Leeds news LIVE: Johnson to face MPs as confusion reigns over international travel rules
Boris Johnson could face pressure to clarify the confusion around international travel rules when he takes Prime Minister’s Questions for the first time since Parliament reopened last week.
Facing Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in a six-question round for the first time since the local elections and the Queen’s Speech, the Prime Minister is likely to face questions on where it is safe to holiday after one of his ministers said all international trips were “dangerous”.
Would-be holidaymakers were left with their plans for a summer break up in the air after ministers appeared to contradict themselves over where the public are permitted to travel abroad.
With a new traffic light system brought in on Monday to allow some foreign travel to resume again after months of coronavirus lockdown, the Prime Minister stressed countries on the so-called “amber list” were “not somewhere where you should be going on holiday”.
Leeds news LIVE: ‘Yorkshire variant’ of Covid detected
Last updated: Friday, 21 May, 2021, 08:39
‘Yorkshire variant’ of Covid detected
Public Health England has said it is investigating another new Covid variant after 49 cases were identified, mostly in Yorkshire and the Humber region.
So far, there is no evidence that it causes more severe disease or renders the vaccines less effective.
It comes as cases of the Indian variant of coronavirus in the UK rose by more than 2,000 in the space of a week, according to official figures.
Public Health England (PHE) said the latest weekly data showed there were 3,424 cases of the B1617.2 mutation – an increase of 2,111 on the previous week.
While most cases were concentrated in the North West – particularly Bolton – and London, PHE said it was seeing “clusters of cases” across the country.
Dr Meera Chand, the Covid-19 incident director at PHE, said it was essential people in the worst-affected areas who had yet to receive their second dose of the vaccine came forward as soon as it was offered.
“This is vitally important in the light of our current assessment that (B1617.2) has grown rapidly in England and may be highly transmissible,” she said.
“PHE will continue to monitor all variants closely, paying particular attention to the impact on hospitalisations and deaths which will help us to understand the protective effects of the vaccine.”
Stabbing suspect held in custody
A 17-year-old boy remains in custody today after being arrested by armed police responding to a reported stabbing.
Details have been released this afternoon about the attack on a 14-year-old boy, who suffered minor injuries.
West Yorkshire Police said officers were called to Harehills Park at 6.30pm yesterday.
Forensic work has been taking place at Harehills Park and Harehills Cemetery as the investigation continues.
Read the full story here: Armed police arrest teenager near Harehills Park
‘Truly devious’ attempt to frame innocent man over terrorist murder of PC Keith Palmer
A man who tried to frame his landlady’s partner for inciting the terrorist murder of PC Keith Palmer in revenge over a faulty boiler has been jailed for more than three years.
Gerald Banyard, 67, sent two packages to police in the aftermath of the March 22 2017 Westminster attack suggesting Ian Anderson-Boles had links with terrorist Khalid Masood.
Judge Christopher Hehir today jailed Banyard, who admitted a breach of bail offence. He told him: “You are a truly devious and manipulative man,” he said.
Read the full story: Jail for ‘devious’ Gerald Banyard who tried to frame innocent man
A female cyclist has been seriously injured
A statement from West Yorkshire Police:
“At 8:38am today, police were called to a road traffic collision in Kirkstall Road, at the junction with Willow Road/Viaduct Road, involving a cyclist and a silver Vauxhall Astra.
“The cyclist, a 23-year-old woman, was taken to hospital by ambulance with serious injuries that were not considered life threatening.
“The road reopened shortly after 10am.”
Police at the scene
The crash scene on Kirkstall Road
Leeds councillor picked as candidate for Batley and Spen by-election
In case you missed this announcement late last night, the Tories have named Leeds councillor Ryan Stephenson as their candidate for the Batley and Spen by-election.
It was triggered when Labour MP Tracy Brabin was elected as West Yorkshire’s first mayor earlier this month and vacated her parliamentary seat.
Here’s the full story: Conservatives choose Leeds councillor as by election candidate
Vaccination programme in England to extend to 34-year-olds
People aged 34 and over can book their Covid-19 jab from Thursday, the NHS in England has said.
More than one million people aged 34 and 35 will get a text message on Thursday or Friday asking them to come forward for their Covid vaccine, NHS England said.
The vaccination programme is expected to extend to people in their early thirties “over the next few days and weeks”, it added.
Health officials have sped up the timetable to offer second jabs in a bid to ensure that those at highest risk are protected from the variant of the virus first identified in India.
At the same time, the programmes are extending to younger age groups to try and mitigate risk.
Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for the NHS in England, said: “The success of the NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme, the biggest in history, is not by accident but down to careful planning and precision by NHS staff who have now delivered 48.5 million doses across England in less than six months.
