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Teenager arrested after ‘assault on officer’ in Birmingham as police stop illegal gatherings | UK News

A teenager has been arrested in Birmingham, accused of assaulting a police officer at an illegal party.

West Midlands Police said they were called to a house party in Oscott, which had between 20 and 30 people there, but gave no further details about the alleged assault.

It was one of 18 calls the force received regarding breaches of coronavirus pandemic laws – mainly house parties – between 10pm and midnight on Saturday.

Among them was a pub in Birmingham hosting a wedding party with a DJ and 60 guests.

Officers said drinks were still being served at midnight, two hours after the curfew. Guests left without a problem and licensing officers “will decide on next steps”, police tweeted.

At 2am, the force said it had directed around 550 people to leave premises at more than 20 locations, due to coronavirus regulations being breached.

“Eight premises will receive a visit from licensing officials for a licence review,” they tweeted. “No fines have been issued but we will if we have to.”

On Friday evening, police said they moved on about 450 people who were part of big gatherings, while another 250 were forced to leave an event at a hotel in the city.

On Saturday afternoon, official figures showed another 6,042 lab-confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the UK during the previous 24-hour period.

On Friday, 6,874 cases were reported, which was the highest single-day figure so far in the pandemic.

Up until Saturday, cases had risen for five successive days – but the weekend sometimes comes with a lag in the number of new infections and deaths being recorded.


Labour: Government ‘must promise’ students can go home for Christmas | UK News

The government must promise university students they will be able to return to their families for Christmas, Labour’s shadow education secretary says.

Kate Green has written to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson calling for “urgent clarity and reassurance” on the matter.

It comes after 1,700 students at Manchester Metropolitan University were told to stay in their rooms for two weeks after 127 tested positive for the coronavirus.

Three students recorded video diaries about their first impressions of university

Across the UK, at least 32 universities have confirmed cases and more than 510 cases have been identified among students and staff since universities reopened, according to data collected by Sky News up to 25 September.

Government scientific adviser Sir Mark Walport had said that students may have to stay in halls when term ends to prevent them spreading the infection to older relatives.

But Ms Green said: “Leaving home to go to university should be a momentous and exciting step for young people and their families.

“Universities have done all they can to prepare for students’ safe return, but the government has again let young people down.

“It is unthinkable that students will be locked in their rooms and unable to return home to spend Christmas with their families. The government must promise that this will not happen, and work with universities to enable every student to access tests so that they can travel home safely.

“The government should also consider a delay to the start of term or a pause in migration for universities where term has not yet begun to allow improvements in testing capacity and remote learning provision.

“Gavin Williamson must urgently come to parliament and set out how he will resolve the critical situation in our universities that is causing such anxiety for families across the country.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “The government is working closely with universities to ensure they are well prepared for the return of students, and we have published guidance to help them keep students and staff as safe as possible.

“Students should follow the latest health advice, just like the wider public, which means they should stay at university in the event that they have symptoms, have to isolate, there are additional restrictions imposed locally, or there is an outbreak on campus or in their accommodation.

“We will continue monitoring the situation very closely and follow Public Health England advice, adapting policies to best support students and providers.”

Meanwhile, Glasgow University has agreed to refund students one month’s rent as well as a £50 payment for food.

It follows 124 cases of the virus reported at the university on Thursday.

The number of food parcels to those in isolation will be increased, along with the provision of cleaning materials, bedding and towels.

University principal Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli said: “We are offering everyone in our residences, regardless of whether they are isolating or not, a one-month rent refund to compensate for the disruption they are facing, and any financial hardship they may have encountered.

“This isn’t the start of academic life we would wish for anyone,” he said, adding thanks to those who were isolating for “playing their part”.


Why are weddings being restricted when any number of people can go to the pub? | UK News

Gemma Bowditch, from Somerset, was due to get married this winter but changing government rules have left her frustrated and upset.

We got engaged on one very wet Thursday in August, while walking our dog in the rain, Pete got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. We decided on a date and fell in love with a venue near Frome, Somerset. Once the deposit was paid, we were able to start planning our perfect wedding day.

