings in England and not just hospitals — will be published later by the Department of Health.  

Today’s preliminary update comes amid confusion over how many people have actually died of the coronavirus, with ministers now counting deaths in six different ways.

Officials yesterday revised the overall count following an urgent review, knocking off around 5,000 victims who died at least 28 days after testing positive for the virus. It took the official death toll to 41,329.

But the Department of Health still publishes the original count that includes anyone who has ever tested positive and died, with the overall number of victims under this method standing at around 46,000. 

A third count will be kept by Public Health England, along with records by statistical bodies in each country and also measures of ‘excess’ deaths. Totals now range from 41,000 to almost 66,000.

In other developments to the coronavirus crisis in Britain today:

  • A-level students were left in limbo as their teachers scrambled to appeal against tens of thousands of ‘unfair’ downgraded results released just three weeks before the university deadline;
  • British holidaymakers in France could be spared quarantine for now despite a surge in coronavirus cases — but the Netherlands and Malta are facing tougher UK curbs; 
  • Coronavirus kills around 1.23 per cent of all infected patients, according to a major study that estimated around 3.4million people in England may have been infected with Covid-19;
  • Russia’s leading respiratory doctor has quit over ‘gross violations’ of medical ethics that rushed through Vladimir Putin’s coronavirus Sputnik V vaccine;
  • The NHS Test and Trace smartphone app is being re-launched using technology made by Apple and Google, with a second round of trials on the Isle of Wight and in the London borough of Newham;
  • More than 1.85million people were waiting longer than 18 weeks for routine hospital treatment in England in June in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic — the highest number since records began in 2007.
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Officials yesterday revised the overall count following an urgent review, knocking off around 5,000 victims who died at least 28 days after testing positive for the virus. It took the official death toll to 41,329. But the Department of Health still publishes the original count that includes anyone who has ever tested positive and died, with the overall number of victims under this method standing at around 46,000. A third count will be kept by Public Health England, along with records by statistical bodies in each country and also measures of 'excess' deaths. Totals now range from 41,000 to almost 66,000

Officials yesterday revised the overall count following an urgent review, knocking off around 5,000 victims who died at least 28 days after testing positive for the virus. It took the official death toll to 41,329. But the Department of Health still publishes the original count that includes anyone who has ever tested positive and died, with the overall number of victims under this method standing at around 46,000. A third count will be kept by Public Health England, along with records by statistical bodies in each country and also measures of 'excess' deaths. Totals now range from 41,000 to almost 66,000

Officials yesterday revised the overall count following an urgent review, knocking off around 5,000 victims who died at least 28 days after testing positive for the virus. It took the official death toll to 41,329. But the Department of Health still publishes the original count that includes anyone who has ever tested positive and died, with the overall number of victims under this method standing at around 46,000. A third count will be kept by Public Health England, along with records by statistical bodies in each country and also measures of ‘excess’ deaths. Totals now range from 41,000 to almost 66,000

HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE REALLY DIED FROM COVID-19 IN THE UK? 

Department of Health (no cut-off): 46,706 

Department of Health’s latest death count for all settings stands at 46,706.

The daily data does not represent how many Covid-19 patients died within the last 24 hours — it is only how many fatalities have been reported and registered with the authorities.

It also only takes into account patients who have ever tested positive for the virus, as opposed to deaths suspected to be down to the coronavirus.

The method came under scrutiny because it meant someone who once had Covid-19 and then recovered would be counted, even if they were hit by a bus or were in a car crash months later. 

Department of Health (28-day cut off): 41,329

If someone died 28 days after testing positive for Covid-19, they wouldn’t be classed as a coronavirus death under this measure.  

This means that many victims who recovered and died of unrelated causes are not included.

Public Health England (60-day cut off): 45,038 

This method will count a Covid-19 death as anyone who died with in 60 days of a positive result. It will be published once a week.