“Getting the vaccine is the single most important step we can take to protect ourselves, our families and our communities against Covid 19, so when you’re called forward, book your appointment and join the tens of millions who have already been jabbed.”
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Our vaccination programme – the fastest and most successful in NHS history – moves forward at pace with 34 and 35-year-olds now being invited for the jab.
“This is incredible news and means we remain on track to hit our target of offering a vaccine to all adults by the end of July.
“The vaccine is our way out of the pandemic and the key to getting back to normal.
“I’m delighted that 70% of adults across the country have already been vaccinated with their first dose, and 40% with their second.
“We have one of the highest uptake rates in the world but we’ll continue to do everything we can to make sure no one is left behind. Please come forward for the jab once you get the offer – it could save your life and protect your loved ones.”
Vaccination experts have previously advised that people under the age of 40 should receive an alternative vaccine to the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab due to the link between the jab and extremely rare cases of blood clots.
This means that most under 40s will be offered the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
UK in ‘straight race’ between vaccinating public and spread of Indian variant
Britain is in a “straight race” to vaccinate its population in order to outrun the threat of the Indian coronavirus mutation, according to England’s deputy chief medical officer.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said the jab-rate over the next few weeks would be crucial for ensuring the Prime Minister could lift all Covid restrictions on June 21, as set out in his road map out of lockdown.
As part of efforts to “turbo-boost” the vaccine programme, more than one million people aged 34 and 35 will receive a text message on Thursday or Friday asking them to come forward for their Covid vaccine, NHS England confirmed.
It comes amid growing confidence within the Government that the vaccines available in the UK will work against the Indian strain and that the B1617.2 mutation will prove less transmissible than first feared.
Almost 3,000 cases of the Indian variant have been identified in the UK – up from the 2,323 declared on Monday – and surge testing has been announced in a number of areas in a bid to control its spread.
Prof Van-Tam told a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday: “I pitch this personally as a straight race between the transmissibility of this new variant … and vaccine delivery.
“The NHS is doing everything it can to turbo-boost that, and that is the challenge that’s ahead of us in the next two to three to four weeks, to make sure that we outrun the virus through really vigorous pull-through on vaccine delivery.”
Prof Van-Tam said scientists would have more information by next week on how transmissible the Indian variant is versus the Kent strain, which has become dominant in the UK.
Experts had feared it could be up to 50% more transmissible, but the Government adviser suggested studies could find it is only half that.
The spread of the variant of concern had cast doubt on next month’s plans to ease the remaining restrictions in England, but Boris Johnson told the Commons his administration had “increasing confidence” that vaccines would prove effective against it.
Sources confirmed Mr Johnson told the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs he was “even more cautiously optimistic” than last week about being able to scrap all restrictions next month.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock struck a more cautious tone at a press briefing earlier in the day, saying a final decision on whether to move to the next stage of the road map would be taken as late as possible – on June 14, a week before the measures would take effect.
“Until then, it is just too early to say,” said the Cabinet minister.
Unions criticise rail reform plans as ‘missed opportunity’
Rail union leaders and politicians have attacked plans to reform the railways, accusing the Government of merely “papering over the cracks”.
Labour said it raised more questions than answers while a campaign group accused ministers of “rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic”.
Manuel Cortes, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, said: “The Conservatives have admitted that their Frankenstein privatisation experiment on our railways has failed and the franchising of train services has hit the buffers.
“Rather than take the bold action that our rail network desperately needs, this is an attempt merely to paper over the cracks.
“A concessions-based model will still see passengers and taxpayer money leak out of our industry in the form of dividend payments for the greedy shareholders of the private operators who will hold them.
“In some ways we are going back to the future with the creation of a strategic body for our railways. We used to have one called the Strategic Rail Authority and it was abolished because it failed to end fragmentation.”
Mick Whelan, leader of the train drivers’ union Aslef, said: “It is deeply disappointing that we have had to wait 18 months for the publication of a report which was finished in November 2019.
“We welcome the belated admission that the privatisation of our railways by John Major’s Tory government in 1994 has been an abject failure. Everyone is delighted to see the back of the franchise system.
“The big question is why are private operators still involved? Under these plans the private companies will still pocket a profit, but all the risk is being dumped back on the public purse. The Government is changing the model, but protecting the privateers, and privatising any profit.”
Mick Lynch, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: “This is a missed opportunity by the Government to make a clean break from the failures of the past that have left Britain’s railways in the slow lane.
“The Government talks about ending a generation of fragmentation but then leaves the same private companies in place under this arrangement to extract management fees that could be invested in to building a truly integrated national rail network.
“If the Government was serious about recognising the impact of failed rail policy it would cut out the middleman, strip away the dead weight of the private companies and work with their staff on building a transport system fit for the future where investment in staff and infrastructure comes first.”