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Somerset receives £ 3.8million in funding from the Government’s Household Support Fund


SOMERSET has received over £ 3million to help those struggling to pay their bills this winter.

Residents will be eligible for assistance with the cost of food, energy, water and other essentials.

The county has received £ 3.8million from the Government’s Household Support Fund.

The fund will be used to provide support to those in need by the end of March.

Proposals for how the money will be used in Somerset have been developed by the Community Resilience Partnership, a collaboration between Somerset County Council, Mendip District Council, Sedgemoor District Council, Council of Somerset West and Taunton District, South Somerset District Council and partner organizations in the voluntary sector.

The funding is distributed as follows:

  • About £ 1.1million – used to fund food stamps for children eligible for free school meals during the Christmas, February and Easter school holidays. This includes additional funding so that schools can allocate vouchers to families who need support but cannot qualify for free school meals.
  • £ 1.7million – This will be distributed through Somerset Citizen’s Advice to help households with food, utility bills and other essentials.
  • £ 400,000 – To support eligible individuals and families supported by Somerset County Council Children’s Services.
  • £ 100,000 – This amount will be donated to the Safe & Warm Somerset helpline to support fuel-poor households.
  • £ 80,000 – This will go to Somerset Community Foundation’s Surviving Winter program to help elderly and rural residents with heating.

Angela Kerr, CEO of Citizens Advice South Somerset, said: “At Citizens Advice, we understand only too well the impact of increasing financial pressures on individuals and families, and we are keen to ensure that the Household Support Fund reach as many people as possible.

“In addition to helping distribute this fund, we continue to offer holistic advisory services. Accurate and reliable advice is essential for anyone facing changing circumstances or complex issues that they don’t know how to handle.

“Our free helpline continues to provide holistic advice on social assistance and benefits, money and housing for debt, employment and more. ”

You can call the Citizens Advice Somerset Adviceline on 0808 2787 842 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

To apply for funding from Citizen’s Advice, visit Citizensadvicesomerset.org.uk to apply.

For more details on the Somerset Community Foundation’s Surviving Winter program, visit somersetcf.org.uk.

See cse.org.uk for more information on the Safe & Warm Somerset Hotline.

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UK government advisers advise against 4th dose of vaccine


UK government advisers have recommended not giving a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine to nursing home residents and people over 80 years of age because data shows a third injection provides lasting protection against the disease. admission to hospital.

For people over 65, protection against hospitalization remains at around 90% three months after the third dose, according to data compiled by the UK Health Security Agency.

As a result, the Joint Committee on Immunization and Immunization informed the government on Friday that there was no need to offer a fourth dose, or a second booster, to vulnerable people at this time. Instead, the government should focus on giving a third dose to as many people as possible to strengthen protection against the highly transmissible variant of omicron.

“Current data shows that the booster dose continues to provide high levels of protection against serious illness even for the most vulnerable age groups,” said Professor Wei Shen Lim, chairman of the committee. “For this reason, the committee concluded that there was no need to introduce a second booster dose immediately, although this will continue to be examined.”

The UK is rushing to offer booster shots to adults across the country after research showed two doses were not enough to protect people from omicron. The variant has fueled an increase in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations.

The number of people hospitalized in the UK with COVID-19 rose to 18,454 on Thursday, more than double the figure two weeks earlier.

The rise in staff absences from UK hospitals has already prompted the military to provide support to besieged doctors and nurses.

More than 39,000 hospital staff in England were on sick leave for COVID-19-related reasons on January 2, up 59% from the previous week, according to NHS England.

The respected trade publication, The Health Service Journal, said staff absences across the National Health Service, including mental health trusts and other areas, could reach 1,20,000.

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Real estate transactions published on January 8, 2022 | Business


The following real estate transactions are $ 10,000 or more:

Cambria County

Michael Constantino by Anthony N. Paone, owned by the Township of Upper Yoder, $ 100,000.

Jonathan D. Silwones of Ardeth H. Facciani Living Trust, by trustee, owned in Ferndale Borough, $ 97,900.

Jonathan R. Hart of Keystone Central Homes LLC, owned by the Township of Stonycreek, $ 80,000.

Edward Heinlein’s Levesque Properties LLC, property in the Borough of Lorain, $ 31,000.

