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NEWS | Mr Potato Head goes gender neutral

Classic kids toy, Mr Potato Head is to go gender neutral, according to Hasbro, the company that makes it.

The company says it has dropped the ‘mister’ from the name of its toy so that it can appeal to a wider audience.

Hasbro has confirmed that from later this year its Potato Head kits will consist of two gender neutral Potato Heads, plus a baby Potato.

The news has been taken differently by a number of people on social media:

NEWS | Pupils self isolating after COVID-19 case confirmed at primary school in Hereford

A single case of COVID-19 has been recorded at a Primary School in Hereford.

Parents and Guardians at Marlbrook Primary School in Hereford received a letter/email detailing that a staff member had tested positive for the virus after taking a lateral flow test.

The staff member was from Year 5 and all staff and students from that year group have been told that they must self isolate for ten days.

Children and staff from Year 5 will be able to return to school on Monday 8th March.

NEWS | Number of patients being treated for COVID-19 at hospitals in Herefordshire falls to lowest level since November

Figures released by NHS England show that the number of patients being treated for COVID-19 at hospital in Herefordshire has fallen. The number of patients being treated for COVID-19 is now as low as the middle of November 2020.

Data up until 23rd February 2021

Number of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 17 (-8 compared to 16th February 2021)

Number of Mechanical Ventilation beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 3 (-1 compared to 16th February 2021)

Data up until 16th February 2021

Number of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 25 (-7 compared to 9th February 2021)

Number of Mechanical Ventilation beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 4 (The same compared to 9th February 2021)

Data up until 9th February 2021

Number of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 32 (-12 compared to 2nd February 2021)

Number of Mechanical Ventilation beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 4 (+2 compared to 2nd February 2021)

Data up until 2nd February 2021

Number of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 44 (-37 compared to 27th January 2021)

Number of Mechanical Ventilation beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 2 (-6 compared to 27th January 2021)

Data up until 27th January 2021

Number of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 81 (-36 compared to 20th January 2021)

Number of Mechanical Ventilation beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 8 (+2 compared to 20th January 2021)

Data up until 20th January 2021

Number of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 117 (+32 compared to 13th January 2021)

Number of Mechanical Ventilation beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 6 (Same when compared to 13th January 2021)

Data up until 13th January 2021

Number of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 85 (+27 compared to 6th January 2021)

Number of Mechanical Ventilation beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 6 (-1 compared to 6th January 2021)

Data up until 6th January 2021

Number of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 58 (+7 compared to 29th December 2020)

Number of Mechanical Ventilation beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 7 (+2 compared to 29th December 2020)

Data up until 29th December 2020

Number of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 51 (+5 compared to 22nd December 2020)

Number of Mechanical Ventilation beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 5 (+3 compared to 22nd December 2020)

Data up until 22nd December 2020

Number of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 46 (+20 compared to 15th December 2020)

Number of Mechanical Ventilation beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 2 (-4 compared to 15th December 2020)

Data up until 15th December 2020

Number of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 26 (+2 compared to 8th December 2020)

Number of Mechanical Ventilation beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: (Same number compared to 8th December 2020)

Data up until 8th December 2020

Number of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 24 (-2 compared to 1st December 2020)

Number of Mechanical Ventilation beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: (+1 compared to 1st December 2020)

Data up until 1st December 2020

Number of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 26 (-1 compared to 24th November 2020)

Number of Mechanical Ventilation beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: (+4 compared to 24th November 2020)

Data up until 24th November 2020

Number of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 27 (+6 compared to 17th November 2020)

Number of Mechanical Ventilation beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: (-2 compared to 17th November 2020)

Data up until 17th November 2020

Number of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 21 (-3 compared to 10th November 2020)

Number of Mechanical Ventilation beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: (-1 compared to 10th November 2020)

Data up until 10th November 2020

Number of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 24 (-2 compared to 3rd November 2020)