We have spent hundreds of hours making floral wreaths for the church, table decorations, garlands for all the fireplaces in the house, and I asked friends and family to save all their flower petals so I could make our confetti.

Every supplier was booked, deposits all paid, but then came the announcement in March: No weddings. Then that became weddings of five, weddings of 30, and now weddings of 15.

Four of our closest friends have postponed weddings this year but Pete and I have remained positive, hoping that by November the number of guests permitted would increase. We had discussions (and tears) over how we could narrow our guest list from 100 to 50 if we needed to.

But we finally accepted that we needed to reduce our numbers to 30 if we were to go ahead. We decided to get married with 30 people this year and to celebrate our first anniversary next year with a party for those who could not attend the wedding.

We ordered 30 handmade face masks, individual hand sanitisers, instructions – all in individual bags for guests to collect upon entry into the venue. This took substantial time and extra money, but we wanted to keep our guests as safe as we could.

Our venue is a private, exclusive hire only so no ‘members of the public’ would be able to walk in (as they would at a pub). We had confirmed that there were no weddings the week of our wedding or the day after. But then we found out we couldn’t have music or dancing (another blow and a few tears). We looked at alternatives and found we could have some evening entertainment – an extra cost but worth it so our guests could still enjoy the evening.

By September we had accepted the 30 person wedding but on Tuesday 22 September, I turned on the TV. I called up to Pete and in the time it took him to run down the stairs I was in floods of tears. We had everything in place and just eight weeks to go… what on earth were we going to do now?

We still do not fully understand the reasoning behind it. In March it seemed fair as all venues, such as pubs and restaurants, were shut. Now they can have well over 30 people (from different families and locations) until 10pm. Schools, universities and workplaces stay open. Funerals and wakes can take place with 30 people.

But 30 family members, in a private home with no members of the public, cannot gather for a socially-distanced dinner and celebration. Where is the scientific evidence to say that weddings spread COVID more than these other events?

Pete and Gemma want the government to reconsider restrictions placed on weddings

Some might say “it’s just a wedding”, “at least you’ve found a date for next year”, “it gives you more time to save”. But it’s not just a wedding – to us it’s a marriage, everything it symbolises, and I’ve already waited two years to marry the person I want to spend the rest of my life with, I don’t want to want to wait any longer.

We know the government is trying to control the virus but we are painfully aware that they are ruining the dreams of hundreds of couples and probably closing the businesses of hundreds of self-employed people who rely on the wedding industry.

We have watched and listened to so many news articles and it is devastating to see how little weddings are mentioned. All seem to focus on pubs having to shut at 10pm. At least they can be open!

Weddings take months or years to plan so giving seven days’ notice of such major changes is completely unacceptable. You can’t just postpone a wedding in seven days, or cancel without losing thousands of pounds.

I tried to remain positive and supportive of the rules and regulations. But my mental health has worsened, my stress and anxiety levels are through the roof and any time someone mentions the ‘W’ word I don’t know whether to laugh, cry or both. I want to get married without having to decide whether my grandparents are more important than Pete’s.

We want the government to reconsider the 30-guest rule for weddings. It could save hundreds of couples and small business owners the worry, money, stress and tears that we are experiencing.


Big Ben roof scaffolding will begin to be removed this week in ‘memorable moment’ | UK News

One of London’s most famous landmarks will begin to be revealed this week after three years of extensive renovation.

Scaffolding hiding the roof of the Elizabeth Tower, which houses Big Ben, will begin to be removed over the coming days.

The top of the tower will be visible again but work will continue on the rest of the famous structure.

Removing the scaffolding will take six weeks

Taking down the scaffolding will take six weeks and will reveal 3,433 cast iron roof tiles which were removed and repaired in a specialist workshop.

Crumbling stone work and leaks were also fixed as part of the conservation work.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: “Like everyone else, I have been looking forward to seeing the scaffolding come down on Elizabeth Tower – so the unveiling of the roof will be a memorable moment.

“We could all do with some good news in this COVID world, so it is very exciting to actually see some more of this great icon.

