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Teenage girl dies after being found unconscious at student halls of residence in Newcastle 

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teenage girl dies after being found unconscious at student halls of residence in newcastle

An 18-year-old died at a Newcastle University halls of residence yesterday after being discovered unconscious. 

Paramedics rushed to Richardson Road in Newcastle – where the Park View student village halls are located – early on Saturday morning.

The teenager was pronounced dead at the scene and her death is not ‘Covid-19 related’, police have confirmed.

An 18-year-old died at a Newcastle University halls of residence yesterday after being discovered unconscious. Pictured: Police at the scene

An 18-year-old died at a Newcastle University halls of residence yesterday after being discovered unconscious. Pictured: Police at the scene

An 18-year-old died at a Newcastle University halls of residence yesterday after being discovered unconscious. Pictured: Police at the scene

Paramedics rushed to Richardson Road in Newcastle - where the Park View student village halls (pictured) are located - early on Saturday morning

Paramedics rushed to Richardson Road in Newcastle - where the Park View student village halls (pictured) are located - early on Saturday morning

Paramedics rushed to Richardson Road in Newcastle – where the Park View student village halls (pictured) are located – early on Saturday morning 

Northumbria Police officers were called shortly after 6am this morning by the ambulance service.

A spokesperson said: ‘The investigation is at an early stage but it is not believed to be a Covid-19 related death.’

Her death came just days after 800 students tested positive for coronavirus in Newcastle as the city was branded  England’s new coronavirus hotspot.

Northumbria University – another of the city’s universities – has been blamed for reopening the campus and causing the ‘preventable’ public health crisis.

All 770 students from the area are self-isolating for 14 days along with their flatmates and close contacts.  

The teenager was pronounced dead at the scene and her death is not ' Covid-19 related', police have confirmed. Pictured: Police at the scene

The teenager was pronounced dead at the scene and her death is not ' Covid-19 related', police have confirmed. Pictured: Police at the scene

The teenager was pronounced dead at the scene and her death is not ‘ Covid-19 related’, police have confirmed. Pictured: Police at the scene

All England's top ten coronavirus hotspots are in the North, revealing its North-South divide. Newcastle, which contains the Northumbria University outbreak, is one on the list

All England's top ten coronavirus hotspots are in the North, revealing its North-South divide. Newcastle, which contains the Northumbria University outbreak, is one on the list

All England’s top ten coronavirus hotspots are in the North, revealing its North-South divide. Newcastle, which contains the Northumbria University outbreak, is one on the list

Northumberland, Newcastle, Gateshead, North and South Tyneside, Sunderland and Durham are all locked down, while Hartlepool and Middlesbrough will be locked down from Sunday. Redcar and Cleveland, Stockton and Darlington are open

Northumberland, Newcastle, Gateshead, North and South Tyneside, Sunderland and Durham are all locked down, while Hartlepool and Middlesbrough will be locked down from Sunday. Redcar and Cleveland, Stockton and Darlington are open

Northumberland, Newcastle, Gateshead, North and South Tyneside, Sunderland and Durham are all locked down, while Hartlepool and Middlesbrough will be locked down from Sunday. Redcar and Cleveland, Stockton and Darlington are open 

The students have posted signs on their windows reading ‘Covid +’ and ‘send beer’ as they are provided with food, laundry, cleaning materials and welfare support by authorities and the city council. 

Those who miss out on face-to-face tuition during their quarantine will also receive additional academic support from the university.

A spokesman said the increase in cases comes in the week after students returned to the area and ‘reflects the good access to and availability of testing as well as rigorous and robust reporting systems’. 

Nearly 800 students have tested positive for coronavirus in Newcastle as one of the UK's biggest university unions blamed Northumbria University for reopening the campus and causing the 'preventable' public health crisis (pictured, Northumbria University students posed for photos at windows in Shieldfield as they posted signs reading 'send beer')

Nearly 800 students have tested positive for coronavirus in Newcastle as one of the UK's biggest university unions blamed Northumbria University for reopening the campus and causing the 'preventable' public health crisis (pictured, Northumbria University students posed for photos at windows in Shieldfield as they posted signs reading 'send beer')

Nearly 800 students have tested positive for coronavirus in Newcastle as one of the UK’s biggest university unions blamed Northumbria University for reopening the campus and causing the ‘preventable’ public health crisis (pictured, Northumbria University students posed for photos at windows in Shieldfield as they posted signs reading ‘send beer’)

Northumbria University students posed for photos at windows in Shieldfield as they posted signs reading 'send beer' as one male student smiles at onlookers

Northumbria University students posed for photos at windows in Shieldfield as they posted signs reading 'send beer' as one male student smiles at onlookers

Northumbria University students posed for photos at windows in Shieldfield as they posted signs reading ‘send beer’ as one male student smiles at onlookers

They refused to say if the outbreak has taken place in one hall of residence or multiple halls and private flats across Newcastle as infections in the city rose by 60 per cent to a rate of 250 cases per 100,000 this week.

But the University and College Union blamed the outbreak on the decision by university authorities to open up their campus to students, suggesting they are responsible for the ‘preventable crisis’. 

General-Secretary Jo Grady said: ‘We warned last month that, given the current restrictions in the region, the direction of the infection rate and the problems with test and trace, it was clearly far too soon for a mass return to campus.

‘We told Northumbria University they had a civic duty to put the health of staff, students and the local community first and we take no pleasure in now seeing another preventable crisis play out. The university sector and the Government must address this public health crisis immediately.’

At least 50 universities across the UK are now dealing with confirmed Covid-19 outbreaks amid fears Britain’s second wave is well underway, with 1,800 cases identified among students and staff. 

Glasgow University has seen 124 confirmed cases and there have been 221 recorded at Manchester University as thousands of lockdown-weary students flocked to campuses to start term on September 21.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Coronavirus UK: Drivers seen crossing into Wales as country goes into ‘firebreak’ lockdown

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coronavirus uk drivers seen crossing into wales as country goes into firebreak lockdown

Police tonight revealed extraordinary plans to patrol the Anglo-Welsh border to stop families from crossing over for a half-term holiday as Wales is plunged into a two-week ‘firebreak’ lockdown. 

Drivers on the A494 at Queensferry were seen crossing the border in a breach of new Covid-19 restrictions which prevent motorists from crossing the 160-mile long border for 17 days.

Officers will prevent caravans sneaking into England from Wales to beat the lockdown and deter Welsh motorists defying Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford’s ‘power-mad’ orders from making ‘non-essential’ journeys.

Gloucestershire Police announced an operation covering routes from Wales into the Forest of Dean where officers will stop motorists travelling into England to find out what they are doing.

Drivers will be encouraged to turn around and head back to Wales if officers ‘are not satisfied with their explanation’, a spokesman said. If they refuse, police will tell forces in Wales so that they can issue a fine. 

The First Minister has threatened to use number plate recognition cameras to fine English drivers entering his country, announcing that he will bar entry from English regions with high levels of Covid-19. 

But the Police Federation of England and Wales has revealed that the ban is ‘unenforceable’, adding that ‘policing in Wales is already over-stretched due to the pandemic’ would be complicated by the measure.  

The move comes as Wales was plunged into a draconian ‘firebreak’ lockdown at 6pm tonight which is expected to wreck the Welsh economy and prevent residents crossing into England without a ‘reasonable’ excuse.

Under the measures, which will last 17 days, people will be asked to stay at home and to leave only for a limited number of reasons, including exercise, buying essential supplies, or to seek or provide care.

In other coronavirus developments: 

  • Britain recorded 20,530 more coronavirus cases and 224 deaths as SAGE said the R rate has dropped;
  • Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland will move to a new five-level system of Covid-19 restrictions on November 2; 
  • Downing Street said families should gather for Christmas while a minister warned it will not be ‘normal’;
  • Papers presented to the Government claim that Covid-19 is mutating, London is not seeing a spike in cases and patients are dying quicker in the second wave than they did in the first;  
  • New data revealed almost half of local authorities in England saw a drop in coronavirus infections last week; 
  • Experts claimed the UK could never eradicate Covid-19, even if it banned all international travel to the nation;
  • Police stop drivers on Irish border to check if they’re permitted to travel as lockdowns are imposed; 
  • Fake coronavirus marshals have been pretending to check for rule breaches and stealing from homes.
Traffic heading into Wales on the A494 on the Anglo-Welsh border at Queensferry as the country is plunged into lockdown

Traffic heading into Wales on the A494 on the Anglo-Welsh border at Queensferry as the country is plunged into lockdown

Traffic heading into Wales on the A494 on the Anglo-Welsh border at Queensferry as the country is plunged into lockdown

Traffic heading into Wales on the A494 on the Anglo-Welsh border at Queensferry as the country is plunged into lockdown

Traffic heading into Wales on the A494 on the Anglo-Welsh border at Queensferry as the country is plunged into lockdown

Traffic heading into Wales on the A494 on the Anglo-Welsh border at Queensferry as the country is plunged into lockdown

Officers will be enforcing Covid-19 restrictions over the weekend in a bid to clamp-down on motorists defying First Minister Mark Drakeford's 'power-mad' attempt to suppress the virus despite the travel ban being 'unenforceable'

Officers will be enforcing Covid-19 restrictions over the weekend in a bid to clamp-down on motorists defying First Minister Mark Drakeford's 'power-mad' attempt to suppress the virus despite the travel ban being 'unenforceable'

Officers will be enforcing Covid-19 restrictions over the weekend in a bid to clamp-down on motorists defying First Minister Mark Drakeford’s ‘power-mad’ attempt to suppress the virus despite the travel ban being ‘unenforceable’ 

Police officers were in Cardiff city centre this evening as Wales entered a 17-day 'firebreak' lockdown at 6pm

Police officers were in Cardiff city centre this evening as Wales entered a 17-day 'firebreak' lockdown at 6pm

Police officers were in Cardiff city centre this evening as Wales entered a 17-day ‘firebreak’ lockdown at 6pm

Supermarket staff in Wales covered up kettles and phone chargers on shelves as 'power mad' First Minister Mark Drakeford banned the sale of 'non-essential' items during the country's coronavirus firebreak lockdown

Supermarket staff in Wales covered up kettles and phone chargers on shelves as 'power mad' First Minister Mark Drakeford banned the sale of 'non-essential' items during the country's coronavirus firebreak lockdown

Supermarket staff in Wales covered up kettles and phone chargers on shelves as ‘power mad’ First Minister Mark Drakeford banned the sale of ‘non-essential’ items during the country’s coronavirus firebreak lockdown 

Lidl closed off all their 'non-essential' aisles in Porthmadog before 6pm today with the ban set to last for the full lockdown

Lidl closed off all their 'non-essential' aisles in Porthmadog before 6pm today with the ban set to last for the full lockdown

Lidl closed off all their ‘non-essential’ aisles in Porthmadog before 6pm today with the ban set to last for the full lockdown

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34758918 8872201 image a 35 1603468515752

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A slidey graphic shows the coronavirus infection rate across Wales for the week October 5 to 11

A slidey graphic shows the coronavirus infection rate across Wales for the week October 5 to 11

A slidey graphic shows the coronavirus infection rate across Wales for the week October 5 to 11

A slidey graphic shows the coronavirus infection rate across Wales for the week October 12 to 18

A slidey graphic shows the coronavirus infection rate across Wales for the week October 12 to 18

A slidey graphic shows the coronavirus infection rate across Wales for the week October 12 to 18

Non-essential or essential? What we know about what goods are banned in Wales’ lockdown firebreak 

First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced that non-essential items should not be sold during the country’s firebreak lockdown.

