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COVID-19: Compliance with restrictions at highest point since first lockdown, new data reveals | UK News



A Covid-19 social distancing sign on Commercial road in Portsmouth during England's third national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Compliance with coronavirus rules has risen sharply since December and is now at its highest point since the first lockdown, according to a major new survey seen by Sky News.

The results cast doubt on the government’s claims that rule-breaking is contributing to a rise in COVID-19 deaths, after ministers and senior police officers warned that enforcement would be increased to ensure compliance.

But while the restrictions are being followed by most people, the study confirmed “rule-bending” remains as commonplace as throughout the pandemic, with a large minority adding their own “modifications” to the rules, especially when it comes to meeting other people and self-isolation time.

The COVID-19 Social Study, which collected responses from more than 70,000 participants, found that the number of people reporting “majority compliance” – that is, following most or almost all of the rules – rose to 96% for the week ending 10 January, which was the highest figure since April.

And the number of people saying that they were in “complete compliance” with the rules rose to 56%, the highest figure since May.

“Compliance is really good,” said Dr Daisy Fancourt of University College London, which conducts the study.

“The fact that we’re still seeing rising virus cases suggests that compliance on its own is not enough.”

She added: “This lockdown is less strict than the lockdown last spring yet the virus is more contagious, so it might be that behaviours that we could get away with six months ago simply aren’t working with the new variant.

“It suggests we might need tighter measures to get on top of this.”

Most people are keeping to the ‘hands, face, space’ guidance

The rule people said they broke most often was meeting up with more than the recommended number of people outdoors – something 16% of people said they never, rarely or only occasionally followed.

Almost as many people said they met with more than the recommended number of people indoors – a more dangerous social activity.

However, the vast majority of people said they always followed both of these rules, and other guidance such as handwashing, maintaining social distance and wearing a face mask were followed very closely.

Analysis by Sky News found that movement in London, Birmingham and Manchester was also at its lowest point since the first lockdown, suggesting that the restrictions were being followed.

“We hear a lot about breaking the rules,” said Dr Fancourt, “but what we’re finding from this data is that people who are following the rules are part of the majority.”

“If you’re not complying you’re letting the side down, because most of us are managing it,” she added.

Understanding was a barrier to compliance, the study found.

Although broad understanding of the rules had grown in recent months, rising from 65% in mid-December to 74% in the week of 4 January in England, very few people said they understood the rules completely.

Just 27% in the week of 4 January said they did, compared with 18% across November and December.

It comes amid a debate over the particular issue of exercise after the prime minister was seen going for a cycle ride seven miles from his home.

Asked whether adherence to the rules was affected by this kind of behaviour, Dr Fancourt said it was “singularly unhelpful” because it drew attention to “grey zones” in the rules.

“We have to have clear messaging,” she said. “Caveats make it really hard for people to know if they’re acting within the rules or not.”

The study found that compliance was better when the rules were stricter.

During the periods when the tier system was in force in England, compliance was highest in those areas in higher tiers, yet lowest in tiers where restrictions were looser, something the researchers put down to the fact that the rules were “more open to interpretation” and “the importance and seriousness of following the measures” was not as clear.

A member of staff wearing a face mask works at a Sainsbury's supermarket, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in London, Britain January 11, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Supermarkets have announced they will be enforcing mask wearing in stores

This pattern held true across all age groups, genders and income groups, yet there were significant differences in compliance between different social and demographic groups.

There was a marked gender gap, with 53% of men saying they complied with all rules, compared with 60% of women. Young men were the least likely of all age groups to comply.

Income also made a difference, with 53% of people in households with an income greater than £30,000 saying they complied completely with the rules, compared with 59% of people in households with an income lower than that.

COVID vaccine tracker

Significantly, only 49% of key workers said they were able to follow all the rules, compared with 59% of other workers.

“One reason for this may be due to social contact being more ‘normalised’ for key workers, and so they are less able or willing to always stick to social distancing rules,” said Dr Alex Crozier, a COVID-19 researcher.

