Cranswick Country Foods meat plant Covid-19 cases reach 144

More than 140 people have tested positive for coronavirus at a meat processing factory in Norfolk.

Norfolk County Council said the positive test rate at Cranswick Country Foods in Watton, which produces pork products, was a “cause for concern”.

The authority said 144 out of 333 staff tested have given a positive result and now all 1,000 staff at the plant would be tested.

The BBC has contacted the factory for comment.

A council spokesman said the decision over whether to close the factory is not one for the local public health team but they “are liaising with the Joint Biosecurity Council and keeping them updated on the situation”.

Cranswick also has poultry processing sites at Kenninghall, Norfolk, and Yaxley, Suffolk.

It is one of several meat processing plants which have experienced an outbreak of coronavirus among staff.

Turkey producer Bernard Matthews in Holton, Suffolk, has been affected since last month, and a small number of workers at its site in Great Witchingham, Norfolk, tested positive.

Banham Poultry closed for two weeks in August and September when more than 120 staff had the virus.

Uber sued by drivers over automated robo-firing

Former Uber drivers have accused the taxi app firm of using automated “robo-firing” algorithms to dismiss them.

British drivers want courts in the Netherlands – where Uber’s data is based – to overrule the algorithm that they say caused them to be fired.

Experts say the legal challenge is the first of its kind to test the protections of GDPR Article 22.

Uber told the BBC that drivers’ accounts were only deactivated following manual review by humans.

“Uber provides requested personal data and information that individuals are entitled to,” said a spokeswoman for Uber.

“We will give explanations when we cannot provide certain data, such as when it doesn’t exist or disclosing it would infringe on the rights of another person under GDPR.”

The European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force in 2018, imposes obligations on companies who collect people’s personal information, no matter where they are located in the world, if that data is related to EU consumers.

“As part of our regular processes, the drivers in this case were only deactivated after manual reviews by our specialist team,” the spokeswoman added.

The App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU), which is bringing the legal challenge, says that since 2018, it has seen well over 1,000 individual cases where drivers have allegedly been wrongly accused of fraudulent activity and immediately had their accounts terminated without a right of appeal.

“For any private hire operator in London, if they fire someone, there is a requirement where they have to report the driver to Transport for London (TfL),” James Farrar, the ADCU’s general secretary told the BBC.

“This is putting drivers in a Kafkaesque situation where they may be called in by TfL, they’re given 14 days to explain the situation and why they should keep their licence. Our drivers are in a terrible position because they don’t know what the issue is, Uber hasn’t told them.”

Mr Farrar further claims that when TfL asked for additional details, Uber told TfL that it could not provide them, because it would compromise Uber’s security.

ADCU adds that none of the drivers represented by it in this lawsuit have been reported to the police by Uber after having their accounts terminated.

A former Uber driver with ADCU, who has asked not to be named, told the BBC that he had been driving with Uber for about two years and had a customer rating of 4.94 when he was suddenly terminated from the app.

“The day it happened, I went to work and on my app, it said I wasn’t allowed to log in. The app said to call customer support,” he said.

“I rang customer support and I was told that my account was deactivated because I had been engaging in fraudulent activities.”

He said that he contacted Uber more than 50 times over a year and a half via the phone and email, but claims he was never told what he had done that was “fraudulent”.

When he called customer support, he was told that a “specialised team” was dealing with the issue, and that they would call him back. They never called, he says.

“I was pleading with them in my emails repeatedly. I even asked if I could have a face-to-face meeting with the specialised team. I was willing to travel to another country to meet them,” he said.

“I have a family to feed. I’m not a fraudster or a criminal.”

After being terminated, the driver was reported to TfL by Uber. But the taxi app firm did not report him to the police.

TfL wrote to the driver to ask him to answer the allegations in writing. When the driver explained, TfL dropped the matter and did not revoke his licence.

Anton Ekker is a privacy lawyer based in Amsterdam who is representing the British former Uber drivers.

“We know for sure that Uber is using algorithms for decisions about fraud and deactivation of drivers. This is happening everywhere,” he said.

On Uber’s claims that its termination decisions are made by humans, Mr Ekker said: “If it is automated decision-making, then the GDPR says they must have legal grounds to use such technology, and they must give drivers the possibility to object to an automated decision, which they clearly did not do.”

