UK government ministers have confirmed this week that they are considering relaxing restrictions surrounding international travel for Brits who have had both doses of a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine.
As is being reported by the Telegraph, Sky News, and The Guardian, changes are being considered to the traffic light travel system under – where countries are graded according to their COVID case and jab rate to determine the need for isolation for travellers returning from them to the UK.
A government spokesperson has told Sky News that it is “working with industry for a safe return to international travel, guided by one overwhelming priority – public health”.
They added: “Recognising the strong strategic rationale and success of the vaccine programme, we have commenced work to consider the role of vaccinations in shaping a different set of health and testing measures for inbound travel.”
If the new plan is approved, it could mean that Brits who are fully vaccinated will not need to quarantine upon their return from some of the most popular destinations – including the US and several countries across Europe.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock is said to be open to the idea, according to the Telegraph.
The relaxing of international travel restrictions for the fully-vaccinated may also help appease a furious air travel industry – with Ryanair and the owner of the Manchester Airport Group (MAG) having launched legal action against the government this morning.
Papers have been filed to the High Court to seek clarity over the transparency of the traffic light system amid frustration over the lack of green list destinations.
Green: Arrivals must take a pre-departure test and PCR test before their return to the UK – but will not need to quarantine when they arrive.
Amber: Arrivals must quarantine for 10 days upon arrival in Britain and take a pre-departure test, as well as two further PCR tests.
Red: Arrivals must stay for 10 days in a managed quarantine hotel, taking a pre-departure test and two further PCR tests.
Only a handful of countries currently appear on the UK’s “green list” for travel, where tourists are not required to quarantine once they return.
At present, Brits are being advised not to travel to “amber list” countries – which includes popular holiday hotspots such as Spain and France – as government guidelines state that they must quarantine at home for 10 days after upon return.
But the introduction of relaxed international travel rules could mean breaks to amber list countries would be permitted for those fully-vaccinated just as the summer holiday season gets in full swing.
Jesse Norman, the financial secretary to the Treasury, told Kay Burley on Sky News this morning that the government was “certainly looking at all the options here”, adding that: “We don’t want to get left behind by countries which may be adopting a two jabs approach if it can be done safely and if it can be done carefully and securely.”
He also admitted that the idea that under-30s – the majority of whom have only recently had the chance to get their first jab – would be discriminated against if travel restrictions were based on vaccination status was “certainly a consideration to be borne in mind”.
“Of course the under-30s do not have anything like the same vulnerability to the disease that people older do,” he added.
Peaky Blinders Manchester gains official TV show license — and they’re having a big party to celebrate
Peaky Blinders Manchester site has been officially licensed by the much-loved British TV series and they’re throwing a big ol’ party in full 1920s fashionto toast the occasion.
Originally set up as a separate entity from the show back in 2018, the popular bottomless brunch spot, restaurant and bar has become a familiar face on the hospitality and late-night scene, spawning many, but it’s only until now that the flagship Manchester venue has officially partnered with the show.
Just in time to mark the iconic franchise’s 10th anniversary this year, the group agreed on a deal with Peaky Blinders‘ media company Banijay Rights to provide proper licensing to the bar right here in the city centre.
There are multiple spin-offs all over the UK but it’s only the Manchester location that can now claim to be the officially licensed Peaky Blinders bar, so why not have a big bash to celebrate? We’ll cheers a glass of whiskey or two to that.
For anyone who’s never been, situated on Peter Street in the heart of the busy Deansgate strip. Peaky Blinders Manchesteris a real destination venue for any big fan of the show who might also fancy some good food, a cheeky tipple and live entertainment while they’re at it.
All done in a roaring 1920s twist — flappers girls and men dressed like gangsters straight out of the hit show — it’s all about immersing yourself in the spirit of the place and there’s no better way than getting involved with their big anniversary knees-up on Friday, March 1.
Complete with actors who stay in character, as well as an extensive range of Peaky Blinders-themed cocktails like the ‘Monaghan Boy’, ‘Solomon’s Silence’ and ‘Dirty Ada’; plenty of live music and all the glitz and glamour you’d hope for, it’s going to be a ball.
As for scran, the menu includes classic homemade dishes with a Peaky Blinders twist and, for one night only, you can even book on to their two-hour bottomless brunch deal beforehand.
Speaking on the newly-forged official partnership, Group Director of Licensing and Merchandising for Banijay, David Christopher, said:“We love to offer fans the chance to inhabit the incredible world of Peaky Blinders, and a venue like this, which is enjoyed by so many people, complements our portfolio of immersive entertainment.
Bringing Peaky Blinders Manchesteron board as an official licensee ensures customers can enjoy an experience synonymous with the integrity, quality and character of the series.”
A great way not only to round off the month but kick into March with a drink in hand and a swing in your step, there are still tickets left for the Peaky Blinders 10th anniversary party at their Peter Street venue and you can grab yours HERE and general admission is completely free.
An award-winning documentary about a controversial religious group in Manchester is free to watch right now
We recently stumbled across one of the best short films we’ve watched in a long time and it revolves around a controversial religious group known as ‘WMSCOG’ that has roots all over the world — including right here in Manchester.
You’d be forgiven for having never heard of World Mission Society Church of God (WMSCOG) before but, chances are, if you’ve simply walked through Manchester city centre you will likely have come across them at some point whether you know it or not.
