LiveSheffield LIVE: “No need to panic” as cases of Indian variant of Covid confirmed in Sheffield

Welcome to The Star’s live blog on Wednesday May 19.

Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 7:22 am

Welcome to The Star’s live blog on Wednesday May 19 where you will be able to find a round-up of the latest coronavirus news and the biggest Sheffield news stories of the day.

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Sheffield’s director of public health Greg Fell confirmed the presence of the strain in Sheffield

Sheffield LIVE:

Last updated: Friday, 21 May, 2021, 12:13

  • A third of people in Sheffield have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, figures reveal
  • Scientists say a new Covid variant has been reported in Sheffield
  • Diana’s sons deliver scathing criticism of BBC following Dyson inquiry findings

Half of the clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) population in England said they were continuing to shield despite Government advice that they no longer needed to, new figures shows.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that 50% of people in the CEV group reported continuing to shield when asked between April 26 and May 1.

But the ONS also found that 84% of CEV people said they were aware that Government advice to shield had paused, the ONS added.

The ONS also found that two-thirds (67%) of CEV people had received two doses of coronavirus vaccine.

Diana’s sons deliver scathing criticism of BBC following Dyson inquiry findings

William and Harry have condemned the BBC for its treatment of Diana, Princess of Wales, saying their mother’s Panorama interview fuelled her “fear, paranoia and isolation” and a wider “culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life”.

The furious royal brothers issued scathing statements on the corporation’s actions after an inquiry found the broadcaster covered up “deceitful behaviour” used by journalist Martin Bashir to secure his headline-making interview with their mother in 1995.

Bashir was in “serious breach” of the BBC’s producer guidelines when he faked bank statements and showed them to Diana’s brother Earl Spencer to gain access to the princess, a report by Lord Dyson said.

The findings of the 127-page document have prompted developments, with Scotland Yard, which previously said it would not launch a criminal investigation into Bashir’s actions, now saying it will “assess” the report to “to ensure there is no significant new evidence”.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said ministers would be looking into whether there were BBC governance issues outside of the remit of Lord Dyson’s reports that needed reviewing.

Mr Buckland told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “My colleague the Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, has rightly said that we should look at the governance structures of the BBC.

“They have apologised, which is appropriate, but clearly the wider issues of governance and the way things are run now need to be looked at.”

In his rebuke of the BBC, the Duke of Cambridge said: “The interview was a major contribution to making my parents’ relationship worse and has since hurt countless others.

“It brings indescribable sadness to know that the BBC’s failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation that I remember from those final years with her.

“But what saddens me most, is that if the BBC had properly investigated the complaints and concerns first raised in 1995, my mother would have known that she had been deceived.

“She was failed not just by a rogue reporter, but by leaders at the BBC who looked the other way rather than asking the tough questions.”

Calling for the documentary never to be aired again, William, 38, said: “In an era of fake news, public service broadcasting and a free press have never been more important. These failings, identified by investigative journalists, not only let my mother down, and my family down; they let the public down too.”

Away from the Panorama scandal, Harry has admitted in his new documentary series with Oprah Winfrey, the trauma of his mother’s death led him to use alcohol and drugs to “mask” his emotions and to “feel less like I was feeling”.

The Duke of Sussex, 36, said in his statement about Diana’s interview: “Our mother was an incredible woman who dedicated her life to service. She was resilient, brave, and unquestionably honest.

“The ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life. To those who have taken some form of accountability, thank you for owning it.

“That is the first step towards justice and truth. Yet what deeply concerns me is that practices like these—and even worse—are still widespread today.

“Then, and now, it’s bigger than one outlet, one network, or one publication. Our mother lost her life because of this, and nothing has changed.

“By protecting her legacy, we protect everyone, and uphold the dignity with which she lived her life. Let’s remember who she was and what she stood for.”

A third of people in Sheffield have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, figures reveal

A third of people in Sheffield have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, figures reveal.

NHS data shows 163,750 people had received both jabs by May 16 – 34% of those aged 16 and over, based on the latest population estimates from the Office for National Statistics.

Of those to have received both jabs, 139,169 were aged 40 and over – 54% of the age group.

It means 24,581 people aged between 16 and 39 have received both doses. The NHS vaccine data also reveals variation in coverage between different areas for residents who have received at least one dose.

Across Sheffield, 62% of those aged 16 and over have received their first jab.

Areas with the highest coverage: 1) Fulwood and Lodge Moor, with 89.1% of people aged 16 and over given their first dose 2) Bents Green and Millhouses, 87% 3) Beauchief, 86% Areas with the lowest coverage: 1) Cathedral and Kelham, 8.7% 2) Devonshire Quarter, 16.4% 3) Highfield and Lowfield, 27.8% Across England, 17.1 million people had received a second dose of the jab by May 16 – 38% of the population aged over 16 and over.

