Covid: Will mass community testing be offered across Wales?

People queued around the side of a leisure centre to be mass-tested for Covid when Merthyr Tydfil was considered a hotspot in November, and the Army was drafted in to help.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has credited this method of “lateral flow” testing for asymptomatic people with lowering case rates in Liverpool, another Covid hotspot.

He has since announced these regular rapid tests would be used in communities across England.

But are they likely to be rolled out across Wales?

It is a quick way of testing for coronavirus symptoms and returns a result in about 30 minutes.

This means those who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive will not have to self-isolate if their test comes back negative.

Instead of having to self-isolate, they could remain at work or in the classroom if they tested negative with a lateral flow test each morning.

An article in the BMJ medical journal raised concerns about the effects of rapid testing in Liverpool, where a pilot scheme was carried out.

The lateral flow tests, which do not require processing in a laboratory, were reported to have missed half of all cases and a third of those with a high viral load who were likely to be the most infectious.

Angela Raffle, a consultant in public health at the University of Bristol medical school, also said increasing lateral flow testing was “very worrying” and warned the benefits of finding symptomless cases “will be outweighed by the many more infectious cases that are missed by these tests”.

However Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to NHS Test and Trace in England, said the lateral flow tests could identify many cases of infection in people without symptoms.

While she admitted there were “false” negatives” and the method had “limitations”, Dr Hopkins said its use was a “gamechanger”.

Mass testing pilots were run in two Covid hotspots in Wales at the end of last year.

On the first day of testing in Merthyr Tydfil in November, 977 people were tested and nine of them were positive.

Mass testing followed in the Lower Cynon Valley in December.

Across both areas, a total of 1,100 positive Covid cases were identified after 50,000 lateral flow tests were carried out.

The Welsh Government also started a four-week pilot of routinely testing asymptomatic South Wales Police officers on 23 December.

Its aim was to reduce the numbers off work self-isolating, despite not being infected, following contact with a person who has tested positive.

While the trial is still ongoing, the Welsh Government said results so far showed a steady decline in Covid-related absences.

Regular testing of asymptomatic health and social care workers has also begun, and a pilot scheme is under way at the Tata Steel site in Port Talbot.

There were also plans to roll it out in schools and colleges across Wales in January, if they had opened as originally planned.

Lateral flow tests have been made available in all 317 of England’s local authority areas from this week as part of a community testing regime.

Councils have been encouraged to prioritise tests for those people who cannot work from home during the lockdown.

The Scottish government is also offering community testing in areas that have high prevalence of coronavirus.

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said officials were evaluating the results of pilots and initiatives, and looking at what was happening in other parts of the UK as it develops its approach to community testing.

However, a number of more targeted schemes are currently operating.

“We have announced regular asymptomatic testing of health and social care workers, in education and daily contact testing in South Wales Police,” the spokeswoman added.

“A pilot has also started at the Tata Port Talbot site.

“We are also exploring other opportunities for regular testing to support critical services.”

The Welsh Conservatives have called for lateral flow testing to be “ramped up” in hospitals.

Health spokesman Andrew RT Davies said in December: “Hospitals are reporting high percentages of staff self-isolating, and therefore putting increasing strain on services and remaining staff.”

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price has raised the need for “Covid Support Areas” – saying research from the north of England suggested post-industrial communities may be disproportionately affected by the virus.

In line with this, he called for mass testing as well as more financial support in areas such as Merthyr Tydfil, Blaenau Gwent and Rhondda Cynon Taf.

Part of rail bridge collapses near fatal Stonehaven derailment site

Part of a rail bridge has collapsed near the site of the fatal Stonehaven train derailment.

A 24m (79ft) section of the side wall has fallen from the bridge, about a mile north of where three people died when a train left the track and crashed last August.

Network Rail said it was a “structural fault” and not caused by a landslip.

The line between Aberdeen and Dundee remains closed while structural engineers assess the fault.

The structure is located three miles north of Carmont signal box. The collapse was discovered just before 10:00 on Friday.

The rail company said the damage to the parapet was “extensive” and that the line was expected to be closed for a “significant” period of time while repairs to the bridge take place.

The Network Rail Twitter account told followers engineers would be working around the clock to complete repairs.

Specialist staff are also checking similar bridges as a precaution.

The line between Aberdeen and Dundee had just reopened in November, nearly three months after the Stonehaven derailment.