So far the Welsh government has not published a public list of what these goods include.

The supermarkets have also not responded on whether they have been given specific instructions on what they cannot sell.

But information gathered throughout today suggests these items cannot be sold during the 17 days of restrictions:

  • Hairdryers
  • Stationary 
  • Kettles 
  • Phone chargers
  • Duvets
  • Sheets 
  • Electrical products  
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A spokesman for Gloucestershire Constabulary said: ‘While we cannot issue fines to those travelling from Wales into the county we can inform the host force of those we stop about what has happened so they can take action.

‘Officers will be running an operation over the weekend that will cover routes from Wales into the Forest of Dean and if we stop someone travelling from Wales we will be engaging with them to find out why, explaining the legislation and encouraging them to turn around if we are not satisfied with their explanation.

The spokesman added: ‘If they don’t then turn around we will then inform the force that polices the area they have travelled from so that they can issue a fine.

‘It is important to stress that the vast majority of people are abiding by the rules but in line with our policing approach, we will take action where there are flagrant breaches.’

He stressed: ‘It isn’t checkpoints. Officers will spend some time on the main routes into the Forest and will stop vehicles when there is a concern that the vehicle may have travelled some distance. They won’t be stopping every vehicle.’

Anyone who refuses to pay could be taken to court and convicted, leaving them with a criminal record.

North Wales Police also announced extra patrols and ‘increased visibility’ across the force area over the weekend.

On behalf of the four Welsh Police Forces, Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Nigel Harrison, North Wales Police said: ‘People should not be travelling between the areas facing local restrictions without defined reasonable excuses.

‘This will include those that travel from other parts of the UK with high transmission rates.

‘If you live in Wales in a non-restricted area you must not leave Wales to travel to other areas of the UK with high transmission rates – again without a reasonable excuse.

‘All the actions we take and the effort we put in will be focussed towards limiting the spread of the virus, helping us all protect our loved ones, our communities and our vital health service.’

Both forces said they will not deploy officers to routinely patrol the border and not all vehicles crossing it will be stopped. But motorists should expect to see a heightened police presence.

Officers will be on the lookout for vehicles such as caravans or people towing pleasure boats who may be breaking the rules.

Chief Inspector Jeff Moses told Conwy council’s economy and place scrutiny committee this week that officers were expecting to see a lot of caravans on the A55 as people try to beat the new restrictions.

‘We are aware, and quite expecting to see, caravans flying across the A55 on Friday afternoon,’ he said ‘So there will be some measures to counter this. Sadly I am sure there will be lots of people trying to come to Wales.

The SAGE files: Papers presented to Government claim Covid-19 is mutating, London ISN’T seeing a spike in cases and patients are dying quicker in the second wave than they did in the first 

Scientific advisers have been warned that the coronavirus is mutating and could become more infectious, according to SAGE papers published today. 

The New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) said the UK did not have the capability to research these mutations in depth and whether they would be harmful.

It’s one of a number of papers released by the Government today that give an insight into how scientists are steering the pandemic. 

The idea was explored in a scientific report handed to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), which then presents the findings to the Government to help inform public health policy. 

Another document shows how scientists have found that London has so far avoided a ‘second wave’ on the scale of those happening in other major cities in England, such as Liverpool and Manchester.

Experts speculate this is because more of the capital’s population has some form of immunity to the coronavirus after having it already, compared to the North West, which did not have infections as high as London in the first wave.

Meanwhile data reveals hospitalised Covid-19 patients are dying quicker than they were the first time around – take a week on average, rather than two. This may be because treatment has improved, and therefore doctors can save the lives of those who are not as sick and would usually take longer to die, pushing up the average time. 

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‘There’s lots of work going on in the background as I am sure you’re aware.’ Gwent Police have also pledged to mount extra patrols across the force area.

But a spokesman said the focus will be on ‘engaging with the community’ rather than specifically patrolling the border.

Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Ian Roberts said: ‘Across Gwent we will be carrying out additional patrols, in particular over the Halloween and Bonfire Night period.’

It comes as supermarket staff covered up kettles and phone chargers on shelves as Mr Drakeford banned the sale of ‘non-essential’ items during the country’s coronavirus firebreak lockdown.   

Tesco and Lidl workers became Wales’ first ‘trolley police’ as they were seen hiding shelves of ‘non-essential’ products behind plastic sheets to stop customers buying them ahead of the start of the restrictions, which came in earlier this evening.

Plastic barriers and stacks of drinks crates were also set up to block off certain aisles while other items were taped off by staff as part of efforts to follow the draconian new rules. 

At other major supermarkets, Sainsbury’s said staff have been working ‘around the clock’ to put changes in place, while Waitrose said it was reviewing government guidance and Asda claimed it had been given ‘very little time’ to implement the new rules.

Four members of staff at a Tesco store in Pontypool could be seen inspecting the cover-up for a 20-minute trial run ahead of the latest restrictions coming into force, with witnesses admitting they’d ‘never seen anything like it’.

Mr Drakeford described stopping supermarkets from selling non-essential products during the firebreak lockdown as ‘a straightforward matter of fairness’.

Wales’ Labour leader could not hide his frustration today as he was repeatedly questioned on the restrictions, which are now in force for 17 days. He said they were ‘fair’ and crucial to stop the spread of the virus.

He told a press conference in Cardiff that any suggestion that the ban, which was announced on Thursday, was based on his own politics was ‘nonsensical’.

He said: ‘We are requiring many hundreds of small businesses to close on the high street right across Wales.

‘We cannot do that and then allow supermarkets to sell goods that those people are unable to sell.

‘And we are looking to minimise the amount of time that people spend out of their homes during this two-week period.

‘This is not the time to be browsing around supermarkets looking for non-essential goods.’

He said trying to find exceptions to the rules was ‘just the wrong’ approach and called on people in Wales to not use the firebreak to do things that they do not have to.

‘It is a straightforward matter of fairness – we are in this together here in Wales,’ he added. 

Supermarket customers in Wales today claimed the sale of duvets, bedding and electricals had been stopped by Tesco staff who covered the shelves in plastic. 

Tesco customer Jamie Cole, 31, said the aisle containing kettles and phone chargers was also ‘completely closed off’ despite them being ‘needed’ as temperatures nationwide begin to drop.

Mr Cole said: ‘I was shocked, it’s quite bad. Bedding should be available for kids and mothers. We’re coming up to winter, it’s cold outside, I couldn’t believe it.

‘I don’t have kids of my own but my friend and my sister have kids, she’s quite shocked too. They rely on Tesco as it’s the only supermarket in our town.

‘This was today at 10.49am, the restrictions don’t come into effect until 6pm and all the other supermarkets are fine. The staff are only following orders, It’s happened so quickly. They only announced it at about 7pm last night.

‘I’m 30-odd and I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. You abide by the rules then they do this, it’s quite intimidating. There was another aisle that was completely closed off too, that was the stationery aisle and electricals. 

Plastic sheets were placed over electrical items which are banned from being sold in this Welsh Asda store this evening

Plastic sheets were placed over electrical items which are banned from being sold in this Welsh Asda store this evening

Plastic sheets were placed over electrical items which are banned from being sold in this Welsh Asda store this evening

Pallets of stock block access to non essential goods at the Sainsburys store in Crindau, Newport at the start of the firebreak lockdown

Pallets of stock block access to non essential goods at the Sainsburys store in Crindau, Newport at the start of the firebreak lockdown

Pallets of stock block access to non essential goods at the Sainsburys store in Crindau, Newport at the start of the firebreak lockdown

Non-essential aisles in Asda at Coryton, Cardiff were blocked off to comply with the firebreak lockdown rules at 6pm

Non-essential aisles in Asda at Coryton, Cardiff were blocked off to comply with the firebreak lockdown rules at 6pm

Non-essential aisles in Asda at Coryton, Cardiff were blocked off to comply with the firebreak lockdown rules at 6pm

Children's clothes were wrapped in cellophane as they cannot be sold under the new firebreak lockdown regulations

Children's clothes were wrapped in cellophane as they cannot be sold under the new firebreak lockdown regulations

Children’s clothes were wrapped in cellophane as they cannot be sold under the new firebreak lockdown regulations

Barriers were put up at this Asda store in the Welsh capital so customers couldn't access non-essential items, which are banned from being sold

Barriers were put up at this Asda store in the Welsh capital so customers couldn't access non-essential items, which are banned from being sold

Barriers were put up at this Asda store in the Welsh capital so customers couldn’t access non-essential items, which are banned from being sold

Supermarket staff used a range of different obstacles to block off access to their aisles of non-essential products today

Supermarket staff used a range of different obstacles to block off access to their aisles of non-essential products today

Supermarket staff used a range of different obstacles to block off access to their aisles of non-essential products today

Crates of drinks were used to block off non-essential aisles at the Tesco store in Cardiff in order to follow the new rules

Crates of drinks were used to block off non-essential aisles at the Tesco store in Cardiff in order to follow the new rules

Crates of drinks were used to block off non-essential aisles at the Tesco store in Cardiff in order to follow the new rules

Staff stacked boxes of alcohol up in order to hide away non-essential items, which can't be sold under the new lockdown

Staff stacked boxes of alcohol up in order to hide away non-essential items, which can't be sold under the new lockdown

Staff stacked boxes of alcohol up in order to hide away non-essential items, which can’t be sold under the new lockdown

Non-essential aisles were blocked off with a plastic barrier in this Tesco Extra store on Western Avenue, Cardiff today

Non-essential aisles were blocked off with a plastic barrier in this Tesco Extra store on Western Avenue, Cardiff today

Non-essential aisles were blocked off with a plastic barrier in this Tesco Extra store on Western Avenue, Cardiff today

Toys and other entertainment products were all cordoned off at the super store in the Welsh capital earlier today