That includes 15.1 million people aged 40 and over – 53% of the age group. In total, 30.4 million people had received at least one dose of a vaccine by the same date, covering 67% of people over 16.

Despite the success of the rollout, some staff at care homes in Sheffield have not been vaccinated.

The figures show 3586 out of 4342 eligible staff, including agency workers, at older adult care homes had received a first dose by May 16 – meaning 17% have not had a jab.

The Government is currently in consultation over plans to make the jab mandatory for staff over concerns for residents.

Pandemic-hit Sheffield business lands £25,000 payout thanks to The Star

Pandemic-hit Sheffield business lands £25,000 payout thanks to The Star

A pandemic-hit Sheffield business is set to receive £25,000 from insurers after pressure from The Star.

Harry: I used alcohol and drugs as a ‘mask’ to cope with trauma of Diana’s death

The Duke of Sussex has said the trauma of his mother’s death led him to use alcohol and drugs to “mask” his emotions and to “feel less like I was feeling”.

Harry was just 12 when Diana, Princess of Wales, died in August 1997 in a car crash while being pursued by the press in Paris.

In the first three episodes of Apple TV’s The Me You Can’t See, the royal addressed traumatic memories from his childhood including the moment he was famously photographed with his brother, father, uncle and grandfather walking behind Diana’s coffin at her funeral.

“For me the thing I remember the most was the sound of the horses’ hooves going along the Mall,” the 36-year-old told his series co-host Oprah Winfrey.

“It was like I was outside of my body and just walking along doing what was expected of me. (I was) showing one tenth of the emotion that everybody else was showing: This was my mum – you never even met her.”

The series focuses on mental health, with Harry telling Winfrey the trauma of the loss caused him to suffer anxiety and severe panic attacks from ages 28 to 32.

“I was just all over the place mentally,” he said.

“Every time I put a suit on and tie on … having to do the role, and go, ‘right, game face’, look in the mirror and say, ‘let’s go’. Before I even left the house I was pouring with sweat. I was in fight or flight mode.”

He said: “I was willing to drink, I was willing to take drugs, I was willing to try and do the things that made me feel less like I was feeling.”

He told Winfrey he would drink a week’s worth of alcohol on a Friday or Saturday night “not because I was enjoying it but because I was trying to mask something”.

During the programme the duke also accused the royal family of “total neglect” when his wife Meghan was feeling suicidal amid harassment on social media.

Harry said he was ashamed the situation had got “that bad” and also suspected the royals would not have been able to help.

That alleged abandonment was one of the “biggest reasons” the couple left the UK, Harry said.

“Certainly now I will never be bullied into silence,” he added.

Scientists say a new Covid variant has been reported in Sheffield.

The emergence of a new covid variant has been reported by a team from Sheffield University and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals.

Thee Sheffield COVID-19 Genomics Group are sequencing SARS-CoV-2 positive samples from hospitals throughout Yorkshire and The Humber (pillar 1 testing) to ensure local NHS trusts and public health teams are delivered timely information on the lineage composition of SARS-CoV-2 circulating in the community.

A report from the group states: "The recent B.1.1.482 samples from South Yorkshire described here have acquired a significant number of mutations when compared to other SARS-CoV-2 viruses of the same lineage. "

Similar samples were also found in other regions in England, UK. Three UK B.1.1.28 samples are believed to be related to this cluster.

It adds: "This sub-lineage of B.1.1.482 has now been designated AV.1. "

The report adds: "Because of the number of spike gene mutations also found in variants of interest or concern or under investigation (VOC or VUI), we recommended that this lineage is monitored closely for possible increased community transmission and functional studies undertaken to understand the impact on antibody recognition."

Variants of concern (VOC) can be more transmissible result in greater disease severity , and have reduced sensitivity to antibody neutralisation

The BBC reported that NHS Test and Trace failed to provide details of more than 700 positive cases to eight local councils, including Blackburn, between April and May.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “The NHS, as I understand it, has contacted over 10 million people since the start of the pandemic and this has had a significant impact in breaking chains of transmission, and I know there are studies on that.

“In this specific instance, all positive cases were contacted and told to self-isolate for 10 days.

“As you know, there was a short delay when asking some of those positive cases to provide details of individuals they had contacted since contracting Covid.

“This issue was across a small number of local authority areas and was quickly resolved.”

Asked whether the Government accepted the failure contributed to the spread of the variant, the spokesman said: “The spread of the variant will be down to a number of factors – this was an issue that occurred across a small number of local authority areas, so I don’t think it is possible to draw that conclusion from this.”

