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There has been a huge rise in clinically vulnerable people seeking support ahead of legal restrictions being lifted in England on Monday and rising COVID case numbers, a group of leading charities have said.

Policy director at Kidney Care UK Fiona Loud says there has been a “tidal wave of people getting in touch with us and our partner charities”.

“We are overwhelmed with people asking for support and feeling distressed,” she adds.

Ellie Dawes, from the Aplastic Anaemia Trust, says “we’ve seen an 800% increase in the number of people who’ve been contacting our support line” since the announcement about the removal of final restrictions was made.

There are 3.8 million people in the UK who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, and 500,000 people who are immunosuppressed. Those who are immunosuppressed may have reduced, or no protection at all from the vaccine.

Professor Emma Morris, director of UCL’s Division of Infection and Immunity, says people can become immunosuppressed from diseases which affect how the immune system works, or by taking drugs which intentionally suppress the immune system after an organ transplant or during treatment for certain cancers.

“I think the risk to those patients who are immunosuppressed, who haven’t been protected by the vaccine, is as high as it has ever been,” she says.

More on Covid-19

Hal Cohen has had two kidney transplants, the most recent after a donation from his father in December 2019.

The drugs which stop his body rejecting his kidney also mean he’s had no response to the COVID vaccine.

“I don’t have any antibodies or T-cells,” he says, which means he’s unlikely to be protected against the coronavirus.

This leaves Hal and others like him feeling anxious, as the chance of dying of COVID-19 is much higher for people who’ve had transplants.

Hal Cohen has had two kidney transplants, the most recent after a donation from his father in December 2019.
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Mr Cohen, pictured with his family, says the lifting of legal restrictions on Monday means he could lose freedoms

Hal says the lifting of legal restrictions, particularly face masks no longer being required in some settings, means he could lose freedoms come 19 July.

“Even things I would take for granted previously like having a haircut, I don’t know now if there are places where I can go where the person cutting the hair will be wearing a mask, or if other people will be wearing a mask – even basic things seem like a bit of a challenge going forward.”

Hal is calling for immunosuppressed people to be allowed to take part in more clinical trials like “booster doses of vaccines, mixing and matching different types of vaccines, or even some of the alternative treatments that are intended to prevent you getting COVID in the first place”.

Immunosuppressed people are often excluded from clinical trials, but Hal says being allowed to participate could “help us get back to normal like everyone else”.

This call is echoed by charities like Kidney Care UK which also wants to see a commitment from the government that immunosuppressed people will benefit from employment support when furlough ends.

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Both charities and scientists say there must be clear public health messaging so immunocompromised people know they may not have as much protection from the vaccine.

Prof Morris says: “We need to let people know that they are at an ongoing risk if the case numbers continue to increase – and that isn’t magically going to go away on Monday, when a number of restrictions will be lifted.”

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Prince William calls for improved online safety after coroner’s ruling in Molly Russell death

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Prince William calls for improved online safety after coroner's ruling in Molly Russell death

Prince William has called for improved online safety for children after a coroner ruled social media contributed to the death of 14-year-old Molly Russell.

The Prince of Wales said: “No parent should ever have to endure what Ian Russell and his family have been through. They have been so incredibly brave. Online safety for our children and young people needs to be a prerequisite, not an afterthought.”

The schoolgirl from Harrow, northwest London, was found dead in her bedroom after viewing content related to suicide, depression and anxiety online.

Andrew Walker, the coroner, said he did not “think it would be safe” to give suicide as her cause of death, instead opting for self-harm.

Giving his findings on Friday, he said: “Molly was at a transition period in her young life which made certain elements of communication difficult.”

She was “exposed to material that may have influenced her in a negative way and, in addition, what had started as a depression had become a more serious depressive illness”, he told North London Coroners Court.

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Man, 40, arrested in connection with murder of Olivia Pratt-Korbel

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Man, 40, arrested in connection with murder of Olivia Pratt-Korbel

Detectives have made another arrest in connection with the murder of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel in Liverpool.