The driver, a conductor and a passenger died when the Aberdeen to Glasgow service derailed near Stonehaven on 12 August after heavy rain.

An interim report said the train hit washed-out rocks and gravel.

A Network Rail spokesman said: “The line is currently closed while our engineers repair a damaged side wall on a bridge between Carmont and Stonehaven.

“Specialist structural engineers are currently assessing the fault and putting plans in place for its repair.

“Our engineers will be working around-the-clock to complete this work as quickly as possible.”

Joanna Lumley shocked at claims disabled workers unpaid

Disabled workers at one of the UK’s oldest social enterprises, Clarity, have allegedly been denied £200,000 in wages by the new owner.

The company produces toiletries and beauty products under the Clarity, Beco and Soap Co brands.

Actress Joanna Lumley and Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP have spoken out strongly over the claims.

Nicholas Marks, who bought the company last year, says all currently employed staff have been paid.

Community, the union which represents Clarity’s workers, claims that a number of disabled employees at the firm have not been paid wages and furlough payments.

Steven Steppens, 60, has been blind since birth, and has worked at Clarity since 1985. He is officially on furlough until his redundancy is completed at the end of January.

He says he has received no money since September and has been relying on his savings to get by.

“I loved it,” he says of working there. Losing the job, and the fight over the organisation’s future, have taken a toll on his mental health, he says.

“I want to see justice done, not just for me, but also for my friends who are visiting food banks.”

A number of employees have brought successful employment tribunal claims for unauthorised deduction of wages against Clarity, including Mr Steppens. Clarity was ordered to pay him £706. A number of other employment tribunal claims are ongoing, according to Community.

Joanna Lumley, who had been a supporter of Clarity, called it “the best of the best” and said she was “shocked” to learn of the allegations over treatment of workers. “Justice must be done as soon as possible,” she told BBC News.

Clarity was founded in 1854 by a wealthy blind woman, Elizabeth Gilbert, as the Association for Promoting the General Welfare of the Blind, to provide opportunities for workers whom other employers overlooked because of their disabilities. Before the takeover, three-quarters of its staff were disabled people.

Its supporters and patrons in the past have included Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria.

Clarity went into administration last year, as it was losing money and unable to fund the hole in its pension scheme, according to a spokesman for the administrators, FRP. In January, it was bought by Nicholas Marks.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, whose London constituency is home to Clarity’s headquarters, raised the issue in the House of Commons on 12 January.

“Staff have failed to receive national insurance contributions, with many failing to receive their wages or support while undertaking childcare,” he told MPs.

“The total amount that these decent but very vulnerable people have failed to receive is now around £200,000. They cannot claim benefits because they are essentially employed.”

Community estimates that about 60 former employees of Clarity are still awaiting payment of their wages and furlough payments, most of them disabled workers.

A spokesman for Nicholas Marks said that Sir Iain’s remarks were “highly inaccurate” and the company “does not recognise” the £200,000 figure.

“The grievances echoed by Sir Iain Duncan Smith simply reflect disgruntled ex-employees. All employees currently working have been paid in full up-to-date and the company is dealing with redundancies and gross misconduct of former employees,” he said.

Community says it is not aware of any staff who have been accused of gross misconduct.

The spokesman for Mr Marks said that Mr Marks had “saved this historic company from permanent failure”.

However, other bids for Clarity were made, including one from the well-known social entrepreneur, Cemal Ezel, who runs the Change Please coffee business, which creates opportunities for homeless people.

He is still interested in buying the brands, he told BBC News.

Though Mr Ezel’s final bid was slightly higher, the administrators’ report says they chose to sell to Mr Marks because he was in a better position to complete the deal by 31 January.

Mr Marks’s spokesman said that he had to make “some sensible commercial decisions to place it on to a proper business footing and regrettably some staff had to be let go”.

On Wednesday, Clarity’s website was still running the Certified Social Enterprise mark, denoting an organisation devoted to “creating positive social change”.

The spokesman said Clarity Products was not a social enterprise and was not “purporting to clients” that it was, though it retained the “social enterprise ethos through the continued employment of fully paid disabled staff”.

Wrongly using the logo for nearly a year was “simply an oversight”, and it is being removed. On Thursday morning, the website was unavailable – the company spokesman said he was not aware why.

In a response to Sir Iain’s query, Treasury Minister Jesse Norman wrote that he had “specifically asked HMRC to note the circumstances you describe, and to consider whether and how there may be a case for early intervention”.