Mr Ekker added that on Twitter he had seen thousands of complaints from Uber drivers all over the world, saying they had been automatically terminated for committing fraud without an explanation.

His intention is to seek a ruling from the Dutch courts, which, if successful, would then make it possible to bring a class action lawsuit against Uber.

According to Prof Lilian Edwards, chair of Law, Innovation and Society at Newcastle University, ADCU’s legal challenge could set a precedent with the European Court of Justice.

“This is probably the biggest case we’ve had so far on Article 22 of the GDPR that’s ever gotten to the courts,” she told the BBC.

In 2017, Prof Edwards, together with Dr Michael Veale of University College London, published an academic paper exploring the challenges relating to transparency and fairness when it comes to the use of computer algorithms to make decisions that affect people’s lives.

“Article 22 is really important because this is the provision that arguably gives you the right to an explanation about why an automated decision was made about you,” she explained.

“There’s been huge debate for years about whether the law could give people some rights over it, and this is a way for us to get some control over it and to be able to challenge it if it’s wrong.

“So this is really big news,” she says.

Covid-19 in the UK: How many coronavirus cases are there in your area?

There have been more than 890,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus so far in the UK and nearly 45,000 people have died, government figures show.

However, these figures include only people who have died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus and other measures suggest the number of deaths is higher.

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.

The government announced 20,890 confirmed cases on Monday.

After a steady decline since the first peak in April, confirmed cases started rising again in July, with the rate of growth increasing sharply from the end of August.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has said it is “almost certain that the epidemic continues to grow exponentially across the country”.

However, cases in the community may still be lower than during the first peak as widespread testing was not available until mid-May, meaning the number of cases recorded at the time was only a fraction of the people with coronavirus.

The most recent figures show hospital admission rates for Covid-19 patients rising most quickly in the North West and the North East and Yorkshire region.

With rising Covid-19 admissions, there have been warnings that hospitals will have to cut back core services.

Cases are rising quickly across large parts of England, with other spikes in areas of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The orange areas on the map below are those currently seeing the highest number of cases per 100,000 people.

Restrictions have been tightened in many areas of the UK in recent weeks.

In England, a three-tier lockdown system has been introduced. On Saturday, South Yorkshire joined Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Liverpool City Region in the highest level, tier three. Warrington will also move into tier three on Tuesday and will be followed by Nottingham, and three other Nottinghamshire councils, on Thursday.

Stoke-on-Trent, Coventry and Slough are the most recent additions to tier two.

Scotland is due to move to a five-tier system of virus alert levels from 2 November. On Monday, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that central Scotland, including Edinburgh and Glasgow, is likely to be in tier 3 (the second-highest tier).

Wales has started a national lockdown, or circuit-breaker, meaning most non-essential businesses are closed and people are only able to leave home for limited reasons, until 9 November.

Northern Ireland has also introduced additional restrictions, including an extended two-week half term for schools.

You can check the Covid-19 restrictions where you live here.

The government announced 102 further deaths on Monday. Though, as the chart below shows, figures on Sunday and Monday are generally below the average due to deaths not being officially registered over the weekend in many places.

Of those deaths, 90 were in England, six in Wales, five in Northern Ireland and one in Scotland.

Three times as many people have died from Covid-19 than from flu and pneumonia in England and Wales this year, according to official figures.

Between January and August 2020, there were 48,168 deaths due to Covid-19 compared to 13,600 from pneumonia. Only 394 were due to flu.

Rules were amended over the summer to include deaths in the coronavirus total only if they occurred within 28 days of a positive test. Previously in England, all deaths after a positive test were included.

England has seen the majority of UK deaths from Covid-19. Using the 28-day cut-off, there have been more than 39,000.

When looking at the overall death toll from coronavirus, official figures count deaths in three different ways.

Government figures count people who tested positive for coronavirus and died within 28 days.

But there are two other measures.

The first includes all deaths where coronavirus was mentioned on the death certificate, even if the person had not been tested for the virus. The most recent figures suggest there had been more than 58,000 deaths by 9 October.

The second method looks at all UK deaths over and above the number usually expected for the time of year – known as excess deaths. This measure shows the death toll was more than 65,000 by 9 October.

