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‘Time to party’: roving revellers cross Welsh border to escape Covid rules | Wales

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They arrived at Bristol Temple Meads train station clutching cans of booze, a change of clothes and this year’s most essential New Year’s Eve accessory – a negative lateral flow test.

The closure of nightclubs and restrictions in bars and pubs in Wales was not going to stop a determined band of Welsh fun-seekers hopping across the border for a big night out on the English side of the Severn.

“Mark Drakeford [the Welsh first minister] doesn’t want us to have a good time in Cardiff but he can’t stop us coming over here,” said Luke Spear, a 22-year-old bar worker. “Covid has affected young people a lot. I spent my 21st birthday in lockdown. We’re going to have a good time now.”

Gabe Mason, 23, a student from Swansea, said he believed the Welsh government had been too cautious. “I think they have panicked, to be honest with you.”

Mason was accompanied by a carrier bag filled with cans of lager. He and a group had booked rooms at a budget hotel. “Usually we would go out in Swansea,” he said. “We’ve all been vaccinated and had boosters so we’re not worried.”

The Welsh government has been criticised by many in the hospitality industry for bringing in strict rules while the UK government has allowed a pretty normal New Year’s Eve to take place.

Drakeford told people thinking of travelling to England from Wales for New Year’s Eve celebrations to “think consciously and carefully” but stopped short of asking people to stay put.

A group of young women who have travelled from Cardiff to celebrate New Year's Eve in Bristol
‘We don’t want to miss out any more’, said Chanel, second from right, while Keeley, far right, said people back in Cardiff would be left wandering the streets at midnight. Photograph: Adrian Sherratt/The Guardian

Chanel, a 26-year-old nursing assistant from Cardiff, was planning to dance the night away at Bristol’s Motion club. “I don’t think Omicron is any worse than the flu. We’ll be careful, we’ve all got our negative tests, but we don’t want to miss out any more. We’re here to rave,” she said.

Keeley, a bar manager, also 26, said she feared Cardiff would be horribly quiet. “At the place where I work there’s no band and no DJ. They’re stopping serving drinks at 11.30pm. People will be wandering around the streets at midnight. It’s such a shame.”

It was not just a Cardiff exodus. Pubs and clubs all along the English side of the border were reporting large numbers of Welsh people arriving. And though the Scottish government asked people not to cross the border for Hogmanay and argued that to do so broke the spirit of its hospitality restrictions, inevitably, some defied the request.

Grahame Vallance, who runs the Coach and Horses pub in Carlisle, eight miles from the border, said: “I’ve noticed a lot more Scottish people coming in – a lot of Rangers scarfs, Celtic scarfs. They are still showing caution. It’s not like: ‘Wahoo, let’s get on with it!’”

Back at Temple Meads, British Transport Police patrolled the station but the mood was jolly and festive. Amy Norman, 23, of Caerphilly arrived with cans of pre-mixed gin and tonic. She said: “We just wanted a night out. I don’t understand the rules. I don’t see why places have to close in Wales but they can be open in England – it doesn’t make any sense.”

Some were heading farther afield. Jake Alexander, 27, a media company worker, was travelling from Wales to London. “It’s time to party,” he said. “A lot of my friends in Cardiff have been crying off events because they are so bored of the rules. Table service is fine when it is quiet but who wants to do that on New Year’s Eve? And the rule of six in Wales is no good when you want to get out there and usher in the new year. So it is Islington for me.”

Eve Humphries, 24, who works for an education company, said: “I just want to get on with life. I’m leaving my friends in Cardiff and heading off to stay with friends in London. I don’t want to be looking over my shoulder and people ticking me off for breaking the rules. People of my age want to get out there and live life. I’ve just so, like, had it with rules, rules, rules. I love Wales but not on a dead New Year’s Eve.”

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Solar storms may cause up to 5500 heart-related deaths in a given year

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In an approximate 11-year cycle, the sun blasts out charged particles and magnetised plasma that can distort Earth’s magnetic field, which may disrupt our body clock and ultimately affect our heart



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17 June 2022

A solar storm

Jurik Peter/Shutterstock

Solar storms that disrupt Earth’s magnetic field may cause up to 5500 heart-related deaths in the US in a given year.

