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COVID-19: Boris Johnson’s cycling trip seven miles away from Downing Street was within the rules, health secretary suggests | Politics News

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COVID-19: Boris Johnson's cycling trip seven miles away from Downing Street was within the rules, health secretary suggests | Politics News

The health secretary has suggested the prime minister was operating within the rules when he went cycling seven miles from Downing Street during lockdown.

Boris Johnson was spotted at the Olympic Park in east London with members of his security detail on Sunday, according to the Evening Standard.

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Hancock: ‘Don’t flex the rules’

Official regulations introduced under England’s third COVID-19 lockdown state that exercise is limited to once a day and that people should not leave their local area.

A Downing Street spokesman declined to comment on the story when asked about it at a regular Westminster briefing with journalists.

But a source cited by the Evening Standard said Mr Johnson was exercising, adding: “But he did note how busy the park was and he commented on it at the meeting last night.

“He was concerned about if people were following the rules and was concerned after his cycle ride around the park.”

Facing questions at a Downing Street news conference, Health Secretary Matt Hancock was asked whether people should exercise seven miles from their home, widely seen as a reference to the Evening Standard report about the prime minister.

Mr Hancock said: “Yes, you can go and exercise in the park with one other person, but only one other person.

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“And we have been seeing large groups and that is not acceptable. And you should be two metres apart from the other person.

“If there are too many people breaking this rule then we are going to have to look at it.

“But, I don’t want to do that because, for many people being able to go for a walk with a friend, that often is their only social contact.

“It is okay to go for a walk with one other person around a park, but you should stay two metres apart from that other person.

“And, likewise, it is okay, if you went for a long walk and ended up seven miles away from home, that is okay.

“But, you should stay local, you should not go from one side of a country to another, potentially taking the virus with you.”

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A witness told the Press Association that the prime minister was “leisurely cycling with another guy with a beanie hat and chatting while around four security guys, possibly more, cycled behind them”.

“When I realised the person looked like Boris I cycled past them to hear his voice and be sure it’s him. It was definitely Boris,” they said.

“Considering the current situation with COVID I was shocked to see him cycling around looking so care free,” added the woman, who asked not to be named.

“Also considering he’s advising everyone to stay at home and not leave their area, shouldn’t he stay in Westminster and not travel to other boroughs?”

Labour’s Andy Slaughter accused Mr Johnson of hypocrisy.

The MP for Hammersmith in west London said: “Once again it is do as I say not as I do from the prime minister. London has some of the highest infection rates in the country. Boris Johnson should be leading by example.”

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COVID-19: Lebanon’s health service close to collapse with case numbers beyond ‘wildest predictions’ | World News

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The director of Lebanon's largest coronavirus hospital Dr Firas Abiad said the government decision to relax restrictions over Christmas and New Year has led to a huge increase in cases and healthcare is on the verge of collapse

The head of Lebanon’s main coronavirus hospital has said the country’s health system is close to collapse – with not enough beds, drugs, oxygen, ventilators or staff.

In a stark interview with Sky News, Dr Firas Abiad said the government decision to relax coronavirus restrictions over a few fateful days at Christmas and New Year has led to a huge increase in cases and deaths over the past few weeks.

He allowed our cameras into the casualty department and the intensive care unit of the Rafic Hariri University Hospital in Beirut to see the pressure he and his staff are under.

Dr Abiad said all hospitals were reporting full, or almost full, intensive care units – and many have patients stuck in emergency wards, waiting for a bed.

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Dr Abiad said the government has thrown the healthcare system ‘into an abyss’

“Some patients are not able to find a bed and there’s been several cases where patients have died in their homes,” he said.

“If you look at the sharp rise in cases you see that Lebanon is really seeing unprecedented COVID numbers which is even beyond our wildest predictions.

“The number of daily new cases has almost quadrupled since where we were almost a month ago,” said Dr Abiad.

“At the same time we’ve seen that the number of deaths has also tripled and the number of patients in ICU has gone up by almost 100%.”

On 17 December, four days before a nationwide lockdown was due to end, the government decided to ease a series of restrictions for the holiday period.

Under intense pressure from businesses, they allowed nightclubs, bars and restaurants to open at 50% capacity while urging people to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

But videos on social media over Christmas and New Year showed packed clubs and bars. No attempts were made to crackdown on the violations.

“It’s clear that those were catastrophic [decisions] and what has happened is they’ve thrown the whole healthcare system of the country into a major abyss,” said Dr Abiad.

In the casualty department, the pressures are obvious. There is a shortage of beds, drugs, oxygen, ventilators and staff.

It is a relatively modern hospital but it looks sparse, except for the number of patients.

A nurse strokes a patient’s head.

“I am passing out… I am passing out,” he tells the nurse.

“No, no! You’re doing very well. Don’t be scared. Your oxygen is good. 99%. Honestly it’s very good,” she reassures him.

In the next bed is 53-year-old Aida Derawi. She first began to feel unwell 15 days ago. Her family had hoped she would recover at home, but this week things got worse.