Another company owned by Mr Marks, a Preston-based caravan maker called Lunar Automotive, was reported to HMRC by the local MP, Sir Mark Hendrick, for allegedly refusing to pay wages and pension contributions for its workers.

This company was also bought out of an administration run by FRP.

Mr Marks’s spokesman was not able to comment in detail on the Lunar Automotive case, but said the company had not heard back from HMRC.

Police probes compromised after computer records deleted

Police investigations have been compromised by an error which led to hundreds of thousands of records being deleted from UK-wide databases, according to a letter seen by the BBC.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council said 213,000 records were deleted – more than the 150,000 first reported.

This resulted in a couple of “near misses” for serious crimes when trying to identify an offender, it said.

The Home Office has said it is assessing the impact of the mistake.

Data including fingerprint, DNA, and arrest histories were wiped from the Police National Computer (PNC) – which stores and shares criminal records information across the UK – after being inadvertently flagged for deletion.

The PNC is used in police investigations and provides real-time checks on people, vehicles and crimes, as well as whether suspects are wanted for any unsolved offences.

The Home Office said the lost entries related to people who were arrested and then released without further action.

But the letter from the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) says officers are aware of at least one instance where the DNA profile from a suspect in custody did not generate a match to a crime scene as expected, potentially impeding the investigation.

It says that some of the records had been marked for indefinite retention following earlier convictions for serious offences.

And it reveals that a “weeding system”, developed and deployed by a Home Office PNC team, started to delete records wrongly last November.

The process was only brought to a halt at the start of this week.

The letter was sent on Friday afternoon by Deputy Chief Constable Naveed Malik of the NPCC to chief constables and police and crime commissioners.

The deletion of the records has been blamed on a coding error.

This resulted in records that had been flagged for deletion being lost from the database before checks had been carried out to determine whether they could be lawfully held or not.

Earlier, Policing minister Kit Malthouse said the problem had been identified and the process corrected so “it cannot happen again”.

He said the Home Office, National Police Chiefs’ Council and other law enforcement partners were working “at pace” to recover the data.

The Home Office said no records of criminal or dangerous persons had been deleted.

But Labour shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds called on Home Secretary Priti Patel to take responsibility for the error and be clear about the impact it had had.

And former Cumbria Police Chief Constable Stuart Hyde told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the “very large” loss of arrest records presented a “risk to public safety”

The records are linked to police investigations that were terminated before charge (No Further Action or NFA cases) or to those where an individual had been acquitted at court.

It is not yet known how many records of each type were lost and full extent of deletions is still being investigated.

It comes after around 40,000 alerts relating to European criminals were removed from the PNC following the UK’s post-Brexit security deal with the EU.

WhatsApp extends confusing update deadline

WhatsApp has extended the deadline by which its two billion users must either accept its updated terms and conditions or stop using the service.

The original cut-off date was 8 February, but users now have until 15 May to take action.

The firm was criticised for sending the notification, which seemed to suggest changes to the data it would share with its parent company Facebook.

It said there had been “confusion” about its message.

Since the announcement and notifications went out across its platform, millions of people around the world have downloaded alternative encrypted messaging apps such as Signal and Telegram.

In a blogpost, WhatsApp said personal messages had always been encrypted and would remain private. It added that its practice of sharing some user data with Facebook was not new, and was not going to be expanded.

“The update includes new options people will have to message a business on WhatsApp, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data,” it said.

In an earlier FAQ post, WhatsApp explained that the data that it already shares with other Facebook companies includes:

However this does not apply in Europe and the UK, where different privacy laws exist.

Covid: Benidorm actor Asa Elliot takes supermarket delivery job

A TV actor has taken on a job as an Asda delivery driver after the coronavirus pandemic curtailed his entertainment career.

Asa Elliot, who lives in Hull, has previously starred as a cabaret singer in the ITV comedy series Benidorm.

He said he was forced to look for new ways of paying the bills after his cruise ship and acting work came to a “grinding halt” in March.

Posting on Twitter, he said: “What a difference a year makes.”

The entertainer, originally from Manchester, starred in 13 episodes of the TV show between 2010 and 2014, as well as the touring theatre production Benidorm Live.

Mr Elliot said he had already been recognised at work by customers having their shopping delivered by him.

“I’ve only encountered a few Benidorm fans. I delivered to a lady in Hornsea the other week and she was very star-struck.”

He described his hiatus from the entertainment industry as a temporary diversion and said he hoped to restart his career later in the year.

