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Source: The Guardian



UK reports 4,618 new cases, 52 deaths



Authorities on the Isle of Man have run strict regime to keep the island as free from Covid-19 as possible but an exemption for ferry workers has caused discontent.

It was only at the start of February that the Isle of Man came out of lockdown. Pubs, shops and restaurants reopened, social distancing measures were lifted and face coverings were no longer mandatory.

Back then, the chief minister of the self-governing British Crown dependency declared that the reopening of society was possible because: “There’s a collective determination, a sense of duty and community spirit. The public have followed all the rules.”

Just over a month later, on 3 March, the island went into a 21-day “circuit-breaker” lockdown to limit the spread of the virus after a spike in cases, with the government believing the “index case” (patient zero in the current wave) was most probably a ferry worker.

As of Friday afternoon, there were 704 active Covid cases on the Isle of Man, with 12 people in hospital, one of whom was in intensive care.

The admission that the island’s ferry service had probably brought back Covid has caused anger on the Isle of Man, with some asking why ferry workers were exempt from the strict 21-day quarantine enforced on all other arrivals.

The Isle of Man government decided ferry workers based on the island did not have to go into self-isolation when returning home from a shift. Photograph: Paul White - Transport Infrastructures/Alamy



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More than 17,500 chain stores disappeared from high streets, shopping centres and retail parks across Great Britain last year as the Covid-19 pandemic spurred the worst decline on record.

An average of 48 shops, restaurants and other leisure and hospitality venues permanently closed every day across England, Wales and Scotland, and only 21 opened, according to the figures compiled by the Local Data Company, a research provider, for the accountancy firm PwC.

With non-essential shops forced to close during lockdown and a boom in online shopping, as many as 17,532 outlets closed their doors for the last time in 2020. Only 7,655 chain stores were opened. The resulting net closure of 9,877 stores was almost a third higher than in 2019, according to research from almost 3,500 locations, which excludes independent retail outlets and other venues.

The stark figures comes before the true impact of the pandemic on Great Britain’s high streets becomes apparent. Many outlets included in the research were temporarily closed during lockdowns and were not counted as shut but may never reopen after restrictions are relaxed this spring.

You can read the full story here.




Stark variations in Covid vaccine uptake between richer and poorer areas of England, together with “stubbornly high” coronavirus rates in some deprived communities, are posing serious questions about the measures needed for restrictions to be safely eased.

Experts fear Covid could become a disease of the poor, with wealthy communities protected through vaccination and having lower exposure to the virus, while more deprived communities are left at greater risk as a result of lower jab uptake, greater prevalence of underlying health conditions and greater exposure to the virus through factors such overcrowded housing and public-facing jobs.

“It is likely that as the country opens up, there will be pockets of the virus that get less attention and publicity, and the government will basically allow this to happen,” said Prof John Drury of the University of Sussex, a member of both the SPI-B advisory sub-group of Sage and the Independent Sage group of experts.

People queue up for vaccinations outside Westminster Abbey in central London last week. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA





Irish regulator hopes to lift vaccine pause in a week

The chair of Ireland’s National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC), Professor Karina Butler has been speaking about the temporary suspension of the Astrazeneca vaccine in Ireland, which she said was “necessary.” She hoped to be able to say in a week that the regulator had “acted out of an abundance of caution.”

She said that there had been an alert from Norway to Ireland’s Health Products Regulatory Authority about what seemed like a cluster of four “very serious clotting events.” Three were in the brain and one was fatal.

Then the question was, was there the possibility of a relationship with the vaccine. Something that was rare but very serious could very serious outcomes,” she told Irish media outlet Virgin Media News.

“So with that the question was, where does the balance lie? But this is a safety signal. We don’t have the details yet, whether these events occurred in people who had other reasons having them happen. We don’t fully have the information yet are very complicated events are happening at a frequency that is greater than you would expect in a non vaccinated population.”

“But they do seem to have clustered together at a level and in younger people - when I say young I mean less than 65 - where we wouldn’t necessarily have expected them to.”

Above all, she said that the regulator wants confidence to remain high and for people to be assured. She said she hoped the regulator would be able to say in a week that it had acted out of “an abundance of caution.”

Here’s Butler speaking to Gavan Reilly on Virgin Media News:





A British broadcaster has said she does not know whether her husband will ever have any kind of life again in an interview describing the “horror story” of his year with coronavirus.

Kate Garraway, a presenter on Good Morning Britain, recounted the months since Derek Draper, a 53-year-old former political adviser and lobbyist, was first hospitalised last March.

A year on, he remains in intensive care, experiencing only “fleeting glimmers of consciousness”, Garraway told the Sunday Times magazine.

Although the virus not been present in Draper’s body since the late summer, it has led to kidney failure, damage to his liver and pancreas and heart failure.

He has holes in his lungs following bacterial pneumonia and several infections. Doctors do not know why the virus has had such a destructive effect on Draper’s health and have said it is unlikely he will make a full recovery, Garraway said.

Kate Garraway pictured with her husband Derek Draper in 2008. Photograph: Tim Ireland/PA