There were 11,359 deaths registered in the UK in the week to 9 October, according to the latest figures reported by the Office for National Statistics.

Some 474 of these deaths involved Covid-19 – up by 131, or 38%, on the previous week’s number.

However this represents only 5% of the peak of 9,495 deaths recorded in a week, reached on 17 April.

The “R number” is the average number of people an infected person will pass the disease on to.

If R is below one, then the number of people contracting the disease will fall; if it is above one, the number will grow.

On Friday, the government said its estimate for the R number across the whole of the UK was 1.2 – 1.4.

The estimate for England is 1.2-1.4, while for Scotland it is 1.2-1.5. The estimate for Wales is 1.1-1.4 and in Northern Ireland it is 1.4.

The government has said in the past that the R number is one of the most important factors in making policy decisions.

Toddler in pushchair killed in crash in Ruislip

A toddler in a pushchair has been killed and a man in his 30s has been critically injured in a crash in north-west London.

Another pedestrian was also struck by the driver of a car in Eastcote Road, Ruislip, on Sunday afternoon, the Metropolitan Police said.

A man in his 40 has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.

He is also suspected of driving while unfit through drugs.

Det Sgt Sarah Donegan said: “Our thoughts are with the child’s parents at what must be an unimaginably difficult time.

“We have launched an investigation to establish the circumstances of what happened and I am asking anyone who was in the vicinity at that time who may have seen something, or has dashcam footage or CCTV, to come forward and help us with our investigation.”

Stock markets slide as Covid-19 cases rise

US stock markets are set for their sharpest drop in weeks as concerns about the economic impact of surging coronavirus cases sent shares tumbling.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down about 2.5% in mid afternoon trade in New York, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq both dropped roughly 2%.

Stocks in Europe, where major cities such as Paris have announced new restrictions, also declined.

Shares in travel firms took some of the heaviest losses.

Cruise lines Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian both dropped more than 8%, while British Airways owner IAG closed 7.6% lower.

US President Donald Trump has vowed to avoid widespread restrictions on activity, like the lockdowns this spring, saying such limits are not worth the economic cost.

But in the US such decisions are typically handled by local leaders, some of whom, such as the mayors of El Paso, Texas and Newark, New Jersey, tightened rules on Monday.

Over the last week, the number of new virus cases reported daily in the US has repeatedly passed 80,000, sending the seven day average to a new high of nearly 69,000 – roughly double what it was in September.

The number of hospitalisations has jumped 40% in the past month and death rates are also rising, though more slowly.

On a per capita basis, the number of new cases in the US over the past seven days remains lower than some other countries, including the UK, Spain and France, where new restrictions have also been imposed recently.

On Monday, France’s CAC 40 ended 1.9% lower, while Germany’s Dax index dropped 3.7%. In the UK, the FTSE 100 fell nearly 1.2%.

In the US, investors are also worried about the impasse in Washington over the need to fund additional coronavirus economic relief, and trying to gauge risks related to the upcoming presidential election.

On Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has been trying to broker a deal for the White House, said the two sides remained far apart. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, who leads Democrats in the House of Representatives made similar comments.

Leicester attacks: Boy, 10, had neck cut open

A man carried out a series of “calculated and deliberate” attacks, including stabbing a 10-year-old boy in the neck and driving a car into a five-year-old girl, a court has heard.

Carlos Vinodchandra Racitalal, 33, formerly of Finsbury Road, Leicester, is alleged to have attacked the boy while his mother was parking her car.

Mr Racitalal is accused of a series of attacks in the city between 2 and 18 January.

He denies four attempted murder counts.

Leicester Crown Court heard Mr Racitalal, who is also facing three counts of possession of a bladed article, approached the boy on 18 January.

“The defendant came along the pavement and put a hand on [the boy’s] shoulder and then drew a knife across [his] neck, cutting it open,” said Christopher Donnellan QC, prosecuting.

The boy sustained a 10cm (four inch) deep gash to his neck.

“[He] was millimetres away from ending [his] life,” Mr Donnellan said.

The defendant is also alleged to have driven a black Corsa into the back of a five-year-old child who was holding her grandfather’s hand in an Asda car park off Abbey Lane on 2 January.

“She was launched forward into another car and fell to the ground,” Mr Donnellan said.