“I am hoping the conservation work that has taken place on the tower – an important symbol of our democracy – will assure its place in London’s skyline for generations to come.”

LONDON, NOVEMBER 11: A general view of Big Ben during renovations and covered with scaffolding early morning at sunrise on November 11, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)
The renovation began in 2017 and is expected to be complete next year

The four-year restoration scheme of the Elizabeth Tower began in 2017 but it has not always been a smooth process.

In February this year it was revealed that the cost of the renovation had risen by almost a third to £79.7m.

The increase has been blamed on the discovery of asbestos, pollution and extensive Second World War bomb damage in the Elizabeth Tower, which houses the famous bell.

Big Ben clock face shows 11:00pm twenty-four hours until the UK will no longer be a member of the European Union on January 30, 2020 in London, United Kingdom
The cost of the renovation has grown since it began three years ago

At the time, Ian Ailles, director general of the House of Commons, said the works are proving “more complex than we could have anticipated”.

The full scale of the work needed to complete the refurbishment by the deadline late in 2021 only became clear after the first “intrusive surveys” on the 177-year-old structure, officials said.

Asbestos was found in the belfry, broken glass in the clock dials and extensive use of toxic lead paint and defects in previous work.


Labour take poll lead over Tories for first time since Boris Johnson became PM | Politics News

Labour have moved ahead of the Conservative Party for the first time since Boris Johnson became prime minister, an opinion poll has indicated.

The survey by Opinium for The Observer newspaper gave Labour a three-point-lead over the Tories, with 42%, compared to 39%.

It suggested Labour was ahead for the first time since July 2019 – when Theresa May’s time in office was nearing an end – and that there is more support for Opposition Leader Sir Keir Starmer than Mr Johnson.

Sir Keir Starmer has been climbing in the polls

The poll also found 55% of voters think Sir Keir is ready to lead the country and 40% believe Labour is equipped to form the next government.

It is the latest poll to suggest waning public confidence at Mr Johnson’s – and the wider government’s – handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier in the year, 65% of voters surveyed backed the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, but in June, a YouGov poll for Sky News found the majority of Britons (51%) believed the government was handling it poorly.

And the latest poll showed that approval for the Johnson administration’s management of the pandemic had dropped to 30%.

Sir Keir’s poll ratings rose significantly in the first 100 days since becoming Labour leader.

A YouGov survey in June found he was most likely to be compared to Tony Blair by voters and is already seen as a clean break from Jeremy Corbyn, who led Labour to its worst election defeat in decades in December.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn led Labour to its heaviest defeat in decades

Sir Keir’s time at the helm has been dominated by COVID-19, over which he has pinned Mr Johnson down on detail at Prime Minister’s Questions and argued the UK government was “slow into lockdown, slow on testing, slow on tracing”.

He has also implemented swift and decisive reforms to his party’s image – replacing the powerful general secretary with a more centrist figure, cracking down on antisemitism and firing Corbyn loyalist Rebecca Long-Bailey from the shadow cabinet.

When he took over his party’s leadership from Corbyn in April, Sir Keir told Sky News he would be different by “demonstrating what an effective opposition looks like”.

He vowed to work with Mr Johnson to “do whatever we can to defeat the coronavirus crisis” by “pulling together” and “being constructive”.

In full: Beth Rigby quizzes Sir Keir Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer is questioned on the government’s performance

The promise not to attempt to score political points over the pandemic was popular among voters, polls suggested.

But he has recently become increasingly critical of the government’s decision-making.

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“I’m quite prepared to accept that a government will make mistakes in a pandemic like this and one or two U-turns are probably a sign of a government listening and then changing,” Sir Keir recently told Sky News presenter Kay Burley.

“But when you’ve got 12 in a row, the only conclusion is serial incompetence… Our country is better than that, we deserve better than that.”


Prince George thrilled with dinosaur-era gift from Sir David Attenborough | UK News

The Duchess of Cambridge has talked about Prince George’s obsession with dinosaurs in the past – now her eldest son is the proud owner of a shark’s tooth from the time of the prehistoric giants thanks to Sir David Attenborough.