Number of Mechanical Ventilation beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: (+2 compared to 3rd November 2020)

Data up until 3rd November 2020

Number of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 26 (+23 compared to 3rd October 2020)

Number of Mechanical Ventilation beds occupied by COVID-19 patients: 2 (+1 compared to 3rd October 2020)

CHARITY | Herefordshire & Ludlow College’s Public Services students rising to the challenge of Everest

The Public Services students of Herefordshire & Ludlow College are always up for a challenge, and with the students being stuck at home due to the third lockdown, the tutors of the course decided to challenge the students to a seemingly massive undertaking, of walking to Mount Everest, and back, in the month of February.

As a group they were tasked with collectively covering 9,400 miles, the distance to the mountain and back. They could achieve this by walking, running, cycling, rowing or any other method they could think of around their local area. As a further incentive for this challenge, they are also fundraising for the West Mercia Search and Rescue charity, a worthy cause, and a suitable link to the nature of their course.

As of the 25th February, the 135 students and teaching staff have managed an incredible 8000 miles, and are now on the final push to make it home, having raised an amazing £2800 so far for the charity. Not only has it encouraged the students to get out and exercise, but it’s really built up their teamwork skills and comradery, as they encourage each other to push further and harder, as every single mile counts.

Principal of the College, David Williams said “What you’re doing is amazing, and we’re very proud of you, the money you’re raising for West Mercia Search and Rescue will be greatly appreciated.”

Ed Williams, Superintendent for Herefordshire of West Mercia Police said “You’re taking part in a fantastic initiative right now, West Mercia Police are right behind you!”.

The students and staff have a further 3 days to cover the remaining 1400 miles to make it home, and are hoping to raise as much money for the charity as possible, any donations can be made on the fundraising page – https://www.totalgiving.co.uk/mypage/walktoeverestchallenge

NEWS | 28 new cases of COVID-19 recorded in Herefordshire

Public Health England have confirmed that 28 new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Herefordshire, taking the total number of cases of the virus recorded in the county to 6,582 since the start of the outbreak.

Last Thursday, 46 new cases of the virus were recorded in Herefordshire.

The UK has recorded 9,985 new cases of COVID-19.

BREAKING | UK COVID Alert Level Downgraded

Following advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and in the light of the most recent data, the 4 UK Chief Medical Officers and NHS England National Medical Director agree that the UK alert level should move from level 5 to level 4 in all 4 nations.

The health services across the 4 nations remain under significant pressure with a high number of patients in hospital. However, thanks to the efforts of the public we are now seeing numbers consistently declining, and the threat of the NHS and other health services being overwhelmed within 21 days has receded.

We should be under no illusions – transmission rates, hospital pressures and deaths are still very high. In time, the vaccines will have a major impact and we encourage everyone to get vaccinated when they receive the offer. However, for the time being it is really important that we all – vaccinated or not – remain vigilant and continue to follow the guidelines.

We know how difficult the situation has been and remains to be for healthcare workers. We thank them for their immense effort, skill and professionalism throughout the pandemic.

Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty

Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland, Dr Michael McBride

Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Dr Gregor Smith

Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton

NHS England National Medical Director, Professor Stephen Powis

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

NEWS | West Mercia Police have handed out over 1,600 COVID-19 fixed penalty notices – MORE DETAILS

Latest figures show that West Mercia Police issued a total of 1,655 fixed penalty COVID-19 notices between 27th March 2020 and 14th February 2021. These fines were issued for various reasons, including the non-wearing of face coverings and international travel. The number of fines has risen significantly over the past month, with the previous update showing fines up until 17th January showing a total of 999 fixed penalty notices issued in West Mercia.

Breakdown of the 999 fixed penalty notices issued by West Mercia Police:

No.1, No.2 and local lockdown – 240 fines issued.

Local COVID-19 alert levels – 61 fines issued.

