Another record daily rise in UK Covid cases, but Omicron ‘appears less severe’

The evolution of Covid since August in Devon has followed a rather different trajectory from the rest of England.

From the end of August through to December we have had three distinct waves of infections in the 0-19 age range, followed by smaller waves in the 40-59 year olds. These are much less pronounced in the national figures and resulted in Devon having one of the highest overall levels of infection. This has been attributed to “Freedom Day”, the “Boardmasters” festival effects and general “Staycations” in the region.

From December the pattern has changed. 

Nationally, infections in all age groups began to rise in early/mid December, the surge attributed to Omicron. In Devon, however, infection rates have fallen throughout December in the 0-19 age group, and are currently stable in the 40-59, 60-79 and 80+ age groups. The only age group to see infections rising is the 20-39 year olds. For the moment it looks as if we have yet to see the expected Omicron surge. The social dynamics over the holiday period will undoubtedly have an impact one way or another.

[See the extract from the Covid dashboard that Owl has posted below this article.]

Nicola Davis www.theguardian.com

The UK has seen another record rise of daily Covid cases, with 138,831 reported in England, Scotland and Wales alone – but a leading scientist said the Omicron variant was “not the same disease we were seeing a year ago”.

According to official figures from the UK government’s coronavirus dashboard, a record 117,093 cases – infections that are picked up through testing – were reported for England on Tuesday, up from a previous high of 113,628 on Christmas Day. In Wales 12,378 cases were reported on Tuesday, also a record high.

The Scottish government later reported 9,360 cases in the past 24 hours, making the total of 138,831 cases higher than at any other point in the pandemic for the entire UK, despite data missing for Northern Ireland.

It came as Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Omicron “appears to be less severe and many people spend a relatively short time in hospital”, and high Covid death rates in the UK are “now history”.

There were also calls from some scientists for the period of self-isolation to be cut. Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said people with Covid should eventually be allowed to “go about their normal lives” as they would with a common cold.

“If the self-isolation rules are what’s making the pain associated with Covid, then we need to do that perhaps sooner rather than later,” he told BBC Breakfast. “Maybe not quite just yet.”

Prof Tim Spector, who runs King’s College London’s Zoe Covid study, said reducing the period of isolation would “protect the economy”.

Currently, people in England who have tested positive for Covid can cut their self-isolation from 10 days to seven if they have negative lateral flow tests on days six and day seven. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it remains 10 days.

Data from NHS England released on Tuesday revealed that the number of patients in hospital had risen by more than 1,000 in a day, with 9,546 beds occupied by people with Covid on Tuesday, compared with 8,474 the day before – although some trusts, thought to have about 220 Covid patients in total based on recent submissions, did not report their figures for Monday.

Tuesday’s hospital figure is a 38% increase on that reported on 21 December and the highest since 3 March, although far below the peak last winter of more than 34,000 people in hospital with Covid.

Dr Simon Clarke, an associate professor of cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, cautioned the latest daily case figures do not take into account changes in testing behaviour over the festive period, or delays in processing tests.

Clarke added that while some people in hospital with Covid will have been admitted for a different reason, the situation should not be dismissed as insignificant.

“These are vulnerable people whose condition is serious enough to require them to be in hospital over Christmas,” he said. “There is no condition I know of that cannot be made worse by Covid-19.”

However, some scientists have struck a more upbeat note. Bell said that although hospital admissions had increased in recent weeks as Omicron spreads through the population, fewer patients were needing high-flow oxygen and the average length of stay was down to three days.

“The horrific scenes that we saw a year ago of intensive care units being full, lots of people dying prematurely, that is now history, in my view, and I think we should be reassured that that’s likely to continue,” he said.

The figures came a day after Downing Street confirmed that no new coronavirus restrictions would be introduced in England before the new year. In the rest of the UK, a raft of measures are in place, including the closure of nightclubs in Wales, and limiting socialising in Scotland to groups of up to three households.

The decision has been criticised by some scientists, with one expert describing it as “the greatest divergence between scientific advice and legislation” since the start of the pandemic.

While the latest data suggests the risk of being admitted to hospital is up to 70% less for people with Omicron compared with those infected with Delta, the sheer numbers of people with the new variant has caused serious concern in terms of the number of people requiring hospital care and widespread impact on staffing.

