Rare black fox sighting in Somerset brings traffic to a standstill

A man who saw a rare black fox on a country lane said he initially had “no idea” what he was looking at.

Karm Singh was heading home after a walk on the beach at Brean in Somerset when he saw the animal on the side of the road.

The 34-year-old said traffic came to a halt as people stopped to see the rare sight.

The animals are a type of North American red fox with a trait that makes their fur silvery-black.

“The car in front of me stopped and then I saw what I thought was a stray dog at first but as it got closer I realised it was a fox,” said Mr Singh, from Bristol.

“I had to Google it as I had no idea a fox that colour even existed.

“The traffic was building up behind me. It was crazy.”

With their car stopped, he and partner Lily McDonald managed to take several photographs.

Mr Singh reported the sighting to campaign group Black Foxes UK, which says the animals are sometimes escaped pets that need to be returned home.

According to the group, about 0.1% of foxes in the UK are melanistic (black) and are often referred to as ‘silver foxes’.

Covid in Scotland: Stay at home plea amid Wigtownshire outbreak

People in parts of Dumfries and Galloway are being urged to stay at home as much as possible after a Covid outbreak more than doubled in two days.

The new B.1.1.7 variant has been identified as being part of the outbreak in Wigtownshire, which grew from 64 cases on Boxing Day to 142.

It has also been identified in lower Annandale.

Health officials have asked people in these regions to “go beyond” the level four restrictions where possible.

They have asked people to stay at home as much as possible to limit the spread locally and to other parts of the region.

And they have warned that it could have an impact on wider local health services.

Of the 154 tests carried out in Stranraer on Sunday, 55 were positive – the biggest increase in Covid cases seen in one area of Dumfries and Galloway since the start of the pandemic.

Health officials said they expected to see more cases appearing and extra testing was being put in place in Stranraer from 29 December to 4 January.

They are also concerned about a “growing number” of cases in lower Annandale, where the new variant has also been identified.

Interim Director of Public Health Valerie White said: “This is a rapidly evolving situation where we expect to see more cases appearing. At the current rate of spread, there is a very serious concern about how this will impact on services.

“In the days to come, a percentage of people among these newly diagnosed Covid cases will grow ill and the number of people needing hospitalisation is likely to increase – potentially impacting on our ability to provide help to those people who need it for any number of other non-Covid reasons – whether that’s heart attacks, strokes, car accidents, etc.

“It’s therefore vital that everyone follows the level four directions and the FACTS guidance about use of face coverings, hand hygiene and physical distancing and social interaction.”

She added: “Covid does not just impact on those who develop the coronavirus, or who experience the worst of its symptoms – at this rate of increase, the effect of its rapid spread could be felt by anyone across the entire community.”

She urged people to “be conscious of the threat posed at new year, and consider the potential consequences both personally and community-wide”.

The B.1.1.7 variant of Covid-19 is up to 70% more transmissible and is viewed as being responsible for significant volumes of cases in south east England.

The variant has 17 mutations, where the virus has changed, with some of these changes making it more infectious in lower doses.

Along with the rest of mainland Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway has been moved to level four restrictions to try and curb the spread of infection.

It means non-essential shops, pubs and restaurants are closed – except for takeaways and click-and-collect – and there are restrictions on people travelling outside their local authority boundaries.

Mansfield landslide: Families evacuated for second time in a year

Families who were evacuated after a second landslide at the same spot in just over a year have said they are now “terrified” of it happening again.

Four properties on Bank End Close in Mansfield were evacuated on Wednesday night following heavy rain.

The residents living on the housing estate, which sits on the site of a former quarry, returned to their homes the following day.

Mansfield District Council has asked them to “remain vigilant”.

Toby Herring, whose home backs on to the cliff wall, said: “It felt like a big gust of wind and our dog started barking.

“There were loads of sirens and police cars outside. We then thought it’s not happened again, has it?”

He added: “It’s really worrying. It’s terrifying.

“When we moved back on Christmas Eve it was hard to go back to sleep knowing it’s sort of still there.”

Another resident Jai Krishnaa said: “We thought it was fixed and it will be OK, so never thought of it as a worry.

“But to see it slip again – now I’m constantly thinking about it.”

The district council said the debris was cleared and were people given temporary accommodation before being allowed to return to their homes on Thursday.

A spokeswoman had said previously, soil had slipped at the rear of two properties, but this had been “contained within the defined drop zone and behind the barriers that were installed by the council in November 2019”.

Last November, another landslide led to 35 homes being evacuated at the same spot near the former Berry Hill Quarry.

Nobody was injured, but about 19 households spent two weeks in temporary accommodation.

An independent consultant concluded in August the site should not have been developed until the quarry face was secured.

