Wales lockdown: Pubs and restaurants shut as Wales lockdown begins

Wales has entered a national 17-day lockdown in an effort to slow the rise of Covid cases and hospital admissions.

Major restrictions to people’s lives came into force at 18:00 BST on Friday.

People can leave home for limited reasons including to buy food and medication, provide care, exercise or to work if they cannot do so from home.

All but essential businesses have closed with economists warning the measures may cost the Welsh economy more than £500m.

The Welsh Government said any delay would have caused greater harm.

But opposition parties have called for clarity on what happens at the end of the period.

The number of patients in hospital in Wales with coronavirus is now the highest since June, according to NHS Wales figures published on Friday.

There were 894 people in Welsh hospitals with the virus, up 26% week-on-week, while 43 of them are in critical care, a rise of 72%.

This is about two-thirds of the number at the peak.

Jeremy Lovesey and Sharon Hale had just picked up a Chinese takeaway in Newbridge, Caerphilly county, when lockdown began.

“We’re doing what we always do on a Friday night – just chill,” he said. “But as far as I’m concerned – forget it, no-one is going to take any notice of it.

He said the last lockdown cost him £3,000 in wages and put a strain on their relationship.

Ms Hale said: “At the moment, I’ve had breast cancer, so I’m not working at the moment, so with this Covid they won’t let me back.

“Why a fortnight? What’s that going to achieve? I don’t think in a fortnight it’s going to achieve anything.”

Julian Lassman was waiting to go into the kebab shop. He works in the aviation industry and said he would lose £150 a week.

“I have got a young family – my son is only two, my wife works for the NHS. Basically I have lost a big chunk of my wage.

“We’ve just got to ride the wave. The government have done the best they can but they shouldn’t have had a full lockdown from March to September because they knew it would get worse. “

In Newbridge, businesses were shut apart from the local takeaways which were busy at around 19:00.

Under the new rules people cannot mix with others they do not live with.

People can no longer meet others indoors, or socialise outdoors, such as in parks or people’s gardens.

People who live alone are allowed to meet one other household. This has to be the same one every time and there are no rules specifying they have to be within any set distance of your home.

There is no limit to how many times people can leave the house to exercise or how far they can run, cycle, walk or jog as local lockdown boundaries have now ended.

But exercising with others, such as running and cycling clubs, will not be allowed, and exercise should start from home.

Police checkpoints are being set up on the border at Gloucestershire to stop people travelling into Monmouthshire unless they have a reasonable excuse.

Travel into or out of Wales to go on holiday or to visit a second home is illegal under the rules, and people are being told only to travel for “essential reasons”.

Grandparents and other relatives can still care for children, but only if no other methods of childcare are available.

Indoor visits to care homes may be allowed but only in “exceptional circumstances”, such as for end-of-life visits.

Earlier on Friday children left school ahead of their half-term break. Primary and special schools will reopen as normal on 2 November after the half-term break – there is no extra time off.

In secondary schools only pupils in Years 7 and 8 will go back to class during the lockdown.

The national rules bring an end to the local restrictions imposed on 15 counties, as well as Bangor and Llanelli, in recent weeks.

People can be fined £60 for a first coronavirus restrictions offence, up to a maximum fixed penalty notice of £1,920.

A drive-in movie theatre in Chester is no exception to these rules – after the toilets were found to be across the border with Wales.

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said it would be a “difficult and challenging fortnight” but “without taking action now our NHS will soon be overwhelmed and thousands of lives lost”.

Welsh Conservative Senedd leader Paul Davies accused ministers of having “no exit strategy”.

“The Welsh Government needs to give us hope and clarity of what it will actually achieve and what life will look like post national lockdown,” he said.

Find out how the pandemic has affected your area and how it compares with the national average:

If you can’t see the look-up click here.

Piers Corbyn specifically targeted by police at anti-lockdown protest court heard

Jeremy Corbyn’s brother Piers was “specifically targeted” by police at anti-lockdown protests, his barrister has told a court.

The weather forecaster, 73, was “very much on the radar” of officers patrolling London’s Hyde Park in May, Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard.

Mr Corbyn denies breaching coronavirus rules during protests on 16 and 30 May.

He was due to stand trial on Friday but issues with late disclosure of police logbooks have delayed proceedings.

District Judge Sam Goozee indicated his impatience with lawyers, telling them: “These issues should have been dealt with between June and today” as he ordered the disclosure of a bronze logbook from 30 May.

A new trial date for 27 November was set at the same court.

Sketching out the defence case, Mr Corbyn’s barrister Ben Cooper QC referenced a Black Lives Matter protest on 30 May, pointing out that there were “no arrests taking place at other protests”.

