Covid: Around half of intensive care patients in Wales are dying

Around half of patients admitted to Welsh intensive care units during the second wave of the pandemic have died, a study has found.

The Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC) found men aged in their 60s were more likely to need intensive care.

It also found those from Asian backgrounds and deprived areas were disproportionately affected.

But a leading doctor said, overall, people were more likely to survive now.

Intensive care consultant Matt Morgan said new treatments meant only the sickest patients were reaching intensive care, where outcomes were poorer.

ICNARC collected information on 431 Welsh patients who were critically ill with coronavirus from 1 September to 31 December 2020 as part of a UK-wide audit of intensive care patients.

Of the patients who were admitted, 68% were men and 32% women. The average age of a patient was 59.5 years.

While the vast majority of patients were white (91.6%), the number of patients of Asian ethnicity was more than double the proportion of the Asian population, with 6.3% of patients recorded as being Asian, compared to an average of 2.4% in their local population.

The audit of patients found that, excluding those still being treated at the unit, half had died while half had been discharged.

Although the numbers of patients surveyed is relatively low for statistical purposes, Dr Morgan said the survival rate reflected the situation in hospitals.

“We are putting fewer people, who are in the first stage of their illness, on to life support machines. And that is because we have treatments now that we know can help,” he said.

“Overall, you are more likely now to survive Covid than ever before, and that is in every age group – sometimes by as much as 10% more.

“What we do know is that overall, out of every ten people who come to intensive care with Covid about six of them will survive and will leave the intensive care unit. Which means sadly four them won’t, four of them will die.

“That’s similar overall to the first wave but that data is based on some patients who are still in the intensive care unit. So that may change and it’s more likely to get worse rather than better.”

“We also know patients who are on life support machines in the intensive care unit will do worse than those who come to the intensive care unit and are not on life support machines.

“For those people, it’s probably five out of 10 people who will survive and five who will sadly die and that may be worse when we have the data on those who are still there.

“And there’s a big effect of age. So for those over the age of 70 it may be as little as four people out of 10 who survive, maybe less. And for those over the age of 80 it may be as low as one or two people out of ten who survive.

The figures from ICNARC also highlight how people from poorer backgrounds were more likely to need treatment in intensive care.

Using a deprivation score from 1 to 5, more than half of patients scored 4 or 5, representing the most deprived postcodes in Wales.

Dr Morgan said: “Sadly, disease is an illness of deprivation.

“And so that’s why we feel it, particularly in Wales where the industrial scars of our past are still very much there – and our health is there.”

Covid-19: UAE dropped from UK travel corridor list

The United Arab Emirates is being removed from the UK list of travel corridors amid a spike in Covid cases.

That means anyone who arrives from the UAE after 04:00 GMT on Tuesday will need to self-isolate for 10 days, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.

UK officials say Covid cases have risen 52% in the UAE in the last seven days and cite “a significant acceleration in the number of imported cases”.

It comes after Scotland removed the UAE city Dubai from its safe travel list.

The Foreign Office has also updated its advice to advise against all but essential travel to the emirates.

The recent lockdown restrictions imposed across the UK mean leisure travel is currently banned.

But the UAE has been in particular focus in recent weeks after a number of UK reality TV and social media stars posted photographs of themselves holidaying there before the rules came into place.

And a Celtic footballer tested positive for Covid-19 after the club took a trip to Dubai for a winter training camp.

Celtic were allowed to go as a group under exemptions for elite athletes. As a result,15 playing and coaching staff are now required to self-isolate.

Dubai was added to Scotland’s travel quarantine list from 04:00 GMT on Monday – with the rule also applying retrospectively for passengers who have arrived in Scotland from the city since January 3.

The Department for Transport said the removal of the whole of the UAE from the travel corridor is being adopted by all four UK nations.

Arrivals to the UK from most destinations now have quarantine for 10 days.

However, arrivals from some countries are exempt from the rules. Those countries make up the so-called travel corridor list.

From this week, passengers arriving by boat, train or plane, including UK nationals, must also take a Covid test up to 72 hours before leaving the country of departure.

Ford ends decades of Brazil manufacturing

Ford has said it is closing its last three factories in Brazil, putting an end to decades of manufacturing presence in the country.

The US carmaker blamed the pandemic, which it said had amplified years of poor sales and “significant losses” in the region.

About 5,000 people, mostly in Brazil, are expected to lose their jobs.

The decision is part of a global restructuring by Ford as it tries to improve its financial performance.

“With more than a century in South America and Brazil, we know these are very difficult, but necessary, actions to create a healthy and sustainable business,” said Ford chief executive Jim Farley.