Banks Investment Group LLC of Todd C. Litzinger, owned in Dale Borough, $ 28,000.

Irina Chloe Elli Eli Investments LLC of John Sutton, property in the 8th district of Johnstown, $ 17,000.

Manuel A. Amaya of Mathew Zook, property of the 21st arrondissement of Johnstown, $ 64,000.

Kristi Nicole Democko of Margaret L. Democko, Owned by the Township of Upper Yoder, $ 40,000.

Gary R. Martin of Lin Polgar, Owned by Upper Yoder Township, $ 201,000.

Michael Jeffrey Stiles of John W. Fallon, per solicitor, owned by the Township of Richland, $ 100,000.

Brent M. Couturiaux of Bonnie K. Kramer, property of the Township of Clearfield, $ 185,000.

Robert Griffiths of Irene Carol Audi, Owned by the Township of Upper Yoder, $ 124,900.

Charles Christina of Margaret Albertelli, owned by Adams Township, $ 70,000.

Leah M. Townsend of Stacie M. Hickman, property in Westmont Borough, $ 257,000.

High Country Property LLC of Kasu 2012 Nevada Trust, by trustee, property in the Township of Munster, $ 750,000.

Kirk D. Folckemer of Ronald D. Rhoades, owned by the Township of Cambria, $ 185,000.

DKTR Morgan LLC of Krens Surplus Inc., owned in Jackson Township, $ 428,750.

Frenergy LLC of Simmons Realty Co. Inc., owned in Cambria Township, $ 180,000.

Jane A. Swope of Karl Sherman, property in Patton Borough, $ 35,000.

Eugenio Fischer of John J. Sladki, property in Southmont Borough, $ 105,000.

Richard J. Koster Gaudet of Edward Michael Gawel, owned by the Township of Lower Yoder, $ 37,000.

CMC of Johnstown LLC of Berwind Corp., Richland Township property, $ 230,000.

Lin S. Yachtis of Michele M. Weakland, by solicitor, property in northern Cambria Borough, $ 90,000.

James Robert Winski Jr. of Gregor T. Young, owned by the Township of Richland, $ 494,000.

Joseph M. Gaston II by Rebecca G. Bloom, property in Ebensburg Borough, $ 139,000.

James F. Hite of Mary Hite, Allegheny Township property, $ 50,000.

Industrial Park Self Storage LLC of SKJ Land Holdings LLC, property in Cambria Township, $ 300,000.

Vanessa D. Matthias of Eunice K. Evans, property in Westmont Borough, $ 165,000.

Timothy A. Howard II of Sarah M. Link, owned in Portage Borough, $ 93,280.

Wise Property Group LLC of Barry Motchenbaugh, property in Summerhill Borough, $ 30,000.

Christopher R. Barbolini of Wayne & Mary Lou Pappert Trust, by trustee, owned in Westmont Borough, $ 209,000.

Angelique Stolar Hall of Brandon S. Day, owned by the Township of Stonycreek, $ 105,000.

Mark A. Strollo of Strollo Family Revocable Trust, by trustee, property in Barr Township, $ 125,000.

Mordechai Rothenberg of A&J Estates LLC, by trust, property in the 11th district of Johnstown, $ 27,187.22.

Frederick Sabo Jr. of William B. Hearn, by trust, property in the 17th district of Johnstown, $ 11,053.34.

USSCO Federal Credit Union of Wayne L. Adams, property in the 17th district of Johnstown, $ 22,500.

Michael J. Fournier of Jonas M. Mehall, property in Adams Township, $ 250,000.

Dylan M. Beaty of Jeremy D. Nixon, property in Northern Cambria Borough, $ 30,000.

Jonell Cotton’s Johnstown Redevelopment Authority, by trust, owned by 15th Johnstown Ward, $ 12,231.52.

Ashley Moran of Jessica L. Boes, Stonycreek Township Property, $ 125,000.

Nancy L. Kuharcik’s Zerfoss Property LLC, by trust, property in the 17th district of Johnstown, $ 17,560.48.

Bobbie Jean Clayton of Barry Sheets, by trust, owned by 19th Johnstown Ward, 13,816.72.

Leon A. Dotson’s Noble Colt LLC, by trust, property in northern Cambria Borough, $ 22,186.53.