According to the Office for National Statistics, an estimated 1 in 35 people had Covid in the week ending 19 December, a figure that was even higher in London, at 1 in 20.

Experts have cautioned that it is not yet clear how the virus has moved through the population over Christmas, and what will happen once the rate of infection begins to rise in older people.

The disparity in Covid rules and guidance across the four nations of the UK has also led to other concerns, including that partygoers might travel across the border from Wales to England to celebrate new year.

Nick Newman, chair of the Cardiff Licensees Forum, said he expected many people to leave Wales for England. “It’s 40 minutes from Newport to Bristol and it’s easy to get from north Wales into Manchester or Liverpool. English businesses are going to benefit.”

Meanwhile, those in England attempting to follow government advice to take a lateral flow test before mixing with others faced difficulties on Tuesday.

Pharmacies in England have reported running out of test kits before Christmas, with deliveries of supplies delayed by the Christmas and Boxing Day holidays – and some pharmacies remained shut on Monday and Tuesday due to the bank holidays.

Availability of walk-in lateral flow or PCR tests in England was also disrupted on Tuesday morning, while people attempting to order lateral flow tests online in England also faced obstacles.

Comparison of confirmed infections, by age groups, for Devon and England from May 2021

‘Murdered’ king may have escaped to Devon

The story of the ‘princes in the tower’ – young royal brothers aged nine and 12 – alleged to have been murdered by their uncle more than 500 years ago, may have taken another twist, with claims the older one may have escaped to a tiny Devon hamlet.

Paul Nero www.radioexe.co.uk

Researchers say that the boy who should have become Edward V was smuggled to Coldridge in Mid Devon, not far from Winkleigh and Crediton, where he lived out his life as a man called John Evans.

The popular story is that Edward and his kid brother Richard of Shrewsbury were killed on the order of their uncle, Richard III, also known as Richard of York.

The team which led a length investigation to find the body of Richard III near Bowsworth Field, where he was killed in battle, has now released the results of its latest enquiry. 

His bones were found under a car park in Leicester in 2012.

The investigators believe St Michael’s Church at Coldridge holds the key to the mystery. Historic documents they have discovered suggest Yorkist symbols and an effigy of a man called John Evans are clues left for future generations to connect the dots.

Lead researcher John Dike told the Daily Telegraph.“The idea of a missing prince lying low in Devon might appear fanciful at first. With all the secret symbols and clues, it sounds somewhat like the Da Vinci Code. But the discoveries inside this church in the middle of nowhere are extraordinary.”

He continued: “Once you take all the clues together, it does appear that the story of the princes in the Tower may need to be rewritten.”

William Shakespeare’s version of Richard III popularised the idea that the young princes were murdered in the Tower whilst they waited for the coronation of the elder boy. Richard then claimed the throne, but his reign lasted only two years before he died at the hands of the first Tudor king, Henry VII.

M5 J27 plans could see new surf lake and outdoor adventure zone

The leader of Mid Devon District Council says it’s time to “start the dialogue” about development around junction 27 of the M5.

Will this create a new economic development zone to the east of Exeter? Will there be a TESP (Tiverton economic strategic plan)? – Owl

Ollie Heptinstall www.devonlive.com 

The Local Plan allocation includes a site of approximately 71 hectares adjoining the southbound carriageway of the M5 motorway adjacent to junction 27 for major development.

The allocation makes provision for an agronomy visitor centre, 1,000 square metres of ancillary retail, an outdoor adventure zone including a surf lake, lagoon, beach, high ropes adventure area, and an outlet shopping village.

Now at a meeting of the community policy development group, Councillor John Downes (Lib Dem, Boniface) said investment in the area could return “significant revenues” to the council, given the need to balance the books.

The council’s senior officers are tasked with finding savings, with Mid Devon estimating a total shortfall of just over £1 million next year – rising to a projected £1.6 million in 2026/27.

Leader Bob Deed (Independent, Cadbury) said Cllr Downes’ comments were “music to my ears,” adding that it was “time to start a dialogue” on the future of the junction.

He likened it to the lengthy process of reopening Cullompton railway station, which stemmed from starting a committee seven years ago. It recently moved a step closer after receiving millions of pounds from the chancellor’s budget.

“Now that was a 10-year project from the outset because things do take time, especially on the rail.