Following repair work, the cliff wall was last inspected by the district council in early November and no issues were reported.

Hilaria Baldwin denies faking her Spanish heritage

Hilaria Baldwin, TV host and wife of actor Alec Baldwin, has responded to accusations she misled the public about her Spanish heritage.

Ms Baldwin, a popular yoga instructor, has been accused on social media of faking her Spanish accent.

In a response posted to Instagram, Ms Baldwin said she was born in Boston but was partly raised in Spain.

However, her management’s biography of her states that she was born on the Spanish island of Mallorca.

She also previously claimed in an interview that she did not move to the United States until she was 19 to attend university in New York.

“I’ve seen chatter online questioning my identity and culture,” Ms Baldwin wrote. “This is something I take very seriously, and for those who are asking – I’ll reiterate my story, as I’ve done many times before.

“I was born in Boston and grew up spending time with my family between Massachusetts and Spain. My parents and sibling live in Spain and I chose to live here, in the USA. We celebrate both cultures in our home – Alec and I are raising our children bilingual, just as I was raised.”

Suspicions started to rise on social media as people claiming to be former classmates of Ms Baldwin in Boston disputed her Spanish accent.

“I went to high school with her,” wrote one person. “She was perfectly nice and serious about ballroom dancing. Her name was indeed Hillary Hayward-Thomas and she did not have her current accent.”

A video of Ms Baldwin asking how to say cucumber in English has also been widely shared.

But Ireland Baldwin has leapt to her stepmother’s defence.

“It’s so pathetic that anyone would want to play detective, and dig that deep into someone’s life that they don’t know, don’t know anything about, how they were raised, who they were actually raised by,” she said on Instagram.

Covid-19: Concern at unprecedented infection level in England

England’s “very high” Covid infection level is a “growing concern” as the NHS struggles to cope with rising patient numbers, a health official has said.

On Monday, a further 41,385 Covid cases and 357 deaths were reported in the UK.

Some data for Scotland and Northern Ireland is not being released over the Christmas period.

Dr Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said: “Despite unprecedented levels of infection, there is hope on the horizon.”

She urged members of the public to “continue to play our part in stopping the spread of the virus” as the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine is rolled out.

“This very high level of infection is of growing concern at a time when our hospitals are at their most vulnerable, with new admissions rising in many regions,” Dr Doyle said in a statement.

There were 21,286 people in hospital with coronavirus across the UK on 22 December – the last day for which data is available – according to government figures.

Scotland is not releasing data around deaths between 24 and 28 December, while Northern Ireland is not providing either case or death data.

Hospitals in Wales, Scotland and the south of England have reported a rising pressure on their services as the number of Covid patients rises.

The president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine said she saw “wall to wall Covid” when she worked at one London hospital on Christmas Day.

Dr Katherine Henderson told the BBC there was a “great deal of difficulty” getting patients into wards.

She added: “The chances are that we will cope, but we cope at a cost – the cost is not doing what we had hoped, which is being able to keep non-Covid activities going.

“It is always challenging in winter, nobody would say that it wasn’t, but at the moment the level of patient need is incredibly high.”

A Public Health Wales official said hospitals were under enormous and unprecedented pressure.

Public Health Wales’ Dr Giri Shankar said large numbers of patients, and staff sickness, have created an “incredibly challenging” situation.

And doctors have warned Scotland’s health system is “severely stretched”.

Prof Jackie Taylor, president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, said: “We are still seeing significant amounts of patients with Covid and large amounts of standard respiratory infections and other emergency that we see at this time of year.”

The chief executive of Homerton hospital in east London urged people to comply with the tier four restrictions in force.

In a tweet, Tracey Fletcher wrote: “We are extremely busy… our nurses and doctors are incredibly stretched caring for very sick patients. No-one should underestimate the impact the infection can have.”

Infection rates in England are currently highest in areas of Essex, London and other parts of the South East.

Parts of Essex have recorded the highest weekly coronavirus case rates since the pandemic began. In the week leading up to 21 December, Brentwood, Epping Forest and Thurrock all had rates of more than 1,350 cases per 100,000 people.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said the government’s tiered system for coronavirus rules in England was the “right strategy – but the important thing to do is take into account the emerging scientific and medical evidence”.

Some 24 million people in the south-east and east of England – about 43% of the population – are now living under the strictest tier four rules and a review on 30 December could see more areas placed under the restrictions.

Mr Gove said: “I can’t pre-empt that because it obviously has to be a judgement based on the medical situation. But… the NHS is under pressure and these are difficult months ahead.”

Mainland Scotland entered level four restrictions from Saturday for three weeks, and similar rules are in place in Wales. Northern Ireland has also entered a new six-week lockdown.

The BBC has been told the London Ambulance Service (LAS) received as many emergency calls on 26 December as it did at the height of the first wave of Covid-19.

