Social Gatherings Above Six To Be Banned In England
Social gatherings of more than six people will be illegal in England from Monday 14th September – with some exemptions – amid a steep rise in coronavirus cases. The law change will ban larger groups meeting anywhere socially indoors or outdoors, the government said. But it will not apply to schools, workplaces or Covid-secure weddings, funerals and organised team sports.
It will be enforced through a £100 fine if people fail to comply, doubling on each offence up to a maximum of £3,200. The new rules – which come into force on 14 September – mark a change to England’s current guidance. At present, the guidance says two households of any size are allowed to meet indoors or outdoors, or up to six people from different households outdoors. Until now the police have had no powers to stop gatherings unless they exceeded 30.
Read more on the change from the BBC.
Oxford Coronavirus Vaccine Trial Paused Due to Serious Adverse Reaction
The Oxford coronavirus vaccine trial is facing a “challenge”, the health secretary has admitted, after it was put on hold due to a suspected serious adverse reaction in one of its volunteers. Researchers have paused the trial while they investigate the reaction in one of the participants in the UK, it was announced on Tuesday night.
“As part of the ongoing randomised, controlled global trials of the Oxford coronavirus vaccine, our standard review process was triggered and we voluntarily paused vaccination to allow review of safety data by an independent committee,” a spokesperson for AstraZeneca – the drugmaker working with Oxford University – said. They explained it was a “routine action” and that it is speeding up the investigation to minimise any potential impact on the trial’s timeline. “We are committed to the safety of our participants and the highest standards of conduct in our trials,” they added.
It is not uncommon for trials to be put on hold, but scientists are under pressure to develop a vaccine to help curb the pandemic.
Read more from Sky News.
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Zombie fires spark record Arctic CO2 emissions
This summer’s carbon emissions from Arctic wildfires were a third higher than last year’s previous record levels, research suggests. The atmospheric monitoring service Copernicus says the fires which blazed during summer’s heatwaves are a cause for concern. They say some so-called zombie fires are smouldering through the winter in peat below the frozen surface. These underground fires then re-ignite surface vegetation in the Spring. This spells double trouble: not just CO2 emissions from the burning vegetation, but also from the peat which is naturally a store for CO2.
The researchers estimate that from the start of January to the end of August, Arctic CO2 emissions from fires were 244 megatonnes. That’s a huge figure – similar to the total for the whole economy of, say, Malaysia or Eygpt. Scientists are alarmed that this year’s spike in wildfires follows 2019’s previous record, which in turn dwarfs previous trends.
A senior scientist at Copernicus, Mark Parrington, told BBC News: “The high figure for wildfires last year caught us by surprise, so it was even more surprising to see this year’s figures so much higher still. “Obviously it’s concerning – we really hadn’t expected to see these levels of wildfires yet.”
Read more from the BBC.
Cladding Firm Tells Grenfell Tower Inquiry They Did Not Check Design Met Fire Safety Requirements
Ray Bailey, Director of Harley Facades, has told the Grenfell Tower Inquiry that the firm relied on architects and building control officers to make sure designs were safe and that the company itself did not check the safety of the cladding which was used during the Grenfell Tower refurbishment.
He accused supplier Celotex of misleading his firm about its safety, stating that he felt his firm was deceived that the insulation used on the project was safe for high-rises. He said Polyisocyanurate (PIR) foam rigid insulation boards became widely used in construction around a decade ago.
During the inquiry, Mr Bailey was asked about how much he knew about their fire risk, he said: “When we were asked to use Celotex on Grenfell Tower, we were of the mindset that these new special super duper insulation products were acceptable providing they met certain criteria.
“Celotex made a big, big deal about their products being suitable, specifically designed for building over 18 metres. “They used the term, which is very misleading now looking back, ‘Class 0 throughout’.” A Class 0 fire safety certificate is the minimum requirement for external surfaces of buildings.
Mr Bailey said: “I think we carried out all possible reasonable checks… we didn’t believe for one second that they would attempt to mislead us on this.”
Read more from SHPOnline.