“More importantly perhaps than general compliance with the more general blanket rules, is that key workers and those of a lower socio-economic class, or those who have faced greater hardship during the pandemic, are associated with lower adherence to test/trace/isolate.

“It doesn’t matter how many of the rest of the population follow the rules, if infectious key workers cannot afford, or are unable to, to self-isolate.”

The COVID-19 Social Study found that only 62% of people said they were isolating for the recommended number of days when they developed symptoms, but did not give statistics for keyworkers.

The study said “13% are not isolating at all when they develop symptoms, 16% are only isolating for one to five days”.

Adherence to this most crucial rule did not form part of the government’s tougher stance on enforcement.

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COVID-19: Medics call for emergency law to protect them from ‘unlawful killing’ cases | UK News



COVID-19: Medics call for emergency law to protect them from 'unlawful killing' cases | UK News

Medics are calling for emergency legislation to protect them from “inappropriate” legal action over COVID-19 treatment decisions made under pressure of the pandemic.

A group of health organisations has written to the government urging it to update the law to ensure medical workers do not feel “vulnerable to the risk of prosecution for unlawful killing” when treating COVID-19 patients “in circumstances beyond their control”.

Hospitals in all NHS regions in England are already at, or near, the 92% bed capacity that NHS Improvement deems as being the safety threshold, and hospital admissions are rising in many areas.

The medics have argued there is no legal protection for COVID-related issues such as when there are “surges in demand for resources that temporarily exceed supply”.

The letter is addressed to Health Secretary Matt Hancock and was co-ordinated by the Medical Protection Society (MPS), and signed by the British Medical Association, Doctors’ Association UK, the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association, the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin and Medical Defence Shield.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned this week there was a “very substantial” risk of hospital intensive care units being overwhelmed as more people are admitted than during the latest wave of coronavirus cases.

The medics’ letter says Mr Johnson warned in November of a “medical and moral disaster” if the NHS was overwhelmed and “doctors and nurses could be forced to choose which patients to treat, who would live and who would die”.

The health groups wrote: “With the chief medical officers now determining that there is a material risk of the NHS being overwhelmed within weeks, our members are worried that not only do they face being put in this position but also that they could subsequently be vulnerable to a criminal investigation by the police.”

They said current guidance covering decisions on whether to administer or withdraw treatment “neither provides nor claims to provide legal protection”.

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‘COVID patients getting younger and sicker’

“It also does not consider COVID-19-specific factors such as if and when there are surges in demand for resources that temporarily exceed supply,” the letter adds.

“There is no national guidance, backed up by a clear statement of law, on when life sustaining treatment can be lawfully withheld or withdrawn from a patient in order for it to benefit a different patient, and if so under what conditions.

“The first concern of a doctor is their patients and providing the highest standard of care at all times.

“We do not believe it is right that healthcare professionals should suffer from the moral injury and long-term psychological damage that could result from having to make decisions on how limited resources are allocated, while at the same time being left vulnerable to the risk of prosecution for unlawful killing.”

The groups acknowledged that no healthcare professional should be “above the law” and emergency legislation should only apply to decisions “made in good faith” and “in circumstances beyond their control and in compliance with relevant guidance”.

They agreed the emergency law should be temporary and apply retrospectively from the start of the pandemic.

Many medics have been working outside their usual practice as hospitals struggle to cope with rising numbers of patients.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to view the vaccination programme at Chase Farm Hospital in north London, part of the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust. The NHS is ramping up its vaccination programme with 530,000 doses of the newly approved Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine jab available for rollout across the UK.
Boris Johnson said medics could be forced to choose who to treat and who to let live

In November, the UK’s four chief medical officers, the NHS, the General Medical Council (GMC) and medical royal colleges wrote to doctors saying regulators would “take into account” the environment doctors are working in, while “due consideration” would be given to difficult circumstances” they might face.

A survey of 2,420 MPS members between 8 and 12 January found 61% were concerned about facing an investigation as a result of a clinical decision made in a high pressured environment.