Somerset County

Kenneth J. Thomas of Steven S. Christner, Somerset Township Property, $ 70,000.

John Henry Winkler Jr. of Beth Ann Marker, owned by Jenner Township, $ 10,000.

Charles Formica of Harvey Allen Suter Estate, Somerset Township property, $ 80,000.

Brian R. Criley of Jeffrey Kelley, owned by Shade Township, $ 60,000.

James J. Kleban of Mary L. Popelich, by POA, owned in Paint Borough, $ 30,000.

Anne L. Tilley of Joseph D. Gensante, owned by Jefferson Township, $ 150,100.

Brandon L. Blough II of Kelly L. Fritz, owned by Somerset Township, $ 90,000.

Daniel F. Novara by Jeremy Hauger, property in Boswell Borough, $ 110,000.

Benjamin S. Wentzel of William A. Snyder, property in Jefferson Township, $ 155,000.

Land & Sea Holdings of Gerald F. Parry, property in the district of Berlin, $ 130,000.

Gary S. Glessner of William Andrews Goldyn, owned by the Township of Lincoln, $ 36,050.

Dominic S. Poligardo III of Robert D. Ickes, by sheriff, property of the Township of Summit, $ 144,624.

Bennett A. Wood Jr. of KCL Trust, owned in Jefferson Township, $ 600,000.

Lukas L. Little by Vincent E. O’Rourke, property in the Township of Lower Turkeyfoot, $ 35,000.

Westley R. Berkebile by Robert A. Wiedenhoft, property in Boswell Borough, $ 10,000.

Cory J. Wyant of Edward Dean Wyant, owned by the Township of Brothersvalley, $ 180,000.

Alyssa Munoz of Carl M. Fisher, owned by Jenner Township, $ 165,000.

Moses E. Peachey of Dale Edward Hollada, Owned by Elk Lick Township, $ 40,000.

Gary Beeman of Ronald G. Schartiger, Owned by Elk Lick Township, $ 10,000.

Karen M. Haley’s ANM Ventures, Jefferson Township Property, $ 212,000.

Christel L. Kosis by Jonathan P. Weise, owned by the Township of Conemaugh, $ 127,000.

Benjamin Bittner of Maranatha Group, owned in Somerset Borough, $ 25,000.

Dinesh Sharma of Dennis W. Burkhart, property in Paint Township, $ 310,000.

Alissa Arlene Glotfelty Wright of Cory J. Wyant, owned by the Township of Brothersvalley, $ 115,000.

Edward Dean Wyant of Margaret P. Novak, property in the district of Berlin, $ 176,000.

Joyce Deaner’s S&W Rental Properties, Somerset Township property, $ 155,000.

Lucas H. Yoder of Lowell R. King, owned by Jenner Township, $ 135,425.

Christopher J. Azzara of Hugh P. Pollock, owned by the Township of Middlecreek, $ 320,000.

Jordan Beistel of Douglas E. Miller, owned by the Township of Somerset, $ 129,900.

Ronald E. Faidley of Brian Lizambri, property in Paint Township, $ 79,000.

Gerald E. Durishan of H&L Clark Family Trust, property in Jefferson Township, $ 299,000.

Cory A. Mitchell of Bonnie Gibson, owned by Jenner Township, $ 180,000.

Gary Crislip of Travis G. Bearden, property in Shade Township, $ 470,000.

Laurel Assets 1 LLC by C. Telford Coleman Test. Trust, property in Somerset Borough, $ 3,050,000.

Laurel Assets 1 LLC by C. Telford Coleman Test. Trust, property in Somerset Borough, $ 3,050,000.

Maxwell Samuel Rager of Edward C. Koltz, owned by the Township of Conemaugh, $ 116,000.

Kelly Fetter of Donald J. O’Connor, owned by the Township of Conemaugh, $ 170,000.

Stacey Griffith of Jeffrey Jurick, owned in Windber Borough, $ 124,500.

Brock W. Hemminger by William J. Hemminger, owned by Jenner Township, $ 305,000.

Seth A. Rubright of Tammy J. Frampton, owned by the Township of Lincoln, $ 78,000.

