Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said “caution is absolutely vital” as he prepares to address the nation on Monday to announce whether the final stage of releasing coronavirus restrictions can go ahead.
The prime minister is expected to confirm that England can move to step four of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, but to also warn “the global pandemic is not over yet” and that cases of the virus will rise as rules are relaxed.
Mr Johnson will host a news briefing on Monday afternoon to inform the public of whether the easing of restrictions will go ahead as planned on 19 July.
And newly appointed Health Secretary Sajid Javid will announce the plans in parliament.
Ahead of the announcement, the prime minister said: “We are tantalisingly close to the final milestone in our road map out of lockdown, but the plan to restore our freedoms must come with a warning.
“While the phenomenal vaccine rollout has offered every adult some protection against the virus, and the crucial link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths is weakened, the global pandemic is not over yet.
“Cases will rise as we unlock, so as we confirm our plans today, our message will be clear.
“Caution is absolutely vital, and we must all take responsibility so we don’t undo our progress, ensuring we continue to protect our NHS.”
The government has said whether or not the unlocking takes place would depend on four key tests: The success of the vaccination rollout; a reduction in hospitalisations and deaths as a result of the vaccine; that infection rates do not risk a surge in hospital admissions; and that no new variants of concern hamper progress that has been made.
Last month, Mr Johnson announced a delay to the final step of the government’s final stage of lockdown easing to ensure all adults had been offered a vaccine and that more individuals had received two doses.
Data released on Friday showed that 45.7 million (86.9%) adults have received their first jab while 34.5 million (65.6%) have received both doses.
Earlier this month, the prime minister confirmed almost all restrictions would be lifted at step four – including social distancing, the mandatory requirement to wear a mask in certain places and the work from home guidance.
However, Mr Johnson has faced backlash over his decision to remove the mask wearing rule for public transport as cases continue to surge, with both Labour, some doctors and unions criticising the move.
And on Sunday, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News the government will issue guidance stating that people will still be “expected to wear masks in indoor, enclosed places” after the final step of releasing lockdown restrictions.
Mr Zahawi said he was “confident” that the prime minister would be able to announce on Monday that COVID restrictions will be lifted on 19 July as planned, but that Mr Johnson will inform the public they should continue to wear face coverings in crowded places – despite the legal requirement to do so ending.
Last week, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told MPs he is “very relaxed” about airlines, train firms and bus operators imposing their own COVID-related rules, including on wearing face masks, beyond 19 July.
Shadow education secretary Kate Green told Sky News the changing positions from government ministers is a “recipe for confusion” and said Labour believes “mandatory mask-wearing should continue in public places”.
Wales has already deviated from the UK Government’s position on mask wearing, announcing that face masks will remain mandatory there in some public places until COVID-19 is no longer a public health threat.
Masks must still be worn in taxis, on trains and buses, as well as health and social care settings when coronavirus restrictions are eased, the Welsh government said.
Investigations into ’80 robberies a day’ closed last year without suspect identified, claim Lib Dems
Investigations into some 80 robberies a day were closed last year without a suspect being identified, the Liberal Democrats have claimed.
The party also said it had commissioned research which showed 30,000 muggings across England and Wales went unsolved in 2022.
The Lib Dems have accused Home Secretary Suella Braverman of becoming “embroiled in endless scandals” while criminals are “let off the hook”.
The Home Secretary herself faced claims she had been left “off the hook” after it was confirmed she would not face an independent investigation into allegations she broke the ministerial code when it came to how she handled her speeding ticket.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak defended his decision not to launch a formal investigation into his home secretary, saying he spent “time going through” what had happened.
Ms Braverman asked officials if she could attend a private speed awareness course after a speeding offence.
Research from the House of Commons Library shows more than one in two robbery reports (54%) went unsolved, the Lib Dems said.
A suspect was charged in fewer than one in 12 (8%) instances, according to the party.
The figures include cases where personal property has been robbed and which include violence or threats to the victim.
The worst performing force according to the Lib Dem figures was West Midlands Police, with a suspect charged in just 4% of robberies reported in 2022.
It was closely followed by Northamptonshire (5%), Avon and Somerset (6%) and Hampshire (6%), the research showed.
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Lib Dem Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney MP commissioned the research.
“These shocking figures show muggings are being effectively decriminalised, with far too many violent criminals let off the hook,” she said.
“People are being left feeling unsafe walking down their own local streets, because this Conservative government has slashed neighbourhood policing to the bone.
“Crime victims are being abandoned while the Home Secretary Suella Braverman is embroiled in endless scandals.”
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A Home Office spokesman said it expects police to “take all incidents seriously”.
“Robbery is an invasive and unsettling crime for victims and we expect police to take all incidents seriously,” he said.
“We are providing police with the resources they need, having delivered on our commitment to recruit 20,000 additional police officers by March 2023, the highest it has ever been.
“We are also supporting police by providing funding for crime prevention measures, including better street lighting and CCTV, and equipping police with better technology to help their investigations and catch more criminals.”
Jeff Stelling: Tributes to Sky Sports presenter following his final Soccer Saturday
Tributes have poured in for Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling following his final Soccer Saturday show.
The 68-year-old marked his departure with an emotional farewell – which included the revelation that he had received a surprise phone call from Elton John.