“The defendant was driving. It wasn’t an accident. It was calculated and deliberate.”

The jury heard the little girl suffered injuries to her nose and chin.

“There were screams as [her grandfather] was frantic with distress and was in quite a state for some time because of what he had just seen,” Mr Donnellan told the court.

In another attack, a woman was walking home with her two children, aged six and three, on 14 January when she was stabbed in the back of her head.

“She saw someone there with a yellow-handled knife,” Mr Donnellan said. “That person didn’t say anything, didn’t ask her anything, didn’t grab anything, didn’t take anything.

“She didn’t see where he came from and didn’t see where he went.”

A further attack took place on 16 January on a man who was walking home after going shopping.

“The attack on him near his home by the defendant was brutal,” said Mr Donnellan.

“The defendant used a huge knife to attack [the victim], striking him around the head more than once, causing nasty wounds.

“Mercifully his wounds didn’t prove fatal.

“On each occasion the defendant was launching an unprovoked attack on a vulnerable child or adult. Each defenceless. Each taken by surprise,” the court was told.

“On each occasion he left the scene and didn’t do anything to check on his victims or help them.”

The court heard Mr Racitalal handed himself into a police station after CCTV of the attacks was released on social media, and he was arrested on 20 January.

The trial continues.

School meals: How many children can claim free meals?

The row over extending free school meals over the school holidays has continued into its second week.

The UK government has defended not extending the scheme over the half-term holiday. It says it is supporting families through extra money for universal credit and additional funding for councils.

But how many pupils can claim free school meals, and which parts of the country have the highest rates?

In England, children living in households on income-related benefits (such as universal credit) are eligible for free school meals, as long as their annual household income does not exceed £7,400 after tax, not including welfare payments.

This is the same in Wales and Scotland, however in Northern Ireland the cap is set at £14,000 a year.

If a child is eligible, their parent or guardian can claim at any age – from pre-school to further education.

In England and Scotland, all infant state school pupils (those in Reception and in Years 1 and 2) can get free school meals during term time – regardless of their household income.

As of January 2020, excluding year groups where eligibility is universal, 1.4m children qualify for free school meals in England – or 17.3% of the student population.

This is the highest proportion of children eligible in at least a decade.

In Scotland, the equivalent figure is 89,000 primary and secondary pupils – or about 17% of pupils.

In Wales, 20% of pupils are eligible for free school meals and in Northern Ireland it is 28% of pupils.

The proportion of children eligible varies considerably across the country, but generally matches recognised trends surrounding regional deprivation and wealth.

For example, almost a quarter of pupils in the north-east of England are eligible compared with about 13% of pupils in the south-east.

The highest proportion of students eligible for free school meals – about a third – in England are in:

Meanwhile, the lowest proportion of pupils eligible – fewer than one in 10 – are in:

Some groups are more likely to be eligible than others, including some ethnic minorities.

For example, more than 60% of Irish Traveller pupils taking their GCSEs are eligible for free school meals.

Roma/Gypsy, Bangladeshi and black pupils also have disproportionately high eligibility.

Meanwhile, white, Indian and Chinese pupils are far less likely to be eligible for free school meals.

According to the Department for Work and Pensions, an estimated 4.1m children live in relative poverty in Great Britain.

However, fewer than two million pupils across Scotland, Wales and England are eligible for free school meals.

But these two numbers are ultimately showing two different things.

Relative poverty is calculated by taking the median income – that’s the income where half of all households earn more and half earn less – and then looking at how many children live in households earning less than 60% of this.

Meanwhile, free school meal eligibility is a measurement of how many school-age children are living in households claiming some form of employment-related welfare benefit.

Some households in relative poverty might not meet the financial threshold to claim certain benefits.

Both relative poverty and free school meal eligibility are measurements of income rather than food insecurity – although the two are closely linked.

In the UK, there is no single measurement for hunger.

However, a report by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee from 2019 looked at different measurements in a report on food insecurity.

This included:

None of these measurements are perfect, but shine some light on the scale of the problem.

This is likely – especially since it is based on those claiming welfare.

We know that in Great Britain, the number of households with children claiming universal credit increased by about 45% between January and May 2020.

However, not all of the additional 500,000 households with children claiming the benefit will be eligible for free school meals, due to the £7,400 cap.

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