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Hunt puts the boot into Boris

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hunt puts the boot into boris

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt faced fury yesterday after backing calls to plunge Britain once again into lockdown.

Mr Hunt joined Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in supporting a national ‘circuit breaker’ in which the country would be told to stay at home for two or three weeks over half term with pubs, shops, restaurants, gyms and hairdressers forced to close.

With hundreds of thousands of jobs already at risk due to tougher restrictions, critics warned such a move would be the ‘final nail in the coffin’ of the hospitality industry.

Others warned that any new lockdown – as with the initial three-month closure, which was initially predicted to last just three weeks – would go on for much longer, producing ‘catastrophic’ repercussions.

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt (pictured) faced fury yesterday after backing calls to plunge Britain once again into lockdown

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt (pictured) faced fury yesterday after backing calls to plunge Britain once again into lockdown

Asked about the possibility of a circuit breaker, Mr Hunt told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I’ve always thought that it’s better to do things quickly and decisively than to wait until the virus has grown, so I have a lot of sympathy with that.’

While trade bodies and leading figures within Mr Hunt’s party reacted with dismay, some MPs interpreted it as the first move in a cynical plan to topple old rival Boris Johnson and position himself as a future leadership contender.

‘Jeremy’s sensing Boris is in a difficult position, and I think he’s sticking the boot in,’ said one senior Tory MP.

‘He lost the leadership election but he has been constantly niggling away at the edges. He’s doing the same as Starmer – gambling we do go into a lockdown, in which case he’ll say, ‘Well, I told you so’.’

£360 fine for kissing 

A couple in Milan have been fined 400 euros (£360) for kissing in the street because removing their masks breached coronavirus restrictions.

After kissing on their way to a restaurant, the engaged couple said they found themselves surrounded by four police officers. 

Local reports said the couple – a 40-year-old Italian man and a Polish woman – had been engaged for two-and-a-half years.

In Italy, there is no obligation for people who live together to wear a mask when in public.

The fine was issued to the couple after they were unable to prove to officers that they lived at the same address.

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‘If Jeremy’s going to make a comeback, this is how to do it,’ said another, adding that if Mr Hunt was proved right about a lockdown, it might lead to him succeeding beleaguered Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

‘He could go back to his old department, take the country through Covid, then go for the top job,’ the MP said.

The Prime Minister last week said he would try to avoid a second national shutdown ‘if at all possible’ but ‘cannot rule anything out’.

Instead, he has pressed ahead with a targeted battle plan of local restrictions with more than 28 million people now living under tighter measures. At midnight yesterday, Londoners were among those plunged into the Tier 2 alert bracket which bans different households from meeting indoors.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the trade body UK Hospitality, told The Mail on Sunday that a full lockdown over half term would be ‘catastrophic’ and the ‘final nail in the coffin’ for many bars, hotels and restaurants.

She added: ‘They have endured effectively two winters this year without income – a third would be unsustainable.

‘One in five has not reopened and a second lockdown would be a final nail in the coffin.

‘The October half term is now more important than Easter for staycations and domestic tourism. The industry is already forecast to lose half its income this year and we know tourism will be critical to our recovery next year.’

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative party leader, said: ‘The trouble with national circuit breaker lockdowns is they go on much longer than you think. We were promised a three-week lockdown in March and it ended up being a three-month lockdown.

‘Businesses are teetering on the edge and if we go to a full national lockdown where you shut everything down, many businesses that just survived the last lockdown will go. That will have devastating effects on the economy and on people’s health.

‘At the very least, we need to give the changes already going on a chance to work. We cannot keep opening up and locking down.

‘The devastation this time would be total. All these politicians and scientists have completely abandoned the economy. They think the economy is not important.

‘My colleagues in Government talk as if we were suffering from the plague. The rate of death is tiny at the moment.’

While trade bodies and leading figures within Mr Hunt's party reacted with dismay, some MPs interpreted it as the first move in a cynical plan to topple old rival Boris Johnson and position himself as a future leadership contender

While trade bodies and leading figures within Mr Hunt’s party reacted with dismay, some MPs interpreted it as the first move in a cynical plan to topple old rival Boris Johnson and position himself as a future leadership contender

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Mr Hunt’s intervention followed remarks by scientific adviser Sir John Bell, who said he sees ‘very little way of getting on top of this without some kind of a circuit breaker because the numbers are actually pretty eye-watering’. 

But Professor Paul Hunter, who advises the World Health Organisation, said a two- to three-week lockdown would not be nearly enough to bring the virus back under control.

Nothing short of a protracted second lockdown, lasting at least two months, would have a material impact on the course of the virus, he argued. 