Stelling said he was left “starstruck” when the legendary singer – once the owner of Watford football club – rang him at home to wish him well ahead of his final Soccer Saturday appearance.
“Elton John rang me this week,” Stelling said.
“Someone asked me the other day if I have ever been starstruck, and yeah… I was starstruck when Elton John rang me at home to say ‘thank you very much for all you have done’.
“He (Elton) said to me: ‘Every week I watch the show and every week you tell me Watford are losing, and every week you tell me Hartlepool (the team Stelling supports) are losing – so I feel like we are kindred spirits’.”
Following a celebratory montage and round of applause at the end of Sunday’s Soccer Special programme, Stelling joked: “Thanks for the applause. I mean this is tricky because I’ve changed my mind.”
Stelling paid tribute to all those who work on the show, including the call centre staff, runners, production crew and commentators.
He said: “It’s a team game.”
Stelling said his time at Sky had been “absolutely wonderful”.
He added: “It’s been the best job that anybody could possibly wish for.
“My wife Lizzie takes great pleasure in saying ‘you’re the luckiest man ever to take a breath’. And you know what, I don’t tell her this often but she’s right.”
Stelling ended the show by paying tribute to the viewers for their incredible support.
Stelling last month announced his intention to step down after more than 30 years at Sky and 25 years at the helm of the flagship football results show.
He said it was the “right time” to move on and give Sky Sports viewers a break from his “relentless rants, bad gags and over-the-top celebrations of Hartlepool United goals”.
Well-wishers took to social media to pay tribute.
Son Robbie posted: “Well done dad, so proud of you.
“You’ve put your heart and soul into the show and have no doubt left a mark on more than just the world of football.
“As a father and broadcaster, you have taught me so much about football and life.
“You are the best there has ever been.”
Piers Morgan tweeted: “Very few people get to leave a long-running job in TV whilst still at the absolute peak of their powers – but Jeff Stelling just did it.
“Thanks for all the fun, excitement, entertainment and incredible professionalism, Jeff – you’ll be greatly missed.”
Former This Morning presenter Eamonn Holmes tweeted: “Jeff Stelling… Do something you love and you will never work a day in your life. You have never worked. You are The Goat. Respect. Enjoy the next chapter.”
LBC presenter Iain Dale thanked Stelling for “hours and hours of tremendous sports broadcasting”.
He added: “Few people should ever be described as ‘total legends’ but Jeff really is one. Every football fan’s best friend.”
FootballJOE posted: “Twenty-five years of some of the best laughs on telly. Thanks for being the voice and face of football on a Saturday.”
Hartlepool United wished fan Stelling “all the best”, adding: “Our local hero.”
FC Halifax Town joked: “All the best in your retirement. You’re always welcome to Halifax vs Hartlepool next season, we will try not to call it off twice this time.”
NFL UK said “congrats on an incredible stint”, declaring: “You’ll be missed from our screens.”
On Friday, Prostate Cancer UK thanked Stelling for wearing the charity’s badge for the past eight seasons.
A spokesperson added: “You have shared our message to millions of football fans, many of whom have been at risk of prostate cancer.”
Stelling’s charity football march for Prostate Cancer UK will take place this September.
TV presenter Chris Kamara also posted an early tribute, describing Stelling as the “best broadcaster” he has ever met.
In the post on Thursday, he said: “I am getting my tribute in early because Jeff has been a massive part of my life and I love him to bits.
“One of the things I do miss is working with the maestro. There will never be another. You are ‘Unbelievable Jeff’ – and always will be.”
Stelling joined Sky in 1992. He was also the main host for the broadcaster’s live Champions League coverage between 2011 and 2015.
He previously announced plans to leave Soccer Saturday at the end of the 2021/22 campaign but stayed for another season.
Gary Hughes, Sky Sports’ director of football, previously said: “Jeff has been synonymous with Saturday afternoon football for decades, exciting and enthusing football fans everywhere.
“His unique broadcasting ability and passion for the game has made Soccer Saturday an unmissable fixture for fans and has won him a multitude of awards.
“He will be sorely missed.”
Athlete dies while swimming in Swansea Triathlon, organisers say
An athlete died while swimming in the Swansea Triathlon on Sunday morning.
In a statement posted on Facebook, Activity Events Wales – which runs the event with the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) – said: “It is with heavy hearts that we confirm the passing of an athlete during the swim section of today’s triathlon.
“Our most sincere condolences go out to the family.
“We would like to thank the incredible efforts of the swim safety team, St John Ambulance, the rapid response team, the police, volunteers and members of the public involved at the scene,” the statement added.
The Welsh Ambulance Service told Sky News they were called to a medical emergency at 9.15am in Swansea.
“We sent a rapid response vehicle, an emergency ambulance, and the Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service,” a spokesman said.
“We were also supported by St John’s Ambulance. This is all the information we can provide at this time.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for UWTSD told WalesOnline: “The university is sad to hear the news that an individual has passed away during the Swansea Triathlon today.
“As sponsors of the event, we send our deepest condolences to the family and those affected by this tragedy.”
Around 1,500 people were expected to compete in the triathlon today, which included a 750m swim, a 20km bike ride and a 5km run.
Sky News has contacted South Wales Police, who declined to comment, and St John Ambulance.
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