Toys and other entertainment products were all cordoned off at the super store in the Welsh capital earlier today

Toys and other entertainment products were all cordoned off at the super store in the Welsh capital earlier today

Staff taped off products such as duvets at Tesco's store in Pontypool, with a sign reading: 'Sorry we are unable to sell these items due to government guidelines until November 9th'

Staff taped off products such as duvets at Tesco's store in Pontypool, with a sign reading: 'Sorry we are unable to sell these items due to government guidelines until November 9th'

Staff taped off products such as duvets at Tesco’s store in Pontypool, with a sign reading: ‘Sorry we are unable to sell these items due to government guidelines until November 9th’

A barrier was set up at a Tesco superstore in Swansea today as supermarkets are told to stop selling non-essential goods

A barrier was set up at a Tesco superstore in Swansea today as supermarkets are told to stop selling non-essential goods

A barrier was set up at a Tesco superstore in Swansea today as supermarkets are told to stop selling non-essential goods

The clothes aisle of the Tesco supermarket in Pontypool was blocked off after the sale on non-essential items was banned by the Welsh Government

The clothes aisle of the Tesco supermarket in Pontypool was blocked off after the sale on non-essential items was banned by the Welsh Government

The clothes aisle of the Tesco supermarket in Pontypool was blocked off after the sale on non-essential items was banned by the Welsh Government

First Minister Mark Drakeford told a press conference today that supermarkets would not be able to sell goods that small shops are unable to sell. Pictured: A Lidl aisle in Porthmadog that has been closed off by staff

First Minister Mark Drakeford told a press conference today that supermarkets would not be able to sell goods that small shops are unable to sell. Pictured: A Lidl aisle in Porthmadog that has been closed off by staff

First Minister Mark Drakeford told a press conference today that supermarkets would not be able to sell goods that small shops are unable to sell. Pictured: A Lidl aisle in Porthmadog that has been closed off by staff

A barrier was set up at a Tesco superstore in Swansea today as supermarkets are told to stop selling non-essential goods

A barrier was set up at a Tesco superstore in Swansea today as supermarkets are told to stop selling non-essential goods

A barrier was set up at a Tesco superstore in Swansea today as supermarkets are told to stop selling non-essential goods

A sign at a Lidl store in Porthmadog tells customers this afternoon 'we are not permitted to sell non-essential items'

A sign at a Lidl store in Porthmadog tells customers this afternoon 'we are not permitted to sell non-essential items'

A sign at a Lidl store in Porthmadog tells customers this afternoon ‘we are not permitted to sell non-essential items’

HOW HAVE INFECTIONS IN WALES CHANGED? 

Wales has pulled the trigger on a 17-day ‘firebreak’ lockdown after average daily infections more than tripled in a month.

The rolling seven-day average, considered the most accurate measure of outbreaks because it takes into account day-to-day fluctuations, was 238 on September 23.

It currently stands at 894, analysis of Public Health Wales figures reveal.  

The weekly rate of infections per 100,000 in Wales has also jumped by nearly a quarter in a week.

It currently stands at 199.2, having risen from 160.6 last Friday. 

The rate of 199.2 per 100,000 is considerably higher than Scotland’s 161.2 but still below England’s 213.6.

Northern Ireland – which has the smallest population in the UK, at 1.8million – has the highest rate of the home nations, at 378.6. 

To get a sense of how fast Wales’ crisis has been growing, it was recording just 3.7 cases per 100,000 a week in August, the lowest in the UK.

The nation’s 761 new cases today takes the number of confirmed cases to 40,253. 

A quarter of these were recorded in the last fortnight. 

Since September 11 there have been 10,625 cases – though the true figure is thought to be much higher because so many people are asymptomatic or do not get tested. 

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‘If you needed a kettle or phone charger, that aisle was completely closed off. I’ve done a bit of homework and there’s no list of essential items on the Wales Government website.

‘I guess it’s the supermarket that decides what items are essential.’ 

A spokesperson for Tesco confirmed to MailOnline: ‘Our colleagues across Wales will be working incredibly hard today so we can comply with the Welsh Government’s ban on selling ‘non-essential’ goods to our customers from 6pm this evening.’

It came after Mr Drakeford snapped today as he was roasted over his ban on the shops selling the items in his lockdown.

The Labour First Minister could not hide his frustration as he was repeatedly questioned on the restrictions, which came into force at 6pm for 17 days.

He insisted they were ‘fair’ and crucial to stop the spread of the virus. 

But when he was challenged over whether it was ‘essential’ for parents to buy new school trousers if their children ripped them, Mr Drakeford moaned: ‘It is just the wrong way to approach this whole business.

‘We are back to the ”how do you we get round the rules” approach to coronavirus.’  

He added tetchily: ‘There is a bigger prize at stake here than whether you need to buy a candle or not.’ 

Mr Drakeford insisted that allowing supermarkets to keep selling clothes and other products while smaller retailers were shut would be unacceptable.

‘We’re all in this together here in Wales,’ he told a press conference in Cardiff. 

‘This is not a period to be browsing around in supermarkets looking for non-essential goods.’ 

However, anger rose today as Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething made clear alcohol does count as a key item under the confusing new rules – but insisted hair dryers do not. 

He also conceded that a ‘line by line’ list of what can be sold would be ‘unusable’, saying they were hoping retailers will have a ‘grown up understanding’.   

There are fears it will mean a return to the scenes witnessed at the beginning of the pandemic when there were rows over the contents of people’s shopping trolleys. 

Mr Drakeford said this afternoon that local restrictions had succeeded in stemming the spread of the virus, but were not ‘turning it back’.

He compared the progress in place like Torfaen favourably with areas in England like Oldham. But he said the ‘short sharp shock’ of a lockdown was now essential.

‘We have to act urgently now because the virus is rising too fast,’ he said. 

Many retailers will be forced to shut altogether during the ‘firebreak’ lockdown, but food shops and pharmacies can stay open.

During a bruising interview with Kay Burley on Sky News, Mr Gething said the Welsh government was producing ‘categories’ that are allowed to be sold.

‘A supermarket selling clothes isn’t essential… We are looking to have a grown up understanding with them about what they can do so they go ahead and do that.’  

A road sign in the Welsh capital of Cardiff advised people that the new firebreak lockdown would begin at 6pm on Friday

A road sign in the Welsh capital of Cardiff advised people that the new firebreak lockdown would begin at 6pm on Friday

A road sign in the Welsh capital of Cardiff advised people that the new firebreak lockdown would begin at 6pm on Friday

A worker closes the front gate to a bar on St. Mary Street in Cardiff as the new lockdown rules came into effect at 6pm

A worker closes the front gate to a bar on St. Mary Street in Cardiff as the new lockdown rules came into effect at 6pm

A worker closes the front gate to a bar on St. Mary Street in Cardiff as the new lockdown rules came into effect at 6pm

Staff pack up tables and chairs outside a bar in the centre of Cardiff in order to abide by the new lockdown restrictions

Staff pack up tables and chairs outside a bar in the centre of Cardiff in order to abide by the new lockdown restrictions

Staff pack up tables and chairs outside a bar in the centre of Cardiff in order to abide by the new lockdown restrictions

Aworker closes the door to Pasture bar in Cardiff, which will not be able to reopen until November 9 under the new rules

Aworker closes the door to Pasture bar in Cardiff, which will not be able to reopen until November 9 under the new rules

Aworker closes the door to Pasture bar in Cardiff, which will not be able to reopen until November 9 under the new rules

A worker brings in furniture from Pasture bar in the Welsh capital as the draconian new lockdown measures come into force

A worker brings in furniture from Pasture bar in the Welsh capital as the draconian new lockdown measures come into force

A worker brings in furniture from Pasture bar in the Welsh capital as the draconian new lockdown measures come into force

Staff pack up tables and chairs outside a bar in the centre of Cardiff on Friday night, the start of the new draconian lockdown

Staff pack up tables and chairs outside a bar in the centre of Cardiff on Friday night, the start of the new draconian lockdown

Staff pack up tables and chairs outside a bar in the centre of Cardiff on Friday night, the start of the new draconian lockdown

Staff pack up tables and chairs outside a fish bar in the centre of Cardiff in order to follow the new lockdown regulations

Staff pack up tables and chairs outside a fish bar in the centre of Cardiff in order to follow the new lockdown regulations

Staff pack up tables and chairs outside a fish bar in the centre of Cardiff in order to follow the new lockdown regulations

A road sign in the Welsh capital of Cardiff advised people that the new firebreak lockdown would begin at 6pm on Friday

A road sign in the Welsh capital of Cardiff advised people that the new firebreak lockdown would begin at 6pm on Friday

A road sign in the Welsh capital of Cardiff advised people that the new firebreak lockdown would begin at 6pm on Friday

Cars at the border crossing between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, as gardai conduct checks asking people the reason for their journey amid tightened coronavirus restrictions

Cars at the border crossing between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, as gardai conduct checks asking people the reason for their journey amid tightened coronavirus restrictions

Cars at the border crossing between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, as gardai conduct checks asking people the reason for their journey amid tightened coronavirus restrictions

A guard asks a British-registered driver where he's going after the Republic imposed a new national lockdown on Wednesday evening

A guard asks a British-registered driver where he's going after the Republic imposed a new national lockdown on Wednesday evening

A guard asks a British-registered driver where he’s going after the Republic imposed a new national lockdown on Wednesday evening

Welsh ‘fire break’ lockdown rules 

Supermarkets can sell only ‘essential items’

Pubs and restaurants closed

Only leave the house to shop for food, medicine or take exercise

Household mixing banned indoors and outdoors

Most secondary school children will stay at home

Work from home wherever possible 

Wear face masks indoors and on public transport 

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He added: ‘We don’t want to get into a line by line going through thousands of of product items. That would be unusable from their point of view and ours,’ he said. 

Burley asked whether the situation meant alcohol is essential but a hair dryer is not.

‘Well look, food and drink are items that we had through the first period of the pandemic, they are available everywhere,’ Mr Gething replied.

When the presenter insisted, ‘Trust me, my hair dryer is essential’, Mr Gething responded: ‘No it isn’t, Kay.’

Burley said: ‘Course it is. Look at the state of your hair compared to mine.. I have to dry my hair, you can towel dry yours.’

But Mr Gething replied: ‘I don’t think that the biggest issue on people’s minds in Wales will be whether they can buy a hair dryer for the next two weeks.’ 

With police given powers to take action against drivers heading into Wales from England, the Garda are back on the Irish border and carrying out checks on drivers after the highest-level lockdowns were imposed on both sides of the frontier. 

Irish police have not carried out such stringent checks on drivers from Ulster since the days of the Troubles when the IRA moved guns and explosives into the war-torn province.