Professor Hunter said a ‘circuit breaker’ would retard the virus, but because there is a delay in new infections being reported in official statistics ‘you would not actually see a material chance in the direction of the epidemic for two weeks’ after it was brought in.

He said the ‘cruel maths of infection’ – in which cases tend to rise two to three times faster than they fall – means once a circuit breaker ends, the virus would quickly surge back up again. 

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As a result, he added, to keep viral rates low, a circuit breaker would have to be imposed every month until a vaccine became available or herd immunity was reached.

Mr Hunt also called for an end to the ‘public war of words’ between Andy Burnham, the Greater Manchester Mayor who is resisting tighter curbs, and Mr Johnson.

‘I think what’s more important right now is we stop this public war of words between local leaders and national leaders because in a pandemic the most important thing is a consistent message because you really have to have compliance with the very, very important public health messages about social distancing,’ he added.

Mr Johnson said the situation in Greater Manchester was ‘grave’ last Friday as he pressured Mr Burnham to agree to new rules, but the region’s political leaders are continuing to resist the pressure. 

Welcome to London… Once the beating heart of Britain’s economy 

Under a blanket of grey cloud, the near-deserted skyscrapers of London financial district Canary Wharf offered a distinctly gloomy outlook yesterday.

In a scene almost unimaginable at the start of the year, a vivid sign, pictured left, warned that the local Covid alert level was ‘high’ and advised passers-by that it was now illegal to ‘meet people socially anywhere indoors’.

Canary Wharf is home to the headquarters of banking and finance powerhouses such as HSBC, Barclays and JP Morgan. But almost all of the 120,000 workers who once filled the office floors and flooded into local cafes and bars now work from home.

London’s nine million inhabitants entered tighter Tier 2 restrictions yesterday after midnight, which ban people from separate households mixing indoors, including in pubs and restaurants.

Crowds descended on the city centre on Friday for a final drinking session before the new rules came in. Police were on the lookout for ‘dangerous and reckless’ Covid breaches as people left pubs after the 10pm curfew.

Although Londoners will still be able to meet members of other households in groups of up to six in beer gardens, the prospect is less likely to appeal as winter approaches.

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This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Minister claims holiday activities ‘more important’ than free school meals

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minister claims holiday activities more important than free school meals

A millionaire minister today claimed holiday activities are ‘more important’ to disadvantaged children than free meals as council leaders accused the Government of short changing them on funding to tackle child poverty. 

Nadhim Zahawi, the business minister, said this morning that the ‘best way’ to deal with poverty was through local government programmes and through the welfare system. 

He pointed to a pilot programme which provided food and activities to poor children during the summer holidays. 

But he risked outcry as he claimed parents ‘appreciate the food but more important than the food to them was the activities’. 

Meanwhile, Councillor David Mellen, the leader of Nottingham City Council, claimed the Government was guilty of ‘double-counting’ funding provided to local authorities to tackle child poverty. 

Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi today claimed holiday activities for poor children were 'more important' than free meals

Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi today claimed holiday activities for poor children were ‘more important’ than free meals 

Councillor David Mellen, the leader of Nottingham City Council, claimed the Government was guilty of 'double-counting' funding provided to local authorities to tackle child poverty

Councillor David Mellen, the leader of Nottingham City Council, claimed the Government was guilty of ‘double-counting’ funding provided to local authorities to tackle child poverty

The Government remains under intense pressure to perform a U-turn on its refusal to extend the free school meals programme to future holidays.

Campaigners, led by Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford, argue the extension is needed because many families have been left struggling financially because of the coronavirus crisis. 

But the Government is so far refusing to budge and has instead opted to point to help and funding that is already in place. 

Mr Zahawi risked a backlash this morning as he told Sky News: ‘The best way to deal with this is through both local government and through the welfare system and that is the right thing to do.

‘We have run a pilot costing £9million this summer, feeding 50,000 children, we will take the learning from that.

‘It is not just about the food. As I said, I spoke to Carol Shanahan in Stoke on Trent [the chairman of Port Vale Football Club], she tells me that in wards where families want to keep their children safe during those activities they also appreciate the food but more important than the food to them was the activities for their children.’

Mr Zahawi’s comments come after he last week insisted struggling parents would rather pay for meals for their children than accept the ‘label’ attached to handouts. 

The minister, who co-founded the YouGov polling firm, said Universal Credit benefits were available to support hard-pressed families and suggested research from holiday clubs showed parents prefer to pay a small sum for food. 

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The research when we did the pilot demonstrates that families didn’t just want the meals.

‘Although they valued the meals, they didn’t like the labelling of them being free. They actually prefer to pay a modest amount, £1 or £2.’ 