The 7,918 calls it received was up more than 2,500 on the same day last year. An LAS memo said the rising demand was down to the “rapid spread of the new variant of the Covid-19 virus”.

Figures seen by the BBC show at one London hospital on Sunday morning, ambulance crews were typically waiting nearly six hours to hand over patients to staff.

One paramedic told the BBC that some patients had been treated in ambulance bays because of a shortage of beds and staff were finding the whole situation “very stressful”.

NHS England said coronavirus vaccinations had been paused on Christmas Day and over the weekend but would resume on Monday.

The vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech was the first to be given approval in the UK.

Prof Andrew Pollard, the chief investigator of the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, said they were hoping regulators would soon give their approval for its use.

Kent lorry queue down to 60 vehicles after border closure

Fewer than 60 lorry drivers are waiting to cross to France after thousands had queued over Christmas, the Department for Transport says.

Hauliers had to wait to cross the Channel after France closed the border on 20 December following a UK alert over a new Covid-19 variant.

By Monday, 59 HGVs were waiting in Kent, the DFT said.

Since the border reopened, following an agreement reached on 22 December, 14,659 lorries have crossed to France.

Traffic flow systems used during cross-Channel disruption came into force over the last week, including Operations Brock and Stack, where lorries queue on the M20 and use lorry parks, including the site at Manston Airport.

At one stage, about 5,000 lorries were waiting at Manston and hundreds of military personnel were deployed to help clear the backlog.

Transport Minister Robert Courts said: “With progress made on clearing the Manston site and work on getting hauliers holding in Operations Brock and Stack moving, there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Drivers must now show proof of a Covid-19 negative test before they can enter France from the UK.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Monday that 21,849 coronavirus tests had been carried out, with 66 positive results. He also said the M20 had been reopened.

Many of the lorries that crossed were carrying a driver and also one passenger or more.

Volunteers and organisations including HM Coastguard, Kent County Council and the Road Haulage Association (RHA) delivered meals and water to drivers, and Tesco and Eddie Stobart Logistics provided food parcels.

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “Nothing can compare to spending Christmas with the family. These drivers have been denied that through no fault of their own.”

Covid in Scotland: Confirmed cases pass 120,000

Almost 1,000 positive tests for Covid-19 have been recorded in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of confirmed cases to more than 120,000.

The average number of new cases per day has been rising steadily following a spike of infections before Christmas.

The percentage of people testing positive in Scotland has also been higher than 12% for the past two days.

National clinical director Prof Jason Leitch urged people not to delay their test if they had symptoms.

Scottish government figures show that 967 cases were reported on Monday, taking the total during the whole pandemic to 120,891.

The number of deaths following a positive test remains at 4,416, but no update is being given on this figure between 25 and 28 December.

Hospital and ICU figures will also not be updated until 29 December.

The “positivity rate” reached 12.3% on Sunday – the highest it has been during the second wave of the pandemic and a significant rise on recent weeks.

The rate is important because the World Health Organisation says the percentage of positive test results is a key measure when assessing the status of a Covid-19 outbreak within a country.

Although the rate fluctuates daily, a two-day period above 12% is notable.

The Scottish government said Covid-19 testing centres were open as normal over the Christmas period and people should not put off getting a test if they have symptoms.

Delaying tests would “hamper efforts” to tackle a new variant of the virus which is believed to be much more transmissible.

Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care Partnership said cases linked to an outbreak in Wigtownshire had more than doubled over the last two days.

The new strain of the virus has been identified as part of this outbreak, which has grown from from 64 cases on Boxing Day to 142 on Monday.

Prof Leitch said it was “paramount” people did not delay getting a test.

“Getting tested also helps to give us the up-to-date data on how Covid-19 is spreading, which we need to tackle the virus,” he said.

“If people delay that testing then they are potentially putting other people at risk.

“So if you have a high temperature or fever, new continuous cough or a change in sense of smell or taste, you should self-isolate and please book a test immediately.”

All of mainland Scotland moved into the toughest level of coronavirus restrictions on 26 December.

Millions of people are now living under level four curbs – the highest of the country’s five-tier system of anti-virus measures.

The change means non-essential retail and hospitality have been closed and additional travel restrictions imposed to curb a new strain of the virus.

The restrictions are due to be reviewed in three weeks.

Stockwell stabbing: Murder probe after woman found dead

A man has been arrested on suspicion of murdering a woman who was stabbed to death at a home in south London.

Scotland Yard said the 27-year-old suspect and the victim, who is believed to have been in her 20s, were known to each other.

Police were called to a disturbance in Clapham Road, Stockwell, at about 21:10 GMT on Sunday.

The woman was found suffering from stab injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.

1 2 3 5