Before the Covid outbreak, Ford had announced plans to scale back in several markets, with closures in countries that included Brazil, the UK, France, Germany and Russia.

It cut hundreds more jobs last year amid a downturn in car sales due to the pandemic.

On Monday, Ford said it planned to stop operations at its Camaçari and Taubaté plants immediately, though some production of parts will continue for a few months to support inventories.

The Taubaté factory, which opened in 1974 near São Paulo, made engines, while Camcari, which opened in 2001, produced cars such as the Ka Hatch.

The Troller plant in Horizonte, in the north-eastern state of Ceará, which makes off-road vehicles, is due to shut in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Ford said it expected the wind-down to cost $4.1bn, including separation payments, and was working to find buyers for the plants.

The firm, which opened its first assembly plant in Brazil in 1920, later expanding to full-blown manufacturing, will retain some presence in the country, including a regional headquarters in São Paulo.

“I want to emphasize that we are committed to the region for the long term and will continue to offer customers full sales, service and warranty support,” said Lyle Watters, president of Ford South America and the company’s International Markets Group.

Research firm IHS Markit estimates that global car sales dropped about 15% in 2020. In Brazil, sales dropped 26% and are not expected to recover for at least two years, Ford said.

Covid: Morrisons and Sainsburys ban maskless shoppers

Morrisons will bar customers who refuse to wear face coverings from its shops amid rising coronavirus infections.

From Monday, shoppers who refuse to wear face masks offered by staff will not be allowed inside, unless they are medically exempt.

Sainsbury’s also said it would challenge those not wearing a mask or who were shopping in groups.

The announcements come amid concerns that social distancing measures are not being adhered to in supermarkets.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the government is “concerned” shops are not enforcing rules strictly enough.

“Ultimately, the most important thing to do now is to make sure that actually enforcement – and of course the compliance with the rules – when people are going into supermarkets are being adhered to,” Mr Zahawi told Sky News.

“We need to make sure people actually wear masks and follow the one-way system,” he said.

Morrisons said it had “introduced and consistently maintained thorough and robust safety measures in all our stores” since the start of the pandemic.

But it said: “From today we are further strengthening our policy on masks.”

Security guards at the UK’s fourth-biggest supermarket chain will be enforcing the new rules.

Morrisons’ chief executive, David Potts, said: “Those who are offered a face covering and decline to wear one won’t be allowed to shop at Morrisons unless they are medically exempt.

“Our store colleagues are working hard to feed you and your family, please be kind.”

Following Morrisons’ announcement, Sainsbury’s said that it was also putting trained security guards at the front of its stores to challenge shoppers who did not comply.

Chief executive Simon Roberts said: “I’ve spent a lot of time in our stores reviewing the latest situation over the last few days and on behalf of all my colleagues, I am asking our customers to help us keep everyone safe.

“The vast majority of customers are shopping safely, but I have also seen some customers trying to shop without a mask and shopping in larger family groups.

“Please help us to keep all our colleagues and customers safe by always wearing a mask and by shopping alone. Everyone’s care and consideration matters now more than ever.”

Earlier on Monday, Mr Zahawi stopped short of saying that supermarket staff should be responsible for enforcing rules on face masks.

Enforcement of face coverings is the responsibility of the police, not retailers. Wearing face masks in supermarkets and shops is compulsory across the UK.

In England, the police can issue a £200 fine to someone breaking the face covering rules. In Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, a £60 fine can be imposed. Repeat offenders face bigger fines.

However, retail industry body the British Retail Consortium said that, workers have faced an increase in incidents of violence and abuse when trying to encourage shoppers to put them on.

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, added: “Supermarkets continue to follow all safety guidance and customers should be reassured that supermarkets are Covid-secure and safe to visit during lockdown and beyond.

“Customers should play their part too by following in-store signage and being considerate to staff and fellow shoppers.”

Under current lockdown restrictions across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, people must only leave home for essential reasons, such as buying food or medicine.

In a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus, supermarkets introduced social distancing measures during the UK’s first nationwide lockdown last March. They included limits on the numbers of customers in the shops at any one time, protective plastic screens at tills and “marshals” to ensure shoppers were maintaining a two-metre distance.

But amid rising numbers of infections, some have expressed concerns about a “lack of visible protections” implemented by supermarkets in recent weeks.

The First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, said on Saturday that he wanted to see stores policed as they were during the first lockdown as people were worried the strict enforcement of rules did not “appear to be there this time”.