Now they are on the lookout for people making non-essential journeys, after the Republic this week imposed swingeing Level 5 restrictions which ban people from travelling more than three miles (5km) from their home.  

Stormont has asked citizens not to make ‘unnecessary travel,’ but Dublin’s measures are more aggressive.

On Wednesday night, when Ireland’s new six-week national lockdown began, gardai were given new powers by Dublin to prosecute people making non-essential travel, with fines of up to €2,500 and jail for up to six months. 

The firebreak lockdown has sparked anger among opposition figures, with Welsh Conservative Andrew RT Davies tweeting: ‘The power is going to their heads’. 

The lockdown is significantly more severe than England’s three-tier system, with Wales demanding people stay at home except for limited purposes such as exercise, and ordering the complete closure of pubs, restaurants, hotels and non-essential shops.

A ban on travel to Wales from hotspot areas in England has been in place this week, despite the Police Federation describing it as ‘unenforceable’.

By contrast, even in England’s strictest Tier Three areas, some social meetings are allowed outdoors and pubs can stay open providing they offer customers a ‘substantial meal’. 

As a result, revellers took to the streets of Cardiff city centre last night to enjoy one blast on the town before the new restrictions came into force. 

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34756822 8872201 The hard line taken in Wales was mercilessly mocked by social me a 28 1603467073294

 

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The hard line taken in Wales was mercilessly mocked by social media users who created memes to rib the new regulations

The hard line taken in Wales was mercilessly mocked by social media users who created memes to rib the new regulations

The hard line taken in Wales was mercilessly mocked by social media users who created memes to rib the new regulations

Bacteriologist says restaurant and pub closures across Scotland and Wales are NOT backed by ‘sound evidence’ 

Pub and restaurant closures across Scotland and Wales are not backed by ‘sound evidence’, according to a top academic. 

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today unveiled her nation’s new tiered lockdown approach while Wales began a 17-day ‘firebreak’ at 6pm this evening.

The rules mean the shutters are coming down on many sections of the high street in both countries, however Hugh Pennington, professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, said he is frustrated by the lack of information being used to support the shutdown.

It comes after hospitality groups signalled their intention to take legal action against the Government.

The Scottish Beer and Pub Association, The Scottish Licensed Trade Association, UK Hospitality (Scotland), the Scottish Hospitality Group and the Night Time Industries Association Scotland are all pursuing action.

They said there is ‘no sound evidence’ to support bar and restaurant closures, which were extended yesterday for another week in the Central Belt.

Prof Pennington said he understands the hospitality groups’ decision to pursue legal action.

He said: ‘I can see where they are coming from.

‘I can see why they want to see more data.

‘I think those of us who are not involved in the government machine would like to see that data.

‘I’ve been quite frustrated by the low level of information about outbreaks and the evidence that is being used.

‘What the hospitality industry want to see is the evidence that is driving the policy.

‘There is evidence from the international scene, we know there have been outbreaks in pubs and of course there was the Aberdeen outbreak.

‘But what I haven’t seen and what the hospitality industry will be very keen to see is if there has been a detailed study of an outbreak.

‘One can do quite sophisticated analysis quite quickly and I haven’t seen that data.

‘And if there is evidence, then the hospitality industry can accept, well that’s why you are coming down so heavily on us.’

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In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also wants to take a harsher approach than the PM, with more levels of curbs to tackle the pandemic, though she played down claims from a top adviser that families should prepare to see loved ones over Zoom at Christmas due to the ongoing crisis.  

Mr Drakeford said it will be ‘made clear’ to supermarkets that only certain parts of their business will be allowed to open in order to sell essentials.

Retailers were given mere hours to put together plans for the lockdown, which will run until November 9, as shopkeepers argue the rules do not make sense as customers will already be in their stores to buy the ‘essential’ items.

Mr Drakeford made the announcement at a Senedd committee in response to a question from Conservative MS Russell George who said it was ‘unfair’ to force independent clothing and hardware retailers to close while similar goods were on sale in major supermarkets.

‘In the first set of restrictions people were reasonably understanding of the fact that supermarkets didn’t close all the things that they may have needed to,’ Mr Drakeford said.

‘I don’t think that people will be as understanding this time and we will be making it clear to supermarkets that they are only able to open those parts of their business that provide essential goods to people and that will not include some of the things that Russell George mentioned which other people are prevented from selling.

‘So, we will make sure there is a more level playing field in those next two weeks.’

From Friday all leisure and non-essential retail will be closed and this includes clothes shops, furniture shops and car dealerships. A complete list is yet to be published.

Shops allowed to remain open include supermarkets and other food retailers, pharmacies, banks and post offices.

Under the law, firms conducting a business that provides a mixed set of services will be allowed to open if they cease conducting the service that must close.

Mr George said: ‘It is deeply concerning that, given we are days away from the lockdown, we are still awaiting the publication of a full list of the types of businesses required to close, as well as guidance on business closures.

‘At a time of considerable uncertainty, it is totally unacceptable – whether intentionally or not – to create even more concern and anxiety, which is, sadly, what this Government is succeeding at.

‘The people and businesses of Wales deserve better than being left in the dark. For the sake of people’s jobs and livelihoods, I urge the Welsh Labour-led Government to heed our calls and publish a list, without delay.’

Andrew RT Davies, the Conservative shadow health minister, tweeted: ‘The power is going to their heads.’

He later added: ‘Is a flagon of Strongbow deemed essential? What about some much-needed underpants if you’re caught short?

‘I do hope there is some published guidance on what the Labour commissars deem as essential.’

Sue Davies, from consumer group Which?, said the announcement would cause ‘confusion’, particularly among the vulnerable.

‘Our own research showed that almost half of those who described themselves as situationally vulnerable in Wales during the previous lockdown had difficulty accessing the food and groceries they needed,’ she said.

‘The Welsh Government must act now to clarify the situation around what retailers can and cannot sell, and must urgently identify those most in need to give them the support to ensure that no-one who is at risk struggles to access the food and other basics they need.’

The First Minister said he would keep the principality closed down for as short a time as possible, but insisted it was necessary to act as a breaker to a ‘rising tide’ of cases – despite Wales having a lower rate of infections than England.

The decision to impose a ‘short and deep’ lockdown until November 9, which echoes national demands made by Sir Keir Starmer and wipes out Halloween and Bonfire Night, sparked a furious political backlash.

Data showed England had a coronavirus infection rate of 166 per 100,000 people in the week of October 14 while Wales had a rate of 163 per 100,000. 

Welsh Tories said it was dooming the country to an endless cycle of two-week lockdowns while Conservative MPs in Westminster said it was a ‘blunt instrument’ and ‘closing down the whole of Wales is disproportionate to the level of risk in some parts of the country’.

Department of Health data shows how weekly infection rates vary across Wales. Areas in dark blue diagnosed at least 200 cases for every 100,000 people living there in the week ending October 18. Light blue shows a rate of between 101 and 200. Areas in dark green saw between 51 and 100 cases for every 100,000 people, while those in light green saw between 11 and 50 positive tests for the same amount of people.

Department of Health data shows how weekly infection rates vary across Wales. Areas in dark blue diagnosed at least 200 cases for every 100,000 people living there in the week ending October 18. Light blue shows a rate of between 101 and 200. Areas in dark green saw between 51 and 100 cases for every 100,000 people, while those in light green saw between 11 and 50 positive tests for the same amount of people.

Department of Health data shows how weekly infection rates vary across Wales. Areas in dark blue diagnosed at least 200 cases for every 100,000 people living there in the week ending October 18. Light blue shows a rate of between 101 and 200. Areas in dark green saw between 51 and 100 cases for every 100,000 people, while those in light green saw between 11 and 50 positive tests for the same amount of people.

 

 

 

A graph shows how the number of coronavirus cases has risen in Wales since the end of August but there have been fewer in recent days

A graph shows how the number of coronavirus cases has risen in Wales since the end of August but there have been fewer in recent days

A graph shows how the number of coronavirus cases has risen in Wales since the end of August but there have been fewer in recent days

A graph shows how the number of coronavirus hospitalisations is on the rise in Wales over the last few days, but has not sky-rocketed

A graph shows how the number of coronavirus hospitalisations is on the rise in Wales over the last few days, but has not sky-rocketed

A graph shows how the number of coronavirus hospitalisations is on the rise in Wales over the last few days, but has not sky-rocketed

A graph shows how the number of coronavirus deaths has risen in Wales since the end of August but there have been fewer in recent days

A graph shows how the number of coronavirus deaths has risen in Wales since the end of August but there have been fewer in recent days

A graph shows how the number of coronavirus deaths has risen in Wales since the end of August but there have been fewer in recent days

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During a bruising interview with Kay Burley on Sky News, Vaughan Gething said the Welsh government was producing 'categories' that are allowed to be sold

During a bruising interview with Kay Burley on Sky News, Vaughan Gething said the Welsh government was producing 'categories' that are allowed to be sold

During a bruising interview with Kay Burley on Sky News, Vaughan Gething said the Welsh government was producing ‘categories’ that are allowed to be sold

Sara Jones, head of the Welsh Retail Consortium, said: ‘Compelling retailers to stop selling certain items, without them being told clearly what is and what isn’t permitted to be sold, is ill-conceived and short-sighted.’ 

And James Lowman, chief of the Association of Convenience Stores added: ‘Retailers must not be forced to stop making products available to customers just because ministers don’t think they’re essential.’  

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: ‘The fire-break is designed to reduce all physical contact between households to an absolute minimum in order to slow the spread of coronavirus and save lives.

‘We have a small window in which to take this action and there are no easy choices. 

‘However, we fully recognise the impact the fire-break will have on businesses and are making a further £300 million available to support them through this difficult period.’ 

At the start of the pandemic, hordes of shoppers descended on supermarkets at the crack of dawn in a desperate bid to stock up after weeks of panic-buying cleared food aisles across the country.

Pleas from the government and retailers to consider other people and steer clear of panic-buying had been largely ignored, with those who did exercise restraint forced to flock to stores well ahead of opening times to make sure they didn’t leave empty-handed. 

Individual stores took action to curb the number of products people could buy, while police and private security were even drafted in to stamp out ransacking of high-demand items such as toilet roll. 

Mr Drakeford said this week: ‘It is a very difficult time indeed and it’s why, in the end, we decided to go for the shortest possible period of a firebreak – a two-week period.

‘But if you’re doing it short, you’ve got to do it deep. There’s a trade-off there.

