More than 3.7 million people in England and Wales have been told that after today they no longer need to shield from the coronavirus. From Thursday, the extremely clinically vulnerable, including cancer patients having chemotherapy and stem cell transplant recipients, should follow the same rules as the rest of the population. A letter sent to the group said shielding has been paused due to falling virus infection rates, but it still urged the most vulnerable to keep social contacts to a minimum and to stay at a distance from other people.
No one should panic, but we need to brace ourselves for a difficult week or two as regards the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. On Tuesday, Germany became the latest in a growing list of countries, including Canada and France, to suspend use of the vaccine in younger age groups. In Germany the cut off is 60, while in Canada and France only those age 55 and above are now receiving the jab. Unfortunately, the issue is no longer political and is unlikely to be batted away as such. Germany’s medical regulator announced on Tuesday it had received a total of 31 reports of rare blood clots in recent recipients of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Nine died and all but two of the cases involved women aged 20 to 63, the Paul Ehrlich Institute said. The issue involving blood clots associated with thrombocytopenia, a low blood platelet count, is the same one which caused many EU countries to temporarily halt the use of the jab earlier this month. Based on the data available at the time, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) concluded there was not enough evidence to establish a link between the problem and the vaccine, and recommended it continue to be used. The benefits of inoculation greatly outweighed the risks for all age groups, it stressed.
Sturgeon comes under fire in first TV debate over independence ‘distraction’ and ‘poisonous’ Salmond war
Nicola Sturgeon has been repeatedly accused of jeopardising Scotland’s recovery from coronavirus by focusing instead on another independence referendum and her “poisonous” war with Alex Salmond. Several members of the virtual audience in the first TV debate of the Holyrood election campaign, broadcast on BBC One Scotland on Tuesday night, asked her why her government had recently tabled an independence Bill if she was truly focused on the pandemic. The debate took place only hours after Ms Sturgeon escalated her war of words with Mr Salmond, her former mentor, and his new Alba Party by stating she would refuse to have any dealings with him unless he apologises to the women who accused him of harassment. After being repeatedly challenged during the Question Time-style debate between the leaders of the five main parties, she insisted that a vote on separation could happen within the first half of the next five-year parliament without further damaging Scotland’s economy.
Myanmar’s neighbours may have shied away from decisively addressing the country’s crisis following a military coup, but they cannot prevent it approaching their own borders. Reports that both Thailand and India tried to repel refugees fleeing airstrikes and military brutality – only to backtrack under pressure – show the February 1 coup is already creating international ripples, and with growing signs of an impending civil war, the conflict has the potential to destabilise the region. As the killing of pro-democracy protesters spikes, about a dozen ethnic armed groups, who have historically waged insurgencies against the junta in their fight for more autonomy in outlying states, have condemned the coup and vowed to support the resistance movement. On Tuesday, the Three Brotherhood Alliance, a coalition of three guerrilla outfits including the powerful Arakan Army in western Rakhine State, said they would join protesters in what they have named a “spring revolution” if the military does not stop killing and honour calls to restore democracy.
Covid should have been a boon for Deliveroo – but it still hasn’t turned a profitThe company is going public but there’s only so long food delivery apps can survive on convenience alone ‘This week Deliveroo will go public with its IPO, which the company hopes will result in a valuation of somewhere close to £8bn.’ A Deliveroo rider cycles through central London Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images
A third SNP minister has broken coronavirus election rules less than a week into the Holyrood campaign. Nicola Sturgeon said that her deputy, John Swinney, and parliamentary business manager Graeme Dey were “pretty mortified” after they posted evidence of themselves breaching limits on outdoor gatherings on social media. However, it then emerged that Jamie Hepburn, the business minister, had committed the same blunder, after he posted a picture of himself and at least five other party activists out on the campaign trail on Saturday afternoon.
Pfizer Inc has agreed to accelerate the delivery of its COVID-19 vaccine to Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday, a day after health authorities paused the use of the AstraZeneca inoculation for anyone under 55. Canada has lagged the United States and Britain in getting its nearly 38 million citizens vaccinated, but the federal government says the ramp-up of deliveries and inoculations is underway. Pfizer/BioNTech SE will deliver 5 million more doses in June than previously expected, Trudeau said.