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Boris Johnson updates live on covid restrictions amid mounting pressure on the NHS


GWR cuts schedule amid omicron cases

Great Western Railway is introducing a temporary reduced schedule in response to higher than usual levels of staff being absent or self-isolating due to Covid.

The temporary reduction in schedules goes into effect on Saturday, January 8, ensuring that the rail company will be able to deliver the majority of its regular and scheduled trains. This will give customers confidence in the services so that they can plan ahead.

The reduced schedule will be updated on a weekly basis and should only be operational for a short time – until the impact of the Omicron variant has subsided.

GWR Managing Director Mark Hopwood said, “We are taking sensible action using the experience, knowledge and the right processes that we have developed over the past 20 months to give clients confidence in our schedule.

“Over the past few weeks, we have already taken steps to maintain service levels across the network, including canceling all non-safety critical staff training.

“Like many other businesses, we expect extended periods of staff absence due to Covid to continue in the coming weeks and the goal of this temporary schedule is to provide service you can depend on. , reducing the potential for one-off short-term cancellations. .

“This means reducing our schedule a bit to strengthen the large number of services that we continue to operate. We have prioritized schools, colleges and other known key services with high usage and very much hope that the changes will only be necessary for a short time.

“We will review the need for temporary changes weekly and update trip planners and our gwr.com website with details of the changes needed for the coming week.

As always, our advice for guests is to verify your trip before leaving home at Journeycheck.com/greatwesternrailway.

Services between London Paddington, Bristol Temple Meads and South Wales will operate hourly on weekends due to pre-planned engineering work. A slightly reduced service will operate Monday through Friday.

There are also discounts on long distance services on other routes in the network.

Other routes affected include some of the Devon and Cornwall branch lines. The St Ives branch will revert to hourly weekday services and some other services in the west will also be affected. Planned upgrade work between Newton Abbot and Paignton means no trains will run for the next two weekends – and a replacement bus service will be in operation.

The industry’s Book with Confidence program has been extended until the end of March so that passengers can change their travel plans up to the day before departure at no cost, or if they choose not to travel, they can receive a refund on their unused ticket.

Those taking the train are advised to check their trip before leaving their home at Journeycheck.com/greatwesternrailway. If a train is canceled, customers will be able to travel on a service immediately before or after the booked train.

In accordance with the latest government advice, GWR encourages its customers to travel safely.

People are reminded:

  • Wash your hands more regularly
  • Buy tickets online, on a smart card or using the GWR app

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Michail Antonio signs new contract with West Ham until 2024


West Ham forward Michail Antonio has signed a new contract.

The 31-year-old, whose previous contract was due to expire next summer, has committed to the Hammers until 2024 with the possibility of an additional year.

Antonio has scored 55 goals for the club since arriving from Nottingham Forest in 2015, and has been a key player in West Ham’s rise to the Premier League for the past two seasons under David Moyes.

Moyes said, “We extended a couple of contracts behind the scenes.

“We signed Michail’s contract about two months ago, but we also signed a few other players. We went about our business quietly, trying to do things behind the scenes and trying to do things right.

Antonio, who has scored eight Premier League goals this season, recently returned from a period of self-isolation after testing positive for coronavirus.

Moyes revealed there were other cases in the Hammers camp ahead of Leeds’ FA Cup third round visit on Sunday.

“Like everyone, we have a few,” he added. “We’re doing very well at the moment, but I’m sure like everyone else there is a couple of.

David Moyes’ side face Leeds on Sunday (Nigel French / PA)

“Other than that, we are looking forward to the game and trying to prepare the players and everyone. “

The Hammers have a revamped Premier League game against Norwich on Wednesday night, which Moyes believes could force him to pick fringe players against Leeds.

“I could do it,” he said. “I don’t know exactly in which direction we want to go yet.

“I think because the Premier League put the game on Wednesday night it changed the whole dynamic of this FA Cup game.

“We had a tough draw in the third round, but we also had a very tough game in the Carabao Cup. We have played well in these games and we hope we can do well against Leeds United. “

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UK faces lawsuit for endorsing company accused of using forced labor as supplier of PPE | Malaysia


The UK government faces legal action over its decision to continue using a Malaysian company accused of using forced labor as a supplier of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the NHS.