‘We could have gone for a longer period with slightly fewer restrictions but, in the end, the advice to us – partly because of the impact on people’s mental health – was that if you could keep this period of time as short as you could, that would help to mitigate that impact.’ 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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JOHN HUMPHRYS: What the TV show that’s captured our hearts can teach us about life today

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john humphrys what the tv show thats captured our hearts can teach us about life today

We had been walking for some time when we saw the church. It was awe-inspiring. Not because it had beautiful stained glass or a great spire reaching to the heavens. Quite the opposite.

The tower was squat, the windows modest, the render on the stonework flaking away in places. But still as solid as the day it was built 900 years ago. I pictured the first worshippers, mostly dirt-poor peasants, praying the harvest would see them through the coming winter but knowing the weakest of them would probably die from starvation.

The church stands in what is now a prosperous little village on the edge of the Chiltern Hills. The pub where we’d planned lunch was closed. So were others in nearby villages. All victims of Covid. We made do with windfall apples. Very good they were, too.

But, no, this is not a rather desperate attempt to draw glib comparisons between the stoicism of our medieval ancestors who lived lives of unimaginable hardship and our own fears in the face of a crisis which history will barely recall. Except in one sense.

In 1986 an Italian campaigner went into battle against the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant in one of the loveliest squares in Rome. That protest against fast food drew attention around the world and gave birth to the Slow Movement.

We are not boosting growth when we tune in to 'slow' television as we did in such huge numbers to All Creatures Great And Small (pictured). We loved it 40 years ago because we yearned for that gentler, slower time and the sense of community kinship that existed before the war

We are not boosting growth when we tune in to 'slow' television as we did in such huge numbers to All Creatures Great And Small (pictured). We loved it 40 years ago because we yearned for that gentler, slower time and the sense of community kinship that existed before the war

We are not boosting growth when we tune in to ‘slow’ television as we did in such huge numbers to All Creatures Great And Small (pictured). We loved it 40 years ago because we yearned for that gentler, slower time and the sense of community kinship that existed before the war

Where slow had been invariably used in a derisive way — ‘he’s a slow learner’ — its meaning was changed to something that a growing number of us find increasingly appealing. In his book, In Praise Of Slow, Carl Honoré wrote of ‘savouring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them’.

And Covid may be helping drive that change.

In poverty-stricken post-war Britain, my parents and neighbours had no time to worry about the pace of life. They had to earn money to pay the rent and put enough food on the table and coal on the fire. The welfare state had yet to be created.

I was a teenager before the grinding austerity of those post-war years began to give way to something else — something which would change society for ever. Or so it seemed.

Britain’s first television commercial was aired in 1955. Within a decade credit had become available to the poor. The consumer revolution was born. Consumption was king. It reigned until March 23rd this year when we were told we had to stay at home and, in effect, lead slower lives.

Endless theories have been constructed around the economic effect working from home has had on society, some of them pretty scary, but there is something else that’s received much less attention. For millions of us the rhythm of life has changed.

No football or theatre or cinema or jetting off to foreign parts. No last-minute dinners with friends or families at that nice Italian restaurant in the High Street. No boozy reunions at the local.

No jumping in the car for a 500-mile round trip to your parents with a local beauty spot thrown in — unless, of course, your first name is Dominic.

All this, we are endlessly told, is disastrous for the economy. It’s hard to argue with that. But might it be good for us as individual human beings? An economy built on consumer spending relies on us working as hard as we can to earn as much as we can to spend as much as we can and get into as much credit card debt as we are allowed. Which means we have to work even harder to pay it off.

It’s called a treadmill. The brutal economic reality is that our form of capitalism requires endless growth.

We are not boosting that growth when we tune in to ‘slow’ television as we did in such huge numbers to All Creatures Great And Small (pictured). We loved it 40 years ago because we yearned for that gentler, slower time and the sense of community kinship that existed before the war.

Perhaps that yearning never went away. Another huge hit has been The Repair Shop, reminding us that it’s possible to mend things rather than buy new stuff.

It’s interesting that the mighty Ikea has announced it will buy back purchases we’ve made and no longer want, then fix them up and sell them on.

JOHN HUMPHRYS: Should we really be living our lives in order to keep the economy going?

JOHN HUMPHRYS: Should we really be living our lives in order to keep the economy going?

JOHN HUMPHRYS: Should we really be living our lives in order to keep the economy going?

Note, too, the booming market in rural homes and those with decent gardens rather than shiny modern kitchens.

My own daughter, whose tiny but thriving one-woman business was wrecked by the restrictions imposed in Wales, tried finding out what her contemporaries make of all this. Most had not heard of the Slow Movement but two-thirds thought the effect of Covid would result in them buying less stuff and travelling less.

More than a third said work ‘dominates their whole life’.

Should we really be living our lives in order to keep the economy going? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? A life lived permanently pursuing material aspirations makes us envious of what we fail to acquire.

But is there really an alternative that offers us a future in which we might be happier than we are now? This is where the Slow Movement may be onto something.

There was a striking piece of research completed a couple of years ago which asked when, in living memory, we were at our most happy. It was 1957. Those were the days when holidays for most meant a week at the seaside in a boarding house and only the rich had cars.

Most bought new clothes only when they needed them. Nothing was wasted. The phrase ‘cash rich: time poor’ had yet to be invented.

How ludicrous even to imagine that we might contemplate returning to those dreary times. And, anyway, where would the money come from to meet the vast bills run up by a modern state such as ours? Someone has to pay for our schools and hospitals and police and defence and so on ad infinitum.

True. But how much of our money is wasted by incompetent politicians and civil servants? Boris Johnson admits the £12 billion spent on the Covid test-and-trace system ‘needs to improve’. He should have said it’s a shambles.

More billions have been squandered on Government contracts with companies you wouldn’t trust to run your toddler’s birthday party — not that he or she would be allowed to have one. Those figures are dwarfed by the losses of thousands of small companies destroyed by idiotic Covid restrictions. And that’s just the Covid crisis.

The fact is governments get away with murder. Do we really want to spend £100 billion (and counting) on a railway line that will cut a few minutes off an executive’s trip from London to Birmingham and destroy vast swathes of glorious woodland in the process?

Given a choice, I’d prefer to spend those billions on planting more trees and saving our countryside from vandals who see only some mythical bottom line on a balance sheet. I might be a soppy romantic, but in the end Government spending is about hard-nosed priorities and it should be we, the voters, who set those priorities.

My mother pinned to the wall of our kitchen a sampler embroidered with the words of the great Welsh poet W.H. Davies: ‘What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?’ It was the closest she ever got to complaining.

She had no choices. We do.

There’s nothing as ‘woke’ as a PC PC…

Congratulations once again to our entirely rational and sensible constabulary. Derbyshire Police, you may remember, protected their patch in the early days of Covid from an elderly couple who’d been walking their dog on an isolated hillside. They filmed them secretly from a drone and published the pictures for all to see. 

It is now the turn of the ‘champions’ at Leicestershire Police to bask in the public’s approval. To coincide with World Menopause Day on Tuesday they released a message of support for ‘all people approaching, currently going through and beyond the menopause’. An unusual use, you might think, of police time.

And note the use of ‘people’. It would, of course, have been outrageously sexist to say ‘women’ and thus exclude all those men who might be going through the menopause. Or approaching it. Or beyond it. And lest you accuse me of cheap sarcasm, the use of the word ‘champions’ to describe the police ‘wellbeing’ team is theirs, not mine.

It may ring a little hollow with those whose wellbeing has been compromised by violence in Leicestershire.

The force’s website shows there were 3,214 incidents for August, the last month recorded. Five years ago it was 920.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Focus group reveals voters are despairing of coronavirus lockdown measures

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focus group reveals voters are despairing of coronavirus lockdown measures

Dramatic evidence of a growing revolt against the coronavirus lockdowns emerged last night.

The public think the rules won’t work, they will break the law if necessary to see their loved ones and believe it is time to ‘get Britain back to normal’.

These are among the key findings from focus groups that suggest traditional opinion polls have failed to spot a decisive change in attitudes toward the pandemic.

One leading pollster believes Britain could be witnessing a repeat of what happened in the 2015 election and the EU referendum

Opinion polls forecast Labour’s Ed Miliband would be prime minister and that Brexit would be rejected: focus groups indicated the opposite and were proved right each time.

Since the start of the pandemic most polls have suggested voters support lockdowns and, if anything, want the Government to impose even more stringent curbs.

Some have argued this is because furloughed workers have been able to stay at home on 80 per cent of their normal wages thanks to taxpayer funds.

Many Tory MPs opposed to Boris Johnson’s three-tier lockdown system claim their stance is backed by many of their constituents. 

The Daily Mail listened in to one of the focus groups, typical of several that have been conducted recently, and it echoed the MPs’ views.

Carried out last Friday, and comprising a cross-section of society, both Tory and Labour, in London, Birmingham and Liverpool, it appears to show that:

  • Voters have lost faith in lockdowns;
  • Unlike the first wave, they are no longer prepared to obey all the rules;
  • They think the second wave of the virus will be less dangerous;
  • They are increasingly worried about the damage to jobs and the economy;
  • The use of severe Covid curbs despite the perceived reduced threat is fuelling conspiracy theories;
  • Many will refuse a coronavirus vaccine for fear of side effects;
  • There is continuing fury over rule breakers such as the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Dominic Cummings.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street for a meeting of cabinet ministers at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in London, England today

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street for a meeting of cabinet ministers at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in London, England today

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street for a meeting of cabinet ministers at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in London, England today 

Revellers in Sheffield are out on the town for one last night tonight before their city is placed under the strictest lockdown measures, tier three

Revellers in Sheffield are out on the town for one last night tonight before their city is placed under the strictest lockdown measures, tier three

Revellers in Sheffield are out on the town for one last night tonight before their city is placed under the strictest lockdown measures, tier three 

Police officers arriving in Cardiff city centre at 1745 before Wales will enter a two-week "firebreak" lockdown at 6pm on Friday in an attempt to protect the country's NHS from being overwhelmed by the resurgence of coronavirus

Police officers arriving in Cardiff city centre at 1745 before Wales will enter a two-week "firebreak" lockdown at 6pm on Friday in an attempt to protect the country's NHS from being overwhelmed by the resurgence of coronavirus

Police officers arriving in Cardiff city centre at 1745 before Wales will enter a two-week ‘firebreak’ lockdown at 6pm on Friday in an attempt to protect the country’s NHS from being overwhelmed by the resurgence of coronavirus

People are pictured drinking in Soho, London this evening. A focus group has revealed that people are losing faith in lockdowns and are less willing to obey the rules

People are pictured drinking in Soho, London this evening. A focus group has revealed that people are losing faith in lockdowns and are less willing to obey the rules

People are pictured drinking in Soho, London this evening. A focus group has revealed that people are losing faith in lockdowns and are less willing to obey the rules  

James Johnson of JL Partners, who acted as moderator in the focus group, says the findings were the same as those in similar studies he had hosted.