It leaves room for those who may have died several weeks after getting infected, considering some patients may be in hospital for a long time before they eventually die of the disease.

However, it also means some people who tested positive for the virus, recovered, and then died a while later of different causes will be picked up.

Public Health England said the 60-day cut off is better than 28 days because some patients suffer long term Covid-19 symptoms after appearing to recover, and cannot be missed out from the tally if they do not die in the immediate month after their diagnosis. 

NHS England: 29,444

NHS England is the only statistical body to keep a rolling tally of how many patients have died of coronavirus in hospitals.

Statistics show 29,444 patients have died after testing positive for Covid-19 in hospitals across England. 

National statistical bodies: 56,846

Data compiled by the statistical bodies of each of the home nations show 56,846 people died of either confirmed or suspected Covid-19 across the UK by the end of May.

The Office for National Statistics yesterday confirmed that 51,779 people in England and Wales died with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 by July 31.

The number of coronavirus deaths was 854 by the same day in Northern Ireland, according to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).

National Records Scotland — which collects statistics north of the border — said 4,213 people had died across the country by June 22.

Their tallies are always 10 days behind the Department of Health (DH) because they wait until as many fatalities as possible for each date have been counted, to avoid having to revise their statistics.

Excess deaths: 65,278

The total number of excess deaths is at least 65,000.

Excess deaths are considered to be a more accurate measure of the number of people killed by the pandemic because they include a broader spectrum of victims.

As well as including people who may have died with Covid-19 without ever being tested, the data also shows how many more people died because their medical treatment was postponed, for example, or who didn’t or couldn’t get to hospital when they were seriously ill.

Data from England and Wales shows there has been an extra 59,324 deaths between March 15 and June 12, as well as 4,953 in Scotland between March 2 and June 22 and 1,001 in Northern Ireland between March 28 and June 26.

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Today’s NHS data — which is a separate measure by its own accord because it only takes into account deaths in hospitals in England — shows 13 more people between the ages of 49 and 90 died between July 18 and August 12.

Five of the victims died in the North East of England, five in the North West, two in the Midlands and one in London.    

Ministers now count coronavirus deaths in six different ways — including the NHS England tally — following an urgent review into how fatalities were calculated.

Health chiefs last night unveiled two new measures of recording Covid-19 victims.

One of the measures only counts a death as being down to coronavirus if they die within four weeks of testing positive for the disease and stands at 41,329. The other has a cut-off of 60 days (45,038).

The methods are in addition to the original government calculation (46,706), which sparked fury after top academics found it meant no-one in England could ever technically recover. Coronavirus patients would be counted as a victim, even if they were hit by a bus months after beating the disease.

National statistical bodies collect the other two tallies, including one that adds up to 56,842 because it tots up all confirmed and suspected deaths in each of the home nations.

The other calculates excess deaths, or how many more people died than expected over a certain time-frame (60,000). They are considered the most accurate way of analysing how many people have really died in an outbreak.

Each tally gives a different perspective as health officials said there is no correct way of counting Covid-19 deaths.

Some experts welcomed the ‘sensible’ switch to the ‘headline’ 28-day count, which brought England in line with the rest of the UK and shaved 5,400 off the government count.

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at Cambridge University, said he felt ‘sorry for everyone’ amid the confusion of the true tally.

The UK Government had recorded 46,706 deaths in during the pandemic up to yesterday, when the results of a inquiry finally came to light.

The initial method, from Public Health England (PHE) counted people as victims if they die of any cause any time after testing positive for Covid-19.

Survivors would never be considered truly recovered from the disease and it would have meant every single person that has ever tested positive (313,798) would have shown up in the death tally eventually.

The flaw, discovered by Dr Yoon Loke, a pharmacologist at the University of East Anglia, and Oxford University’s Professor Carl Heneghan, prompted Health Secretary Matt Hancock to order a review last month.