“Given the fact the new variant is so much easier to catch… we are looking at supermarkets and other places where people leave their homes, to make sure they are organised in a way that keeps their staff and customers safe,” he said.

Supermarket Waitrose said that it was taking a “cautious approach” to the virus, with marshals checking that customers are wearing face coverings on the door, hand sanitiser stations at its entrances and written communications to shoppers reminding them to maintain their distance.

Tesco said it was limiting the number of customers in store and was also reminding customers to wear masks.

“We have clear signage explaining this, and we have packs of face coverings available for purchase near the front of our stores for any customers who have forgotten them.”

Meanwhile, Asda announced last week that it would extend its marshals’ hours to 08:00 to 20:00 and increase how often baskets and trollies are cleaned.

Shop workers’ union Usdaw has also called for firms to apply more stringent measures again.

The union’s general secretary, Paddy Lillis, said that it had received reports that “too many customers are not following necessary safety measures like social distancing, wearing a face covering and only shopping for essential items”.

“It is going to take some time to roll out the vaccine and we cannot afford to be complacent in the meantime, particularly with a new strain sweeping the nation,” Mr Lillis said.

The trade union also suggested that “‘one-in one-out” policies and proper queuing systems should be reintroduced in supermarkets.

It added that these systems should be managed by trained security staff where necessary.

Covid: Couple on 60-mile lockdown trip rescued from hilltop

A couple on a 60-mile lockdown trip had to be rescued from the summit of one of Yorkshire’s three peaks.

The “ill-equipped” pair called for help after losing their way amid fog and snow on Ingleborough on Sunday afternoon.

Volunteer rescuers found the man and woman, from Rochdale, “cold and shaken” but otherwise unharmed, North Yorkshire Police said.

It said the pair’s actions were “not necessary and not acceptable”.

Supt Mike Walker said officers had been “run off their feet” as they dealt with “numerous out-of-area visitors” to the area.

More news from across Yorkshire

The couple were “incredibly fortunate” to have escaped without injury, Supt Walker said, who criticised their decision to make the journey.

He said the public was “clearly advised” to stay at home over the weekend and to “stay local” when taking exercise.

“Quite simply driving miles and miles, out of your village, town or city to visit an open space is not a necessary journey and is not acceptable,” he said.

“Neither is arriving at a challenging walking location, inexperienced and unprepared in treacherous weather conditions.”

Their “irresponsible and ill-informed decision” could have risked the safety of rescuers and placed further pressure upon the NHS, he said.

The force said officers issued more than 70 fines in the county over the weekend, including for several house parties in Scarborough.

North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan said “taking a day trip to North Yorkshire from elsewhere” was not a valid reason for travel.

Covid: Women fined for going for a walk receive police apology

Two women who were fined £200 each when they drove five miles for a walk have had the penalties withdrawn.

Jessica Allen and Eliza Moore were walking at Foremark Reservoir, Derbyshire, when they were “surrounded” by officers.

At the time Derbyshire Police insisted driving to exercise was “not in the spirit” of the most recent lockdown.

But new national guidance for police has led the force to quash the fines, and apologise to the women.

Chief Constable Rachel Swann said the fines “have been withdrawn and we have notified the women directly, apologising for any concern caused”.

The two friends travelled the short distance to the reservoir from their homes in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire, on Wednesday afternoon.

They said their cars were “surrounded” by police. They were then questioned on why they were there and told the hot drinks they had brought along were not allowed as they were “classed as a picnic”.

In a statement, the women said: “This afternoon we both received a phone call from Derbyshire Police.

“After reviewing our case, our fines have been rescinded and we have received an apology on behalf of the constabulary for the treatment we received.

“We welcomed this apology and we are pleased to draw a line under this event.”

After the incident gained media attention, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) “clarified the policing response concerning travel and exercise”.

The guidance said: “The Covid regulations which officers enforce and which enables them to issue FPNs [fixed penalty notices] for breaches, do not restrict the distance travelled for exercise.”

Derbyshire Police said: “Having received clarification of the guidance issued by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) on Friday, these FPNs as well as a small number of others issued, were reviewed in line with that latest advice, and so it is right that we have taken this action.”

The county’s police and crime commissioner Hardyal Dhinsda said: “While the police are doing their absolute best to protect public safety during what is a critical time of the pandemic, the public should rightly expect a proportionate and balanced approach, taking full consideration of individual circumstances.

“We recognise that errors will occur in the face of complex guidance and legislation and it is important such situations are resolved quickly and fairly, as has been the case here.”

