Covid: Midday deadline for Greater Manchester coronavirus deal

Leaders in Greater Manchester have been given a deadline of midday on Tuesday to reach a deal with the government over the area’s Covid restrictions.

If an agreement is not reached, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said he would advise the PM, who would decide on the next steps.

In this situation, the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg said the “implication” was the top tier of rules would be imposed.

Local leaders want better financial support before agreeing to such a move.

Speaking to the BBC earlier, Greater Manchester’s Labour Mayor Andy Burnham said: “The government could have a deal if it better protects low-paid people. It is choosing not to do that.”

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons further discussions were planned with leaders in South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, north-east England and Teesside about restrictions in their areas.

It comes as the UK recorded a further 18,804 coronavirus cases and 80 deaths.

In a statement, Mr Jenrick said the government had offered “an extensive package of support for local people and businesses”, which was proportionate to the approach taken in other areas which have moved to the top tier – the Liverpool City Region and Lancashire.

“There are now more Covid-19 patients in Greater Manchester hospitals than in the whole of the South West and South East combined. But, unfortunately, despite recognising the gravity of the situation, local leaders have been so far unwilling to take the action that is required to get this situation under control,” he said.

“I have written to local leaders this evening to make clear that if we cannot reach agreement by midday tomorrow then I must advise the prime minister that, despite our best endeavours, we’ve been unable to reach agreement.”

Asked whether top tier restrictions would be imposed on Greater Manchester if the deadline was not met, Mr Jenrick said that was “a matter for the prime minister”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday that he might “need to intervene” if local leaders did not accept a move to tier three.

In areas under tier three – the highest level of England’s coronavirus restrictions – pubs and bars not serving substantial meals must close and there is guidance against travelling in and out of the area.

Households are also banned from mixing indoors or outdoors in hospitality venues or private gardens.

Discussions have been ongoing between ministers and local leaders for 10 days – but they have not been able to reach an agreement on the level of financial support the area should receive if it moves to the highest tier.

There are conflicting reports about the latest meeting between the two sides, which one source on the call said ended “abruptly”.

In a joint statement, Mr Burnham and the Labour leader of Manchester City Council, Sir Richard Leese, said: “We had been encouraged by earlier discussions at an official level where the idea of a hardship fund, to top up furlough payments and support the self-employed, had been tabled by the government.

“It was both surprising and disappointing when this idea was taken off the table by the secretary of state.”

But a spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said that while it was “disappointing” no agreement had been reached, Mr Burnham was “incorrect in claiming that officials made this proposal today”.

A key sticking point of the dispute is that Mr Burnham wants the government to reintroduce the 80% furlough scheme used during the UK’s first lockdown, instead of the new Job Support Scheme which covers 67% of the wages of people affected by tier three closures.

This evening, the two sides can’t even agree on what they actually discussed earlier.

Believe the local leaders and this morning there seemed to be hope in the air. Officials from central government had mooted the possibility of a hardship fund to help support low-paid workers who stand to lose out if businesses close their doors under tighter restrictions.

The message local leaders took from their meeting was that, while the Treasury is adamant they are not going to extend their national furlough scheme that has supported millions of wages any further – nor increase the level of cash available from its replacement, the Job Support Scheme – Westminster might sign off extra money that could be spent that way, if local politicians saw fit.

There was no concrete agreement on the numbers, but sources in Greater Manchester suggest the cost of supporting those who need the extra help comes in at around £15m a month.

After that call, the consensus among North West leaders was moving in the direction of signing on the dotted line, with another call planned with Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick for the afternoon.

But rather than ushering in a new spirit of co-operation, that meeting went south.

Read more from Laura.

Meanwhile, people in Wales will be told from Friday to stay at home, while pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops will shut, as part of a “short, sharp” national lockdown until 9 November.

It comes as a two-week school closure begins in Northern Ireland as part of a tightening of restrictions.

Scotland continues to draw up plans for a three-tier framework of measures, similar to England’s.