Hold a gathering of more than 30 people – 5 fines issued.

No.4 regs (National lockdown) – 204 fines issued.

All Tiers Regulations (including January lockdown) – 866 fines issued.

Face coverings regulations (public transport & relevant place) – 259 fines issued.

International travel regulations – 8 fines issued.

Business Regulations – 12 fines issued.

TOTAL NUMBER OF COVID-19 RELATED FIXED PENALTY NOTICES ISSUED: 999

The latest provisional figures released by the National Police Chiefs’ Council show that 26,277 fines were processed between the end of the last reporting period, 17 January, and 14 February.  

The total issued in England is now 63,201 and 5,751 in Wales. 

Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, Martin Hewitt, said: 

“We are still in a really dangerous stage of a pandemic which has killed more than 120,000 people. Eleven months on and back into a national lockdown, the rules are really clear and so it is frustrating that we still have a small number of completely defiant and irresponsible people who have no regard for the safety of themselves or others.  

“While we are still following our 4 E model of engage, explain, encourage and only using enforcement as a last resort, officers are not getting into a debate or discussion with these people about what the rules are or whether they are necessary. We all know we must wear a face covering in a shop or on a bus and we all know we can’t meet up in groups.   

“We’re taking a common sense approach, applying discretion and judgement when engaging with the public. But common sense would dictate that someone having a party is well aware what they are doing is wrong and has made an informed decision to do it anyway. 

“Our extra dedicated patrols across the country will continue to support those of us making significant sacrifices in following the rules by taking enforcement action against those who are not.” 

Fixed penalty notices were issued for the following reasons: 

Large gatherings (£10,000 fine) 

  • 272 FPNs have now been issued relating to holding a gathering of more than thirty people in England and three in Wales. 
  • These include, but are not limited to, unlicensed music events, protests and private parties 

Participating in a gathering of more than 15 people (£800 fines) 

  • 485 FPNs have been issued under regulations requiring people not to participate in a gathering of more than 15 people 

Face coverings 

  • 2,344 FPNs were issued between 15 June and 14 February for breaches of the Face Coverings Regulations in England.  
  • 456 of these fines were issued for failure to wear a face covering on public transport. 
  • 1,888 fines were issued for failure to wear a face covering in a relevant place, such as a retail setting. 

Businesses  

  • 582 FPNs were issued to businesses up to 14 February. 
  • The main reasons for the issuance of an FPN included: Businesses not enforcing face covering regulations; businesses refusing to close during the emergency period or refusing to close during restricted hours, gatherings of more than the restricted number taking place within a business; businesses not adhering to the table service only rules. 

International travel regulations 

  • Up until 14 February 402 FPNs were issued by police forces in England to those failing to self-isolate after arriving from a country on the UK Government Quarantine list. Three were issued in Wales. 
  • Up until 14 February: 
  • 13,706 cases investigated by officers found an individual to be complying with the regulations, with no further action being necessary. 
  • 591 cases found a person to be in breach of the regulation, but no further action was necessary as they were successfully encouraged to self-isolate using the 4-Es approach. 
  • 1,124 cases saw officers attend an address only to find that nobody with the relevant name lived at that address so no further enforcement action could be taken. 
  • 1,419 cases resulted in no answer at all when officers attended an address, with no further enforcement action possible. 
  • Regulations around red countries and hotel quarantine were introduced on 15 February and so police issued FPNs for these breaches will be covered in the next release of data. 

Examples of police action in the past few weeks includes: 

  • Shut down an illegal nightclub in Birmingham with more than 150 people packed inside over two floors. Officers faced violence as they acted to protect the public and one was injured by a door smashed open as those inside tried to get out and away from police. 
  • In Greater Manchester officers discovered a party which had descended into violence with reports of up to 50 people fighting. Work is now underway to track those who made off as police arrived. 
  • In South London an officer was admitted to hospital with a dislocated shoulder and a knee injury after attending reports of a mass gathering. Glass, bricks and other objects were thrown at officers and seven others were also injured. The officer is now recovering at home and a 42-year-old woman has been charged in connection. 
  • A woman has been jailed for 16 weeks after pleading guilty to deliberately coughing on officers in Scarborough who had been dispatched to investigate a breach of Coronavirus regulations. 