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren described the Government’s messaging on whether people should go on holiday to amber list destinations as “very confusing to say the least”.

Asked if easyJet customers were flying to amber countries for leisure despite Government guidance not to do so, he replied: “Yes, people are booking flights and they’re going there on holidays.

“I think that the view was to apply common sense, and I think that there’s a lot of people out there who have as a top priority coming through this pandemic to go on that holiday break.

“That is what people are doing.”

UK in ‘straight race’ between vaccinating public and spread of Indian variant

Britain is in a “straight race” to vaccinate its population in order to outrun the threat of the Indian coronavirus mutation, according to England’s deputy chief medical officer.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said the jab-rate over the next few weeks would be crucial for ensuring the Prime Minister could lift all Covid restrictions on June 21, as set out in his road map out of lockdown.

As part of efforts to “turbo-boost” the vaccine programme, more than one million people aged 34 and 35 will receive a text message on Thursday or Friday asking them to come forward for their Covid vaccine, NHS England confirmed.

It comes amid growing confidence within the Government that the vaccines available in the UK will work against the Indian strain and that the B1617.2 mutation will prove less transmissible than first feared.

Almost 3,000 cases of the Indian variant have been identified in the UK – up from the 2,323 declared on Monday – and surge testing has been announced in a number of areas in a bid to control its spread.

Prof Van-Tam told a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday: “I pitch this personally as a straight race between the transmissibility of this new variant … and vaccine delivery.

“The NHS is doing everything it can to turbo-boost that, and that is the challenge that’s ahead of us in the next two to three to four weeks, to make sure that we outrun the virus through really vigorous pull-through on vaccine delivery.”

Prof Van-Tam said scientists would have more information by next week on how transmissible the Indian variant is versus the Kent strain, which has become dominant in the UK.

Experts had feared it could be up to 50% more transmissible, but the Government adviser suggested studies could find it is only half that.

The spread of the variant of concern had cast doubt on next month’s plans to ease the remaining restrictions in England, but Boris Johnson told the Commons his administration had “increasing confidence” that vaccines would prove effective against it.

Sources confirmed Mr Johnson told the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs he was “even more cautiously optimistic” than last week about being able to scrap all restrictions next month.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock struck a more cautious tone at a press briefing earlier in the day, saying a final decision on whether to move to the next stage of the road map would be taken as late as possible – on June 14, a week before the measures would take effect.

“Until then, it is just too early to say,” said the Cabinet minister.

Good morning! This is the Sheffield Star front page on Thursday, May 20.

Today’s Sheffield Star front page: “Labour clings on to leadership as Lib Dems say no"

'Covid marshals' to carry out 10,000 home checks to ensure amber list travellers self-isolate

'Covid marshals' to carry out 10,000 home checks to ensure amber list travellers self-isolate

Checks on up to 10,000 homes a day will be carried out to make sure those returning to the UK are quarantining after trips abroad.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the vast majority of coronavirus cases were in younger and unvaccinated people.

He told a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday: “We are seeing the vast majority of cases, both of the existing variant and of the B1617.2 variant, amongst younger groups and unvaccinated people.

“On the one hand hand that is actually a good sign as it implies the vaccine is working effectively, but obviously we don’t want to see a huge increase in the number of cases everywhere.

“We have said all along that we expect some increase in cases, of course, younger people, who are much more likely to be those yet to be vaccinated, are much less affected in terms of hospitalisations and deaths, and that core fact about this virus underpins the strategy and road map we have set out.”

Matt Hancock said it was up to the public to prevent the Indian variant from blocking the country’s progress against coronavirus.

The Health Secretary told a press briefing on Wednesday: “This is on all of us again.

“We are masters of our fate.

“By taking the test in one of these areas (where there is surge testing), by coming forward and getting vaccinated, by behaving with caution – and we all know the things we need to do, especially outside is safer than inside, wearing masks – we can get this under control.

“But, again, it is something for us to do as a community, and in particular in the areas where we are seeing a faster rise.”

England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam advised people in Covid hotspots to “think carefully” about using the new freedoms they have this week.

When asked at a Downing Street briefing on Wednesday if he would advise people in areas such as Bolton with high coronavirus rates against taking advantage of new freedoms, he said: “I would advise the residents in those areas to think very carefully about the freedoms they have, weigh up the risks and be very cautious.

“It is possible to do something outside, better to do it outside. If it is possible to do something with smaller numbers, with people you know rather than multiple new contacts, it’s better to do that. Take it steady.

“The Government has given people freedoms to start to make these judgments for themselves and I understand that we can’t live for years and years on end with rules, people will have to learn to manage these risks from Covid for themselves because this is not going to go away in the short term, medium term and probably the long term.”

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