It came as Mr Mellen accused the Government of failing to live up to its promises on funding to tackle child poverty. 

He told Sky News: ‘The Government has given a shortfall in council funding over many years, 10 years of reductions.

‘They promised at the beginning of this year that they would stand shoulder to shoulder with us and meet the needs of our Covid costs and our lost income.

‘We are still several tens of millions short on that promise.

‘I am not convinced that the Government are not double-counting here on the money that they are saying that we already have to meet this need.’

He added: ‘They do that quite often.’

Boris Johnson insisted yesterday the Government would not allow children to go hungry but he refused to bow to demands to extend free school meals. 

Mr Johnson highlighted the money already given to councils and said Universal Credit was ‘one of the best ways you can help families in this tough time’.

Universal Credit had been increased by £20 a week while £63 million was announced in June by ministers to help local authorities feed vulnerable families – although officials expect that money to have largely been spent already.

Mr Johnson said: ‘I totally understand the issue of holiday hunger, it is there, we have to deal with it. The debate is how do you deal with it.’      

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Autonomous pothole-repairing robots will hit Britain’s streets by 2021 

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autonomous pothole repairing robots will hit britains streets by 2021

Scientists are building autonomous repair robots that will use AI to identify and fix potholes in UK roads. 

The electric, self-driving bots – which are being built by a spin-out company from the University of Liverpool called Robotiz3d – can find small cracks in the road and cover them with asphalt. 

Researchers say the machines, which look like a cross between a tank and a road roller, will transform road maintenance when they hit the roads in 2021, and finally offer a cost effective fix for the UK’s pothole problem.  

Currently, no autonomous technology solutions exist to tackle potholes, which are estimated to have cost UK taxpayers more than £1 billion to fix over the last decade. 

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Artist's impression of the autonomous road repair system, which looks part-tank, part road roller. The Robotiz3d vehicle should be seen on UK roads next year

Artist’s impression of the autonomous road repair system, which looks part-tank, part road roller. The Robotiz3d vehicle should be seen on UK roads next year

The cost of repairing all of the UK’s roads that are currently damaged, meanwhile, is estimated to exceed £10 billion. 

HOW DO POTHOLES FORM? 

Road surfaces will deteriorate because of two main factors – traffic and weather. 

The greater number (and weight) of vehicles using a road, the faster the road surface wears out.

Over time, this flexibility diminishes and the surface essentially snaps – by cracking and crazing. 

This deterioration is exacerbated by both hot and cold weather extremes.  

The most damaging impact comes from sub-zero temperatures.

If water can penetrate even the smallest of cracks in a road surface, a pothole will appear as it turns to ice and expands.

Source: Department for Transport 

 

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While potholes can be a very costly inconvenience for drivers, they can be fatal for cyclists and motorcyclists.

Poor road surfaces contributed to 517 accidents in 2018 – including eight fatalities and 348 serious injuries – the Department of Transport reported last year.  

‘Current methods to detect and repair potholes are labour intensive and as such are slow, unsafe, and costly to the economy and environment,’ said Dr Sebastiano Fichera, technical director of Robotiz3d. 

‘The new technology we are developing will make road maintenance tasks faster, cheaper, and cleaner and ultimately make roads safer and more accessible.’ 

The robot will be built with a continuous track – a system of wheels within with a circle of heavy duty rubber, much like a tank. 

It will autonomously patrol UK roads without the need for road closures and will be able to detect defects such as cracks and potholes, characterise their geometry, collect measurements and capture images.

All this data, along with the hole’s location, will then be sent it to local authorities, who can decide whether to send a team of repair personnel, depending on its size and severity. 

For smaller cracks, the vehicle will be able to emit quick drying asphalt as a quick fix before they get bigger and become fully-fledged potholes. 

A mini road roller at the back of the robot flattens the sealing material as the robot drives over the site of the defect. 

Artist's impression of the vehicle. Current methods to detect and repair of potholes are labour intensive and as such are slow, unsafe, and costly to the economy and environment

Artist’s impression of the vehicle. Current methods to detect and repair of potholes are labour intensive and as such are slow, unsafe, and costly to the economy and environment

The system’s AI capabilities can also predict road conditions, facilitating the advancement ‘from reactive to preventative road maintenance’. 

‘If a pothole is detected, our vehicle will stop, flag its presence, and complete the repair within a few minutes,’ Fichera told Digital Trends

The electric vehicles will be able to operate continuously for several hours on a single charge, he added.

MailOnline has contacted Robotiz3d over how fast the robot would be travelling and whether it would hold up traffic or potentially congest roads.  

