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The COVID-19 pandemic is “a warning from the planet that much worse lies in store unless we change our ways”, a leading UN environment figure has said, ahead of the publication of the biggest climate report in almost a decade.

“While the climate crisis, together with biodiversity loss and pollution, has indeed been under way for decades, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought this triple planetary crisis into sharp focus,” Joyce Msuya, assistant secretary general of the United Nations and deputy executive director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said today.

“The pandemic is a warning from the planet that much worse lies in store unless we change our ways.”

Joyce Msuya addressing the Opening Ceremony for 54th Session of the IPCC and 14th Session of the Working Group I. Pic: IPCC
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Joyce Msuya addressing the Opening Ceremony for 54th Session of the IPCC and 14th Session of the Working Group I. Pic: IPCC

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Ms Msuya was speaking to mark the finalisation of the most comprehensive assessment of global warming of its kind since 2013.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Working Group I has compiled its latest update on the science behind climate change, assessing the impacts of global warming and warning of future threats.

Its researchers will now spend the next two weeks talking representatives of 195 governments through their findings, before the report is published on 9 August.

More on Cop26

The need for such a wide-reaching study has been thrown into sharp focus by a spate of climate change-linked environmental disasters suffered the world over, from flooding in Europe to famine in Madagascar. Siberia burned while swathes of the US and Brazil suffered record heat and drought.

It will set the scene for the all-important COP26, crucial climate negotiations taking place just three months later in Glasgow. The aim of the talks is to get governments to agree on how to limit emissions and limit global warming ideally to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

The spread of the fires is graphically clear from the air. Pic: Anastasya Leonova
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The Kremlin blamed the unprecedented Siberian wildfires on climate change

With 100 days to COP26, what are these climate talks and why are they so important?

Ms Msuya added: “After years of promises but not enough action, it is a warning that we must get on top of this crisis that threatens our collective future.

“As I speak it is clear that extreme weather is the new normal. From Germany to China to Canada or the United States, wildfires, floods, extreme heatwaves. It is an ever-growing tragic list.

“And as countries invest unprecedented amounts of resources into kickstarting the global economy, as we all call for this recovery to be green, we need the IPCC more than ever.”

Hot topics in the report could be humanity’s impact on the climate, feedback loops and the impacts of climate change already happening, the role of forests and oceans as carbon sinks or potential carbon sources.

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How to prepare for extreme weather

What is the IPCC?

For more than three decades the UN’s climate science body, the IPCC, has provided politicians with assessments on the global climate, publishing a series of reports every seven years, as well as special interim reports.

IPCC reports have historically underpinned global climate action and influenced decisions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Its 2013 assessment that humans had been the “dominant cause” of global warming since the 1950s set the stage for the landmark climate accord known as the Paris Agreement in 2015.

In 2018, the IPCC released a special report on keeping global temperature rise under 1.5C, which changed public discourse on climate.

The global atmosphere is already 1.2C warmer than the preindustrial average.

A further two reports in this assessment cycle are on track to be published next year.

Working Group II, slated for February, will calculate the vulnerability of humans and nature to the climate crisis and subsequent adaption. Working Group III, to follow in March, will assess ways of keeping to global temperature targets, including options on renewable energy or carbon capture and storage.

Subscribe to ClimateCast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Spreaker.

Sky News has launched the first daily prime time news show dedicated to climate change.

The Daily Climate Show is broadcast at 6.30pm and 9.30pm Monday to Friday on Sky News, the Sky News website and app, on YouTube and Twitter.

Hosted by Anna Jones, it follows Sky News correspondents as they investigate how global warming is changing our landscape and how we all live our lives.

The show also highlights solutions to the crisis and how small changes can make a big difference.

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Antibiotics could be given to children at schools affected by Strep A infections, schools minister Nick Gibb says

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Antibiotics could be given to children at schools affected by Strep A infections, schools minister Nick Gibb says

Antibiotics could be given to children at schools affected by Strep A to stop the spread of the infection, schools minister Nick Gibb has said.

Mr Gibb told Sky News that the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) is “working closely with the schools involved and giving very specific advice to those schools which may involve the use of penicillin”.

He added that health officials will “have more to say about that”.