“I’ve got work lined up from March onwards. A few gigs here and there and some cruises from June onwards as well.

“But we still don’t know if they’re going to happen, so we’ve all got our fingers crossed and are trying to stay positive,” he said.

Covid-19: A-level and GCSE results planned for early July

Exam results for A-levels and GCSEs in England could be published in early July this year, according to proposals for replacing cancelled exams.

A consultation launched by the exams watchdog and the Department for Education confirmed that grades will be decided by teacher assessment.

But results this summer are likely to be released much earlier than usual.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said pupils would receive “a grade that reflects their ability”.

There are also likely to be written test papers set by exam boards, but marked by teachers, with some later checks if there are concerns about fairness.

For vocational qualifications, exams which use mostly written papers are also likely to use teachers’ grades – but qualifications which need a test of practical, hands-on skills will have separate arrangements.

Ofqual and the Department for Education have formally launched a two-week consultation on a system for how results will be decided, after disruption from the pandemic forced the cancellation of exams.

For A-levels and GCSEs this could see the scrapping of the traditional results days in August, with a proposal to publish the results in “early July”, increasing the time for appeals and adding more time before the start of the university term.

Last year the process of replacement results ended with U-turns and confusion, as an algorithm initially used for deciding grades was abandoned and teachers’ assessments used instead.

This time there will be no algorithm, but from the outset the process will rely on the judgement of teachers, who will be asked to use evidence such as coursework, essays, homework and mock exams.

There are also proposals for test papers, or mini-exams, which would be set by examiners but which would be likely to be marked within schools by teachers.

These would inform teachers’ decisions rather than be a fixed proportion of the final grade – and could be used as evidence for any scrutiny of the reliability of a school’s results or if there were appeals over grades.

There is also a recognition they might have to be taken by some pupils at home.

But it has still to be decided whether it would be mandatory to take these exams, and whether there would be a single paper per subject or the option to take more.

The Department for Education has said pupils will not face tests in subject areas they have not covered.

Geoff Barton, leader of the ASCL head teachers’ union, said the proposals seemed “sensible”.

But he said the written tests would have to be “exceptionally well designed” to make them fair between students “whose learning has been disrupted by the pandemic to greatly varying extents”.

“There are still many questions left unanswered,” said the National Education Union’s co-leader Kevin Courtney, about how tests could be flexible enough and how appeals will be decided.

There will be a process of training teachers in how the grading system will operate and be consistent between different schools.

For vocational qualifications, the proposals say those closer to written A-level and GCSE exams will be graded in a similar way to the academic exams, using teacher assessment to replace written papers.

There will be different approaches for qualifications requiring proof of practical skills, but there will be arrangements to make this possible.

Some BTec exams have already gone ahead this month and IGCSE exams are still planned to continue this summer.

A-levels and GCSEs have been cancelled in Wales and Northern Ireland, and in Scotland the Nationals, Highers and Advanced Highers have also been scrapped.

England’s Education Secretary, Mr Williamson, said: “Fairness to young people has been and will continue to be fundamental to every decision we take on these issues.”

Covid-19: Parents with childcare issues must get right to furlough

Parents struggling with childcare due to the lockdown should have a legal right to furlough, Labour have said.

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds said there was mounting evidence the lockdown was putting severe financial strain on parents, especially mothers.

Currently, parents can ask to be furloughed for childcare reasons, but employers can reject the request.

The prime minister’s press secretary Allegra Stratton said employers should take such requests “seriously”.

The UK-wide furlough scheme in place since March has helped pay the wages of millions of people who can’t work due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The scheme pays employees placed on leave up to 80% of their salary, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.

Labour said it wants the current request system to be turned into a legal and enforceable right to apply – with an expectation that employers would grant furlough, except in exceptional circumstances.

This follows the results of a survey from the Trades Union Congress which invited working mothers to share their experiences. More than 2,000 got in touch to say they had been refused furlough.

Currently, there is a right to take parental leave but that is usually unpaid – which is leaving parents in quite difficult situations.

One single mother of two from the East of England told the BBC that juggling her job with home schooling her children had become “impossible”.

“All of us were struggling,” Sarah, (which is not her real name), told the BBC.

“Me, the children – to combine the working hours that I have, along with their schoolwork and also just the care that they require – cooking their dinner, their breakfast, trying to keep them sane.”

Sarah, who usually works 38 hours a week, asked for flexible furlough to allow her to work part-time, but the request was denied by her employer.