He said the results had convinced him the tide of opinion was turning against lockdowns. 

He said that ‘nuanced conversations’ that take place in focus groups, which involve only a handful of people, have ‘uncovered hidden truths’ about the pandemic and attitudes to the Government’s lockdown strategy.

Mr Johnson, who advised Theresa May in Downing Street, argues that the focus groups show a resolve to rely on common sense to avoid catching the virus rather than Government diktats.

Voters are ‘fatigued’ by the curbs and not prepared to carry on being compliant, especially when they see high-profile figures flouting them.

The public, he said, were confused by the rules and were as likely to watch comedian Matt Lucas parody Boris Johnson’s stuttering Downing Street press conferences as watch the Prime Minister himself.

Mr Johnson says that on certain issues the intimate atmosphere of his focus groups enables participants to reveal their true feelings.

This is in contrast to box ticking opinion polls where around 1,000 voters are invited to give a flat yes or no answer to dozens of questions, usually online.

In his most recent focus group, Liverpool pensioner Brian complained: ‘People with cancer, heart conditions, strokes, they’re all dying.

‘We are saving people with coronavirus but the rest of the population is dying from diseases we can control.’ 

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The public knew lockdowns would ‘always break down’, he told the group.

Angela, 59, from Birmingham, said she went months without seeing her elderly parents earlier in the year and ‘I’m not doing that again’.

Paul, a London property developer, ridiculed the 10pm curfew, saying the virus was ‘just spread among crowds getting wasted in the streets.’

Steph, a charity worker, was equally robust, despite having had the virus herself.

She said Mr Cummings was ‘disgusting’ for breaking Covid rules, adding: ‘We have to get back to normality.’

Publicly, the Government is maintaining its tough stance on lockdowns, insisting the rules are vital to stop the virus spiralling out of control.

However, privately, the Government’s position is a different story: like the focus groups, it is rather more nuanced.

The Daily Mail understands that ministers are encouraged by signs that predictions of hundreds of thousands more infections and tens of thousands more deaths in a second wave may be an overestimate.

According to reliable sources, there are signs that the infection rate among university students is falling.

And there is evidence the virus has lost up to 90 per cent of its lethal potency owing to mass wearing of masks.

That, together with more effective drugs, has reduced the fatality rate in hospital intensive care units.  

‘Let’s get back to normal!’ 

Q: What do you think of Government’s coronavirus rules?

Alec, 61, consultant, London, Conservative

They are confusing, unenforceable and people won’t take any notice of them.

Brian, 68, retired, Liverpool, Conservative

It’s killing more people with cancer. Coronavirus is 40th on the list (of causes of death). People with heart conditions, strokes are all dying. We are saving people with coronavirus but the rest are dying from diseases we can control.

Amira, (female) 30, school admin officer, London, Labour

They don’t (match) the statistics.

Paul, 48, property developer, Birmingham, Conservative

They are patronising and unjust.

Daniel, 24, student, London, Conservative

Confusing; people in government wouldn’t stick to them.

One member of the focus group said that the government's special adviser Dominic Cummings, pictured right, was 'disgusting' for having broken the rules

One member of the focus group said that the government's special adviser Dominic Cummings, pictured right, was 'disgusting' for having broken the rules

One member of the focus group said that the government’s special adviser Dominic Cummings, pictured right, was ‘disgusting’ for having broken the rules  

Q: Will rules work?

Paul

No. The virus has no limit on time, race, gender. [The authorities] think it will go away at ten o’clock when pubs shut, but it’s just spread among crowds getting wasted in the streets.

Brian

You can suppress it for a while but it’ll always break out again.

Steph, 38, charity worker, Liverpool, Labour

We (already) tried lockdown, we have to get back to normality, how is a second lockdown going to be any different?

Q: Will you follow new rules?

Amira

No. I’m very close to my family. I didn’t see them for six months in lockdown, I’m not doing it again.

Brian

We all followed the rules initially because we thought right, we’ve got to get rid of this virus. We’ve gone through all the pain of lockdown, now they want us to face another one. The consensus is they (the public) know it’s not going to work, it’s always going to break down.

Howard, 23, engineer, Liverpool

If you need to see your loved ones, see them. If you’re popping round for the sake of it – don’t.

Angela, 59, Birmingham, Labour

I wear a mask when I go out but I shall still see my family because my parents are elderly. I had a few months of not seeing them … and I’m not doing that again. Everything else I’m going to act normal because mentally I couldn’t go through it again.

Daniel

I would break it (lockdown) to see my family – for my mental health.

Paul

Not really. If you need to see your loved ones, see them.

Q: What should MINISTERS do instead?

Angela

Get on with it and be sensible, don’t mix in big crowds. Get back to normal as much as we can.

Daniel

There should be a lockdown with very harsh penalties… for a short time. Then we could remove the virus and live how we want to.

Q: Why has trust in the rules collapsed?

Paul

If the Queen won’t wear a mask, why should I bother?

Steph

Dominic Cummings’ (behaviour) was disgusting, Matt Hancock put his arm round fellow MPs in the Commons.

Paul

You have Cummings on a jolly, the woman (MP) who went from Scotland to London and back with the virus and isn’t being prosecuted. It’s a cop out. And they want to fine us!

Brian

The Mail said the average age of a Covid person dying is 82 years, the average life expectancy is 81 years, so who are we protecting? There’s good chance I would survive at 68.

Q: Would you have a Covid vaccine?

Angela

I don’t believe in vaccines, wouldn’t have one.

Paul

What happens if they bring one out that hasn’t been trialled, and in five years we’ve all developed side effects? We’ll all sue the Government because we were forced to have it.

Alec

I will take it because it will be a worldwide vaccine.

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Groups called it right on Brexit 

 Commentary By James Johnson 

Take a look at the polls, which continue to show high levels of support for tighter restrictions, and you would be forgiven for thinking we are a nation of lockdown lovers.

But the polls obscure a hidden truth – because focus groups, moderated conversations with groups of voters, show the mood is very different from March and April.

Instead of skipping merrily into another lockdown, people are frustrated, fatigued, and more conscious of the economic impact of further restrictions than ever before.

In discussions I have led around the country, voters talk more and more about how they are taking a common-sense approach to restrictions. They speak openly of how they will still visit elderly relatives, and go about their lives, in a way they would not have in the first lockdown.

The public still remain concerned about the virus, and want to put health first. But the picture of a nation merrily skipping into Lockdown 2.0 is misleading. The mood is very different from the one we saw in the spring. Pictured: Patrons drink in a Wetherspoons pub in Leigh, Greater Manchester yesterday

The public still remain concerned about the virus, and want to put health first. But the picture of a nation merrily skipping into Lockdown 2.0 is misleading. The mood is very different from the one we saw in the spring. Pictured: Patrons drink in a Wetherspoons pub in Leigh, Greater Manchester yesterday

The public still remain concerned about the virus, and want to put health first. But the picture of a nation merrily skipping into Lockdown 2.0 is misleading. The mood is very different from the one we saw in the spring. Pictured: Patrons drink in a Wetherspoons pub in Leigh, Greater Manchester yesterday 

This is not mass disobedience – the public remain concerned about the virus and are likely to accept new restrictions with resignation rather than revolution. But they are increasingly taking matters into their own hands.

Nuanced conversations with voters have uncovered such hidden truths in the past. Take the 2015 election, when Labour and the Conservatives were level-pegging in the polls, but fears about the role Nicola Sturgeon could play in a government led by Ed Miliband came up again and again in focus groups.

Similarly, most opinion polls before the 2016 EU referendum pointed to a victory for Remain. Focus groups showed a much deeper alarm at uncontrolled EU immigration and support for Brexit. On both occasions, focus groups were more reliable.

What has caused this shift in the public mood on coronavirus restrictions? First, people speak about how fatigued they are by the measures, saying that though they see why they are needed, they are unsure they can face another six months of the same.

Take the 2015 election, when Labour and the Conservatives were level-pegging in the polls, but fears about the role Nicola Sturgeon could play in a government led by Ed Miliband came up again and again in focus groups

Take the 2015 election, when Labour and the Conservatives were level-pegging in the polls, but fears about the role Nicola Sturgeon could play in a government led by Ed Miliband came up again and again in focus groups

Take the 2015 election, when Labour and the Conservatives were level-pegging in the polls, but fears about the role Nicola Sturgeon could play in a government led by Ed Miliband came up again and again in focus groups

The impacts on mental health, and routine NHS care, come up more often.

There is also a growing frustration that those in charge do not follow the rules, yet expect us to. Dominic Cummings’s trip to Barnard Castle comes up repeatedly.

And, finally, there is widespread confusion about the rules.

The tiered system has generated more questions than answers. Terms like ‘rule of six’ and ‘support bubble’ are used interchangeably.

The public still remain concerned about the virus, and want to put health first. But the picture of a nation merrily skipping into Lockdown 2.0 is misleading. The mood is very different from the one we saw in the spring.

James Johnson of JL Partners was a Downing Street polling adviser to Theresa May

Crackdown of the trolley police: Now LIDL covers its famous middle aisle as Tesco staff in Wales COVER UP kettles and bedding on shelves after ‘power mad’ First Minister Mark Drakeford bans sale of ‘non-essential’ items and English police patrol border 

Supermarket staff in Wales today covered up kettles and phone chargers on shelves as ‘power mad’ First Minister Mark Drakeford banned the sale of ‘non-essential’ items during the country’s coronavirus firebreak lockdown.  

Tesco and Lidl workers became Wales’ first ‘trolley police’ as they were seen hiding shelves of ‘non-essential’ products behind plastic sheets to stop customers buying them ahead of the start of the restrictions, which came in earlier this evening.

Plastic barriers and stacks of drinks crates were also set up to block off certain aisles while other items were taped off by staff as part of efforts to follow the draconian new rules. 

At other major supermarkets, Sainsbury’s said staff have been working ‘around the clock’ to put changes in place, while Waitrose said it was reviewing government guidance and Asda claimed it had been given ‘very little time’ to implement the new rules.

Four members of staff at a Tesco store in Pontypool could be seen inspecting the cover-up for a 20-minute trial run ahead of the latest restrictions coming into force, with witnesses admitting they’d ‘never seen anything like it’.

Mr Drakeford described stopping supermarkets from selling non-essential products during the firebreak lockdown as ‘a straightforward matter of fairness’.

Wales’ Labour leader could not hide his frustration today as he was repeatedly questioned on the restrictions, which are now in force for 17 days. He said they were ‘fair’ and crucial to stop the spread of the virus.