Lawyers for London law firm Wilson Solicitors have filed for judicial review of the government’s decision to name the UK branch of Malaysian firm Supermax as one of the approved suppliers in a new £ 6 billion contract for disposable gloves for NHS workers.

Supermax has faced persistent allegations of the use of forced labor involving its migrant workforce at factories in Malaysia since 2019. In October 2021, the United States banned imports from Supermax after an investigation found “ample evidence” of forced labor. Canada halted federal imports in November 2021, also amid concerns over labor abuse.

In 2019, Supermax workers claimed they had to work 30 days in a row without a day off and paid high fees in their home country to get the jobs. The company has denied the allegations.

After the US ban, the UK government launched its own investigation into the modern slavery and forced labor allegations involving Supermax. But in December 2021, Supermax was named as one of the approved suppliers able to offer contracts under the NHS ‘new’ framework agreement ‘for the purchase of surgical gloves.

Wilson Solicitors, who acts for a group of Supermax workers, said he had asked the NHS to reconsider its decision to continue awarding contracts to the company, arguing that UK procurement law allows authorities to terminate relations with suppliers on the basis of evidence of abuse of work. He said he found the government’s response “inadequate” and was therefore proceeding with the judicial review.

“The legal requirements make it clear that there should be a real supplier verification before the award phase, but it is not certain that these requirements have been met,” said Nusrat Uddin, attorney at Wilson.

“It is inadequate for the government to exercise due diligence after the award stage, their approach undermines the UK’s claims that it is the world leader in the fight against modern slavery and highlights the weakness of its own legislation, policies and practices, ”she said. noted.

The case is to be heard Friday before the high court. Wilson said it was the first time the UK government had faced legal action under government procurement law.

Supermax has supplied hundreds of millions of gloves via the NHS to doctors and nurses in hospitals. In 2020, he was awarded a Covid-19 contract worth £ 316million. The last order from Supermax was in July 2021 for 135million gloves at a cost of £ 7.9million, according to the Department of Health and Social Affairs.

A government spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Affairs, which oversees the NHS, said: “We have made firm commitments to eradicate modern slavery from all contracts in the government supply chain.

“We take any allegation of this nature very seriously and do not hesitate to investigate complaints made against manufacturers. An appropriate due diligence process is carried out for all contracts and our suppliers are held to the highest legal and ethical standards. We cannot comment further at this point.

Malaysia produces almost two-thirds of the world’s disposable gloves. During the pandemic, the NHS also supplied UK hospitals with millions of Brightway and Top Glove gloves, which have been accused of work abuse by some of their employees.

Supermax did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment, but said in a statement it implemented a new foreign worker policy in November 2021 that would “speed up the process” of meeting labor standards. of the International Labor Organization.

He also said he had raised his minimum wage, reimbursed recruiting fees to some former workers and worked on an equal pay structure to eliminate discriminatory practices.

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Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Strange Notions of Freedom | Columns


U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, has lost her perch on Twitter.

When she wasn’t using it to chirp madness, she devoted herself to howling madness. She is, after all, the woman who once posted that some wildfires in the West were caused by “Jewish space lasers” built and funded by the Rothschilds. She also argued that the Zionists were pushing Muslim immigration to Europe as part of a giant plot to uplift whites.

(Yes, aside from acting like a Mad Hatter, Representative Greene also appears to be an absolute fanatic. She rarely has a decent word to say about anyone with a pigmentation, faith, or ethnic orientation different from her own.)

It was not these poisonous follies that prompted Twitter to suspend his personal account. No, it was the deadly nonsense she churned out about COVID-19 that prompted the social media giant to act.

What did Greene tweet about COVID?

Well, among other things, she said the coronavirus was not dangerous. (Over 800,000 Americans – or, rather, friends and family mourning their deaths – disagree. As do the facts themselves.)

She also said the vaccines were failing. (They are not. This is why over 90% of people hospitalized or dying from COVID are not vaccinated.)

Her latest strike, according to Twitter representatives, was a Tweet in which she accused there were “extremely high amounts of deaths from the Covid vaccine.” (In fact, the numbers are lower than those for almost any other vaccine. What is known is that the vaccine has saved more than a million American lives and prevented 10 million hospitalizations, according to reports. thoroughly checked and studied medical analyzes.)