Having been described as everything from a ‘doomsday group’ that has put forward multiple failed world-ending predictions, to an ‘abusive’, ‘opportunistic’ and ‘mind-controlling cult‘ by former members who now condemn the church, their story is one of the most intriguing subjects in modern theology.
With a highly complex and often confusing religious framework, comprised of multiple sub-strata and levels to their hierarchy which all centres around worshipping an old lady in South Korea, it can be tough to wrap your head around exactly who and what they are. And that’s exactly what this now award-winning short documentary tries to achieve.
The short documentary examines the lesser-known but controversial religious group and its church here in Manchester.
Created by journalism graduate Harry Robinson, Mother’s Ruin: Unmasking the WMSCOG, started out as a final project for university and has now gone on to win both Best International Director at the Oregon Film Festival and Best Documentary at the Texas Short Film Festival, as well being awarded the Will Venters’ Memorial Prize by ITV News.
In less than half an hour, Robinson – with nothing more than his computer, a camera and some help from a fellow uni student – delivers a truly eye-opening exposé on a pseudo-religious group that claims to have more than three million followers across 170 different countries and yet somehow remains largely under the radar to most.
As well as sharing some seriously shocking stories and allegations from people who have left the church, or ‘escaped’ as many of them would put it, the 23-year-old also goes to confront WMSCOG on their own doorstep at a location right here in Manchester. Stretford, specifically.
The members who come to the door of the unassuming building on a small industrial park in Old Trafford decline the right to a reply and have no interest in speaking to him, even despite reading out a laundry list of accusations including coercion, mental manipulation and even encouraging members to get abortions.
Similar to fringe faiths like Scientology, WMSCOG has an official Manchester location. (Credit: Supplied)
Visiting former members and even WMSCOG deacons like Luke Biggs (pictured above) who still lives just a few miles away from their Manchester church, as well as cult survivor turned counsellor at the University of Salford Richard Turner, learning about how the group operates feels truly surreal at times.
The church has at least two locations here in the UK — one being in Manchester and the other in Epsom, Surrey — but its reach is thought to be truly massive even whilst remaining predominantly in the background and despite being a government-registered charity on Companies House.
Unsurprisingly, the documentary has had quite the reaction already, with Harry revealing to us and in the film itself that the insight into the church has helped many feel comfortable enough to come out and speak on their own struggles with religious organisations and groups some would consider ‘cults’.
As mentioned, it’s received some impressive critical acclaim for a student filmmaker too, who had to communicate with participants via secret emails and has an estimated 30+ hours of interview footage.
"𝙋𝙀𝙊𝙋𝙇𝙀 𝙒𝙀𝙍𝙀 𝙄𝙉 𝙎𝙃𝙊𝘾𝙆."
The early reviews for Mother's Ruin are more than I could ever hope for. 💙
I'm just ecstatic that the impact of these important stories are getting through, and I can't wait to hear more audience feedback. 🙌🔥
Robinson also received an award for his first film, The Real Black Sabbath (2022), which once again focuses on an alternative church.
Be it believing in the concept of ‘God the Mother’, i.e. the messiah reincarnated in the form of 80-year-old Zahng Gil-jahr, their deity who co-founded the church alongside the now deceased Ahn Sahng-hong (God the Father), or having predicted the world was going to end in 2012 like the Mayans, it’s quite staggering to hear what makes up WMSCOG’s belief system.
They have also been cited as having changed their core tenets and retconning claims within their own doctrine when certain predictions or practices haven’t gone quite as planned and gaslighting their followers into believing they were mistaken or simply ‘misinterpreted’ their teachings.
As explained by Robinson, several articles on WMSCOG’s controversies have been deleted and now simply display error messages, and even the original video he shared on a former member’s awareness site appealing for others to come forward with their experiences was removed for an ‘invasion of privacy’.
In fact, one of the few proper investigative articles still left standing was written up by none other than our very own University of Manchester’s The Mancunion.
Perhaps one of the most telling examples of how the World Mission Society Church of God has dealt with media attention in the past is demonstrated by the interview with Michele Colón, who spent a lengthy period in a fierce legal battle after the church tried to sue her for a genuinely staggering sum.
The group itself has actually been around in some form since 1964, starting out in South Korea and eventually going on to establish itself in Seoul as the Witnesses of Ahn Sahng-hong Church of God in the mid-80s, before rebranding once again as WMSCOG in 1997.
Nevertheless, knowledge of the church still remains very limited and after speaking to fellow University of Sheffield graduate and cinematographer for the documentary, Maddie James, she said the whole thing “felt outrageous” and “didn’t really believe it” until the pair arrived at the door to confront them.
“It felt like something out of a movie”, she continued, adding, “It got very serious and upsetting when we arrived at the location and I quickly began to realise how much it had impacted people”.
Maddie even told us how she believes he may have been approached by WMSCOG members handing out fliers when leaving the Arndale Centre not long after filming the documentary — a regular recruitment tactic according to ex-members. They are also said to approach young and impressionable students on university campuses.
We don’t want to spoil too much more about the documentary itself but all we can tell you is that within just a 24-minute run-time, Mother’s Ruin is probably one of the most fascinating watches you can put on whilst eating your tea or having a brew at the weekend.
You’ll quickly be putting your drink back down, mind, and won’t be able to resist digging further. How many other things can promise that kind of shock and intrigue in less than half an hour?
You can watch the Mother’s Ruin: Unmasking the WMSCOG in full for free down below.