He told a press conference in Cardiff that any suggestion that the ban, which was announced on Thursday, was based on his own politics was ‘nonsensical’.

He said: ‘We are requiring many hundreds of small businesses to close on the high street right across Wales.

‘We cannot do that and then allow supermarkets to sell goods that those people are unable to sell.

‘And we are looking to minimise the amount of time that people spend out of their homes during this two-week period.

‘This is not the time to be browsing around supermarkets looking for non-essential goods.’

He said trying to find exceptions to the rules was ‘just the wrong’ approach and called on people in Wales to not use the firebreak to do things that they do not have to.

‘It is a straightforward matter of fairness – we are in this together here in Wales,’ he added.

It comes as it was confirmed that police checkpoints are being set up on a key section of the border with England , with Gloucestershire Constabulary able to tell drivers looking to head into Wales to turn around if officers ‘are not satisfied with their explanation’. 

If they refuse, the police said it will tell forces in Wales so that they can issue a fine.

Mr Drakeford has long been at loggerheads with Boris Johnson as he has tried to impose travel restrictions in England for those living in towns and cities with a high number of cases. 

Officers were also out in Cardiff city centre this evening as the new rules came into force at 6pm and dozens of business closed up for the next fortnight.

Elsewhere, Nicola Sturgeon today confirmed Scotland is set to enter a new five-level system of Covid-19 restrictions.

The new model will come into force on November 2, when current restrictions on the hospitality trade are due to expire. It includes five tiers of measures from level zero to four which will be applied in different parts of Scotland.

Supermarket staff in Wales today covered up kettles and phone chargers on shelves as 'power mad' First Minister Mark Drakeford banned the sale of 'non-essential' items during the country's coronavirus firebreak lockdown

Supermarket staff in Wales today covered up kettles and phone chargers on shelves as 'power mad' First Minister Mark Drakeford banned the sale of 'non-essential' items during the country's coronavirus firebreak lockdown

Supermarket staff in Wales today covered up kettles and phone chargers on shelves as ‘power mad’ First Minister Mark Drakeford banned the sale of ‘non-essential’ items during the country’s coronavirus firebreak lockdown 

Lidl closed off all their 'non-essential' aisles in Porthmadog, well before the 6pm deadline today with the ban set to last for the duration of the 17-day 'fire break' lockdown

Lidl closed off all their 'non-essential' aisles in Porthmadog, well before the 6pm deadline today with the ban set to last for the duration of the 17-day 'fire break' lockdown

Lidl closed off all their ‘non-essential’ aisles in Porthmadog, well before the 6pm deadline today with the ban set to last for the duration of the 17-day ‘fire break’ lockdown

Police officers were in Cardiff city centre this evening as Wales entered a 17-day 'firebreak' lockdown at 6pm

Police officers were in Cardiff city centre this evening as Wales entered a 17-day 'firebreak' lockdown at 6pm

Police officers were in Cardiff city centre this evening as Wales entered a 17-day ‘firebreak’ lockdown at 6pm

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First Minister Mark Drakeford (pictured today) said it will be 'made clear' to supermarkets that only certain parts of their business will be allowed to open in order to sell essentials

First Minister Mark Drakeford (pictured today) said it will be 'made clear' to supermarkets that only certain parts of their business will be allowed to open in order to sell essentials

First Minister Mark Drakeford (pictured today) said it will be ‘made clear’ to supermarkets that only certain parts of their business will be allowed to open in order to sell essentials

Supermarket customers in Wales today claimed the sale of duvets, bedding and electricals had been stopped by Tesco staff who covered the shelves in plastic. 

Tesco customer Jamie Cole, 31, said the aisle containing kettles and phone chargers was also ‘completely closed off’ despite them being ‘needed’ as temperatures nationwide begin to drop.

Mr Cole said: ‘I was shocked, it’s quite bad. Bedding should be available for kids and mothers. We’re coming up to winter, it’s cold outside, I couldn’t believe it.

‘I don’t have kids of my own but my friend and my sister have kids, she’s quite shocked too. They rely on Tesco as it’s the only supermarket in our town.

‘This was today at 10.49am, the restrictions don’t come into effect until 6pm and all the other supermarkets are fine. The staff are only following orders, It’s happened so quickly. They only announced it at about 7pm last night.

‘I’m 30-odd and I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. You abide by the rules then they do this, it’s quite intimidating. There was another aisle that was completely closed off too, that was the stationery aisle and electricals.

‘If you needed a kettle or phone charger, that aisle was completely closed off. I’ve done a bit of homework and there’s no list of essential items on the Wales Government website.

‘I guess it’s the supermarket that decides what items are essential.’ 

A spokesperson for Tesco confirmed to MailOnline: ‘Our colleagues across Wales will be working incredibly hard today so we can comply with the Welsh Government’s ban on selling ‘non-essential’ goods to our customers from 6pm this evening.’

It came after Mr Drakeford snapped today as he was roasted over his ban on the shops selling the items in his lockdown.

The Labour First Minister could not hide his frustration as he was repeatedly questioned on the restrictions, which came into force at 6pm for 17 days.

He insisted they were ‘fair’ and crucial to stop the spread of the virus. 

But when he was challenged over whether it was ‘essential’ for parents to buy new school trousers if their children ripped them, Mr Drakeford moaned: ‘It is just the wrong way to approach this whole business.

‘We are back to the ”how do you we get round the rules” approach to coronavirus.’   

Plastic sheets were placed over electrical items which are banned from being sold in this Welsh Asda store this evening

Plastic sheets were placed over electrical items which are banned from being sold in this Welsh Asda store this evening

Plastic sheets were placed over electrical items which are banned from being sold in this Welsh Asda store this evening

Pallets of stock block access to non essential goods at the Sainsburys store in Crindau, Newport at the start of the firebreak lockdown

Pallets of stock block access to non essential goods at the Sainsburys store in Crindau, Newport at the start of the firebreak lockdown

Pallets of stock block access to non essential goods at the Sainsburys store in Crindau, Newport at the start of the firebreak lockdown

Non-essential aisles in Asda at Coryton, Cardiff were blocked off to comply with the firebreak lockdown rules at 6pm

Non-essential aisles in Asda at Coryton, Cardiff were blocked off to comply with the firebreak lockdown rules at 6pm

Non-essential aisles in Asda at Coryton, Cardiff were blocked off to comply with the firebreak lockdown rules at 6pm

Children's clothes were wrapped in cellophane as they cannot be sold under the new firebreak lockdown regulations

Children's clothes were wrapped in cellophane as they cannot be sold under the new firebreak lockdown regulations

Children’s clothes were wrapped in cellophane as they cannot be sold under the new firebreak lockdown regulations

Barriers were put up at this Asda store in the Welsh capital so customers couldn't access non-essential items, which are banned from being sold

Barriers were put up at this Asda store in the Welsh capital so customers couldn't access non-essential items, which are banned from being sold

Barriers were put up at this Asda store in the Welsh capital so customers couldn’t access non-essential items, which are banned from being sold

Supermarket staff used a range of different obstacles to block off access to their aisles of non-essential products today

Supermarket staff used a range of different obstacles to block off access to their aisles of non-essential products today

Supermarket staff used a range of different obstacles to block off access to their aisles of non-essential products today

Crates of drinks were used to block off non-essential aisles at the Tesco store in Cardiff in order to follow the new rules

Crates of drinks were used to block off non-essential aisles at the Tesco store in Cardiff in order to follow the new rules

Crates of drinks were used to block off non-essential aisles at the Tesco store in Cardiff in order to follow the new rules

Staff stacked boxes of alcohol up in order to hide away non-essential items, which can't be sold under the new lockdown

Staff stacked boxes of alcohol up in order to hide away non-essential items, which can't be sold under the new lockdown

Staff stacked boxes of alcohol up in order to hide away non-essential items, which can’t be sold under the new lockdown

Non-essential aisles were blocked off with a plastic barrier in this Tesco Extra store on Western Avenue, Cardiff today

Non-essential aisles were blocked off with a plastic barrier in this Tesco Extra store on Western Avenue, Cardiff today

Non-essential aisles were blocked off with a plastic barrier in this Tesco Extra store on Western Avenue, Cardiff today

Toys and other entertainment products were all cordoned off at the super store in the Welsh capital earlier today

Toys and other entertainment products were all cordoned off at the super store in the Welsh capital earlier today

Toys and other entertainment products were all cordoned off at the super store in the Welsh capital earlier today

Staff taped off products such as duvets at Tesco's store in Pontypool, with a sign reading: 'Sorry we are unable to sell these items due to government guidelines until November 9th'

Staff taped off products such as duvets at Tesco's store in Pontypool, with a sign reading: 'Sorry we are unable to sell these items due to government guidelines until November 9th'

Staff taped off products such as duvets at Tesco’s store in Pontypool, with a sign reading: ‘Sorry we are unable to sell these items due to government guidelines until November 9th’

A barrier was set up at a Tesco superstore in Swansea today as supermarkets are told to stop selling non-essential goods

A barrier was set up at a Tesco superstore in Swansea today as supermarkets are told to stop selling non-essential goods

A barrier was set up at a Tesco superstore in Swansea today as supermarkets are told to stop selling non-essential goods

The clothes aisle of the Tesco supermarket in Pontypool was blocked off after the sale on non-essential items was banned by the Welsh Government

The clothes aisle of the Tesco supermarket in Pontypool was blocked off after the sale on non-essential items was banned by the Welsh Government

The clothes aisle of the Tesco supermarket in Pontypool was blocked off after the sale on non-essential items was banned by the Welsh Government

First Minister Mark Drakeford told a press conference today that supermarkets would not be able to sell goods that small shops are unable to sell. Pictured: A Lidl aisle in Porthmadog that has been closed off by staff

First Minister Mark Drakeford told a press conference today that supermarkets would not be able to sell goods that small shops are unable to sell. Pictured: A Lidl aisle in Porthmadog that has been closed off by staff

First Minister Mark Drakeford told a press conference today that supermarkets would not be able to sell goods that small shops are unable to sell. Pictured: A Lidl aisle in Porthmadog that has been closed off by staff

A barrier was set up at a Tesco superstore in Swansea today as supermarkets are told to stop selling non-essential goods

A barrier was set up at a Tesco superstore in Swansea today as supermarkets are told to stop selling non-essential goods

A barrier was set up at a Tesco superstore in Swansea today as supermarkets are told to stop selling non-essential goods

A sign at a Lidl store in Porthmadog tells customers this afternoon 'we are not permitted to sell non-essential items'

A sign at a Lidl store in Porthmadog tells customers this afternoon 'we are not permitted to sell non-essential items'

A sign at a Lidl store in Porthmadog tells customers this afternoon ‘we are not permitted to sell non-essential items’

He added tetchily: ‘There is a bigger prize at stake here than whether you need to buy a candle or not.’ 