The 40-year-old man from Dovecot was arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender on Friday.

It comes a day after a 34-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of her murder.

The arrest of the 40-year-old is the eleventh arrest in the investigation so far. He remains in custody at a police station for questioning.

The nine other people arrested during the investigation have all been released on bail and no one has been charged.

Olivia was shot dead in Dovecot on 22 August after a gunman entered her home at around 10pm while chasing his intended target.

The girl was struck in the chest after the gunman opened fire, while her mother was injured after being hit in the wrist by the same bullet.

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Suspected remains linked to Moors murders being investigated by police

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Suspected remains linked to Moors murders being investigated by police

Suspected human remains have been found in the search for the final victim of the Moors murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley.

The remains were found by an author who had been researching the murder of Keith Bennett, a 12-year-old boy who went missing in 1964 and whose body has never been found.

His findings were reported to Greater Manchester Police (GMP), which confirmed it was investigating.

Ian Brady died before revealing where he had buried Keith
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The body of Keith Bennett has never been found

Martin Bottomley, its review officer, said the author had “discovered what he believes are potential human remains in a remote location on the Moors”.

He met with officers on Thursday afternoon to take them to the site of interest, which was assessed that night.

“This morning, specialist officers have begun initial exploration activity,” Mr Bottomley said.

“It is far too early to be certain whether human remains have been discovered and this is expected to take some time.”

Keith’s surviving brother has been told about the investigation, the force said.

It could be a major breakthrough in a case that has been open since the early 1960s.

The final, undiscovered, victim

Brady and his accomplice Hindley sexually assaulted, tortured and murdered five children over two years in the 1960s.

She died in prison in 2002 and he in 2017.

Ian Brady, in a police car prior to his sentencing
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Ian Brady, in a police car before his sentencing

Read more:
The victims of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley
Brady and Hindley’s bitter war of words revealed
‘My lucky escape’ from clutches of Moors murderers

The bodies of four of their victims were found buried on Saddleworth Moor in the south Pennines, but Keith’s remains have never been found.

He was taken on 16 June 1964 after going to visit his grandmother.

Brady and Hindley’s other victims were Pauline Reade, 16, who disappeared on her way to a disco on 12 July 1963; John Kilbride, 12, who was snatched in November the same year; Lesley Ann Downey, 10, who was lured away from a funfair on Boxing Day 1964; and Edward Evans, 17, who was axed to death in October 1965.

Brady confessed to Keith’s murder, but claimed he could not remember where he was buried.

He died at Ashworth High-Security Hospital in Merseyside, where he had been imprisoned since 1985.

Winnie Johnson never gave up hope her son would be found - but died before his remains were discovered
Image:
Winnie Johnson never gave up hope her son would be found – but died before his remains were discovered

48 years fighting for justice

Keith’s mother, Winnie Johnson, spent her life tirelessly fighting for justice and the right to give her son a Christian burial.

The former hospital worker and mother of nine died of bowel cancer in 2012 without knowing what had happened to him.

Mrs Johnson, who was a single mother, made a final plea to Brady in the weeks before her death to tell her where her son’s body was.

Winnie searching for her son in 1988
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Winnie searching for her son in 1988

Speaking after her death, her friend Pam Ayres said: “She never gave up, I expect to her dying breath she wouldn’t have given up. Certainly, with every bit of her spirit and her will, she wouldn’t rescind that power to those people who took him.”

John Ainley, the lawyer for Keith’s brother, Alan, said he had spoken to him about the development.

“My client is keeping an open mind on the latest report having regard to earlier such reports that have raised expectations but not resulted in finding Keith’s body.

“Naturally, the family are hoping that Keith has been found after all these years and their tireless efforts to find closure.

“I understand Greater Manchester Police are investigating a site of interest but that it will take some weeks to establish whether there is a connection with Keith.”

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