Greene, predictably, reacted to his ban on Twitter with fury and conspiracy theories. She argued that the Communist Democrats were behind this.

It’s a standard tactic for her. In her world, she modifies the great replica of the Janis Joplin / Kris Kristofferson classic “Me and Bobby McGee”.

Instead of “Freedom is just another word to say there is nothing more to lose,” Taylor chides, “Freedom is just another word for finding someone other to blame. “

She also maintains that its ban is an attack on freedom of expression.

This is also not a shock. Greene’s understanding of the First Amendment is clearly as shallow as a puddle during the height of a summer drought.

No media entity is obligated to give a platform to anyone who wants it. While I may wish it were otherwise, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and The New Yorker are under no obligation to publish or broadcast anything I say.

It’s their platform – their newspaper, their news, their magazine – and they can choose who and what to present on it.

They don’t even have to give a reason for not posting or streaming someone, because, again, it’s up to them.

That alone gives Twitter the legal right to do what it has done.

But there is another reason why Twitter may have acted the way it did.

What Greene said about COVID was not true. The people who listened to her – who made the mistake of taking her seriously – were and are much more likely to get sick and possibly die. Maybe some have already.

Twitter and its lawyers may have thought about this. They might have wondered: What if a grieving spouse, child, or sibling of someone who let Greene guide him decides to take legal action?

Twitter is worth billions – a big target.

Perhaps executives decided that giving a platform to statements they know to be false wasn’t a smart business move.

Because lying is not constitutionally protected. If that were the case, we would not have laws against defamation, defamation and misrepresentation.

Without a doubt, Marjorie Taylor Greene cannot and will not see it that way. With her acute need to see herself as a persecuted rather than a persecutor, she wants to portray herself as a First Amendment warrior.

She is not, of course.

Freedom of expression is not under attack here.

The lie is.

As it should be.

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Johnson maintains Plan B measures despite increase in cases, hospitalizations


Boris Johnson insisted he was right to stick to England’s Plan B coronavirus measures despite rapidly increasing hospital admissions, skyrocketing case rates and shortages of staff that hit the NHS.

The prime minister told MPs the Cabinet agreed to maintain existing national restrictions, but relaxed travel test rules.

He also confirmed plans being implemented across the UK to end the requirement for confirmatory PCR testing for asymptomatic people who test positive using a lateral flow device (LFD). .

An estimated 3.7 million people in the UK had Covid-19 in the week ending December 31, up from 2.3 million in the week to December 23 and the highest number since comparable figures began in fall 2020, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. .

In England, around one in 15 people in private households had Covid-19, according to ONS estimates – a level reaching one in 10 in London.

As of 9:00 a.m. as of Wednesday, another 194,747 laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 cases were recorded in the UK, while 334 more deaths were recorded – although that figure includes a backlog of hospital data from England since the 1st. January.

Government figures also showed a total of 17,276 people were hospitalized in the UK with Covid-19 as of January 4, up 58% week-over-week – although well below peak nearly 40,000 in January 2021.

In the Commons, Mr Johnson said hospital admissions “are doubling about every nine days” and “we are experiencing the fastest growing Covid cases we have ever seen”.

Cases were doubling every week among those over 60, he added.

But he said Plan B measures – including wider use of face masks and advice for working from home – “were helping to get the upper hand on the Omicron wave”, slowing the spread, easing pressure on the NHS and saving time for the recall campaign to take effect.

He said Plan B and the test changes were “a balanced and proportionate means of ensuring that we can live with Covid without letting our guard down.”

(PA Graphics)

The restrictions will be reviewed before their scheduled expiry on January 26 and would require a vote in the House of Commons to be extended beyond that date – which could see the prime minister again facing a major revolt from the Tories.

The changes in testing procedures are aimed at freeing up lab capacity for PCR testing, with the requirement for confirmatory testing suspended in asymptomatic people until current high levels of infections subside.

The change was introduced in Northern Ireland on Wednesday, Scotland and Wales on Thursday and England from January 11.

The UK Health Safety Agency (UKHSA) has said that although Covid-19 levels are high, the “vast majority” of people with positive LFD results can be convinced they have the virus.

People who show symptoms of Covid-19 should always have a PCR test, the UKHSA said.