The company aims to have its road damage detection unit on the market in six months, although the crack-filling asphalt emission functionality will take a bit longer and should be up and running by the end of 2021.      

While potholes can be a very costly inconvenience for drivers, they can be tragically fatal for cyclists and motorcyclists

While potholes can be a very costly inconvenience for drivers, they can be tragically fatal for cyclists and motorcyclists

The machines are anticipated to improve the safety and lifespan of road networks and make more maintenance tasks ‘Covid-resilient’ – by avoiding sending out human workers during social distancing. 

Once in operation, an entire fleet around the country will also contribute to the reduction in costs, fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions that come from regular pothole-filling, fuel-burning vehicles. 

‘This is an exciting new spin out to take forward,’ said Lisa Layzell, co-founder and CEO of Robotiz3d Ltd. 

‘The team at Robotiz3d has the expertise and experience in robotics and AI to deliver the project and introduce world-leading innovation to the management of roads and highways. 

‘We have developed a robust business plan to take forward the portfolio of Robotiz3d envisaged products.’

The robots may not provide a long-term fix for potholes, however, which are exacerbated by freezing weather due to expanding ice.

Rather than resurfacing stretches of crumbling tarmac at greater expense, potholes that are filled in as they appear on the cheap can quickly open up again. 

THE UK’S POTHOLE CRISIS 

Pothole numbers and severity are at crisis levels in the UK. 

Over the last decade, 18 million potholes have been filled, at a cost exceeding £1 billion. 

The cost of repairing all of the UK damaged roads is even more staggering, estimated to exceed £10 billion and may take many decades to complete at the current rate. 

The situation is expected to worsen with the rates of pothole occurrence increasing across the UK due to ageing roads, the increasing number of road users, and enhanced vulnerability under new extreme climate scenarios.  

Conventional remediation methods are time-consuming, labour intensive and costly. 

This is in part due to the outdated and localised repair methods, and poor on-site quality testing means that future repair of the same site is often required. 

Robotiz3d says: ‘The posed solution to continually pump money into an increasingly out of control problem is unsustainable.’

In 2018, the number of potholes reported in Scotland was 16,645, in England 15,542 and Wales 3,729.   

Source: Robotiz3d

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Kate Middleton shares touching photos of contributors to her lockdown photography project

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kate middleton shares touching photos of contributors to her lockdown photography project

Kate Middleton has shared a series of touching photos of contributors to her lockdown photography project Hold Still posing beside their portraits.

The Duchess of Cambridge, 39, launched the community project in May and invited people of all ages from across the UK to submit a photographic portrait which they had taken during lockdown.

Last week the top 100 images went on show in 80 towns, cities and areas across the country.

Posting on the Kensington Royal Instagram this morning, Kate shared six snaps taken by contributors and enthusiastic members of the public posing beside portraits from the exhibition.

Kate Middleton (pictured last week) has shared a series of touching photos of members of the public posing beside portraits from her Hold Still exhibition

Kate Middleton (pictured last week) has shared a series of touching photos of members of the public posing beside portraits from her Hold Still exhibition

Posting on the Kensington Royal Instagram this morning, Kate shared six snaps taken by members of the public posing beside portraits from the exhibition. They included this shot of a grinning little girl called Amelia May, posing beside her own image, in which she's dressed in a nurse's uniform, entitled 'Thank You', in Merseyside

Posting on the Kensington Royal Instagram this morning, Kate shared six snaps taken by members of the public posing beside portraits from the exhibition. They included this shot of a grinning little girl called Amelia May, posing beside her own image, in which she’s dressed in a nurse’s uniform, entitled ‘Thank You’, in Merseyside

The Duchess encouraged people to submit more photos of themselves by Hold Still billboards, posters or digital screens and tag them with the hashtag #HoldStill2020 - and the Cambridges will feature a selection of their favourites at the end of the week

The Duchess encouraged people to submit more photos of themselves by Hold Still billboards, posters or digital screens and tag them with the hashtag #HoldStill2020 – and the Cambridges will feature a selection of their favourites at the end of the week

One featured a grinning little girl called Amelia May, posing beside her own image in which she’s dressed in a nurse’s uniform, entitled ‘Thank You’, in Merseyside.

Another showed a mother called Steph and her young son Jaxon posing beside their image, entitled ‘Glass Kisses’, which sees the little boy press his hand against a window while his grandmother kisses it from behind the pane.

On sharing the snap, taken in Worlds End and displayed at a bus stop, Steph said Jaxon is ‘starting to recognise himself’. 

In one image, the subject of Nina Robinson’s shot – her grandfather wearing a face mask – entitled In Family We Trust, stands beside his portrait in Stoke. 

