4 min read
Councils are “abandoning” the Government’s coronavirus test and trace programme because it is “showing no signs of improvement”, Labour have argued.
The opposition seized on the move by Blackburn with Darwen Council to develop its own scheme as it deals with a spike in cases.
Blackburn and Darwen is currently facing the highest rate of Covid-19 infections in England, and was last month designated an “area of intervention” by public health officials.
Under the national test and trace scheme, people with symptoms of coronavirus are tested and enter self-isolation if they are found to have Covid-19.
They must then inform the NHS of everyone they have come into close contact with, with those contacts then approached and told to spend two weeks in quarantine.
But Blackburn with Darwen’s plan will see council staff use their local knowledge to contact residents if the national scheme has been unable to do so within two days.
Officials will then try to visit people at their homes if they cannot be reached by email, text or phone.
“Local Directors of Public Health, primary care and NHS labs were always better placed to do this vital work effectively and should be given the resources and data to get on with it.” Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth
Paul Fleming, director of business change at the council, said: “Test and trace is a vital part of the national strategy to get the virus under control. It is even more vital in areas like ours where we have a rising tide of cases.
“Our system complements the national system because we have the local knowledge of the area and the ability to send officers round to people’s addresses. Our system is also beneficial because we can refer those who need to isolate to local support services if necessary.
He added: “Our system has already gone live and we are already seeing its benefits as we have managed to contact people the national system couldn’t.
“I want to ask all residents to continue to work with us, continue to follow our advice and guidance and continue to take responsibility.
“Together we will beat the virus.”
The latest weekly statistics for the nationwide test and trace programme shows that 43,119 people who tested positive for Covid-19 have had their case transferred to the system, with 33,472 (77.6%) of those reached and asked to provide their contacts.
Of the 222,589 potential contacts handed over to the scheme, 184,703 (83%) have been reached and asked to self-isolate.
But the findings come after research published in the Lancet journal suggested the national scheme is not currently doing enough to prevent a second wave of Covid-19 when schools reopen in September.
Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “For months Labour has warned ministers that, without a vaccine, an effective locally delivered test, trace and isolate regime would be critical to safe easing from lockdown.
“Instead Boris Johnson is handing multi million pound contacts to firms like Serco and claiming his approach is ‘world beating’ when it is far from that and showing no signs of improvement. He should be honest with the public about his government’s failings.”
The Labour frontbencher added: “Given infection rates are rising and some areas have had restrictions tightened, it is no wonder local authorities are abandoning Johnson’s failed approach and setting up their own systems.
“Local Directors of Public Health, primary care and NHS labs were always better placed to do this vital work effectively and should be given the resources and data to get on with it.”
Minister Simon Clarke on Tuesday morning defended the test and trace scheme, saying it was “working”.
“We shouldn’t underestimate the scale of what has been achieved,” he said. “184,000 people have now been contacted by the programme and told to self-isolate. That is 184,000 people who might otherwise have been spreading coronavirus.”
And he added: “Our testing rate is now well above that of comparable countries, even people like Germany who have been held up as the gold standard.”
Police Will Patrol The Kent Border And Fine Lorry Drivers Without The Right Paperwork After Brexit
4 min read
Police may be asked to patrol a new internal ‘Kent border’ to check whether lorries heading across the Channel and into the EU have the right paperwork from January.
Michael Gove’s plan, designed to ease expected traffic jams in the county when the Brexit transition period ends, raises serious questions on how the neighbouring counties of Essex, East Sussex, Surrey and the Greater London region will be affected.
Cabinet minister Gove, who is in charge of no deal planning, confirmed in the Commons that lorry drivers would need a Kent Access Permit and could be policed at the county border.
“We want to make sure people use a relatively simple process to get a Kent Access Permit which means that they can proceed smoothly through Kent because they do have the material required.
“If they don’t have the material required, then it will be the case that through policing, ANPR cameras and other means we will do our very best to make sure his constituents are not inconvenienced,” he said.
The proposal came in Gove’s statement on a worst-case scenario for Britain when the transition period ends. He said the plan was to avoid high level congestion. The details were laid out in a consultation paper released on August 3.
PoliticsHome contacted the Cabinet Office but is still awaiting further details on how this would be policed and the potential impact for surrounding counties and their police forces.
The backlash against Gove’s statement was immediate, with the Road Haulage Association, RHA, saying they were extremely sceptical that the government was prepared and that haulage operators would be left “carrying the can”.
The government’s worst-case scenario plan estimates that between 30 to 50 percent of trucks crossing the Channel won’t be ready for the new regulations coming into force on 1 January 2021.