Chinnor crash death family: Village holds candlelit vigil

A candlelit vigil has taken place for a mother and her three young children who were killed in a crash.

It comes a week after the collision on the A40, near a railway overbridge between Oxford and Cassington.

Chinnor village remembered Zoe Powell, 29, Phoebe, eight, Simeon, six, and Amelia Powell, four, with a minute’s silence at 20:00 GMT.

Residents had decorated the village with green ribbons and lights to remember the family.

Mrs Powell’s husband Josh and and 18-month-old daughter Penny survived the crash and are in a stable condition at John Radcliffe Hospital.

Coronavirus restrictions meant not everyone could attend the vigil for the family and people were asked to join the remembrance from their homes and doorsteps.

The 1st Chinnor Scout Troop, where Mr Powell is a leader, marched through the village at 19:00 to the private vigil.

Residents in the cul-de-sac where the family lived before a fire at their home illuminated their houses with green lights to show their support.

A fundraising page set up by a colleague of Mr Powell has raised almost £127,000 to help him during his recovery.

Mrs Powell, who was previously from Sheffield, was a blogger who wrote about motherhood, family life and the challenges of having young children.

Long Covid: St Annes man dies after cardiac arrest

A man who was the last patient to leave Blackpool Victoria Hospital’s intensive care unit during the first wave of Covid-19 has died.

Roehl Ribaya, 47, of St Annes, Lancashire, spent 60 days in intensive care is thought to have died from the long-term effects of the virus.

His widow, nurse Stella Ricio-Ribaya, performed CPR on him when he suffered a cardiac arrest.

She told the BBC: “He was taken too soon.”

The Filipino aerospace engineer’s family said the virus had taken a heavy toll on him.

Mrs Ricio-Ribaya said: “He was never the same. He was so breathless all the time.

“Please follow the government’s advice so we can stop this virus.

“We don’t want any more to die.”

Close friend Mark Delabajan said the family were “devastated”.

He said: “His breathing was never the same and he couldn’t get up the stairs.

“He was rushed back into hospital a number of times.”

Mr Ribaya arrived at the Blackpool hospital on 29 May and spent 48 days of his time in intensive care on a ventilator.

In July, when he was clapped out of intensive care, lead consultant Dr Jason Cupitt said it signalled the hospital had “survived the first wave of this silent killer”.

Kevin McGee, chief executive of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We were extremely saddened to hear about the death of Roehl and our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this sad time.”

Mr Delabajan’s wife Angela has set up a fundraising page for his family.

Manchester Arena Inquiry: Senior police officer was on unacceptable two-hour break

The most senior police officer on duty before the Manchester Arena attack had taken an “unacceptable” two-hour break before the bombing, the inquiry heard.

PC Jessica Bullough admitted she then missed bomber Salman Abedi walking from the train station into the arena.

The British Transport Police (BTP) officer had been qualified for only eight months, and was still in her probationary period.

The suicide bombing killed 22 people and injured many more on 22 May 2017.

The public inquiry into the attack heard there were no police officers on patrol when 22-year-old Abedi made his journey from Victoria Station to the arena foyer.

The hearing was told PC Bullough took a break of two hours and nine minutes, during which time Abedi walked from the tram stop into the City Room.

PC Bullough admitted her break should have been between 50 minutes and one hour.

The inquiry heard if she had come back 10 minutes earlier she would have seen Abedi carrying a large rucksack that contained explosives.

She said looking back, it was “unacceptable” to have taken a break of that length, and said she probably would not have done that had a supervisor been present.

PC Bullough was the first on the scene in the foyer after the suicide attack at the end of the Ariana Grande concert.

She said: “I think the training I had wasn’t sufficient to deal with what I was witnessing.”

Guy Gozem QC, representing some of the bereaved families, said: “Effectively did you feel left in the lurch?”

“Yes,” she replied.

BTP PCSO Lewis Brown said he and a colleague took a break before other officers had returned from theirs, meaning there were no one on patrol between just before 21:00 and 21:35 BST, when Abedi made his trip from the station into the foyer.