“This demonstrates there is a politicisation in the enforcement of the regulations by choosing to permit one set of demonstrators to protest while at the same time discriminating against different groups on the same day,” he said.

Speaking outside court before the hearing, Mr Corbyn said: “If we win today, this will set a precedent for all other people arrested under the Covid regulations.

“If we lose, we will appeal.

“Whatever happens, if they impose a fine, I will not pay the fine.

“I’m not going to pay any fines for these anti-just, illegal laws.”

The apps promising to improve your sex life

This article discusses adult issues involving sex and relationships.

When Sachin Raoul, 27, encountered a sexual issue following a break-up three years ago, it led to him feeling “distressed”.

“It was frustrating not to have control over my body. I really wanted it to behave in a certain way but it was difficult,” he adds.

While Mr Raoul sought help through therapy, he admits that at around £100 per session it was tough on the wallet.

However, it did push the entrepreneur to try and find a way to make therapy more accessible, leading him to partner with therapist Dr Katherine Hertlein and co-found Blueheart, a free app designed to help individuals and couples combat sex-related issues. It uses a mixture of audio and text-based sessions focused on areas such as building a positive relationship with your body and communication.

“We want to eradicate the stigma associated with sexual dysfunction by providing an app which acts as a safe space for people to address the issues they are having,” says Mr Raoul, who is based in London.

“I could only dream of something like Blueheart existing three years ago. I was willing to jump into anything I could find.”

From erectile problems to low libido, many people are unhappy with their sexual wellbeing. A 2017 survey by counselling organisation Relate found that only a third (34%) of UK adults are satisfied with their sex lives, while 32% have experienced a sexual problem. Erectile dysfunction (ED) remains a major issue, with research reporting that more than 322 million men are expected to suffer from ED by 2025.

While there’s been a proliferation of apps emerging in areas such as mental health and fitness, sexual wellness has long been ignored despite so many people feeling dissatisfied with their sex life. However, a rising number of start-ups are looking to change this.

Last year Dr Britney Blair, a clinical psychologist and behavioural medicine expert, co-founded sexual wellness app Lover. It describes itself as a science-based app for addressing sexual concerns, increasing pleasure and improving skills in the bedroom. It looks to take on such areas by a series of practical exercises such as orgasm exercises, mindfulness and games through a mix of audio and video content.

One of its courses focuses on erections – a 23-day programme featuring a variety of different exercises and techniques. The company found that 62% of the 600 men who took part in a three-week trial reported improvements in their erections.

Through her clinic in San Francisco, Dr Blair treats clients with issues such as the inability to climax, painful sex, erectile dysfunction and low desire.

More Technology of Business

“Therapy can change people’s lives,” she says. “Sexual health is very important and I see relationships changed and lives changed through the work I do [face to face]. Now we have tech as a digital intervention.”

The tech means they can reach more people. “The grand plan is we help people to optimise their sexual life and make sure sex stays alive. Sexual disconnection is a reason couples get divorced.”

Lover is free but you can pay a monthly or annual subscription for additional premium content.

Another app making waves is Ferly, an audio app and guide to mindful sex, launched by founders Billie Quinlan and Dr Anna Hushlak last year. The app brings together audio erotic stories, guided practices and personalised programmes to help women explore pleasure in a more mindful way and overcome sexual issues.

Ms Quinlan says the founders wanted to create a platform that would “tackle a taboo topic”. She adds: “It’s not about the sexualisation of sex or sex toys. It’s about sexual wellness. Sexual health is another really critical pillar of health that’s often neglected until it needs confronting.”

The app takes users through different programmes addressing issues such as lack of body confidence, low libido, and the inability to have an orgasm.

“We use a mindful cognitive behavioural therapy approach,” explains Ms Quinlan. “Many sexual issues are because there’s a physiological barrier. You can’t take a pharma approach… you have to take a holistic approach.”

Like Lover, Ferly is free but charges for premium content.

One user, based in Edinburgh, turned to the app after her sister recommended it. “I was assaulted when I was a teenager and I didn’t have a good relationship around female pleasure. I found it kind of stressful and upsetting for various reasons,” she says.

She used the app while also seeking therapy. “I held back a bit during therapy but the app gave me my own space to reflect. It helped me recognise a lot of emotions and it was good for the healing process. It also made me feel better about what I would feel comfortable asking or expecting from a partner. It gave me more confidence.”

Like many mental health and fitness apps, the start-ups reported an increase in visits during lockdown. “It showed us that people were starting to evaluate their health and that sexual wellness is an important part of that,” says Ms Quinlan.