Mr Drakeford insisted that allowing supermarkets to keep selling clothes and other products while smaller retailers were shut would be unacceptable.

‘We’re all in this together here in Wales,’ he told a press conference in Cardiff. 

‘This is not a period to be browsing around in supermarkets looking for non-essential goods.’ 

However, anger rose today as Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething made clear alcohol does count as a key item under the confusing new rules – but insisted hair dryers do not. 

He also conceded that a ‘line by line’ list of what can be sold would be ‘unusable’, saying they were hoping retailers will have a ‘grown up understanding’.   

There are fears it will mean a return to the scenes witnessed at the beginning of the pandemic when there were rows over the contents of people’s shopping trolleys. 

Mr Drakeford said this afternoon that local restrictions had succeeded in stemming the spread of the virus, but were not ‘turning it back’.

He compared the progress in place like Torfaen favourably with areas in England like Oldham.

But he said the ‘short sharp shock’ of a lockdown was now essential.

‘We have to act urgently now because the virus is rising too fast,’ he said. 

Many retailers will be forced to shut altogether during the ‘firebreak’ lockdown, but food shops and pharmacies can stay open.

During a bruising interview with Kay Burley on Sky News, Mr Gething said the Welsh government was producing ‘categories’ that are allowed to be sold.

‘A supermarket selling clothes isn’t essential… We are looking to have a grown up understanding with them about what they can do so they go ahead and do that.’ 

He added: ‘We don’t want to get into a line by line going through thousands of of product items. That would be unusable from their point of view and ours,’ he said. 

Burley asked whether the situation meant alcohol is essential but a hair dryer is not.

‘Well look, food and drink are items that we had through the first period of the pandemic, they are available everywhere,’ Mr Gething replied.

When the presenter insisted, ‘Trust me, my hair dryer is essential’, Mr Gething responded: ‘No it isn’t, Kay.’

Burley said: ‘Course it is. Look at the state of your hair compared to mine.. I have to dry my hair, you can towel dry yours.’

But Mr Gething replied: ‘I don’t think that the biggest issue on people’s minds in Wales will be whether they can buy a hair dryer for the next two weeks.’ 

UK posts 20,530 more coronavirus cases and 224 deaths but SAGE believes R rate has dropped slightly and ONS estimates 35,200 people in England got infected every day last week in a ‘hopeful’ sign the outbreak is slowing down   

The UK today announced 20,530 more coronavirus cases and the deaths of 224 people but official data suggests the country’s outbreak may finally be slowing down.

Positive tests are up 31 per cent on last Friday, when there were 15,650, and deaths have surged by 65 per cent in a week.

But Government scientists today claimed the crucial R rate has dropped slightly and an array of statistics revealed cases are no longer growing as quickly as they once were, although the epidemic is still growing.

SAGE estimates the reproduction rate for the UK has fallen for the first time in a month, from between 1.3-1.5 to 1.2-1.4. The number – the key measure at the heart of Number 10’s plan to control the virus – must stay below one, or the outbreak will continue to grow.

And the Office for National Statistics, which tracks the size of the Covid-19 outbreak through thousands of random swab tests, today revealed that the number of people catching the coronavirus in England alone every day stood at 35,200 last week.

Despite being a 26 per cent rise on its previous estimate and double that of a fortnight ago, top scientists insisted that the figure was ‘hopeful’ because the speed of growth has clearly dropped. Cases doubled between October 2 and 9, then jumped by two thirds (62 per cent) the following week to 27,900 per day, according to the ONS data, which is considered the most reliable indicator of the true size of the crisis. 

And in other promising developments, MailOnline today revealed that almost half of local authorities in England saw their coronavirus infection rate drop last week. Newcastle and Nottingham, which are both battling some of the largest Covid-19 outbreaks in England, witnessed some of the biggest drops.

The data echoes comments by the UK’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, who said yesterday that there are now signs local lockdowns are starting to work and that case numbers are beginning to show ‘flattening’ in some areas.

Despite the shred of optimism, SAGE advisers warned that they were ‘almost certain that the epidemic continues to grow exponentially across the country’.

The data come as more draconian lockdown rules are springing up across the UK. Warrington in Cheshire today became the latest to confirm it will impose Tier Three measures, while badly-hit parts of Nottinghamshire also face the threat of tighter curbs to strangle the virus. 

In Wales, which is heading into a tougher ‘firebreak’ lockdown today, the leader Mark Drakeford has been accused of going ‘power mad’ after he banned the sale of ‘non-essential’ items at supermarkets, with Tesco and Lidl workers becoming Wales’s first ‘trolley police’ as they were seen covering up electrical items. 

Researchers on King’s College London’s Covid Symptom Study, who predict there are 36,000 new cases of symptomatic Covid-19 per day in the UK, has predicted that the next places to move into Tier Three restrictions will be Hartlepool, Sunderland, Stockton-on-Tees, Gateshead, Darlington and County Durham in the North East; Bradford in the North West; and Nottingham and Bassetlaw in the Midlands. 

Scientists have repeatedly called for a ‘circuit breaker’ national lockdown to try and stop the spiralling outbreak and ‘turn back the clock’ to allow the test and trace system to catch up and to prevent hospitals getting overwhelmed. Wards in the North West are filling up fast and some now have more patients now than in April.

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The UK today announced 20,530 more coronavirus cases and the deaths of 224 people but official data suggests the country’s outbreak may finally be slowing down.

Positive tests are up 31 per cent on last Friday, when there were 15,650, and deaths have surged by 65 per cent in a week.

But Government scientists today claimed the crucial R rate has dropped slightly and an array of statistics revealed cases are no longer growing as quickly as they once were, although the epidemic is still growing.

SAGE estimates the reproduction rate for the UK has fallen for the first time in a month, from between 1.3-1.5 to 1.2-1.4. The number – the key measure at the heart of Number 10’s plan to control the virus – must stay below one, or the outbreak will continue to grow.

And the Office for National Statistics, which tracks the size of the Covid-19 outbreak through thousands of random swab tests, today revealed that the number of people catching the coronavirus in England alone every day stood at 35,200 last week.

Despite being a 26 per cent rise on its previous estimate and double that of a fortnight ago, top scientists insisted that the figure was ‘hopeful’ because the speed of growth has clearly dropped. Cases doubled between October 2 and 9, then jumped by two thirds (62 per cent) the following week to 27,900 per day, according to the ONS data, which is considered the most reliable indicator of the true size of the crisis. 

And in other promising developments, MailOnline today revealed that almost half of local authorities in England saw their coronavirus infection rate drop last week. Newcastle and Nottingham, which are both battling some of the largest Covid-19 outbreaks in England, witnessed some of the biggest drops.

The data echoes comments by the UK’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, who said yesterday that there are now signs local lockdowns are starting to work and that case numbers are beginning to show ‘flattening’ in some areas.

Despite the shred of optimism, SAGE advisers warned that they were ‘almost certain that the epidemic continues to grow exponentially across the country’.

The data come as more draconian lockdown rules are springing up across the UK. Warrington in Cheshire today became the latest to confirm it will impose Tier Three measures, while badly-hit parts of Nottinghamshire also face the threat of tighter curbs to strangle the virus. 

In Wales, which is heading into a tougher ‘firebreak’ lockdown today, the leader Mark Drakeford has been accused of going ‘power mad’ after he banned the sale of ‘non-essential’ items at supermarkets, with Tesco and Lidl workers becoming Wales’s first ‘trolley police’ as they were seen covering up electrical items. 

Researchers on King’s College London’s Covid Symptom Study, who predict there are 36,000 new cases of symptomatic Covid-19 per day in the UK, has predicted that the next places to move into Tier Three restrictions will be Hartlepool, Sunderland, Stockton-on-Tees, Gateshead, Darlington and County Durham in the North East; Bradford in the North West; and Nottingham and Bassetlaw in the Midlands. 

Scientists have repeatedly called for a ‘circuit breaker’ national lockdown to try and stop the spiralling outbreak and ‘turn back the clock’ to allow the test and trace system to catch up and to prevent hospitals getting overwhelmed. Wards in the North West are filling up fast and some now have more patients now than in April.

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Sir Patrick Vallance, who leads SAGE, yesterday said he was ‘sure’ that the estimates of new cases of coronavirus would rise today, and indicated they were likely to do so again next week. But he admitted there are signs the rise is slowing.

The fact that the R rate remains above one means that ‘the epidemic is still growing’, he said.

‘As long as R is above one the epidemic continues to grow and it will continue to grow at a reasonable rate – it’s doubling, perhaps, every 14 to 18 days – unless the R comes below one. 

‘But I do want to say, there are some areas where we’re beginning to see real effects of what’s happening. There are some indications [that] amongst young people the rates are coming down or flattening off a bit due to the huge efforts that people have made to try to adhere to these changes in behaviours that we need to have in order to get this down.

‘And in some areas of the country we can begin to see a little bit of flattening, possibly. So the measures are having an effect but we’re going to need to do more if the aim is to get R below one and to shrink this epidemic.’

Speaking in a TV briefing alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Sir Patrick showed slides that estimated there are somewhere between 22,000 and 90,000 new infections every day in England.

The startling upper estimate comes from a statement prepared by SAGE sub-group SPI-M, which provides regular virus modelling for Sir Patrick and has members known to be in favour of a national circuit breaker lockdown. 

The King’s College Covid Symptom Study, which uses positive test results and reported symptoms from its app Covid Symptom Study, today estimated that there are 28,213 new cases of symptomatic coronavirus every day in England.

These form the majority of its estimated 36,251 for the whole of the UK, with a further 4,095 per day in Scotland, 2,366 in Wales and 1,577 in Northern Ireland.

The northern regions of England and the Midlands account for most of these cases, the report explained, with 7,831 per day in the North West, 7,058 a day in the North East, and 6,788 in the Midlands. The fewest were in the East of England, with 1,700 per day.

Professor Tim Spector, the epidemiologist who runs the study, said: ‘As we progress through this second wave of Covid-19, we are still seeing cases across the UK rise with an R value of 1.2, and the gap between the Northern regions of the UK and the South growing. 

‘Our data clearly shows that the number of cases is still being driven by the younger generations, which should mean less pressure on NHS admissions compared to earlier in the year.’ 

Today’s data releases come as local lockdown rules are tightening across the country, with Warrington in Merseyside the latest area to confirm it will move into Tier Three in the coming days. 

Local council bosses say they have agreed to a £5million support package for businesses that will be forced to close when the new measures come into force, expected to be next week.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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