“They’re providing more general advice to parents, which is to look out for the symptoms – so, sore throat, fever, high temperature and also a red or raised rash on the skin are symptoms of this invasive Strep A outbreak.”

His comments came after the ninth death of a child from the infection.

The idea was first indicated by health minister Lord Markham in the House of Lords on Monday.

The Conservative peer said: “We have given instructions to doctors that where necessary they should be proactively prescribing penicillin as the best line of defence on this, and also where there is a spread in primary schools, which we know is the primary vector for this, whether they should be working with local health protection teams, and sometimes actually look at the use of antibiotics on a prophylactic basis.”

Read more:
What is Strep A and what are the symptoms of the bacterial infection?
Strep A is common and generally causes mild infections – so why the spate of deaths now?

Overnight, the i newspaper reported that penicillin or an alternative antibiotic is to be given to all children in a year group that have been hit by a case of Strep A – even if they do not have symptoms.

GPs generally avoid mass prescription of antibiotics as it can build up resistance to serious infections in the population.

But the paper quotes health officials as confirming the plan and saying isolation among children during the pandemic may have contributed to them having reduced immunity.

The UK Health Security Agency told the PA news agency the measure of prescribing antibiotics to children in a school or nursery exposed to non-invasive Strep A was “rare”.

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What is Strep A?

The agency added the move is only considered in “exceptional circumstances” by the Outbreak Control Team (OCT) on a “case-by-case basis”.

“There is no good evidence of (antibiotics’) effectiveness in routine outbreak control in this setting (involving children who have been contacts of non-invasive Strep A),” UKHSA said.

“It can be considered in exceptional circumstances by the OCT, for example when there are reports of severe outcomes, or hospitalisations.

“In school and nursery settings, antibiotic chemoprophylaxis is not routinely recommended for contacts of non-invasive (Group A streptococcus) GAS infection.”

Asked about the recent rise in cases on Monday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman said: “We are seeing a higher number of cases of Group A strep this year compared to usual.

“The bacteria we know causes a mild infection which is easily treated with antibiotics and in rare circumstances it can get into the bloodstream and cause serious illness.

“It is still uncommon but it’s important parents are on the lookout for symptoms.”

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Strep A outbreak in charts

Strep A infections are usually mild and can be easily treated with antibiotics.

Illnesses caused by the Group A strep bacteria include the skin infection impetigo, scarlet fever and strep throat.

There has been a big leap in the number of scarlet fever cases.

There were 861 cases reported during the week ending 27 November, according to the latest UKHSA figures, compared to an average of 186 for the same timeframe in previous years. the figure was slightly down on the previous week’s 901 cases, but the figure for the first 47 weeks of 2022 is already 10 times higher than the same period for 2021.

The number of cases of the more serious invasive group A streptococcal disease (iGAS) in England and Wales in the week ending 27 November was eight.

Symptoms of scarlet fever include sore throat, headache and fever, along with a fine, pinkish or red body rash with a “sandpapery” feel.

On darker skin, the rash can be harder to see but will still be “sandpapery”.

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Man arrested after egg thrown at the King during Luton visit

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Man arrested after egg thrown at the King during Luton visit

King largely warmly welcomed by diverse crowd

Everyone was desperate for this to be a visit without any problems or distractions. And then the police had to act.

When you watch the footage back you see them subtly move the King away, as a man in his 20s was arrested for allegedly trying to throw an egg.

The King clearly very quickly briefed but still waving as he walked towards another part of the crowd.

Yes, it may potentially have been a display of anti-monarchy sentiment, but this was nothing like the egg-throwing incident seen in York a few weeks ago.

I was in St George’s Square in Luton and no one really clocked that it had even happened. And on a day when it was always going to be interesting to see how people responded to the monarch, he was largely warmly welcomed by the diverse crowd.

After all, this was the first time he’s been out meeting the public since those trailers were released for Harry and Meghan’s docuseries and the racism claims emerged against the palace last week.

I met Sean and Raja, who closed their office so all the staff could come to see the King. Not your usual royal fans, they were impressed that he’d come to visit and are prepared to give the King time to make changes.

“It’ll be good to see what he does for us and the country,” Raja said, with Sean adding: “Even if people have concerns, you can’t change it (the institution) overnight. It’s a work in progress… in every job everyone needs a bit of time.”

