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COVID-19: UK’s largest temporary morgue set to open with high deaths to continue ‘for some weeks’ | UK News

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A general view shows RAF Coltishall in Norfolk in eastern England February 7, 2007. The former RAF base will be transferred to the Home Office who plan to create a new immigration removal centre it was announced on Monday. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN)

The UK’s largest temporary morgue is preparing to open to cope with rising coronavirus deaths, while another set up in a former aircraft hangar during the first wave of the pandemic is now in use for the first time.

The facility at the former RAF Coltishall base, northeast of Norwich, was unneeded when it was set up last year, but Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital is now using it to take pressure off its own mortuary.

It comes as the UK’s largest temporary facility – for up to 1,300 bodies – prepares to open fully in London next week in response to the capital’s growing coronavirus death toll.

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A former aircraft hangar at RAF Coltishall in Norfolk has been turned into a mortuary. File pic

The morgues are the latest in a number of temporary facilities set up across the country, including one at the former military hospital Headley Court in Leatherhead, Surrey.

Tom McCabe, chairman of Norfolk’s COVID-19 Strategic Co-ordination Group, said the hospital has plans in place “to use a number” of the mortuary spaces, including the former RAF site, also known as Scottow Enterprise Park.

Mr McCabe added: “We can reassure people that we have a dedicated, trained team of staff who care for those who have died and been taken there.”

Almost 85,000 people in the UK have died after testing positive for coronavirus, government data shows. It’s the fifth-highest death rate in the world, according to John Hopkins University.

While there are signs that new infections may be slowing, the government’s leading scientist Sir Patrick Vallance has warned that high death numbers will “carry on for some weeks”.

This is because of the lag between infection, displaying symptoms, hospitalisation and death. Well over 40,000 new cases are still being reported every day.

nside one of the storage units at the overflow mortuary at Breakspear Crematorium in Ruislip, London which will provide an additional 20% in capacity for public mortuaries in London, helping to relieve pressure on hospitals and council-run morgues.
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The Ruislip will provide an additional 20% in capacity

Westminster City Council chief executive Stuart Love, who is leading the pan-London virus response, said the large newly-built facility in Ruislip, northwest London, was a “sobering reminder” of the pandemic.

“From my point of view, we have built this really hoping it doesn’t get used to its capacity,” he said, adding: “We want to give people hope, but we are not there yet.”

More than 10,500 people have died with the virus in London since the start of the outbreak.

The city’s mayor Sadiq Khan declared a major incident last week as hospitals came under increasing pressure.

It took just over a week to construct the facility on the site near Breakspear Crematorium.

It can currently hold 217 bodies, but will reach a capacity of 1,300 once building works are completed next week, to provide an additional 20% in capacity. The site is expected to receive bodies from Friday.

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Children’s ward filled by COVID-19 patients

During the first wave of the pandemic, four temporary mortuaries were built in London to provide extra capacity.

Mr Love said those sites were decommissioned and a decision was made to open one hub at Ruislip, making the process of storing bodies more streamlined.

The entire Ruislip site, made up of tented facilities with refrigeration units, has cost £3.2m, with the total expected to reach £4m by March, Mr Love added.

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“As the number of deaths have increased, particularly since Christmas Eve, we made the decision to build temporary capacity with the overriding principle of ensuring the dignity and respect for the bereaved and the deceased are maintained,” he said.

“It’s really important that people have confidence that bodies are being treated with respect.”

He said he hopes the mortuary doesn’t reach capacity, but added: “This just re-emphasises the message of staying at home and looking after your loved ones.”

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COVID-19: Nine police officers who had breakfast together inside cafe fined for breaching lockdown | UK News

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COVID-19: Nine police officers who had breakfast together inside cafe fined for breaching lockdown | UK News

Nine police officers who had breakfast together inside a cafe have been fined for breaching COVID lockdown rules on duty.

The officers, from the Metropolitan Police, were fined £200 each and told to “reflect on their choices.”

They were spotted by IT manager Brian Jennings walking past the cafe near their base beside the River Thames at 9am earlier this month, a week into the latest lockdown.

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Hancock backs police enforcing rules

Mr Jennings, who reported the breach, told MailOnline: “We noticed in the first lockdown and again today that regularly, first thing in the morning, there will be half-a-dozen squad cards outside and every table full of police officers having breakfast in there.

“You read about people getting fined and it seems hypocritical as it looks like there is little social distancing in the cafe.

“I find the regular and continued flouting of social distancing and lockdown regulations by the police hypocritical and foolish at this time when the infection rates in Greenwich borough are among the highest in the UK.”

Photographs of apparent uniformed officers sitting inside the Chef House Kitchen, with several marked police cars parked outside, were published by MailOnline.

Their bosses launched an investigation and chose to fine them without any other disciplinary action.

They may be the first on-duty emergency workers to be given fixed penalty notices since the first pandemic lockdown began in March last year.

Chief Superintendent Rob Atkin, South East Commander, said: “Police officers are tasked with enforcing the legislation that has been introduced to stop the spread of the virus and the public rightly expect that they will set an example through their own actions.

“It is disappointing that on this occasion, these officers have fallen short of that expectation. It is right that they will pay a financial penalty and that they will be asked to reflect on their choices.”