Blueheart’s Sachin Raoul echoes one of the positive knock-on effects of Covid-19. “Lockdown pronounced parts of people’s lives and made people take care of their mental health,” he says.

Silva Neves, a psychosexual and relationship psychotherapist and couples therapist, says he is really “pro-technology” and can reel off the benefits of such apps, especially for those who can’t afford therapy, but he warns people to do their research before downloading.

“Some platforms are better than others,” he advises. “Don’t just go to Google and find anything. It’s good to be directed by others. Some apps will have just sprinted to market and offer a poor service. Look at the names and backgrounds of the people behind the apps. You want people who are experts in sexology and have qualifications.”

With the digitalisation of the sector, can the apps replace human intervention with a sex therapist?

“There’s a place for both,” says Mr Raoul.”People have different preferences. Some people are extremely shy and would never talk about their sexual issues with someone. Plus not everyone can afford therapy.”

Lover’s Dr Britney Blair adds there will be always be a place for doctors working with patients in the office. “We are not going to create an app that is the same as talking in the office. We are not trying to.

“People talk about sleep and mental health but no-one is talking about sex. About 20% of people [with sexual issues] actually need intervention with a sex therapist but if we can help 80% with their sexual problems, then I’ll take it.”

Wales lockdown: Supermarkets covering up non-essential items

Supermarkets have been covering up non-essential goods as Wales enters a national lockdown.

From 18:00 BST shops will be forced to close for 17 days, unless they sell essential items such as food.

First Minister Mark Drakeford has said supermarkets should also stop selling items such as clothes as a matter of “fairness” until 9 November.

But the Welsh Retail Consortium said it was “deeply disappointed” with the “ill-conceived policy”.

Retailers have said the rules are confusing as they have not been given any definition of what is essential.

By law, clothing and homeware stores, and garden centres, will have to close during the national lockdown, while supermarkets, pharmacies and hardware stores can remain open.

On Thursday, the Welsh Government said that supermarkets would be told not to sell non-essential goods, like clothes, toys, decorations and electrical items during the 17-day firebreak.

Plastic covering was seen placed over pillows and cat baskets in Asda in Coryton, Cardiff.

The company said it had been given “little time to implement these changes or clarity on what is deemed ‘essential'” and had “expressed our deep concerns about the implications for customers accessing products they genuinely need”.

Tesco said it would work “incredibly hard” to comply with the Welsh Government’s rules, while Sainsbury’s said it was “working around the clock to put changes in place”.

The Welsh Retail Consortium said: “In spite of the dearth of government clarity, our members’ focus now will be on equipping hard-working colleagues with as much information as possible given the undoubted uncertainty and complexity that has been caused by this decision.”

Guidance published for retailers on the Welsh Government’s website says aisles selling homeware and decorations, toys, mobile phones, clothes and games, should be “closed to the public”, and some areas may need to be cordoned off.

Speaking at Friday’s Welsh Government briefing, Mr Drakeford said the decision to stop supermarkets from selling all but essential items was based on a “need for fair play”.

“I’m not prepared to treat small businesses in Wales in one way, requiring them to close – they are not able to earn a living during these two weeks, as part of our national efforts – and then simply because another sector in society are more powerful, are bigger, that they think that they can be treated differently.

“It is a straightforward matter of fairness, we are in this together here in Wales.

“No individual and no organisation is above the effort that we are all required to make.”

Mr Drakeford said “many hundreds” of small businesses would be closed across Wales.

“We cannot do that and then allow supermarkets to sell goods that those people are unable to sell,” he said.

He added: “This is not a period to be browsing around supermarkets looking for non-essential goods.”

The Welsh Conservatives have said businesses and the economy would be hit “very, very hard” by the rule, and Plaid Cymru said communication about what the rule meant was “lacking”.

Mr Drakeford defended himself from criticism of the plans saying they were making decisions under “huge pressure.”

“We said from the very beginning that non-essential retail would close in Wales,” he said. “All we are doing is clarifying that and remaining consistent with that initial decision.”

If people could not find essential products in supermarkets there were ways around the problem, he said, adding that friends and neighbours were “often very willing to help”.

“There are online ways that people can purchase goods,” Mr Drakeford said. “It is not a problem without a solution.”

Senedd Conservative leader Paul Davies said: “It shouldn’t have come to this in the first place.

“We believe that introducing this temporary national lockdown is disproportionate and will actually hit businesses and hit the economy very, very hard, and therefore in our view obviously independent retailers should be allowed to open as well.”