RHA chief executive, Richard Burnett said: “We already know this. It’s what we’ve been saying for many months. We know that traders and haulage operators will face new customs controls and processes and we know that if they haven’t completed the right paperwork their goods will be stopped when entering the EU.
“Mr Gove stresses that it’s essential that traders act now to get ready for new the formalities. We know for a fact that they are only too keen to be ready but how on earth can they prepare when there is still no clarity as to what they need to do?
“Government’s promises that the UK will be ready for business on 1 January are just a whitewash, and right now it appears that traders and haulage operators are being left to carry the can.”
The Kent Access Permit was included in a consultation on the legislative changes that would be needed to enforce Operation Brock, the traffic management system for Kent in the case of no-deal.
It explains that hauliers using designated roads in Kent leading to the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel must be in possession of a digital permit.
Each permit would be valid for 24 hours to cover a single trip. The government said police and Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency enforcement officers could issue penalties and fines to hauliers found heading for Dover or Eurotunnel without one.
Lorry drivers heading to Kent but not travelling internationally, would not be required to use the system.
Fines could be handed out on the spot with UK drivers having up to 28 days to pay. If a driver refused to pay, their HCV could be impounded.
Food and Drink Federation Chief Executive Ian Wright CBE said a delay of up to two days at the ports could mean shortages of fruit, vegetables and products of animal origin.
He ingredients and some food products would not arrive fit for human consumption.
He said: “The absence of clarity in certain areas including product labelling means it is too late for a lot of businesses to be fully ready for 1 January 2021. We are urging the UK Government to provide targeted periods of adjustment, and even amnesty, to minimise the impacts on manufacturers and UK shoppers.”
Breonna Taylor: Two officers shot during Louisville protests
Two officers have been shot amid huge protests in the US city of Louisville after a grand jury decided no officers would face charges for killing unarmed black woman Breonna Taylor.
Ms Taylor, 26, a hospital worker, was shot multiple times as three officers stormed her home on 13 March.
One, Brett Hankison, has been charged, not with Ms Taylor’s death, but with “wanton endangerment” for firing into a neighbour’s apartment in Louisville.
Two other officers face no charges.
Cases of killings of unarmed black people by police have fuelled anger across the US and beyond, triggered especially by the death of George Floyd in policy custody in Minneapolis in May.
Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder said the police officers shot on Wednesday did not have life-threatening injuries.
He added that a suspect was in custody.
A state of emergency has been declared in Louisville and the National Guard have also been deployed.
Mayor Greg Fischer has set a 21:00-06:30 (01:00-10:30 GMT) curfew in the city for three days. He earlier said he had declared a state of emergency “due to the potential for civil unrest”.
Despite the curfew, crowds were still gathered after 21:00. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear urged the protesters to go home.
“We know that the answer to violence is never violence and we are thinking about those two officers and their families tonight. So I’m asking everybody: please, go home. Go home tonight,” he said.
Protests over the grand jury’s decision were also held in New York, Washington, Atlanta, and Chicago.
What did the prosecutor say?
Under Kentucky law, someone is guilty of wanton endangerment if they commit an act that shows “an extreme indifference to the value of human life”.
This lowest-level felony offence can come with a five-year sentence for each count. Brett Hankison was charged on three counts.
Ms Taylor’s relatives and activists for whom her death has become a rallying cry had been calling for the three officers, who are all white, to be charged with murder or manslaughter.
But this was rejected by a grand jury that reviewed the evidence.
On Wednesday, Judge Annie O’Connell announced the charges that had been brought against Mr Hankison.
Kentucky Attorney General Mr Cameron then held a news conference in which he expanded on the decision. “This is a gut-wrenching emotional case,” he said.
“There is nothing I can offer them today to take away the grief and heartache as a result of losing a child, a niece, a sister and a friend,” he added in a message to Ms Taylor’s family.
Mr Cameron said a ballistics report had found that six bullets struck Ms Taylor, but only one was fatal.
That analysis concluded that Detective Myles Cosgrove had fired the shot that killed Ms Taylor.
The attorney general said it was not clear if Mr Hankison’s shots had hit Ms Taylor, but they had hit a neighbouring apartment.
The top prosecutor said the other two officers – Jonathan Mattingly and Mr Cosgrove – had been “justified to protect themselves and the justification bars us from pursuing criminal charges”.
Mr Cameron, a Republican who is the state’s first black attorney general, added: “If we simply act on emotion or outrage, there is no justice.