The fines come after the force’s commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, launched a clampdown on COVID rule breakers.

Over the past weekend, the force handed out nearly £40,000 worth of fines for COVID breaches in east London alone.

It is not known if the cafe owner has been fined, which, according to police, is a matter for Greenwich Borough Council.

Sky News has approached the council for comment.

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COVID-19: UK to look ‘very carefully’ at vaccine dosing after concerns raised over level of protection | Politics News

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A member of medical staff prepares a Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at The Vaccination Hub at Croydon University Hospital, south London, on the first day of the largest immunisation programme in the UK's history. Care home workers, NHS staff and people aged 80 and over began receiving the jab this morning.

The UK will need to look “very carefully” at the protection provided by the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the government’s chief scientific adviser has told Sky News, amid concerns its effectiveness is significantly lower than had been found in trials.

Sir Patrick Vallance said the government would “just need to keep measuring the numbers” as the vaccine is rolled out across the UK.

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Answering questions from Sky News viewers, Sir Patrick was asked about an analysis from Israel, where the Pfizer jab has been rolled out the fastest.

That study suggested the effectiveness of the vaccine after a single dose was as low as 33% – rather than the 89% that had initially been thought.

The 89% figure – pointing to high short-term protection – was used to help justify the UK’s decision to delay giving a second vaccine dose to people for up to 12 weeks, as part of a push to get as many people as possible in the UK vaccinated with an initial first dose.

Sir Patrick said: “We need to look at this very carefully, we just need to keep measuring the numbers.”

He admitted that “in practice” the protection provided by one dose of a Pfizer vaccine probably won’t be as high as 89%, but he pushed back against the suggestion it could be as low as 33%.

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The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was the first to be approved for use in the UK

“What we know from a clinical study is… if you take everything from day zero, the moment you get the vaccine, to day 28 then the overall figure is something like 50% protection,” Sir Patrick said.

“But, of course, you don’t expect to get any protection in the first 10 days, because it hasn’t had a chance for the immune system to build up.

“And some people may have been infected before they had the vaccine.

“So, if you take from day 10 up towards day 21 and beyond, then it looks much more like the 89% figure that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said.

“That’s the clinical trial data and we also know that when you get into real world practice, things are seldom quite as good as clinical trial.

“So I think the 89% or so is the figure you see post-10 days, so that’s the basis of the recommendation.

“It probably won’t be as high as that in practice, but I don’t think it will be as low as the figures you’ve just given.”

Sir Patrick said the UK would get more “real world” data from both Israel’s and the UK’s vaccination programme over the coming weeks to “get a better handle on exactly how effective this is in the real world, rather than in the conditions of a clinical trial”.

But he stressed it was “quite important not to assume this protects in the first 10 days, because it doesn’t”.

Scientists in Israel studied preliminary data from 200,000 vaccinated people.

Professor Ran Balicer, who works for the largest health care provider in Israel and who is an adviser to the World Health Organisation, told Sky News there was “no difference” between infections of vaccinated and unvaccinated people until 14 days after a Pfizer jab.

But he added that, on day 14 after vaccination, “a drop of 33% in positivity was witnessed in the vaccinated group and not in the unvaccinated”.

Prof Balicer said the data did not show an 89% reduction in positivity rates, but said further data and analysis would be provided after being peer-reviewed.

Israel is providing a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at three weeks, which Prof Balicer said means it is “impossible” for them to analyse the impact of not providing a second dose for a longer period of time.

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Donald Trump issues flurry of pardons as he leaves office | US News

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Donald Trump issues flurry of pardons as he leaves office | US News

Former White House adviser Steve Bannon and rapper Lil Wayne are among the people being pardoned or granted clemency by Donald Trump in the final hours of his presidency.

The outgoing president granted clemency to 143 people on Wednesday.

Wayne pleaded guilty last month to possessing a loaded, gold-plated handgun on a private flight in 2019. He faces a sentence of up to 10 years in prison at a hearing next week.

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The president met the rapper during his election campaign last year, with the artist later praising some of Mr Trump’s policies such as proposed justice reforms.

Controversial former White House adviser Bannon, who was fired by Mr Trump, has also been granted clemency.

“Bannon has been an important leader in the conservative movement and is known for his political acumen,” the White House said in a statement.

He was charged last year with swindling Trump supporters over an effort to raise private funds to build the US-Mexico border wall, and pleaded not guilty.

Bannon was appointed chief executive of Mr Trump’s successful presidential campaign in 2016, leaving his role at conservative website Breitbart News.

Lil Wayne
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Lil Wayne is also among a raft of 11th-hour pardons and commutations

He became chief strategist for Mr Trump after his inauguration, but clashed with others in the White House and was pushed out in August 2017.

Bannon was recently banned from Twitter after he called for the beheading of top government doctor Anthony Fauci and FBI director Christopher Wray.

Others reportedly among the dozens of people being pardoned are Kodak Black – a rapper also sentenced over weapons charges, and former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick who is seven years into a 28-year sentence for corruption and racketeering.

Mr Trump has previously pardoned several of his closest confidantes such as Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser who lied to the FBI, and commuted the prison term for Roger Stone – who was convicted of lying to Congress during its probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

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