The academics said the method is likely why the daily fatality tolls have not dropped as quickly in England as elsewhere, because Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — which have been seen zero daily deaths for weeks — use a 28-day cut off.

Officials said it slashed almost 5,400 deaths off the total for England, therefore lowering the UK total to 41,329.

Most of the deaths come off the tallies for June, July and August.

For example, under the old PHE system, 2,086 deaths were reported in England in July by date of death, with the 28 days cut off this number is 574 – nearly a quarter of what was previously reported, Professor Heneghan pointed out.

Although scientists welcomed the new way of counting deaths, the damage caused by the original counting method, used for more than five months, has left a sour taste.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 today, Sir David said: ‘People have been watching this daily figure and haven’t realised how ridiculous it is.

‘This will make a difference but it doesn’t make a difference to the fact we have done very badly and there has been a very large number of deaths.

‘I also would say thought that people are on the whole rather too cautious rather too fearful and the communication hasn’t helped in that, particularly that’s why the current communication of the risks of deaths at the moment is so vital.’

Professor Spiegelhalter noted there were around five ways of counting Covid-19 deaths now, but did not list them himself.

He said: ‘I do feel sorry for everyone… it is very confusing.’

Professor Karol Sikora, a cancer specialist and dean at the University of Buckingham medical school, said the old system had inflated numbers ‘for weeks’.

He wrote on Twitter: ‘These figures have been so influential, I’m angry at the way they’ve been handled.’

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Joss Stone angers viewers by saying ‘happiness is a choice’

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joss stone angers viewers by saying happiness is a choice

Joss Stone has been branded ‘deluded’ and ‘tone deaf’ by angry Good Morning Britain viewers after she declared ‘happiness is a choice’ from the comfort of her luxury home in the Bahamas.  

The multi-millionaire singer, 33, was slammed for being ‘out of touch’, ‘patronising’ and ‘entitled’ as show fans vented their fury on Twitter after her Thursday morning video-link live from the Caribbean.

In 2012, Joss was said to be the fifth richest British singer under 30 with an estimated net worth of £10 million. 

'Deluded': Joss Stone has angered Good Morning Britain viewers by telling them to be happy from her Bahamas home

'Deluded': Joss Stone has angered Good Morning Britain viewers by telling them to be happy from her Bahamas home

‘Deluded’: Joss Stone has angered Good Morning Britain viewers by telling them to be happy from her Bahamas home

As well as her music career, Joss is also close friends to Prince Harry and attended his royal wedding to Meghan Markle in 2018. 

The singer has been friends with both the Duke of Sussex, 35, and Prince William for years due to her humanitarian work. She was also a guest at the Duke of Cambridge’s wedding to Kate Middleton in 2011.

During her interview, Joss also raved about the government’s rescue package for the arts, despite many within the industry criticising the funding for being insufficient.

Promoting her A Cuppa Happy podcast with GMB’s Charlotte Hawkins and Shaun Fletcher, she said: ‘We have a lot of opportunity to be happy and we don’t always take it.

'Tone deaf': The singer, 33, said 'everyone has a choice to be happy' as she spoke from the Caribbean on Thursday, with fans slamming her as 'tone-deaf'

'Tone deaf': The singer, 33, said 'everyone has a choice to be happy' as she spoke from the Caribbean on Thursday, with fans slamming her as 'tone-deaf'

‘Tone deaf’: The singer, 33, said ‘everyone has a choice to be happy’ as she spoke from the Caribbean on Thursday, with fans slamming her as ‘tone-deaf’

‘Every person I’ve spoken to so far [on the podcast] has flagged that we have choice, and I don’t think everybody truly feels that way – I think some people genuinely feel that they don’t have it. And that is a total myth’

She added: ‘We do have choice in mostly every direction, unless we’re enslaved and someone’s taken that choice away from you, or you’re in prison and you don’t have a choice to walk outside. 