“Mob justice is not justice. Justice sought by violence is not justice. It just becomes revenge.”
He added that the FBI was still investigating potential violations of federal law in the case.
What’s the reaction?
Ben Crump, a high-profile lawyer for the Taylor family, said the outcome was “outrageous and offensive”.
Officials this month agreed to pay her family $12m (£9.3m) in a settlement.
Asked for his reaction to the decision, Mr Trump told a White House news conference: “I thought it was really brilliant.”
He praised Kentucky’s attorney general, who addressed the Republican party convention last month, for “doing a fantastic job”.
“I think he’s a star,” he said, adding that he approved of the Kentucky governor’s decision to send in the National Guard.
Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat, urged Kentucky prosecutors to release the evidence that was presented to the grand jury.
“I think having more of the facts out there so people can see, people can truly process it, is where we need to be,” Mr Beshear told reporters.
What happened to Ms Taylor?
Shortly after midnight on Friday 13 March, she was in bed with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, when they heard a banging on the door.
Plainclothes Louisville police officers were carrying out a narcotics raid, and they used a battering ram to enter the property.
A judge had granted a warrant to search Ms Taylor’s home because investigators suspected a convicted drug dealer – her ex-boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover – was using the address to receive packages. She had no criminal record.
Mr Walker fired a shot from his licensed gun, later telling police he thought that Glover had broken in, according to the New York Times.
Officials say Mr Walker’s bullet struck a police officer, Jonathan Mattingly, in the leg – an injury for which he later required surgery.
The three officers returned fire, discharging 32 rounds, according to a ballistics report from the FBI.
Ms Taylor, who had also got out of bed amid the commotion, was shot and died on the hallway floor.
According to an arrest report, the officers had been granted a “no-knock” warrant, allowing them to enter the property without warning.
But Mr Cameron said on Wednesday the officers had not actually served such a warrant. The attorney general said the officers’ statements that they identified themselves “are corroborated by an independent witness”.
Some neighbours told local media they did not hear the officers announce themselves.
No drugs were found at the property, though Jefferson County prosecutor Thomas Wine has previously said the search was cancelled after the shooting.
The subsequent police report contained errors, including listing Ms Taylor’s injuries as “none” and saying no force was used to enter, when a battering ram had been used.
Mr Walker was initially charged with attempted murder and assault of a police officer, but the case against him was dropped in May amid national scrutiny of the case.
What about the officers?
Mr Hankison was fired from the Louisville Metro Police Department in June after investigators found he had “wantonly and blindly fired 10 rounds” during the raid, according to his termination letter.
Mr Mattingly and Mr Cosgrove were reassigned to administrative duties.
The Louisville Courier-Journal has reported that six officers are under internal police review for their role in the shooting.
Mr Mattingly wrote an email on Saturday to more than 1,000 colleagues in which he criticised city leaders and protesters.
“Regardless of the outcome today or Wednesday, I know we did the legal, moral and ethical thing that night,” he wrote in the message, which was published by media outlets on Tuesday.
“It’s sad how the good guys are demonised, and the criminals are canonised.”
“Your civil rights mean nothing,” he added, “but the criminal has total autonomy.”
India and China agree to stop sending troops to disputed Himalayan border
Indian and Chinese senior military commanders met on Monday to discuss stabilizing tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the loosely defined demarcation line that separates the two countries.
In a joint statement, both sides agreed to strengthen communication on the ground to avoid misunderstandings or action “that may complicate the situation.”
They also agreed to not take any unilateral action that would change the situation on the ground, according to the statement.
Another round of high-level military meetings will be held “as soon as possible,” the statement said.
At least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in that incident, the deadliest border conflict with China in over 40 years. China has never acknowledged any casualties from that clash.
India and China share a 2,100 mile-long (3,379-kilometer) border in the Himalayas, but both sides claim territory either side of it.
The most recent dispute was around Pangong Tso, a strategically located lake some 14,000 feet (4,200 meters) above sea level that spans an area stretching from the Indian territory of Ladakh to Chinese-controlled Tibet, in the greater Kashmir region, where India, China and Pakistan all claim territory.
The Line of Actual Control, which marks the de facto border and passes through the lake, was established in the wake of the 1962 Sino-Indian war. Though it shows up on maps, India and China do not agree on its precise location and both regularly accuse the other of overstepping it, or seeking to expand their territory.
In 1996, the two countries signed an agreement which states that neither side shall open fire within 2 kilometers (1.24 miles) from the LAC to “prevent dangerous military activities.”
CNN’s Nectar Gan, Swati Gupta and James Griffiths contributed.
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