“We’ve now got something similar as a challenge in junction 27 and what it needs is there to be a caucus that are interested in developing junction 27, if for no other reason, than it will produce employment for people within the district and income for Mid Devon.

“So, I’m very interested and will support the economy [policy development group] through John Downes if you like, to seriously start the dialogue to do something with the junction 27 area.”

Junction 27 and Eden Westwood plans pictured here are a major talking point of the Local Plan

Junction 27 and Eden Westwood plans pictured here are a major talking point of the Local Plan

He said it was time to “take the brakes off the development” that’s delayed progress for six years.

Deputy chief executive Andrew Jarrett acknowledged that, while both junction 27 and junction 28 at Cullompton could see “significant both commercial and residential growth,” the economic challenge meant any development may not be as quick as people would like.

He added: “It would be brilliant for Mid Devon – and this is just from a financial perspective – if there was sizable development of both of those motorway junctions.

“That would see a very, very different financial sure for Mid Devon District Council’s bottom line. And also, this is just again my opinion, and for many residents of the district and increased jobs, etc, etc.

“I know there are always mixed feelings and emotions about the size of the economic growth in a beautiful rural area like we live in, but it has to be the right growth at the right time in the right place.”

Sir Tim Smit, the man behind the Eden Project as well as promoter Malcolm Dudley Williams, have backed plans to create a £200million surf lake and a ‘mini’ Eden Project. It is a partnership project by the Eden Project and investors Friends Life, part of the Aviva Group.

The Eden Ark will be at the centre of the scheme that will be split into four zones and will include a hotel, a visitor hub, an artificial surfing lake, a food hall, outdoor play areas, cafes and restaurants, shops for small businesses and a designer clothes outlet discount shopping centre.

The surf lagoon will be at the heart of the outdoor adventure zone, similar to Surf Snowdonia, Wales.

Health minister Gillian Keegan dismisses calls for further support for the hospitality sector as venues remain ‘pretty full’

Was Health minister Gillian Keegan on Simon Jupp’s Christmas card list? – Owl

Sophie Morris news.sky.com 

A health minister has defended the government’s decision not to offer the hospitality sector more financial support, saying venues remain “pretty full”.

Business leaders have issued a fresh call for more economic help for the hospitality sector after fears around the new Omicron variant led to a steep decline in trade in the usually busy run-up to Christmas.

But Gillian Keegan said the government had already issued a £1bn package of measures for the sector before the festive period and implied further assistance is not necessary as “people are still going out”.

A man walks past a largely empty restaurant in central London on 21 December

A man walks past a largely empty restaurant in central London on 21 December

Asked if businesses need more financial support if the government is calling for people to remain “cautious” with their New Year’s Eve plans, Ms Keegan said: “Well, that is why we have put a package of measures, a £1bn package of measures in place just before this period.

“But I have been out a couple of times – my sister is over from the States, so we have been out to a couple of restaurants – and they have been pretty full.

“So, you know, I’m obviously in London at the moment, but I think people are still going out, but they are just taking a lateral flow test before and obviously being a bit more cautious.”

New Year’s Eve parties given the green light

The minister added that, after Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced no new restrictions would be implemented in England before 2022, people should “enjoy” themselves over the New Year, “but cautiously”.

Ms Keegan suggested those attending events should consider going to well-ventilated places if possible and take a lateral flow coronavirus test beforehand.

The industry has broadly welcomed the health secretary’s announcement that there will be no new COVID restrictions ahead of the New Year beyond the Plan B measures already in place.

Treasury support ‘won’t go far enough’

However, the British Chambers of Commerce warned the move would not make up for hospitality venues’ lost trade during what should have been the busiest time of year, as people stayed home to avoid catching coronavirus.

“I am delighted to see that we are protecting New Year’s Eve, but it just won’t go far enough,” its president Baroness McGregor-Smith told the BBC.

She added that while the Treasury has announced grants of up to £6,000 for businesses affected, some were losing more than that each day. She has urged the government to extend the business rates relief and the emergency rate of VAT beyond the end of March.

Chief executive of Adnams brewery Andy Wood agreed, saying there had been a 50% drop in visitors to pubs and hotels after England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty urged people to be cautious about socialising.

“There is going to need to be support for the sector through the dark months of January, February and March,” he told the BBC.