Plaid Cymru health spokesman Rhun ap Iorwerth claimed Welsh Government communication was lacking.

“I think that’s been the story throughout this pandemic,” he said.

“I’ve been arguing on behalf of businesses in my constituency back in May, June, July, give us plans, give us an idea of what is ahead.

“This firebreak needs to be a reset for the way government communicates these messages.”

Adrian Murphy: Couple guilty of dancers Devils breath drug murder

A couple have been found guilty of murdering an Irish dancer after meeting him through a gay dating app and poisoning him with an incapacitating drug nicknamed “Devil’s breath”.

Joel Osei, 25, and his partner, Diana Cristea, 19, used Grindr to befriend men before drugging and robbing them.

They were arrested after the body of Adrian Murphy was found at a 17th-floor flat in Battersea, south-west London, on 4 June.

They will be sentenced in December.

Croydon Crown Court heard paramedics had attended to another man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, several days earlier, who had also been drugged and robbed by Osei.

The pair then used the man’s details in a failed bid to buy $80,000 (£62,000) worth of diamonds from a jeweller in New York.

Both Osei and Cristea were also accused of one count of administering a poison or noxious substance so as to endanger life, two counts of theft and eight counts of fraud.

The jury returned a majority guilty verdict on all counts for both defendants.

Osei had admitted manslaughter and an alternative charge of administering poison, with intent to injure, aggrieve, or annoy, as well as seven counts of fraud. He denied two counts of theft.

Cristea admitted one count of fraud and two counts of handling stolen goods.

Prosecutor Crispin Aylett QC told the court the drug scopolamine was known as Devil’s breath in Colombia and is said to be “popular with robbers and rapists” as it allows them to incapacitate their victims.

Following the verdict, Robert Murphy paid tribute to his “inspirational” brother, and said his death had “left a huge void” within the family.

“He made so many loyal friends who are so sad at his untimely passing as he was an inspirational Irishman, who was a gifted dancer and choreographer,” he said.

“Adrian’s legacy is that of a hero and hopefully his tragic death has stopped this happening to any other innocent victim.”

Osei, who was previously living at Kerswell Close in Seven Sisters, north London, and Cristea, of Langley Park, Mill Hill, Barnet, north London, will be sentenced on 14 December.

Wales lockdown: Covid firebreak comes into force

Wales has entered a national 17-day lockdown in an effort to slow the rise of Covid cases and hospital admissions.

Major restrictions to people’s lives came into force at 18:00 BST on Friday.

People can leave home for limited reasons including to buy food and medication, provide care, exercise or to work if they cannot do so from home.

All but essential businesses have closed with economists warning the measures may cost the Welsh economy more than £500m.

The Welsh Government said any delay would have caused greater harm.

But opposition parties have called for clarity on what happens at the end of the period.

The number of patients in hospital in Wales with coronavirus is now the highest since June, according to NHS Wales figures published on Friday.

There were 894 people in Welsh hospitals with the virus, up 26% week-on-week, while 43 of them are in critical care, a rise of 72%.

This is about two-thirds of the number at the peak.

Under the new rules people cannot mix with others they do not live with.

People can no longer meet others indoors, or socialise outdoors, such as in parks or people’s gardens.

People who live alone are allowed to meet one other household. This has to be the same one every time and there are no rules specifying they have to be within any set distance of your home.

There is no limit to how many times people can leave the house to exercise or how far they can run, cycle, walk or jog as local lockdown boundaries have now ended.

But exercising with others, such as running and cycling clubs, will not be allowed, and exercise should start from home.

Grandparents and other relatives can still care for children, but only if no other methods of childcare are available.

Indoor visits to care homes may be allowed but only in “exceptional circumstances”, such as for end-of-life visits.

Earlier on Friday children left school ahead of their half-term break. Primary and special schools will reopen as normal on 2 November after the half-term break – there is no extra time off.

In secondary schools only pupils in Years 7 and 8 will go back to class during the lockdown.

The national rules bring an end to the local restrictions imposed on 15 counties, as well as Bangor and Llanelli, in recent weeks.

People can be fined £60 for a first coronavirus restrictions offence, up to a maximum fixed penalty notice of £1,920.

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said it would be a “difficult and challenging fortnight” but “without taking action now our NHS will soon be overwhelmed and thousands of lives lost”.

Welsh Conservative Senedd leader Paul Davies accused ministers of having “no exit strategy”.

“The Welsh Government needs to give us hope and clarity of what it will actually achieve and what life will look like post national lockdown,” he said.

Find out how the pandemic has affected your area and how it compares with the national average:

If you can’t see the look-up click here.