‘But, mentally, we have little choices that we make as we walk along in this life, and that is for every single person. That’s comforting, really. It’s very freeing.’ 

Ka-ching! In 2012, Joss was said to be the fifth richest British singer under 30 with an estimated net worth of £10 million (pictured in 2016)

Ka-ching! In 2012, Joss was said to be the fifth richest British singer under 30 with an estimated net worth of £10 million (pictured in 2016)

Ka-ching! In 2012, Joss was said to be the fifth richest British singer under 30 with an estimated net worth of £10 million (pictured in 2016)  

The singer then spoke about the Government’s funding for the arts, saying we should all be very grateful for their help.

She said: ‘I heard recently that Boris did something, he gave loads of money to the arts in the UK, something huge for the arts! 

‘I heard that and I was like ‘Oh my God, another little gem that’s happened to our little nation. We’re so bloody lucky!”  

Viewers did not take kindly to her comments, venting their frustrations on social media. 

Many branded her ‘out of touch’, ‘deluded’ and ‘entitled’ as they criticised her for making light of the situation that many Britons are finding themselves in due to coronavirus and the ensuing economic hardship. 

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Angry: Many branded her 'out of touch', 'deluded' and 'entitled' as they criticised her for making light of the current situation

Angry: Many branded her 'out of touch', 'deluded' and 'entitled' as they criticised her for making light of the current situation

Angry: Many branded her ‘out of touch’, ‘deluded’ and ‘entitled’ as they criticised her for making light of the current situation

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'Out of touch with reality': Many said that happiness is not always a choice for families struggling in the UK

'Out of touch with reality': Many said that happiness is not always a choice for families struggling in the UK

‘Out of touch with reality’: Many said that happiness is not always a choice for families struggling in the UK

One said: ‘How unbelievably patronising, entitled & blinkered. Its not a choice to be in lockdown, unemployed, having no money 4 bills/food, relative dead from covid. Well at least I’m not rich stuck out in the Bahamas in my luxury house.’ 

Another wrote: I’m sure a single mother with 2 young kids, struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table will take this advice on board. So out of touch with reality these people.’

Referencing her comments about the arts industry, one person said: ‘ I could have smashed my tv when she was cooing over the 1.8bn to the arts! 

‘The events industry and the supply chain to it is collapsing right now and she is oblivious! Me and 1000s of others are being made redundant and shes banging on about choice and being happy!’

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Venting their anger: Many on social media called out the singer for her comments on Thursday

Venting their anger: Many on social media called out the singer for her comments on Thursday

Venting their anger: Many on social media called out the singer for her comments on Thursday

As well as her music career, Joss is also close friends to Prince Harry and attended his royal wedding to Meghan Markle in 2018. 

The singer has been friends with both the Duke of Sussex, 35, and Prince William for years. She was also a guest at the Duke of Cambridge’s wedding to Kate Middleton in 2011.

Joss and Prince Harry have bonded over their humanitarian work, with the singer an ambassador for his Sentebale charity.

He founded Sentebale with Prince Seeiso in 2006 to improve prospects for the thousands of children and young people affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa’s Lesotho and Botswana.

Joss even told HELLO! magazine at a charity concert in 2016: ‘He’s quite shy in that way, but it depends. Last time I was singing in Lesotho he started a conga line, so I wouldn’t put it past him. He’s a fun human being.’

The singer grew up in a sprawling rural converted farmhouse in Devon and she is reported to have bought the property at just 18 after her parents split.

Joss’ father, Richard Stoker, is said to run a ‘successful fruit and nut importexport business’ claims the Telegraph.

While her mother, Wendy Joseph, rented out guest houses on the family’s former sprawling rural estate. 

Joss now lives in the US and had been spending lockdown in her lavish home on the east coast of America.  

At the BRIT Awards in 2007, the singer was ridiculed for adopting a fake American dialect. She has previously claimed that her transatlantic accent is due to spending her early 20s in America.  

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