Meanwhile a father picking up his children on the night of the Manchester Arena attack told the inquiry he thought “straight away” that Abedi was a suicide bomber.

Neal Hatfield said when he saw Abedi in the foyer of the arena his rucksack did not look normal as it did not flex under his weight.

“It was rock solid, that’s what alarmed me straight away,” Mr Hatfield said.

Mr Hatfield was about to go up the stairs to the mezzanine area of the arena’s City Room when he saw Abedi with his back to him “in the process of lying down, he had a backpack on the floor next to him”.

“I thought suicide bomber straight away, very little doubt in my mind. Honestly, my heart was racing,” he said.

“The way he was dressed, the way he was acting, the body language was that he was trying to protect the bag. He was pretending to be casual, but I could see what he was doing.”

Mr Hatfield said he made eye contact with Abedi, who looked “emotionally distressed”.

“He seemed frightened, his eyes were glazed over and he seemed nervous, agitated, he didn’t seem right,” he added.

Mr Hatfield told the inquiry he saw two members of the security team nearby and believed they were having a conversation about Abedi, and gesturing towards him.

The inquiry continues.

Republic of Ireland to move to highest virus restrictions

The Irish government is to move the country to the highest level of coronavirus restrictions, broadly similar to the spring lockdown.

Cabinet ministers have agreed to level five restrictions from midnight on Wednesday in a bid to combat the rise in cases.

The restrictions are to last for six weeks but will be reviewed after four.

Under the rules, people will only be able to exercise within 5km (3 miles) of their home.

However, schools and creches will remain open and elite sport and construction will continue.

Taoiseach (prime minister) Mícheál Martin is to give a televised address at 21:00 local time on Monday.

On Monday, the Irish Department of Health reported no further coronavirus-related deaths, with the total remaining at 1,852.

The total number of positive cases stands at 50,993, after a further 1,031 were recorded.

The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in hospitals has risen to 298 in the last 24 hours.

Ministers rejected a similar recommendation from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) less than a fortnight ago.

The Irish government published its five-stage framework for “living with Covid-19” in mid-September.

At the time, the government said it was moving from a short-term emergency response to the pandemic to a medium-term approach which involved “managing risk” posed by the disease and repairing the damage it had inflicted on society.

Currently, most of the country is at the mid-way point on level three.

However, people in the border counties of Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan have been living with level four restrictions since Thursday.

Under level four, all non-essential shops, businesses and services must close but the government’s priority is to keep schools and childcare services open.

Over the weekend, Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said current restrictions did not go far enough to curb infections.

“Level three has not worked in terms of getting the virus to where it needs to get to,” he told broadcaster RTÉ.

Mr Harris, who was minister for health during the first wave, suggested that nationwide measures were now required as a “county-by-county approach is not sufficient”.

Wrong person jailed over M1 smart motorway deaths claims widow

The widow of a man who was killed when a lorry ploughed into his stationary car on a smart motorway has said the wrong person has been jailed.

Alexandru Murgeanu and Jason Mercer died when Prezemyslaw Szuba crashed into their vehicles on a section of the M1 without a hard shoulder.

At Sheffield Crown Court earlier, Szuba, 40, was jailed for 10 months.

But Mr Mercer’s wife Claire said “the events….would not have taken place if there had been a hard shoulder”.

Szuba, of Adelaide Street, Hull, previously admitted two counts of causing death by driving without due care and attention on 7 June 2019.

Since her husband’s death, Mrs Mercer has mounted a campaign against smart motorways.

Speaking outside court, she said: “We don’t believe the correct person is taking responsibility for this massive detrimental effect on ours and so many other people’s lives.

“The events of [that day] would not have taken place if there had been a hard shoulder and Highways England was run with the correct priorities in mind.”

Referring to a review of smart motorways, she said: “An agenda genuinely concerned with avoiding future deaths is not served by a pretend review… that wouldn’t have saved any of 40-plus people killed by smart motorways, or by jailing the wrong person.