In a new photograph released by Kensington Palace, seven-year-old George looked ecstatic as he handled the fossilised giant shark’s tooth given to him by Sir David.

His younger brother Prince Louis and dad Prince William were also in the photo taking a good look at the tooth, which came from an extinct carcharocles megalodon, described as one of the most feared predators to have swum in the seas.

Prince George was fascinated by the tooth from a giant shark – carcharocles megalodon. Pic: Kensington Palace

Sir David gave the present to Prince George after a private viewing of his new environmental documentary with the Duke of Cambridge, in the palace’s grounds.

In A Life On Our Planet, Sir David reflects on both the defining moments of his life as a naturalist and the devastating changes he has witnessed. A photo shows William and Sir David sitting in directors’ chairs with their names printed on the back, but as a joke they decided to sit in each other’s seats.

Another photograph showed the Cambridge family clearly very happy to be hosting Sir David at Kensington Palace last week.

The giant shark tooth given to George was found by Sir David during a family holiday to Malta in the late 1960s.

More from David Attenborough

It was embedded in the island’s soft yellow limestone, which was laid down during the Miocene period some 23 million years ago.

Carcharocles megalodon is believed to have grown to 15 metres in length, which is about twice the length of the great white shark.

Sir David Attenborough and Prince William ahead of Sir David's next documentary. Pic: Kensington Palace
Sir David Attenborough and Prince William watching Sir David’s next documentary. Pic: Kensington Palace

Prince William and Sir David’s shared passion for protecting the planet was seen last year when William interviewed Sir David at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

It is understood that Sir David is also supporting the Duke of Cambridge in what has been described as William’s most ambitious prize to date, the Earthshot Prize.

The prize, announced in January, is designed to try and “dispel the current pessimism around the environment”.

It is hoped it will gain the prestige of the Nobel prize, recognising individuals, groups or organisations who come up with solutions to the world’s most pressing environmental problems. Further details about the project are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet, produced by WWF and Silverback Films, premieres in cinemas on Monday and will launch on Netflix on 4 October.


Croydon police shooting: Killing of officer Matt Ratana captured on CCTV, Scotland Yard reveals | UK News

The fatal shooting of a police officer in a custody suite in London was captured on CCTV, Scotland Yard has revealed.

Metropolitan Police sergeant Matiu Ratana, 54, was killed in the early hours of Friday.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy said the 23-year-old man arrested on suspicion of murder following the death remained in critical condition in hospital.

“Due to his state, we are not yet able to speak to him,” he said during a news briefing at Scotland Yard.


Coronavirus: Boris Johnson urges world to unite against COVID-19 and stop comparing death rates | UK News

Boris Johnson has urged the world to unite against coronavirus, suggesting it had made nations seem “selfish” and apparently warning against the comparison of countries’ death rates.

In a pre-recorded speech to the United Nations General Assembly, the prime minister said “the very notion of the international community looks tattered” nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Unless we unite and turn our fire against our common foe, we know that everyone will lose,” he said.

“The inevitable outcome will be to prolong this calamity and increase the risk of another.”

He went on to outline a plan for preventing another global pandemic, including a network of zoonotic research labs around the world to identify dangerous pathogens before they leap from animals to humans.

“COVID-19 has caused us to cease other vital work, and I’m afraid it made individual nations seem selfish and divided from each other,” he said.

“Every day people were openly encouraged to study a grisly reverse Olympic league table, and to take morbid and totally mistaken comfort in the greater sufferings of others.

“We cannot go on like that, we cannot make these mistakes again.

“And here in the UK, the birthplace of Edward Jenner, who pioneered the world’s first vaccine, we are determined to do everything in our power to work with our friends across the UN, to heal those divisions and to heal the world.”

Donald Trump has cut US funding to the World Health Organisation

Government figures say the UK has suffered almost 42,000 deaths from coronavirus, the highest number in Europe and fifth largest toll in the world.

Thirty-four deaths were confirmed in the latest update on Saturday.