“I feel like I’m having to choose between providing a roof over my family’s head and food on the table, versus actually caring for them,” she said.

The BBC understands that the government thinks forcing employers to accept furlough requests would be, legally a very difficult place to go, as this would amount to government intervention in an employer-employee contract.

A Treasury spokesperson said: “It’s been clear since the first lockdown that employers can furlough eligible employees with childcare responsibilities, including because of school closures.

“The furlough scheme, which has supported millions of parents and families, is just one part of our £280bn broad package of financial support available.”

Employer’s group, the CBI, says furlough is not the right solution in every situation, given that in practice some businesses need an appropriate number of staff to be available.

“The decision to furlough people ultimately rests with employers, but throughout the pandemic firms have gone to great lengths to engage their staff in this decision-making process,” the body’s chief UK policy director, Matthew Fell, said.

“Businesses can choose to furlough working parents as one of the ways to help them manage their childcare responsibilities. But it won’t be the right solution in every situation.

“Some companies will feel they can offer enough flexibility to their staff without drawing on taxpayer funding. And for others, particularly if sickness absences are running high, the reality is that they need an appropriate number of staff to be available.”

Scottish fishermen sailing to Denmark to land catch

Scottish fishermen have resorted to sailing to Denmark to land their catch as Brexit red tape continues to delay exports, an industry body has said.

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, which campaigned to leave the EU, also said the Brexit trade deal was the worst of both worlds for the industry.

Many fishermen “now fear for their future”, it said.

The UK government said the deal would “bring immediate gains to our fishermen and women across the whole UK”.

Late last year, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) said it was “deeply aggrieved” by the Brexit deal.

Fishing firms have also warned of impending bankruptcy as delays continue at ports following the introduction of post-Brexit regulations.

On Friday, the SFF kept up the pressure on the UK government.

In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, it said some fishermen “are now making a 72-hour round trip to land fish in Denmark, as the only way to guarantee that their catch will make a fair price and actually find its way to market while still fresh enough to meet customer demands”.

Quotas are used by many countries to manage shared fish stocks. They determine how many fish of each species each country’s fleets are allowed to catch.

The SFF said that Brexit quota gains “can hardly be claimed as a resounding success” and that the Brexit deal “actually leaves the Scottish industry in a worse position on more than half of the key stocks”.

“This industry now finds itself in the worst of both worlds,” said SFF chief executive Elspeth Macdonald, accusing Prime Minister Boris Johnson of broken promises on quotas.

The “desperately poor deal” reached on quotas, under which the EU “have full access to our waters” means that the UK has “no ability to leverage more fish from the EU”, she said.

“This, coupled with the chaos experienced since 1 January in getting fish to market, means that many in our industry now fear for their future, rather than look forward to it with optimism and ambition,” Ms Macdonald added.

The Scottish National Party said the letter was “an utterly devastating verdict on Brexit from Scotland’s fishing industry”.

An SNP spokesperson said the Scottish fishing industry was “right to be angry” about the Brexit deal, which it said was costing Scotland’s fishing communities millions of pounds.

The spokesman called on the prime minister to deliver “a multi-billion pound package of Brexit compensation for Scotland”, adding: “Communities across Scotland will never forgive the Tories for the damage they are doing to our country with their extreme Brexit obsession.”

A UK government spokesperson said the Prime Minister would respond to the SFF letter in due course.

The spokesperson said: “We have now taken back control of our waters and the agreement we have reached with the EU secures a 25% transfer of quota from EU to UK vessels over five years, starting with 15% this year.”

The spokesperson said the government was looking at providing additional financial support for the Scottish fishing industry, which it recognised was facing “some temporary issues”.

“The Prime Minister has already committed to investing £100m in the UK’s fishing industry and provided the Scottish government with nearly £200m to minimise disruption for businesses,” the spokesperson added.

How did debut artist Olivia Rodgrigo break chart records?

Teenager Olivia Rodrigo has topped the UK charts with her debut single, Driver’s License, shattering several chart records in the process.

Her emotional ballad racked up 95,000 chart sales over the last week, including 10.9 million streams.

On Tuesday, UK fans played it 2.4 million times – the most streams in a single day for a non-Christmas song.

It also broke Spotify’s record for the most streams in one day, peaking at 17 million streams on 12 January.