Provisional figures released today show the year on year rise in assaults on emergency workers continues. They are 14% higher in the month to 14 February compared to the year before. 

Martin Hewitt added:

“We are still seeing people threatening to infect officers with the virus and coughing or spitting on them. This is disgusting and anyone who does this can expect to be arrested and prosecuted.” 

SOURCE – Update on Coronavirus FPNs issued by police (npcc.police.uk)

NEWS | Schools across Herefordshire prepare to welcome students back

Schools across Herefordshire are preparing to welcome students back from 8th March.

Students at secondary schools across the county will be offered regular COVID-19 tests and we’ve spoken to Aylestone School in Hereford who have explained the process perfectly. 

Many parents and children are bound to be nervous about the process, but support is on hand to help everyone. 

Simon Robertson, Executive Headteacher, Aylestone School:

“We’re really looking forward to welcoming the children back from Monday 8th March. The children were brilliant in adapting to the new procedures that were introduced when schools fully returned after the first lockdown in September.

“I’m sure they’ll approach the additional measures that the Government have asked schools to implement on this occasion in the same way with the same maturity. It’s certainly a logistical challenge for schools to test every student 3 times in school in a short space of time and each school will have their own difficulties to overcome.

“When the children return they will be asked to complete their first Covid-19 lateral flow test. Testing is voluntary, but strongly encouraged.

“We have been testing staff and students in school for some time now and our procedures are well established. I was apprehensive and nervous when I took my first test, but is something that I’m now used to and has become part of my weekly routine.

“The test will be done in a private testing booth and there will be lots of staff around to guide students in completing the test and to offer support and reassurance. The results from the test take roughly 30 minutes and once a child’s test result is confirmed as negative they can return to school full time. The children will complete two further tests in school (3 – 5 days apart) to gain confidence in the procedure before we give them a testing kit for them to use at home.

“When the children return to school it’s certainly going to be a busy time for everyone, but worthwhile for us to be able to welcome everyone back.”

NEWS | No further COVID-19 related deaths recorded at hospitals in Herefordshire

NHS England has released daily COVID-19 figures that confirm that no further COVID-19 related deaths have been recorded at hospitals in Herefordshire, meaning that the total number of COVID-19 related deaths recorded at hospitals in the county since the start of the pandemic remains at 211.

NHS England has reported 254 new COVID-19 related deaths. Last Thursday, NHS England reported 309 COVID-19 related deaths.

COVID-19 all announced deaths

The total announced file is updated daily and contains information on the deaths of patients who have died in hospitals in England and either tested positive for COVID-19 or where no positive test result was received for COVID-19, but COVID-19 was mentioned on their death certificate.  All deaths are recorded against the date of death rather than the day the deaths were announced. This file contains breakdowns by region, age group and NHS trust for those who tested positive for COVID-19. This file also contains a breakdown by region for those where no positive result was received, but COVID-19 was mentioned on their death certificate.

COVID 19 total announced deaths 25 February 2021

The weekly announced file is updated on a weekly basis and contains information on the deaths of patients who have died in hospitals in England and tested positive for COVID-19. This file contains breakdowns by ethnicity, gender and age group, presence of a pre-existing condition and age group, and certain pre-existing conditions.

COVID 19 total announced deaths 25 February 2021 – weekly file

NEWS | Rapid COVID-19 testing for essential workers in Herefordshire

Sites set up across the county to give workers better access to COVID-19 rapid testing

Essential workers across Herefordshire, who cannot work from home, are being urged to join an initiative to help drive down the number of COVID-19 cases by doing twice-weekly rapid tests (known as Lateral Flow Tests).