“My hope in this devastation is that no more lives are ruined needlessly.”

The court heard 44-year-old Mr Mercer, from Rotherham, and Mr Murgeanu, 22, from Mansfield, had stopped in the slow lane after having a “minor bump” on the northbound carriageway of the M1, between junctions 34 and 35.

Judge Jeremy Richardson QC said: “Had there been a hard shoulder, or had the victims driven on for another mile to the refuge, this catastrophe would never have occurred.”

But he told Szuba: “There must be no doubt, however, that the main cause of this fatal crash was your inattention to the road ahead of you.”

Jeremy Evans, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said the two men’s vehicles had been stationary for almost six minutes, during which time many other drivers had passed by safely.

“There is no reason why the defendant should not have appreciated the danger that lay ahead, as other drivers had done,” he added.

More news from across Yorkshire

A Highways England spokesperson said: “We are deeply saddened by the deaths of Jason Mercer and Alexandru Murgeanu and extend our sympathies to both their families and friends.

“We appreciate that this continues to be an unimaginably difficult time for them and understand the strength of feeling around this case.

“Every road death is a needless loss of life and we must do all that we can to keep our roads safe.”

A review published in March found smart motorways were as safe as, or safer than, conventional motorways, Highways England said.

Edmund OLeary: I am not OK tweet sparks global response

A father of two who tweeted that he was “not OK” has said the outpouring of support he received after his post went viral has given him hope.

Edmund O’Leary said he was feeling “really depressed” after a “horrible year” when he posted his message.

His tweet on Friday night read: “I am not OK. Feeling rock bottom. Please take a few seconds to say hello if you see this tweet. Thank you.”

Within minutes, he began receiving messages from around the world.

Since then, Mr O’Leary, from Epsom, Surrey, has been retweeted more than 14,000 times and received more than 300,000 likes.

He told BBC Breakfast: “The whole experience has been absolutely surreal and provides me with a lot of hope.

“I’ve gone from feeling like a nobody to feeling like a somebody.

“To have that happen overnight is just surreal, something that most ordinary people have never experienced or will never experience.”

He added: “Eighteen and a half million people and counting have seen my tweet. Nothing can prepare you for that!”

It was a friend’s tweets of a similar nature that inspired him to reach out to his followers.

“I was feeling very depressed, feeling rock bottom. I’m having an absolutely horrible year. I thought I’d give it a go,” he said.

The many messages of support he has received include some from celebrities.

BBC correspondent Fergal Keane reminded him that “morning always comes” in a tweet with a recording of a poem by the late John O’Donohue which he had read on Radio 4’s Today programme.

Meanwhile, CNN anchor Jake Tapper, who has 2.7m followers, also sent his support alongside a picture of two kittens.

He tweeted: “Edmund. I bought my mom two kittens after her beloved cat of 19 years died. Here’s one of them, Lulu, playing. Things get better. They always do.”

Mr O’Leary, an aviation enthusiast, said the first tweet he found “warm and loving” came from Dublin Airport.

Staff there told him: “You are not alone. So many people are feeling exactly that way at the minute. Never forget that you are loved & there are people who care about you.”

Matt Hancock seen in chauffeur-driven car without mask

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been seen travelling in his chauffeur-driven car without wearing a mask, against the advice of No 10.

The public face fines of £200 if they fail to wear a covering in taxis or private hire cars.

There is an exemption for chauffeur-driven cars, but Downing Street said it had advised all its ministers to wear coverings.

A No 10 spokesman said there were masks available in all ministerial cars.

The picture was first published on the Daily Mirror website.

It shows the health secretary arriving at the Department for Health and Social Care on Monday without a mask.

The BBC understands Mr Hancock had been wearing a mask on the journey, but removed it as his car approached the department.

Asked later whether the minister would be reprimanded for going against the advice, the prime minister’s official spokesman said he had not seen the photo.