Fined Digbeth venue tried to argue marquee event was outdoors

A venue has been fined £10,000, after trying to pass off an event in a marquee as being outdoors, police say.

At least 100 people were inside it at LAB11 in Birmingham, police said, many mixing or dancing without masks.

West Midlands Police said this was the fourth £10,000 fine it had handed venues or individuals in recent weeks.

LAB11 said it would temporarily shut. It added it had tried to create a safe environment “for people who normally enjoy nightlife”.

Officers were called to the venue on Trent Street in Digbeth on Saturday night.

Sgt Nick Giess, from Birmingham police’s licensing team, said staff had tried to argue it was an outdoor space, but it was essentially “a building”.

He said the walls and roof meant it “did not fall into the same category as a beer garden”.

He said some tables included people from different households, which is against tier two coronavirus restrictions.

Sgt Giess added: “People were being allowed to freely move around without masks on and dance to really loud music.”

Before the pandemic, LAB11 hosted music and club events.

Its Instagram page shows a series of events planned around Halloween and the management said anyone with tickets would be given a full refund.

LAB11 said despite investment and changes to the venue, the latest Covid restrictions, coupled with “discussions with authorities” cast “elements of doubt over the legalities and practicalities of being open”.

It said it would assess the viability of reopening “as and when” guidelines change.

On Wednesday, the force said a £10,000 fine had been issued to Dahlak Lounge on Hampton Street.

The city centre bar was putting lives at risk by ignoring guidelines, including hosting a 150-person party, it said.

Birmingham City Council said a licensing sub committee had temporarily suspended the licence for 28 days and that a full review would carried out before a final decision was made.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service said the Castle Bromwich Hall Hotel, which hosted a funeral wake for up to 300 mourners had avoided being stripped of its licence.

Police said it was one of a series of events there which broke Covid-19 restrictons.

Its manager was fined £10,000 earlier this month.

Councillors settled for imposing strict new conditions rather than remove its licence.

Coronavirus: Swann deeply concerned about NI cancer services

Health Minister Robin Swann has said he is “deeply concerned” about the postponement of cancer procedures.

It comes after it emerged that 106 people had cancer procedures cancelled in the Belfast Trust area.

“I have always made clear that I expected to see red flag and cancer procedures protected as much as feasibly possible,” Mr Swann.

Meanwhile, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine has warned cancer patients are attending A&E.

It has said that some of those attending have Covid-19.

Speaking on behalf of the college, vice-president Dr Paul Kerr said the health service must be able to adapt to deal with Covid and other emergencies.

It is because scheduled appointments elsewhere are being cancelled.

In a statement on Friday evening, the health minister said from next Monday he had asked for all cancer patients who have had their surgeries cancelled in recent days to be provided with a new date.

Mr Swann said the ability to provide these services, including the appropriate post-operative care, was dependent on the number of Covid-19 hospital admissions, the demand for ICU beds, and the availability of specialised staff.

“That is why stamping down on Covid-19 infection rates is now more critical than ever as reducing our rates helps us to protect those cancer and other vital services,” he said.

He also confirmed the shielding of “clinically extremely vulnerable people” would remain paused, a decision which had been reached after discussions with Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride.

Shielding in Northern Ireland has been paused since 31 July.

In an interview with BBC News NI, Dr Paul Kerr said that surgeries being cancelled, including cancer surgeries, must be addressed by the Department of Health.

The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust apologised after more than 100 people had cancer procedures cancelled.

This week a joint statement from the Royal Colleges in Northern Ireland urged the public to follow public health advice in order to help protect services – especially elective surgeries.

Mr Kerr said he watched cancer patients sitting in emergency departments this week who clearly should not have been there.

“At times we have seen over 200 patients [across all of Northern Ireland’s emergency departments] waiting over 12 hours for a bed, and amongst those patients there have been perhaps 30 to 40 positive Covid cases at times,” he said.

“Amongst those patients there have been many who have cancer. Perhaps those patients are in some kind of crisis, perhaps they are post-chemotherapy and unwell, or perhaps they themselves unfortunately have caught Covid.”

Mr Kerr said there must be a plan in place to address all the outstanding issues that were raised in government health strategy documents like Transforming Your Care.

In particular, he said work force planning – which looks at staffing numbers and the suitability of staff to fulfil roles within the service – needed to be addressed.

“I think there’s a plan but I mean we cannot change, we can’t recruit nurses or make beds overnight so we are responding to an emergency situation where we are at the very height of a pandemic,” he said.

“So we do the best we can on both sides of the equation, both in terms of the operations that patients need and the emergencies that patients present to hospitals with.”

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