Four council test centres for people without COVID-19 symptoms are now open for bookings in Herefordshire. They are in Hereford, Ross-on-Wye, Ledbury and Leominster, and critical businesses and essential workers who need to attend a workplace, are invited to use the testing facilities.

In addition, tests for people without symptoms will also start to become available at selected community pharmacies across Herefordshire.

The scheme is part of the Government’s Community Asymptomatic Testing Programme and is being run locally by Herefordshire Council.

Around one in three people who are infected with COVID-19 have no symptoms so could be spreading the disease without knowing it. Broadening testing to identify those showing no symptoms will mean finding positive cases more quickly, and help break the chain of transmission.

With its targeted approach, this programme aims to improve the detection of positive cases so people can isolate and prevent spreading the disease in the workplace and reduce the prevalence of the virus in some of the highest risk areas. It is being used in addition to the established testing venues, which are for anyone with symptoms of Covid-19 in Herefordshire.

Eligible workers can book an appointment at a community asymptomatic test site by following the link on the Council’s website. The rapid tests produce a result in up to 2 hours and people are notified by text message or email. Anyone who does not receive their result within 12 hours, should take another rapid test.

The rapid testing sites in Herefordshire are:

Hereford City – ThePoint4, Venns Ln, Hereford, HR1 1DT

  • Monday: 8am – 2pm
  • Tuesday: 12:30pm – 6:30pm
  • Thursday: 8am – 2pm
  • Friday: 12:30pm – 6:30pm
  • Saturday: 9am – 1pm

Ross-on-Wye – Ryefields Centre, Grammar School Close, Ross-on-Wye, HR9 7QD

  • Monday: 8am – 2pm
  • Thursday: 12:30pm – 6:30pm

Ledbury – The Master’s House, Bye St, Ledbury HR8 1EA

  • Tuesday: 7:30am – 12noon
  • Friday:  2pm – 6:30pm

Leominster – Old Priory, The Priory, Leominster, HR6 8DA

  • Monday 12:30pm – 6:30pm
  • Wednesday 8am – 2pm

The first community pharmacy currently offering rapid tests is:

  • Westfields Walk Pharmacy, Leominster, HR6 8HD

Book a community pharmacy test here.

Herefordshire Consultant in Public Health Sarah Smith said:

It is important we use every means available to help us detect the virus in our communities and make sure people isolate to prevent it spreading. Under the current lockdown arrangements, there are still people who need to attend a workplace and they are the focus of our current community testing programme.

“We know a significant number of those who contract COVID-19 do not display symptoms and are unknowingly passing it to others. These tests are vital to our efforts to suppress the transmission and I urge every essential worker in Herefordshire, who cannot work from home, to use these new testing facilities.”

Health Minister Lord Bethell said:

We’ve already come so far since first setting up a national testing programme at an unprecedented pace to help counter COVID-19, but we continue to strive to go further, faster.

“Around one in three people have the virus without symptoms so could be spreading the disease without knowing it. Broadening testing to identify those showing no symptoms will mean finding positive cases more quickly and break chains of transmission.

“I’m delighted Herefordshire Council is working with us to roll out community testing across the county and I look forward to seeing the results.”

Baroness Dido Harding, Interim Executive Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, said:

NHS Test and Trace continues to play a leading role in the fight against COVID-19.

“Increased community testing is a vital additional tool at our disposal to help identify those who are infected and infectious, but unaware that they might be spreading the disease.

“The work of Herefordshire Council will be essential in driving down transmission rates. I urge all those living in areas where community testing is offered to come forward and get tested.”

To protect yourself and others, you must remember: Hands. Face. Space.

  • Hands – wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water often, and as soon as you get home – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.
  • Face – wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
  • Space – stay at least 2 metres away from anyone you do not live with, or who is not in your support bubble.

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