UKHSA Chief Executive Officer Dame Jenny Harries said: “As Covid cases continue to rise, this proven approach means LFDs can be confidently used to indicate Covid-19 infection without having need confirmation by PCR. “

Cumulative vaccinations in the UK against Covid-19
(PA Graphics)

She said it remained important for people with symptoms to self-isolate immediately and order a PCR test.

Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Sage Government’s Science Advisory Group, supported the move, saying that a confirmatory PCR “not only wastes time, but costs a lot of money and uses laboratory resources that could be better. used elsewhere “.

But he said there were downsides as it would give researchers “a little less information” about the different variants in circulation, as PCR swabs can undergo sequencing to determine which strain of coronavirus is present.

Exemptions to the new rules include people eligible for payment of £ 500 for testing and traceability, who will still need a confirming PCR to access help.

PCRs will also be required for those participating in research and surveillance programs and those at risk of becoming seriously ill and who have been identified as potentially eligible for new treatments.

Ministers also approved changes to the travel regime for England, with the requirement for pre-departure testing being removed from 4 a.m. on Friday.

Prime Minister's Questions
Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the Commons (House of Commons / PA)

Mr Johnson also said the requirement to self-isolate on arrival until receiving a negative PCR test on arrival was removed, instead reverting to the system in place in October of the year last, where travelers must take a lateral flow test no later than the end of the second day after arriving in England, with a PCR if they are positive.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) welcomed confirmation that new restrictions would not be introduced in England, but suggested companies may still need additional support.

Matthew Fell, chief policy officer at the CBI, said the Plan B measures had “affected consumer confidence and shaken demand” and that “the level of disease and self-isolation is biting hard in the economy. economy ”.

The surge in coronavirus cases caused by Omicron and the ripple effect of staff absences are also causing major problems in public services.

The Firefighters Union said nearly a third of London’s fire engines had been out of service in the past week, while nearly 10% of operational firefighters in the capital had tested positive or s ‘were self-isolated.

Downing Street said more than 20 NHS trusts had declared a ‘critical incident’, although the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said they were not a ‘good indicator’ of health services performance .

The North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) continues to ask patients with suspected strokes or heart attacks to ask relatives to take them to hospital following pressure on staff due to the coronavirus and New Year’s demand.

People testing positive for Covid-19 in private households in the UK
(PA Graphics)

NEAS Medical Director Dr Matthew Beattie said: “Where safe, we will continue to ask patients to come to the hospital on their own, but we will never ask anyone to behave themselves. hospital with life-threatening illness. “

In Scotland, Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon reduced the period of self-isolation to seven days, as long as people have two negative lateral flow tests, broadly in line with measures in place in England.

But restrictions on large gatherings and hospitality and leisure businesses will remain until at least January 17 in Scotland, she added.

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NHS data puts Somerset below national average for smoking


There are fewer smokers in Somerset than the national average, data from Public Health England has shown as people start making New Year’s resolutions.

Figures show that around one in nine people in the county (10.8%) smoked in 2020, putting it below the UK average of 12.1%.

Smokers include 11.9% of males in the county and 9.8% of females.

The Somerset County Council Health and Welfare Officer said it was “encouraging” to see Somerset below the national average for smoking and described the support available for people who have resolved to quit smoking for the new year.

Councilor Clare Paul, Somerset County Council Health and Welfare Cabinet Member, said: ‘With many of us experiencing increased stress levels, especially with the challenges of the ongoing pandemic It is not surprising that some people have seen an increase in their smoking and drinking patterns.

“It is therefore encouraging to see that the number of people who smoke in Somerset is below the national average. Anyone who is committed to quitting this New Year, there is plenty of help available.

The council offers a free program to quit smoking, Somerset Smoke Free Life, to help county residents quit smoking.

“The basic service provides specialized support to the public wishing to quit smoking, and the Mums2Be smoke-free service is a specialized service for preconception or pregnant women and their partners,” said Clare.

“They have trained quit smoking practitioners who offer behavioral support and complement that with the provision of free quit smoking medications where appropriate.”

SUPPORT: A council spokesperson said it was ‘encouraging’ to see Somerset falling below the national average for smoking and urged people to quit (Image: Gareth Fuller, PA Wire)

About 33.6% of people living in Somerset are self-identified as former smokers, while 55.6% of the county’s population has never smoked.