Another sees dementia patient carer Fabiana Connors, who is the star of Care Worker, looking thrilled as she poses by her image in Borehamwood.

And one sees a woman observe a large billboard version of The Look of Lockdown, displayed at London Waterloo, visited by Kate and Prince William last week. 

Another showed a mother called Steph and her young son Jaxon posing beside their image, entitled 'Glass Kisses', which sees the little boy press his hand against a window while his grandmother kisses it from behind the pane

Another showed a mother called Steph and her young son Jaxon posing beside their image, entitled ‘Glass Kisses’, which sees the little boy press his hand against a window while his grandmother kisses it from behind the pane 

A man posing beside an image entitled Care Worker

In one image, the subject of Nina Robinson's shot - her grandfather wearing a face mask - entitled In Family We Trust, stands beside his portrait in Stoke

In one image, the subject of Nina Robinson’s shot – her grandfather wearing a face mask – entitled In Family We Trust, stands beside his portrait in Stoke (right). Also pictured: a man posing beside an image entitled Care Worker (left)

One snap sees a woman observe a large billboard version of The Look of Lockdown, displayed at London Waterloo, visited by Kate and Prince William last week

One snap sees a woman observe a large billboard version of The Look of Lockdown, displayed at London Waterloo, visited by Kate and Prince William last week

The post featured the caption: ‘Last week the Hold Still community exhibition arrived in towns and cities across the UK. 

‘Since then, we have seen so many photos of the portraits across the country, and wanted to share some of those touching images.

‘With your help, we are going to continue to highlight people’s experience of life during lockdown.’

The Duchess encouraged people to submit more photos of themselves by Hold Still billboards, posters or digital screens and tag them with the hashtag #HoldStill2020 – and the Cambridges will feature a selection of their favourites at the end of the week.

The Cambridges' post racked up more than 52,500 within 40 minutes, with dozens of their 12 million followers praising the images. Pictured: dementia patient carer Fabiana Connors, who is the star of Care Worker, looking thrilled as she poses by her image in Borehamwood

The Cambridges’ post racked up more than 52,500 within 40 minutes, with dozens of their 12 million followers praising the images. Pictured: dementia patient carer Fabiana Connors, who is the star of Care Worker, looking thrilled as she poses by her image in Borehamwood

Kate Middleton, 38, appeared effortlessly elegant last week as she was joined by Prince William, 38, to launch her lockdown photography exhibition

Kate Middleton, 38, appeared effortlessly elegant last week as she was joined by Prince William, 38, to launch her lockdown photography exhibition

34612274 8883685 Kate Middleton 38 appeared effortlessly elegant today as she was a 28 1603794119406

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Keep the cold at bay like Kate in an Alexander McQueen coat

The Duchess of Cambridge showcased her elegant signature style as she stepped out in London.

Donning a full length crimson coat, accessorised with suede heels and a bag by Grace Han, Kate successfully kept the autumn chill at bay.

Naturally, we can’t keep our eyes off her coat. Designed by her go-to label, Alexander McQueen, it is crafted from wool with a double breasted front, classic peak lapels and tailored silhouette.

This smart aesthetic and pop of colour have inspired us to recreate the look pronto. So, we have scoured the web for the best variations and listed our favourite finds in the carousel below.

It’s safe to say all of these options will work with countless outfits, from jeans to a little black dress. Be sure to complete your look with Kate’s gorgeous bag!

* PRICES MAY NOT BE AS ADVERTISED

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Their post racked up more than 52,500 within 40 minutes, with dozens of their 12 million followers praising the images.

‘This is so lovely,’ commented one, while another gushed: ‘Love this project!!’

‘Oh my goodness … that little girl in picture #1 is too cute for words! Lovely, inspirational photos,’ wrote another.

The Hold Still initiative aimed to capture and document ‘the spirit, the mood, the hopes, the fears and the feelings of the nation’ as the UK dealt with the coronavirus outbreak.

Kate previously said she had been ‘so overwhelmed by the public’s response to Hold Still, the quality of the images has been extraordinary, and the poignancy and the stories behind the images have been equally as moving as well’.

The panel assessed the images on the emotions and experiences they convey, rather than on their photographic quality or technical expertise.

Kate previously said she had been 'so overwhelmed by the public's response to Hold Still, the quality of the images has been extraordinary, and the poignancy and the stories behind the images have been equally as moving as well'

Kate previously said she had been ‘so overwhelmed by the public’s response to Hold Still, the quality of the images has been extraordinary, and the poignancy and the stories behind the images have been equally as moving as well’

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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