Free lateral flow tests could be phased out over the coming weeks as the government prepares to launch a plan for the UK to “live with COVID”.
A report in The Sunday Times over the weekend alleged that a new system was being proposed in which free lateral flow tests may be limited to high-risk settings such as care homes, hospitals and schools.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said he “did not recognise” the story, but Housing Minister Michael Gove refused to deny that plans were being drawn up to prioritise free tests for certain environments.
Gove told Sky News that lateral flow tests had been a “vital tool” in the pandemic, but that the country was “moving to a situation where it is possible to say that we can live with COVID”.
The minister did however warn that “it’s absolutely vital to recognise we are not there yet”, and said that the public will need to “continue to test” ahead of some “difficult weeks” for the NHS.
Lateral flow tests are currently available to order online free of charge for anyone who does not have symptoms.
But according to The Sunday Times, the government is considering scaling back their supply as well as Test & Trace measures, having already spent than £6 billion on mass testing since the start of the pandemic.
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon said that to consider such a move would be “utterly wrongheaded“, whilst Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham responded to the initial report by tweeting “keep lateral flow tests free!”.
MP Ian Blackford also criticised the prospect of reducing or removing free lateral flow tests, calling it “madness”.
He tweeted: “These tests are an important defence to help restrain the growth of cases. This would be highly irresponsible.”
Featured image: Pixabay
‘Please help’ – plea to save one of Manchester’s oldest theatres as beautiful building falls into disrepair
A fresh appeal and Crowdfunder has been launched to try and save one of Manchester’s oldest and most beautiful theatre buildings.
The Hulme Playhouse Theatre and the Nia Centre are at risk of closing down once again as both the list of repairs and the cost of living rise.
The venue, used now as a community hub and events space operated by NIAMOS, is in ‘desperate need of repair’ and they need to raise £50,000 for the urgent work.
Without it, it’s feared that the ‘cold and leaking’ building could be lost forever and ‘another cultural institution could be turned into flats’.
At present, the historic Grade II-listed building doesn’t have a heating system, and winter has brought new pressures.
NIAMOS, a group of local residents and community volunteers, say they want to ‘honour the important legacy of this renowned venue’.
The beautiful building in Hulme was first opened in 1902 and is one of only two remaining W. H. Broadhead theatres.
At one time, Broadhead owned an empire of theatres, and designed the space to resemble a factory from the outside, hoping to help working class audiences in Manchester feel at home.
In 1956, the BBC took over and turned it into BBC Soundstage North, where The Beatles’ first-ever live radio performance was broadcast from.
Then the legendary Nina Simone opened it theas The Nia Centre in 1991, becoming the first African and Caribbean-led theatre in Europe.
The cultural significance of this building really can’t be overstated, and the NIAMOS team are desperate to save it.
They said in their Crowdfunder: “Our mission is to preserve the heritage of the Nia Centre and Playhouse Theatre, by keeping the building and the Arts it facilitates accessible to all communities, all ages and capabilities.”
NIAMOS’ message continued: “We need help to be able to keep all the incredible projects that happen in the building going and make sure the space stays open as a hub for the Hulme community and beyond! We need to honour the important legacy of this renowned venue, still independent in the heart of Manchester, and not let another cultural institution be turned into flats.
“We want to make sure the building stays open as much as possible over winter and improve the equipment that local and young artists have access to through us, including music production, sound and lighting engineering, arts workshops, film and media production and acting classes.
“The building is in desperate need of repair and a heating system which we currently do not have at all! Alongside all of this, the running costs of the building and the rising cost of living mean we are under pressure this winter.
“We rely on volunteer support to run and host events for our community and our voluntary members have worked extremely hard to keep the building afloat, but our members cannot give as much of their time as we need and with the challenge of a cold and leaking building we are in need of help to save this space from closing down!!
“When the current directorship took over the running of the building they also took on significant debts, this has meant we have been two steps forward and one step back. Despite all the hard work of the people who have been running the space voluntarily we need help over the quieter winter months.
“We need to stay open long enough to apply for further funding bids, including long term support from the Heritage Lottery fund, as we are a grade II listed building. We have an amazing programme of events and projects we want to put on this year that will build on sustaining us financially and provide opportunities for community artists and creatives.
“Keeping this building open and functional is of great importance for Hulme and the surrounding areas communities; we need your help! Developing heating solutions and doing necessary repairs in the building will enable us to stay open during the colder months and help us with our aim of making the building more conscious and sustainable.
Tim Martin is blaming ‘people drinking at home’ for UK Wetherspoons closures
It’s no secret that times are hard for hospitality right now, with pubs and restaurants shutting left, right and centre – but when UK pub giant Wetherspoons starts closing its doors you have to wonder if anyone can survive in this climate.
In September last year, the budget pub chain began listing sites for sale with 32 boozers going up as part of what it described as a “commercial decision”.
Now, it has listed even more – and arch-Brexiteer Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin is apparently blaming people ‘drinking at home’ for the closures.
After the chain suffered a £30 million pound loss, CEO Tim Martin told PA news agency that people ‘have got into the habit of staying in’ ever since Covid and that that was why sales were down on 2019.
He also blamed lockdown restrictions brought in to stop the spread of Covid during the heigh of the pandemic for the pub’s losses,
He said: “The aftermath of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions have been far more difficult than anyone thought.
“That is the picture for the whole pub and restaurant industry. People thought that after lockdown there would be a boom in people suffering from cabin fever but, instead, it has almost become the opposite situation as people have got into the habit of staying in.
“That’s the big thing that means sales are down on 2019. Things are improving now but it’s slow.”
The pub sales are being handled by CBRE and Savills. Toby Hall, senior director at CBRE, said: “The excellent mix of locations in this portfolio is rarely seen in the market.
“With more than half the portfolio located in London and the South East and other strong locations in the South West, Midlands and North we believe the pubs represent an excellent opportunity for existing pub operators and new entrants.”