Covid: Rule change allows parents to stay in hotels to see children

The government has changed coronavirus rules, allowing parents to stay in hotels so they can visit their child if they do not live with them.

Previously parents could visit children during lockdown, but restrictions prevented them from staying overnight.

The change, which came into force on Boxing Day, applies throughout lockdown in England and for all future tiers.

It follows a campaign by ex-BBC journalist Tom de Castella, who described the new rule as “great news”.

He said “the worst aspect” of the pandemic for him had been “the way it has affected my ability to see my daughter”.

Mr de Castella added: “She’s three-years-old and lives in north Norfolk with her mum. I live in south London [and] the drive is about three and a half hours each way.

“It’s a long day. To do it two days running is a killer.”

In November, he tried to book into a hotel in Norwich to allow him to see his daughter over successive days, only to be told it was not allowed.

“Going as a separated parent was deemed to be a ‘leisure’ purpose by the hotel [and] only keyworkers could stay,” the freelance journalist added.

“I checked the rules, there was nothing to treat me as an exemption to the lockdown rules. It had a massive bearing on seeing my daughter.”

Mr de Castella said it was “absurd” that the rules treated seeing his daughter as a leisure activity.

“This is about building a bond with your child, it’s crucial to their development,” he added.

“It was massively frustrating for me. For my job I was allowed to go up there and stay in a hotel. But to stay there to spend time with my daughter after months apart was effectively banned.”

But he welcomed the change in rules, saying: “It’s great news that at least this anomaly has now been corrected.”

Last year, following initial confusion, the government confirmed that children of parents who were separated would be able to move between households while coronavirus restrictions were in place.

Under the current restrictions, hotels and hostels are expected to close except for specific circumstances.

Exemptions include where venues act as someone’s main residence, where the customer cannot return home, when providing accommodation to the homeless, or where someone needs accommodation for work purposes.

According to government guidance, hotel restaurants and bars should remain closed, but ordering food and drink via room service is still permitted.

Supermarket staff: Were lucky if people wear masks

“People did take the first lockdown a lot more seriously – in this lockdown we’re lucky if people are wearing masks.”

Skye Henson is 23 and works in a supermarket in Lincoln and has worked throughout the pandemic.

She says now is definitely the toughest time to be working as people are no longer respecting rules like social distancing.

“A good 30% of the people that come into our shop don’t wear masks and just outright don’t think it’s an issue,” she tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

“They don’t consider us to be in any kind of danger, so for me I do think a lot of it is the public putting us at risk.”

Her words come as the government has warned shoppers to follow the rules in supermarkets.

Skye says she’s faced a lot of abuse from the public when trying to enforce mask-wearing too.

“He was coughing so I asked him to put on his mask and he said, ‘You can’t expect me to wear it, I can’t breathe in it’ and he was very nasty about it,” she says.

She has a message for people visiting supermarkets.

“Even if you don’t think you’re personally at risk, there’s people who us workers have at home that are.

“I can’t see my family throughout this whole thing because they are high risk, so please be considerate of us.

“Also be respectful of us, we’re just doing our job and we shouldn’t have to face abuse in our workplace – we’re not getting paid enough!”

Nearly 300 miles away in Edinburgh, Lucy Scyner has been having a similar experience during her supermarket shifts.

“Social distancing with customers has gone out the window,” she says.

“During Christmas it was absolutely mental with people coming in and reaching over each other, reaching over you, they’re up in your face and you want to be as polite as possible and ask people to step back.

“I personally feel anxious about going in – our store has done everything they can to make us safe but it’s when customers are in that you feel unsafe.”

The 18-year-old balances her job with college and says people not sticking to the rules makes her life a lot more stressful.

“I was working on Friday and I had a customer come right up in my face who wasn’t wearing a mask,” she says.

“I don’t think my job is being appreciated enough – I know that a lot of people in supermarkets are young and people like me and are also students. Our work is being overlooked.”

She has a message for people who are planning on visiting their local supermarket.

“Treat it the way we treated it at the start of the pandemic where people were being a lot more careful with what they were doing.

“People are forgetting how dangerous it actually is. Everybody’s scared so if we all work together and we all wear masks and wash our hands we can end it sooner.”

Liv works at a supermarket in Ipswich and had a different view on whether people should wear masks when she spoke to Newsbeat back in October.

“I do think masks give people a sense of security and a little bit of extra protection but I wouldn’t say it bothers me whether people wear them or not,” she said.

“I know the government says it’s compulsory in some places but on the whole I do think it’s a personal choice.”

The 28-year-old also thinks people who are exempt get a backlash if they’re not wearing them.