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‘Last weeks of December were a stealth lockdown’

Latest COVID data

Pressed on whether more restrictions could be brought in early next year, Ms Keegan said ministers “watch very carefully all of the data” – including the number of hospitalisations.

The health minister also confirmed that 32.4 million boosters have been administered.

While there is relief among business that New Year’s Eve celebrations will be able to go ahead in England, some scientists have expressed concern about the lack of new restrictions following the surge in COVID cases.

The decision also means England is out of step with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, which have all brought in new post-Christmas COVID rules.

The latest government figures showed there were a record 113,628 new COVID cases in England on Christmas Day, with 1,281 new COVID-19 hospital admissions – up 74% week on week and the highest since 16 February.

As of 8am on 27 December, there were 8,474 people were in hospital in England with COVID-19 – the highest number since 5 March.

Restaurants ‘pulling hair out’ after brutal festive season

“Reassuring words” from the Government over the past 48 hours:

“There will be no further measures before the new year,” Javid told reporters, adding: “When we get into the new year, of course we will see then whether we do need to take any further measures.”

He said that the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the virus now accounted for around 90% of cases across England and urged people to celebrate New Year cautiously.

UK care minister Gillian Keegan followed up with: “People should enjoy themselves but be cautious when celebrating new year.” 

So Celebrate; don’t celebrate? – Owl

Lewis Clarke www.devonlive.com

It’s not been the season of festive cheer for Mid Devon’s restaurants, with owners’ pulling their hair out over Christmas party cancellations.

Earlier this month, government advisors, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, urged caution on people going out to celebrate due to fears over the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

Rhys Roberts of Visit Devon said this is the worst crisis he has known in his 30-year career.

He said Christmas cancellation rates are said to be running at between 13-15 per cent nationally, but he said, “that is not what I am being told,”

“The current levels are running at between 40 per cent and 50 per cent, and that is simply not sustainable.”

Charles Lloyd runs the Mount Pleasant Inn in Nomansland, near Tiverton, said: “We are almost being treated as if we are the acceptable collateral damage in trying to save the NHS.

“There is no clear message coming out of the Government. It is obvious pubs are hurting.”

The Hartnoll Hotel in Tiverton has seen 80 per cent of its bookings cancelled, with customers demanding refunds.

Shane Naylor, general manager, explained: “By October, we had been fully booked for Christmas hotel bookings, we had been fully booked for our Friday and Saturday Christmas parties during December, so much so that we had also opened up Thursday dates too.

“Since the Government announcing that people can still go out but be cautious, 80 per cent of Christmas party bookings were cancelled, all demanding refunds.

“Since that announcement, we have had over 350 cancellations; that week alone was 200 cancellations. Our Christmas break package was full, and now we only have six rooms booked.”

He said they were ‘very annoyed’, adding: “In my opinion, the Government are very clever in what they have said. Telling people to be cautious and not go out but actually not imposing any restrictions means we cannot claim any financial assistance.

“£6,000 will not go very far. I have a monthly wage budget of £70k at the moment we are not even breaking even we are now losing money.

“Because the Prime Minister cannot make his mind up and give clear guidance, we are not even sure if we should order the food in for New Year, so we have a choice order the food, and if restrictions come into place, we end up losing the money or risk not ordering the food, and we have no food for New Year. The Government need to introduce a flexi furlough scheme for the hospitality sector, at least for three months to help us support our staff.”

In terms of staffing levels, he added: “We finally managed to retain our staff during the staff shortage because we were loyal to them and ensured they had the hours and increased wages.

“But not as we do not have the clientele, we are reducing hours like no tomorrow. Staff are finding other jobs, which means we will go into the New Year with staff shortages again. We have had a few staff call in sick due to isolation but not many.

“It’s troubling times. We do not even know if we will be able to open in January. Ninety per cent of our January bookings have cancelled.”

Another restaurant in Tiverton, Elsie May’s on Phoenix Lane, is often busy at Christmas.

Elsie May’s in Tiverton

Mandy Jenks, from the family-run business, said: “We went from being fully booked for our Christmas party nights to having some cancellations. This was due to the parties reducing their numbers with people having to self-isolate.

“One particular Friday evening in December, we went from fully booked to having availability three times. It ended up being half full, which isn’t ideal. A couple of our cancellations have been from the corporate companies instructing the staff to cancel.