“Yesterday I felt I couldn’t take it anymore,” she says. “My back and lungs were aching. My kids took me around to find a hospital but not a single one would accept me.”

Eventually space was found and she is improving slowly.

Nurse Hussein al Khazn tells us that in this wave of the virus, the patients are no longer predominately elderly.

The director of Lebanon's largest coronavirus hospital Dr Firas Abiad said the government decision to relax restrictions over a few fateful days at Christmas and New Year has led to a huge increase in cases and healthcare is on the verge of collapse. Pic: Red Cross volunteer Waad Abdulaad
Image:
Red Cross volunteer Waad Abdulaad is very much on Lebanon’s frontline

“Much younger now,” he says. “Before we had 50, 60-year-old patients.

“Now it’s 20, 25, 30-year-old patients and they’re very, very critical – all of them.”

On the other side of the city, we’re given access to the Lebanese Red Cross coordination centre.

In a well-organised control room, a team of volunteers is juggling telephone calls from patients’ families with radio calls to the ambulance teams on the ground.

“So, she’s ill with coronavirus?” a volunteer asks down the line. “So she’s got shortness of breath?”

A radio message is sent to one of the dispatch teams.

“We’re dispatched to a patient that tested positive for COVID and she’s currently suffering from desaturation and vomiting,” volunteer medic Waad Abdulaal says from the passenger seat of the ambulance.

“So we’re going to go ahead, assess her and see if there’s a need to take her to the hospital.”

Lebanon was already in a critical state economically.

Years of accumulative economic mismanagement has led to a slow collapse in every sector of society.

That was then exacerbated by the pandemic and the devastating port explosion last year.

The director of Lebanon's largest coronavirus hospital Dr Firas Abiad said the government decision to relax restrictions over Christmas and New Year has led to a huge increase in cases and healthcare is on the verge of collapse
Image:
Ambulance crews carry an 80-year-old woman down a flight of stairs in darkness due to another power cut

Up several flights of a stairwell, in darkness because of yet another power cut, the Red Cross team reaches its patient.

Madame Imad is 80 years old. She tested positive last week and her diabetes is complicating her condition. She needs to go to hospital, but there is an issue finding a bed for her.

The positivity rate across the country this past week has been at 21% (the 14-day rolling average).

That means the community spread of the virus is out of control. It needs to be at 5% before there is any chance of regaining a grip of the crisis.

Calls are made and they think space has been found at a hospital nearby.

Madame Imad is carried down the stairs as her daughter Sophie looks straight into our camera and pleads: “Show them that there are people dying before they reach the hospital.”

The elderly woman did make it to the hospital. But she was sent home again. There were no beds. Her family has told us her condition this weekend has worsened.

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COVID-19: UK records another 1,348 coronavirus-related deaths and 33,552 cases | UK News

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COVID-19: UK records another 1,348 coronavirus-related deaths and 33,552 cases | UK News

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COVID-19: Three hospitals criticised for not vaccinating vulnerable inpatients | UK News

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COVID-19: Three hospitals criticised for not vaccinating vulnerable inpatients | UK News

Vulnerable inpatients who are eligible for a COVID-19 jab are not being vaccinated in at least three hospitals in England.

Sky News has seen evidence of hospitals telling the families of elderly non-COVID patients that they are only vaccinating outpatients, and not those staying overnight.

Some 17.5% of COVID-19 patients caught the virus in hospital, according to analysis from the Daily Telegraph.

Maria Thompson’s 80-year-old mother has been in Merseyside’s Whiston Hospital with an autoimmune disease for more than a week.

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Campaign launched amid ‘very precarious’ situation

“The hospital has given my mum wonderful care”, Ms Thompson said.

“But as a family we have been really worried about my mum being in hospital. She has come into contact with more people in 10 days than she has in the past 10 months.”

St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust has not responded to a request for comment, but in a message to Ms Thompson, a staff member confirmed: ”We are not yet vaccinating inpatients”.

They cited challenges moving the Pfizer vaccine around the hospital, and concerns about recording who had received the jab.

In Northampton, a relative (who wished to remain anonymous) told Sky News of the case of his 85-year-old father, who has been in the town’s hospital with non-COVID health problems for more than five weeks.

He will soon be discharged to a care home.

“The doctors and nurses have been brilliant. But as you can imagine given dad’s age, health and location we were very keen for a COVID-19 vaccination pre-discharge. Apparently it isn’t hospital policy,” he said.

“It’s a massive burden discharging him into a care home without the comfort of this protection, especially now knowing that home had multiple deaths in November.”

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Northampton General Hospital have declined to comment, but in a message to the relative, the trust’s chief executive Deborah Needham wrote: “Unfortunately we are not currently vaccinating inpatients as we are unable to book them in & have them back on site for the second vaccine.”

However, Ms Needham indicated the situation was under review.

Sky News understands inpatients at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge are also not being vaccinated. The hospital has not responded to a request for comment.

NHS England have also been contacted, but have yet to provide a response.

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