He added: “On the general point, we set out at the time that we were making face coverings available in all ministerial cars so that ministers would be able to wear them.”

Coronavirus: Shapps aims for new test system for arrivals

The Transport Secretary says he is “very hopeful” a new testing regime for travellers to the UK can be in place by 1 December, reducing the amount of time people need to spend in quarantine.

Grant Shapps said it could happen as long as there was enough testing capacity to support the plan.

The government has been consulting on a system where passengers would be tested after just a week of isolation.

But BA’s new boss wants testing before departure, not quarantine on arrival.

Addressing an online aviation conference, Mr Shapps said the government was looking at introducing a virus test alongside a shortened quarantine period by early December.

“My ministerial colleagues and I have agreed a regime, based on a single test provided by the private sector and at the cost to the passenger, after a period of self-isolation,” he said.

“It will mean a single test for international arrivals, a week after arrival.”

The government’s travel taskforce, which is working on the plans, will put its recommendations before the prime minister in November, Mr Shapps said.

The idea is to reduce the amount of time travellers coming into the UK have to spend self-isolating – currently 14 days for those arriving from areas not included on the government’s list of “travel corridors”.

The government’s approach may be designed to protect public health, but is unlikely to win it many friends in the aviation industry.

Just before Grant Shapps spoke, and at the same event, British Airways’ new boss Sean Doyle used his first major public appearance since his appointment to argue for a “fundamental rethink” of the UK’s approach to flying during the pandemic.

It was time, he said, to replace the current quarantine regime with a “reliable and affordable” test taken before flying.

People within the sector blame the current restrictions for killing off hopes of a strong revival in the sector, after the lockdown earlier this year.

The prospect of spending two weeks in isolation, they say, is simply deterring people from travelling. Ryanair plans to operate at 40% of its normal capacity this winter, while Easyjet will have just 25% capacity.

Mr Doyle suggested that even a reduction in the quarantine period to seven days would not be enough to change matters.

But Mr Shapps made it clear the government will press on with its own plans.

Speaking at the same conference, British Airways’ new boss Sean Doyle emphasised his objections to the current system.

“We need to get the economy moving again and this just isn’t possible when you’re asking people to quarantine for 14 days,” said Mr Doyle, a week after he replaced Alex Cruz as chief executive of the airline.

However, he said that even if quarantine was reduced to seven days, demand for travel would remain low, and called for tests before departure.

“People won’t travel here and the UK will get left behind,” Mr Doyle said.

Mr Shapps said the government was in talks with the US about trialling pre-departure tests, but no agreement has been reached yet.

British Airways is currently slashing thousands of jobs amid a slump in demand for air travel – a pattern seen at other carriers.

Some warn there could be hundreds of thousands more cuts unless the sector gets additional government support.

The International Air Transport Association has downgraded its 2020 traffic forecasts, after “a dismal end to the summer travel season”.

The association, which represents 290 airlines, estimates that it will be at least 2024 before air traffic reaches pre-pandemic levels.

Covid: Cardiffs Castle Street may reopen to traffic

A road which became an al fresco dining area during lockdown could be reopening to traffic.

Cardiff Council’s plans for Castle Street would temporarily allow access to buses, taxis and emergency vehicles while a public consultation is held.

The street, which initially closed in July, could be ready to reopen by mid-November.

The proposals will also seek to keep the pop-up cycleway that was introduced when it closed.

The temporary measures may include extending a pavement alongside shops and bars opposite the castle to give a wider walkway for people to socially distance, whilst allowing two lanes for buses and taxis to travel east and/or west.

They could also allow for hospitality businesses to have more space outside their premises to trade.

Councillor Caro Wild said the closure of Castle Street has “divided opinions” with “strong arguments being made in favour and against the changes that have been implemented in recent months”.

“Alongside a detailed modelling exercise on future traffic flows, we will undertake a comprehensive consultation exercise, involving city centre businesses, local residents, and citizens across Cardiff, to help determine the final plan for the street.”

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