I guess they need to ensure they have enough staff to carry on trading.

She added: “Our daytime business has been reasonably and consistently good due to the loyalty and support of our regular customers who have been amazing.”

She said that staffing levels for December had been good, but they struggled in November.

“We still have our covid screens, face masks and waitress service in place and will continue to do so for our customer’s peace of mind.”

The restaurant closed from 4 pm on December 24 until January 4 to allow staff rest and time off with their families; however, there are fears for the return.

“I am worried about our January and February trading going forward as it is normally a very quiet time, but I feel this year will be worse.

“Whilst I welcome the Government help, it is nowhere near enough. The return of Flexi Furlough would be very welcome for these two months.”

Meanwhile, in the Culm Valley area, it is a similar story.

At the Five Bells in Clyst Hydon, the month started well for bookings and parties before cancellations began.

James Garnham said: “The reaction was unsure; we had Christmas parties ringing us up to say they might cancel, but weren’t sure what to do, and in the end, a lot of them did cancel because it was better to be safer.

“For us, it was like the Government had said this is another lockdown, but without it being mandatory. We feel that a lot of people have listened to the Government, but many haven’t.

“People are careful with meeting up in bigger groups now but still are happy to meet in smaller groups. We also think that people are choosing to book during times that they feel would be quieter in the pub, so our Tuesday and Wednesday daytime and evening bookings have been very busy, but the weekends have been quiet because people think there will be another 50 people in the building with them.”

He said that the Government grant would provide for ‘basic losses for a day or two.

He added: “Whilst any help is welcome, it’s not going to go far, for us or any hospitality business out there. We need more support, and another VAT cut or extension to the current VAT cut is needed.

“Whilst we are open, there are still restrictions that stop us trading as we would pre-pandemic, so we need the support to keep hospitality alive.

“For us, we have a big year planned with some national recognition coming our way. But we need our doors to be open and staffed accordingly to make 2022 our biggest year yet, and these are the two issues that worry us the most.

“Staffing is still a struggle, especially chefs. The never-ending cycle of lockdowns needs to end so that we can be clear to run out business the way we want to, whilst keeping the safety of our customers at the top of the list of priorities.”

He concluded: “The Government also needs to do something to promote the hospitality industry employment rates by creating incentives to stay in the industry.”

At Porters, a bar and grill in the heart of Cullompton, the owner, Billy Porter, predicts up to £12,500 in lost revenue.

“We were taking a lot of Christmas parties and Christmas bookings in October and early November,” he said. “We were very well booked up by the start of December.

“When government advisors started telling people to restrict their social interactions, we found small tables cancelling and the odd person on their tables. This all added up.

“When announcements were made, everybody in the restaurant was devastated to hear these things because it’s obvious the reaction the public. We had 150 individual cancellations; we lost about three or four Christmas parties, including one table of 30 who decided not to come.”

Billy Porter in Porters

He said the government support was ‘absolute rubbish.

“We’ll be getting around £2,700 in help, but I estimate we’ve lost around £12,500 in sales. The financial support doesn’t touch the sides.

“People are still worried about what they’re going to do in January and February, so it’s wholly inadequate what they’ve been pressured into giving us.

“Heading into 2022, I’m worried, being cautious and not as optimistic as I’d like to be. I’d like to think that we can find a way of finally knocking this Covid thing on the head. I don’t think the Government are ready to go anywhere near that yet. People listen to the Government and the media.

“I don’t think we’ll see so many cancellations for the foreseeable future, but bookings are going to be few and far between, and maybe people will walk in off the street if they want to go out for a meal, but I can’t see bookings being very good.”

In the rural village of Bampton, The owners of The Swan pub and Spelt café – Paul and Donna Berry – have also struggled.

Donna said: “Things have been very slow, very quiet, with lots of cancellations, especially at The Swan.

“At Spelt, we’ve been lucky to only lose the odd couple, but the rest of the party have come. One day last week, we had over 40 booked in the evening at The Swan and only did ten. We lost 24 for Christmas Eve, and the bookings are falling apart.

“We were going to do the Christmas draw for the Foxhounds on Sunday evening, which takes up the whole pub, but they cancelled, and we ended up just shutting the whole pub for the night.”