More men than women reported having quit the habit successfully in Somerset: 39.1% of male smokers versus 28.7% of smokers.

The data was revealed shortly after the government launched its campaign for better smoke-free health, which highlighted the impact smoking can have on families and children to give parents extra motivation to stop smoking.

Another popular New Years resolution is dry january, the UK alcohol-free month-long challenge.

The council has put in place support for locals who are willing to go 31 days without drinking – even if they haven’t started on New Years Day.

Cllr Paul added, “The board also supports Dry January, an opportunity to reset our relationship with alcohol.

“Giving up alcohol, even for a month, has many benefits like better sleep and more energy, improved mental health and focus, looking fabulous and brighter skin, better bank balance and an incredible feeling.” of accomplishment.

“Well done to anyone making New Year’s resolutions to quit or cut back.

“It’s not too late to get involved – pick a day and give up alcohol for thirty-one days.

“There is a lot of support available like the Try the dry application to help you along the way.

“Assistance is also available from the Somerset Drugs and Alcohol Service for anyone who thinks they have a problem with alcohol. ”

Turning Point charity delivers Somerset Drug and Alcohol Service (SDAS), which offers free and confidential support to people who want to change their relationship with alcohol.

For help, talk to your GP, call SDAS (0300 303 8788) or visit www.turning-point.co.uk/services/sdas.

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U.S. government bonds and stocks of pandemic winners fall


Traders sold US Treasuries and stocks in pandemic beneficiaries as market nervousness over the Omicron coronavirus variant subsided and investors expected central banks to increase prices. interest rate.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year US Treasury bond, which moves inversely to the price of government debt, rose 0.06 percentage point to 1.684% after rising sharply on Monday.

The comparable yield on UK gilts rose 0.11 percentage point to 1.09%, as traders also bought stocks in UK and European companies whose fortunes are tied to economic growth and economic growth. loosening of restrictions on coronaviruses.

In U.S. stock markets, the tech-focused Nasdaq Composite fell 1.5% as shares of companies generally seen as beneficiaries of Covid-related restrictions declined. Chinese e-commerce group Pinduoduo fell by a tenth, while JD.com and Peloton both fell more than 6%. Zoom Video Communications and Okta fell almost 6%.

The Nasdaq had climbed 1.2% on Monday, with Apple becoming the first company to reach a market cap of $ 3 billion. However, analysts are increasingly concerned that the US stock markets are becoming too dependent on the performance of a group of large technology companies.

“The US economy appears to be deeply embedded in its economic cycle, which typically sees market leadership shrink to mega-cap stocks,” said Tan Kai Xian, analyst at Gavekal, arguing that rising US wages would exacerbate this. tendency.

“In times like this, companies operating with low margins are the most affected and can become loss-making. In contrast, companies with larger margins can continue to grow, ”he said.

“If Big Tech’s crutch has been driven out, then be careful,” said Patrick Spencer, vice president of equities at RW Baird. “The worry is that one of these really big tech stocks is going down and that will trigger a cascade of sales.”

The larger gauge of the S&P 500 fell 0.1% in trading in New York.

London’s blue-chip FTSE 100 stock index rose 1.6% as its multinational commodities and banking stocks outperformed. The UK’s more domestically focused FTSE 250 grew 1.8 percent, led by travel share.

European regional equity gauge Stoxx 600 added an additional 0.8% on Tuesday, building on a record set in the previous trading session.

“The global theme in the markets is that we have reached the peak of Covid,” said Roger Lee, UK equity strategy manager at Investec, after traders seized the first data suggesting that the highly transmissible variant Omicron could cause less severe disease than previous strains of the virus.

As investors have become more optimistic about the coronavirus, they have also raised their expectations of the increase in interest rates from the US Federal Reserve and other central banks, Lee added, making fixed income securities, such as bonds, are less attractive.

“If this is the last step for Covid, rates must rise because inflation must be contained,” he said. The rise in consumer prices in the United States is at its fastest annual rate since 1982.

In Asian stock markets, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 closed up 1.8%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was flat.

Brent crude, the benchmark for oil, rose 0.9% to $ 79.68 a barrel after producer group Opec + agreed to increase production.

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