“If you see someone not wearing a mask, just mind your business. As long as you’re two metres away from them, I don’t see how it affects you.”

Liv’s supermarket doesn’t order people to wear masks because customers could have an underlying health condition they don’t want to disclose.

The British Retail Consortium, which represents supermarkets, says shops are meeting their responsibilities in encouraging mask wearing.

It says they’re communicating the rules through things like signs, in-store announcements and other reminders.

But more general rules across the UK now say face masks are compulsory in shops.

Liv’s store has brought in a marshal who “politely” asks people without masks if they’d like to wear one. She says she feels safe at work and says social distancing rules are being followed.

The advice from the World Health Organisation is that masks should be worn in public places. But for Liv, there’s not enough evidence they work.

“I’ve worked through the whole pandemic in a supermarket. At the start we were told we didn’t need to wear them, so it’s just a bit far-fetched for me now.”

Masks became mandatory inside shops in the summer – after the first lockdown.

Scotland was the first nation to require masks in shops in early July, followed by England later that month.

They became mandatory in Northern Ireland in August and in Wales in September 2020.

Iv does have one request though when it comes to mask wearing.

“What annoys me the most is when people are wearing masks but don’t wear them properly so it’s not over their nose,” she says.

“You’re either going to wear it or you’re not going to wear it.”

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Marks & Spencer snaps up Jaeger fashion brand

Marks & Spencer has announced that it has bought the Jaeger fashion brand, which fell into administration last November.

M&S is taking on the brand, but not Jaeger’s scores of shops and concessions.

It is now in the process of finalising a deal to buy its products and “supporting marketing assets”.

M&S announced in May 2020 that it planned to stock other complementary brands to boost sales.

Since then, it has started to sell products online from the Early Learning Centre, as well as from two designers, Nobody’s Child and Ghost London.

Richard Price, managing director of M&S Clothing & Home, said: “We have set out our plans to sell complementary third party brands as part of our Never the Same Again programme to accelerate our transformation and turbocharge online growth.

“In line with this, we have bought the Jaeger brand and are in the final stages of agreeing the purchase of product and supporting marketing assets from the administrators of Jaeger Retail Limited. We expect to fully complete later this month.”

In a call with journalists last week, chief executive Steve Rowe said M&S wanted to partner with other brands, largely for its online business, but stressed: “We have no intention of turning into a department store.”

Jaeger had 244 staff and some 63 stores and concessions. In addition, 13 stores closed after administrators were appointed, with the loss of more than 120 posts across stores, head office and distribution.

It is unclear if any jobs will be saved. There has been no update from the administrators, FRP.

Jaeger was founded in 1884, the same year as Marks & Spencer, which started out as a stall in an open market in Leeds known as Marks’ Penny Bazaar.

Last week, M&S unveiled quarterly figures showing that its clothing division had seen sales fall nearly a quarter, although sales of sales of sleepwear had soared.

The retailer sold 20% more women’s pyjamas during the 13 weeks to 26 December. However, UK revenues for the quarter were £2.52bn, 8.2% lower than last year.

M&S blamed “on-off restrictions and distortions in demand patterns” due to the coronavirus crisis.

James Brokenshire steps back from ministerial role for cancer surgery

Home Office Minister James Brokenshire, who was diagnosed with lung cancer three years ago, is taking leave to have surgery on a lung tumour.

The Old Bexley and Sidcup MP resigned as Northern Ireland secretary in 2018 for surgery to remove a lesion on his right lung.

On Monday he confirmed that “frustratingly” there had been a recurrence of a tumour there.

He said he was in “good hands” with the “fantastic NHS team” looking after him.

“[I’m] keeping positive and blessed to have the love of Cathy and the kids to support me through this,” the 53-year-old wrote on Twitter.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson Boris Johnson said his thoughts were with Mr Brokenshire and his family.

“Wishing you all the best for your treatment and looking forward to welcoming you back on the team soon,” he added.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said she was “saddened” by the news, adding: “All my thoughts and prayers are with James and his family during this time”.

“All colleagues across government send James our love and best wishes, and we look forward to having him back soon,” she added.

Health secretary Matt Hancock was among government colleagues wishing him well, adding he was “sending my best wishes for a speedy recovery”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: “Wishing you all the best for your treatment, James. Get well soon.”

Mr Brokenshire, who was first elected to Parliament in 2005 as MP for the former constituency of Hornchurch, has also previously served as housing secretary under former PM Theresa May.

He has called for efforts to “break some of the stigma around lung cancer” and raise awareness of the disease.

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