Smart motorways were designed without enough thought for “human error”, a widow’s report has found, as it highlights how live lane breakdowns have increased more than 200 per cent. A transport expert hired by Claire Mercer, whose husband died on the M1, has concluded that motorways where the hard shoulder has been scrapped and four lanes of traffic are running have “the lowest level of intrinsic safety”. The 220-page dossier insists that the continued roll-out of smart motorways “is not justified” because they have the “highest rate of people killed or seriously injured”. Sarah Simpson, a transport specialist at the engineering consultancy Royal Haskoning DHV, has spent a year analysing Highways England data to try to establish whether smart motorways are safer than traditional ones. “I am in no doubt the ‘All Lane Running’ smart motorway has the lowest level of intrinsic safety of any form of motorway,” she writes in her report, sent to the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Highways England. She accuses the Government-owned company of having failed to fully use a process called “Safe Systems”, which attempts to reduce deaths and injuries by factoring in how “people are fallible with physical vulnerabilities, and that human error occurs” because motorists can make “unwise decisions”. The author says Highways England only adopted the “Safe Systems” approach in 2015, seven years after the transport select committee said it warranted “proper exploration for adoption”. She adds how new technology – such as CCTV cameras and gantries with speed limits – “can give people the impression that they are safe, even when they are not”. The report found that “the risk of being in a live lane breakdown increases 216 per cent” where the hard shoulder has been scrapped and emergency refuges are dotted along the roads. Simpson says that it appears Highways England adopted a “value engineering approach used to compromise safety in order to reduce cost savings” when developing smart motorways. Highways England has rejected repeated criticism of smart motorways by “mathematically offsetting risk” by pointing to other elements in their design that enhance safety, the report adds. Mrs Mercer, from Rotherham, South Yorkshire, said: “Smart motorways are death traps. This report vindicates what I and other campaigners have been saying for some time. The report author warned me that she would only write what she found to be true, so it is independent. “How many more people have to suffer the heartbreak of losing a loved one or suffer life-changing injuries before action is taken?” The report, called An Independent Review of All Lane Running Motorways in England, was commissioned by the law firm Irwin Mitchell which is representing Mrs Mercer, 44, whose husband Jason, 44, died in 2019. A total of four coroners investigating deaths on smart motorways – including Mr Mercer’s – have written reports warning how the removal of the hard shoulder poses a risk to life. Helen Smith, a lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, which is representing Mrs Mercer, said the report “lays bare more shocking details about how a cost-driven, value engineering approach is compromising the public’s safety”. She added: “It follows on from a number of concerns raised by key figures, including a police commissioner and coroners, about the safety of smart motorways. “All of this just adds to the growing groundswell of opinion that more needs to be done to improve safety on smart motorways, which operate on some of the country’s major routes. “We call on the Department for Transport, Grant Shapps, and Highways England to acknowledge that the development and roll out of ALRs was flawed. They must act in accordance with their legal duties and take action to improve safety, or face formal legal action. “Claire, and other families whose lives have been tragically impacted by crashes on smart motorways, are determined to bring about change for the better. “We’ll continue to support them in their campaign. If there are witnesses to similar accidents on smart motorways, we encourage them to get in touch with us to support the campaign.” A Highways England spokesperson said they will respond to the report. “Every road death is a tragic loss of life and we are determined to reduce the number of fatal incidents, and injuries, on our roads,” she added. “The Government’s evidence stocktake of the safety of smart motorways analysed a wealth of data and found that in most ways they are as safe as, or safer than, conventional motorways. We are committed to delivering the stocktake actions to further raise the bar on smart motorway safety.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury has addressed the claim that he presided over a “secret wedding” for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex before their official ceremony. Meghan, 39, claimed in their Oprah Winfrey interview that they had been married in their back garden three days before the wedding at Windsor Castle’s St George’s Chapel, on Saturday May 19 2018. “We called the Archbishop, and we just said, ‘Look, this thing, this spectacle is for the world, but we want our union between us’.” That raised questions about the legality of their actual wedding, prompting their spokesman to clarify that the “marriage” was merely a private exchange of vows. A published copy of their marriage certificate confirmed the legal ceremony took place on May 19. The Most Rev Justin Welby, who had thus far kept quiet, was asked by La Repubblica if he had married the couple in secret. “If you talk to a priest, you expect them to keep that talk confidential,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who I’m talking to. I had a number of private and pastoral meetings with the Duke and Duchess before the wedding. The legal wedding was on the Saturday.
Prince Andrew risked being dragged into the criminal case against Ghislaine Maxwell after a New York court charged her with two new sex trafficking charges. The new charges cover a period of time in the early 2000s when the Duke of York was spending time with Ms Maxwell and her then boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein, who was subsequently convicted of paedophile charges. Sources close to the prince pointed out the case had “nothing to do with the Duke”. But a source close to Ms Maxwell questioned why fresh charges were suddenly being brought against the British socialite, nine months after she was arrested and at least 18 months since the FBI opened a criminal investigation into her. The charges relate to a teenage girl who has accused Ms Maxwell, the daughter of the deceased media tycoon Robert Maxwell, of recruiting and grooming her for Epstein from the age of 14 and from 2001 until 2004. The timing is potentially significant for Prince Andrew because he first met Epstein in about 1999. Another of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, has claimed Prince Andrew had sex with her on three occasions in 2001 and 2002. Prince Andrew denies all wrongdoing and strongly refutes all of Ms Giuffre’s claims. Sources close to Ms Maxwell, 59, are unsure why the new charges have been brought now, just four months before a trial that is due to begin in July. A source said: “These charges could be to bring in Prince Andrew.” The source added: “It is awful. It is wrong.” Her brother Ian Maxwell said on twitter: “The government has admitted how weak its indictment is. So it has added another anonymous accuser from 20 yrs ago. That does not strengthen the government’s case.”
Original posted at uk.news.yahoo.com