And 36% were specifically concerned about following a decision to “withdraw or withhold life prolonging treatment due to capacity and resource constraints during the pandemic”.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Dedicated frontline NHS staff should be able to focus on treating patients and saving lives during the pandemic without fear of legal action.

“We have reassured NHS staff that existing indemnity arrangements will rightly continue to cover the vast majority of liabilities which may arise, and we have made specific arrangements so any member of staff not covered by existing indemnity schemes will be protected under the Coronavirus Act.

“Health and care professional regulators have issued a joint statement making clear any concerns raised will be considered in the context of the challenging circumstances staff are operating in.”

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Felicity-May Harvey: Family pay tribute to baby girl after murder arrest | UK News



Felicity-May Harvey: Family pay tribute to baby girl after murder arrest | UK News

The family of a two-week-old girl who died in hospital say she “melted the hearts of everyone who met her” after a man was arrested on suspicion of her murder.

Felicity-May Harvey, from Heywood, Greater Manchester, died in hospital on 11 January.

Three days earlier, medics at the hospital called police to report their concern for her.

A 24-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder and has since been released on bail pending further inquiries, Greater Manchester Police said.

In a tribute released on Saturday, the little girl’s family said: “Our hearts are broken after losing our precious baby girl, Felicity-May.

“She was a gorgeous baby and always so alert, looking around with her big blue eyes.

“She was absolutely beautiful and incredibly brave and she melted the hearts of everyone who met her.

“What made her extra special was her cleft lip and palate and despite the challenges of this she was the most happy and content little girl.

“She was and always will be loved by her mum, sisters and family and there is a huge void in all our hearts and lives now that she has been taken from us.

“She was our special star, and it is not fair that she shone brightly for only a short time. When we look up at the sky, we will look through the clouds and know that the brightest star shining is our Felicity-May.

“Rest in peace baby girl. Sleep tight. Until we meet again, our precious angel.”

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Laurence Fox criticised after showing off mask exemption badge ‘he bought online’ | Ents & Arts News



Laurence Fox and Billie Piper

Actor Laurence Fox has been criticised after posting a photo of himself wearing a mask exemption badge which he says he bought online.

The 42-year-old has been a vocal critic of the government’s coronavirus face covering rulings and social distancing regulations.

Along with a selfie showing him wearing his new purchase, Fox wrote: “After a long period of consultation with myself, an extended review period and proper due diligence conducted with myself, I’ve received the badge that I ordered from Amazon. Thank you for being there for me.”

The blue and yellow laminated badge, worn on a green lanyard, reads: “I am exempt from wearing a face covering”.

Smaller print below also reads: “Be kind. Keep your distance. Thank you for understanding”.

Fox signed off his post with the hashtag “anxiety”.

A pack of two similar badges with two lanyards costs around £7.99 on Amazon.

Some social media users questioned his decision as Fox did not say whether he had bought the badge due to a medical condition.

One person wrote: “Not sure at all why you (are) taking this stance Laurence but I think it’s disappointing.

“Let’s all get with the programme and not undermine the best efforts of the (government) and our people for doing the right thing. Try sending the right message out.”

Fox was previously married to actress Billie Piper

However others backed up Fox’s stance, pointing out that face coverings do not have to be worn by everyone.

Face masks must be worn in the majority of indoor settings and on public transport, unless you are exempt or have a reasonable excuse.

Those who are exempt from wearing a face covering include children under 11, those with a physical or mental impairment which stops them from using a mask and those who need to communicate with someone who relies on lip reading.

People not wearing a mask do not need to show any form of evidence by law, but the government says they may “feel more comfortable” showing proof exemption. It also says a home-made sign is an acceptable exemption card.

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Earlier this month, Fox criticised the government for shutting schools, and in November he ignored lockdown rules by throwing a dinner party.

The controversial actor has recently entered the world of politics himself, launching the Reclaim political party late last year after raising large sums from ex-Tory donors.

He says the party will “fight the culture wars” and “reclaim” British values.

Fox is the ex-husband of actress Billie Piper, and the son of actor James Fox and part of the Fox acting dynasty along with his brother, Jack, and cousins, Emilia and Freddie.

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