UK statistics agency figures, meanwhile, show that there have been more than 57,000 deaths registered in the country where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference on the situation of the coronavirus in Geneva.
WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has previously praised the PM’s response to coronavirus

Analysis: PM alludes to a political move amid talk of global unity
By Kate McCann, political correspondent

The UK takes the presidency of the G7 next year so this speech was teeing up how Boris Johnson is going to approach that role.

He listed his five-point plan to make sure that if there were any future pandemic, countries around the world could work together more effectively to develop a vaccine.

He also highlighted concerns about tariffs and charges being increased on things like disinfectant and soap, and the impact on poorer nations in need of supplies.

Essentially, the prime minister was setting out what he sees as the mistakes that he believes were made.

He referred to his “right to know” where this virus came from and how it started, as someone who has suffered from the disease.

He talked about increasing the level of funding from the UK to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

At a time when the US and Donald Trump has frozen funding, that is clearly a very political move.

The UK is becoming the biggest country donor to that organisation – and the PM is clearly trying to demonstrate just how important he believes it is that the international community come together to combat this virus rather than divide itself.


Coronavirus: Another 6,042 COVID-19 cases in UK – first drop after five straight days of rises | UK News

Another 6,042 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in the UK in the latest 24 hour period.

It comes a day after 6,874 were reported, which was the highest single-day figure so far in the pandemic.

Up until Saturday, cases had risen for five successive days.

However, the numbers are nowhere near a realistic comparison to the peak of April and May, when Imperial College researchers have suggested there were more than 100,000 daily new infections and there was far less testing.

The overall number of confirmed COVID-19 infections is now 429,277.

Thirty-four more people in the UK have died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus, the government has said.

Also, the number of deaths announced on Friday has been revised up from 34 to 35.

The total number of UK fatalities stands at 41,971.

:: In England, there have been 20 more deaths

:: There have been three more fatalities in Wales

:: In Scotland, no further deaths have been reported

Meanwhile, the developers of the new NHS coronavirus tracing app have admitted more than 60,000 tests carried out in England on Friday – just under a third of the total – cannot be linked to its systems.

The admission appears to undermine the central role of the software, which is to warn people when they have come into contact with anyone who subsequently tests positive.

The long-awaited NHS coronavirus contact-tracing app launched on Thursday across England and Wales.

However, in a response to a tweet by a user who said they had been tested but could not upload the result because they had not received a code, the app’s developers said it is not linked to test results processed in a Public Health England lab or NHS hospital.

Seventeen million people – more than a quarter of the UK population – will be living under extra coronavirus restrictions when new measures on socialising come into force in parts of the country.

A ban on households mixing in each other’s homes came into effect at midnight in Wigan, Stockport, Blackpool and Leeds.

Residents in those areas are also advised not to meet people outside their household or bubble in any other settings including bars, shops or parks.

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Restrictions are already in force across large swathes of the North West, West Yorkshire, the North East and the Midlands, as well as parts of west Scotland.

And a ban on households mixing indoors was extended across Northern Ireland earlier this week.

Cardiff and Swansea will go into local lockdown from 6pm on Sunday.

People will not be able to enter or leave the areas without a reasonable excuse. They will not be able to meet indoors with anyone they do not live with, with extended households suspended.


Six-year-old girl dies ‘after being hit by falling tree’ at school in Newcastle | UK News

A six-year-old girl has died after police were called to a report she was hit by a falling tree at a school.

The child was taken to hospital from Gosforth Park First School in Newcastle-upon-Tyne just after 1pm on Friday.

Northumbria Police said she died on Saturday.

“At 1.15pm yesterday we received a report that a child had been struck by a falling tree at Gosforth Park First School,” a spokeswoman for the force said:

“Emergency services attended the scene and the six-year-old girl was taken to hospital.

“Sadly, earlier today, the young girl passed away.

“Our officers are continuing to support her family and our thoughts are with them at this incredibly difficult time.

“An investigation has been launched with police working in conjunction with the health and safety executive.”

Met Office data indicates Newcastle saw gusts of wind as strong as 32mph on Friday.

Police say the family has asked for privacy.


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