She added that Spelt had been lucky thanks to loyal customers but that Paul at The Swan had been ‘pulling his hair out.

“The money from the government will not cover it,” Donna said. “We’ve been told we can claim up to £6,000, and I’m certainly not going to get anywhere near that, and neither is The Swan.

“What we’ve lost in takings, as compared to the Christmas of 2019 we were rammed.

“Now we’re just sitting around waiting for another lockdown; there is so much uncertainty. I think they’re going to make it so hard that we won’t be able to open.

“We’ve got outdoor space, but who’s going to sit outside? We can get as many heaters and umbrellas out there, we’ll serve takeaways, and carry ongoing for as long as we can.”

Donna Berry and Spelt / The Swan

She said that restaurants and pubs were ‘a lot safer than the supermarkets’.

“Our staff have their masks on, everywhere is sanitised after anybody leaves, we’ve got space, we’re not bundling people on top of each other. We’re one of the safest places to go; I’d rather come here than go to a supermarket.

“I think it’s got to come to a point where we’ve got to try and get back to some sort of normality.

“Paul is ripping his hair out; he’s at the end of his tether.”

Community care services could be rationed in England

Care services in the community could be rationed amid the spread of Omicron, which is causing staff absences in England’s public services to rocket.

Nicola Slawson www.theguardian.com 

Choices will need to be made about what services can and cannot be covered, according to Patricia Marquis, the England director of the Royal College of Nursing.

“Services are already really stretched and it won’t take a lot – either further staff absences or increasing numbers of patients needing to be seen because the hospitals are full – to really push the services over the edge,” she said.

Marquis predicts that as services begin to reopen after Christmas, it will become clearer how much more pressure they are facing.

Community nursing is a particular area of concern and those services could end up being rationed, Marquis said. “Everyone automatically thinks about hospitals, but staff shortages aren’t just affecting hospitals. Limiting the number of community services that are available will possibly need to be considered.”

Stephen T Chandler, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, also warned that social care provided in people’s homes could be badly hit by the Omicron wave.

“In some places, people are having to wait longer to be discharged from hospital or may be waiting longer for people to come out and assess them. In some instances, it will result in some services being unavailable in the short term and that’s what we mean by rationing,” he said.

A day care facility in Oxfordshire has already had to temporarily close due to staff shortages, he said. Homecare is likely to be badly affected, as it is harder to redeploy staff.

“The best-case scenario would be a stranger would come into your home who is not familiar with your care and the worst case is the number of visits having to be reduced,” he said.

Chandler said care provided in the community plays a crucial role in protecting the NHS as it can reduce the number of people visiting hospital. “This is why it is so critical that you don’t have anything happening that would risk that,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the council of the British Medical Association, warned that GPs are being hit by staff shortages and said the government’s focus solely on hospitalisation data when making decisions about further Covid restrictions was shortsighted.

Nagpaul said: “To me the elephant in the room is the alarming levels of NHS staff shortages, and hospital data do not include general practice, which is being impacted significantly.”

The BMA has been told that large numbers of appointments are being cancelled as a result. “We’re also seeing cancellation of clinics for blood tests, for example where nurses are off sick. Reception staff are also going off sick, which means phones are going unanswered.”

When people can’t get GP appointments, A&E visits usually increase, so there is a knock-on effect on hospitals. “The government’s focus purely on hospital absence and Omicron hospitalisation is missing the larger picture of the impact on general practice, which is for patients that first point of contact.”

Public transport also continues to experience pressure due to Covid-related staff shortages. The Rail Delivery Group, the British rail industry membership body, said that on Monday 6.8% of trains were cancelled, up from an average of 5.4% in the seven days to Friday 24 December. The annual average of cancellations is 2.9%.

A spokesperson said: “Our staff are working in difficult circumstances and, like everyone else, they are susceptible to the virus.”

Waste collection services also continue to be disrupted in some areas of the country, with Basingstoke and Deane borough council having had to announce on Christmas Eve that some collections may not take place owing to Covid-related staffing issues.

Bin collections for Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire between Christmas and the new year also had to be revised, with some collection dates delayed by five days.

Green bin collections in the area were suspended from 13 December due to the number of absent drivers and loaders, particularly due to Covid-19 or self-isolation, the Greater Cambridge Shared Waste Service said, with rounds not due to return to normal before 24 January.