That was four times more than the nearest competitor, Bad Bunny’s Dákiti, which had 4 million plays.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” said Spotify’s Global Hits lead, Becky Bass, “where you have a newer artist that just comes out of the gate in such a dominant way, and just continues to grow.

“I truly do think this is just a lightning-in-a-bottle moment”.

Rodrigo’s song is also the biggest-selling UK number one in five years – since Zayn Malik’s Pillowtalk – which sold 112,000 in February 2016.

The singer is basically a Disney graduate, in the mould of Britney Spears and Selena Gomez.

She was cast in Disney sitcom Bizaardvark at the age of 13 before starring as Nini Salazar-Roberts in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, which debuted on Disney + last year.

Based on the hit movie trilogy, the mockumentary-style show follows the on- and off-stage drama as a group of students put on their own production of High School Musical.

When the show’s creators discovered Rodrigo was a budding musician, they encouraged her to write songs for the series – “which is this really unorthodox thing for a producer to say to an actor,” Rodrigo noted. “Specifically because I’m 16 years old and have no experience.”

One of her songs, a windswept ballad called All I Want, gained millions of streams after premiering on the TV series, and entered the lower reaches of the Billboard charts.

Despite her Disney background, Rodgrigo says she’s a singer first and an actress second.

“Actually, the reason that I got into acting is because I was so expressive when I sang,” she told Genius. “So people told me, ‘Hey, maybe you should get into acting. Maybe this will be something that you’ll like,’ and I loved it, and here we are now.”

The lyrics detail Rodrigo’s heartbreak at finally passing her driving test, after months of dreaming of being able to drive to her boyfriend’s house – only to find herself betrayed and single.

“Guess you didn’t mean what you wrote in that song about me,” she sings over a mournful piano. “‘Cause you said forever, now I drive alone past your street.”

Speaking to Apple Music earlier this week, she said writing the song was a hugely emotional process.

“I was driving around my neighbourhood, actually listening to really sad songs and crying in the car, and I got home, and I was like, ‘Maybe I’ll write a song about this, crying in the car. So I just sat down at my piano and plucked out some chords that I liked.”

She continued, “It kind of happened that way but it was really like natural and organic, like, very much me writing in the depth of my emotion and I think that’s apparent.”

Rodrigo didn’t reveal who had made her cry – but fans have theorised she was writing about her High School Musical love interest Joshua Barrett.

Although the actors never officially confirmed their relationship, they were rumoured to be dating last summer, until Barrett was photographed having lunch with 21-year-old singer Sabrina Carpenter.

Breaking down the story behind Driver’s License, TikTok user Kaiya Olsen suggested that Carpenter was the “blonde girl [who’s] so much older than me” referenced in the lyrics.

Another internet sleuth discovered that Rodrigo first practised driving in Bassett’s car; while several fans have speculated that “that song you wrote about me” refers to Bassett’s 2020 single Anyone Else.

Of course, none of this could be true – but the intrigue certainly helped spark interest in Rodrigo’s debut single.

First of all, and perhaps most importantly, Driver’s License is a great song – musically, structurally and lyrically.

Rodrigo is a self-described “huge Swiftie” and massive Lorde fan, and you can hear both singer’s flair for storytelling in the song’s bruising narrative and splintered piano chords.

But overnight success is never quite that simple.

The singer already had a hugely engaged fanbase before Drivers License dropped last week. A post announcing the song’s existence gained 7 million views on TikTok alone. And Rodrigo continued to post teasers in the week leading up to its release, sharing acoustic snippets and handwritten lyrics of the track on her Instagram channel.

Once the song came out, she got a further boost from Taylor Swift, who endorsed the song on Instagram.

It came after Rodrigo shared a photo of her song nestling beneath Swift’s Right Where You Left Me on the iTunes chart – to which the star replied: “I say that’s my baby and I’m really proud” (the quote is something Swift’s mother once said about her, fact fans).

And of course, everyone can relate to a break-up song, especially in January, when twice as many relationships end as in any other month of the year.

“It’s quite insane,” the singer told Zane Lowe. “Drivers License is my first single [and] I didn’t really expect it to chart or do anything, I was just so happy with it.

“So the fact that it’s number one in the world right now is absolutely mind-blowing. I can’t believe any of it.”

The 17-year-old was also presented with a Number One Award by the UK’s Official Charts company on Friday, and sent a video message to everyone who bought and streamed the song.

“I just want to say thank you guys so much. It means the world to me that you guys are listening to and loving Drivers License.”

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