The negative headlines are no doubt a challenge and will be a frustration for a monarch who from day one has wanted us to see him as approachable and less formal.

He’s been remarkably tactile with crowds and today appeared to suggest to one women she didn’t need to curtsy.

Since the start of his reign, so many engagements have been about championing diversity and celebrating an inclusive Britain, but this is a week where we find out how much that work on the ground can combat the allegations coming from across the Atlantic.

The King’s advisers will always stress that this is a man who as heir actively supported all communities, all faiths. He takes that role seriously.

We saw it today as one of his Sikh police officers was seen advising him on how he should conduct himself at the newly-built Guru Nanak Gurdwara.

He paused and prayed. An important moment of reflection, for a monarch focused on his work but inevitably bracing himself for what is to come from his youngest son.

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Strep A: Find out how many severe infections and scarlet fever cases are in your area

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Strep A: Find out how many severe infections and scarlet fever cases are in your area

At least nine children have now died with a Strep A infection across the UK, with health officials also reporting a surge in scarlet fever cases.

Typically, Strep A infections are mild and treated easily with antibiotics but an invasive form of the bacteria, known as iGAS, has increased this year, particularly in those under the age of 10.

A five-year-old child in Belfast is the latest child to die with the infection, with deaths also reported in Hampshire, London, Buckinghamshire, Surrey and Penarth in Wales.

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Meanwhile, the huge rise in scarlet fever infections saw 851 cases reported in the week November 14 to 20, compared to an average of 186 for the same timeframe in previous years, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Click or search in the map below to find out the number of scarlet fever cases in your area, according to the latest publicly available statistics.

Area with most scarlet fever cases revealed

Scarlet fever – an infection caused by Strep A – mostly affects young children and can be easily treated with antibiotics.

Symptoms include a sore throat, headache, fever, and a “sandpapery-feeling” pinkish or red body rash.

A total of 861 cases were recorded in England and Wales up to 27 November, according to data released by the UKHSA.

They included 101 cases in Wales, with 14 recorded in Bridgend and 11 in Cardiff.

In England, the North West recorded the highest number of cases with 137, including 32 in Merseyside, 27 in Lancashire and 27 in Greater Manchester.

A total of 134 cases were recorded in the South East and 128 in the East of England.

Elsewhere, there were:
• 124 cases in the East Midlands
• 103 cases in London
• 46 cases in Yorkshire and the Humber
• 48 cases in the West Midlands
• Five cases in South West – with no recorded cases in Dorset and just one each in Somerset and Devon

The figures also show there were 9,772 recorded cases of scarlet fever in England and Wales in the last 20 weeks up to 27 November.

This is compared to 1,255 cases in the same period in 2021 and just 530 in 2022, although both years would have been affected by the pandemic, when children were mixing less.

In total, there have been 21,717 recorded cases of scarlet fever so far in 2022, up to 27 November.

Read more:
What is Strep A and what are the symptoms?
Strep A generally causes mild infections – why the spate of deaths now?

Areas with invasive Strep A disease

iGAS – or invasive Group A Strep – can be a life-threatening infection in which the bacteria have invaded parts of the body, such as the blood, deep muscle or lungs.

There were eight confirmed cases in England and Wales in the week up to 27 November, according to data released by UKHSA.

They were in Croydon, south London; Ealing, west London; Knowsley in Merseyside; North Somerset; Oldham in Greater Manchester; Redcar and Cleveland; Rushmoor in Hampshire; and the Vale of Glamorgan.

Before the death of a child in Belfast was confirmed, it was revealed a primary school pupil in Waterlooville, Hampshire, had died with a Strep A infection.

Muhammad Ibrahim Ali
Pic:JustGiving
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Muhammad Ibrahim Ali died with a Strep A infection

Other known victims include a year eight student at a secondary school in southeast London; four-year-old Muhammad Ibrahim Ali in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire; and a child in Ealing, west London.

A pupil at a primary school near Cardiff, has also died from the infection, as well as a six-year-old child who died after an outbreak at Ashford Church of England School in Surrey.

Meanwhile, four-year-old Camila Rose Burns has been on a ventilator in Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool after contracting Strep A.

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