The sun goes through cycles of high and low activity that repeat approximately every 11 years. During periods of high activity, it blasts out charged particles and magnetised plasma that can distort Earth’s magnetic field.

These so-called solar storms can cause glitches in our power grids and bring down Earth-orbiting satellites. A handful of studies have also hinted that they increase the risk of …

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UK Covid infection rate rising, with more than a million cases in England | Coronavirus

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Coronavirus infections are rising in the UK, figures have revealed, with experts noting the increase is probably down to the more transmissible BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), based on swabs collected from randomly selected households, reveal that in the week ending 11 June an estimated one in 50 people in the community in England are thought to have had Covid – around 1.13 million people.

The figure is even higher, at one in 45, in both Wales and Northern Ireland, while it was highest in Scotland where, in the week ending 10 June, one in 30 people are thought to have been infected.

While the figures remain below the peak levels of infection seen earlier this year, when around one in 13 people in England had Covid, the findings are a rise on the previous week where one in 70 people in England were thought to be infected. Furthermore, the data reveals increases in all regions of England, except the north-east, and across all age groups.

Experts say that a key factor in the increase is probably the rise of the Covid variants of concern BA.4 and BA.5.

“Infections have increased across all four UK nations, driven by rising numbers of people infected with the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants,” said Kara Steel, senior statistician for the Covid-19 Infection Survey.

While Steel said it remained too early to say if this was the start of another wave, others have warned it may already have begun, with increased mixing and travelling among other factors fuelling a rise in cases.

Among concerns scientists have raised are that BA.4, BA.5 and another variant on the rise, BA.2.12.1, replicate more efficiently in human lung cells than BA.2.

Prof Azra Ghani, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, said the latest figures were not surprising, and might rise further.

“This increase in infection prevalence is likely due to the growth of the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants, which as we have seen elsewhere in Europe, appear to be able to escape immunity generated from previous Omicron subvariants,” she said.

“It is therefore possible that we will continue to see some growth in infection prevalence in the coming weeks and consequently an increase in hospitalisations, although these subvariants do not currently appear to result in any significantly changed severity profile. This does however serve as a reminder that the Covid-19 pandemic is not over.”

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NHS to offer women in England drug that cuts recurrence of breast cancer | Breast cancer

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Thousands of women in England with breast cancer are to benefit from a new pill on the NHS which reduces the risk of the disease coming back.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has given the green light to abemaciclib, which cuts the chance of breast cancer returning after a patient has had surgery to remove a tumour.

Trials showed that patients who had the drug with hormone therapy had a more than 30% improved chance of their cancer not coming back after surgery, compared with hormone therapy alone.

“It’s fantastic thousands of women with this type of primary breast cancer will now have an additional treatment option available on the NHS to help further reduce the risk of the disease coming back,” said Delyth Morgan, the chief executive of charity Breast Cancer Now.

“The fear of breast cancer returning or spreading to other parts of their body and becoming incurable can cause considerable anxiety for so many women and their loved ones.

“New effective treatments such as abemaciclib, which can offer more women the chance to further reduce the risk of the disease recurring, are therefore extremely welcome and this is an important step change in the drug options available for this group of patients.”

The twice-a-day pill is suitable for women with hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative, node-positive early breast cancer at high risk of recurrence who have had surgery. About 4,000 women will benefit initially, Nice said.

Helen Knight, the interim director of medicines evaluation at Nice, said the draft recommendation came less than a month after abemaciclib received its licence.

“The fact that we have been able to produce draft recommendations so quickly is testament to the success of our ambition to support patient access to clinically and cost effective treatments as early as possible,” said Knight. “Until now there have been no targeted treatments for people with this type of breast cancer.

“Abemaciclib with hormone therapy represents a significant improvement in how it is treated because being able to have a targeted treatment earlier after surgery will increase the chance of curing the disease and reduce the likelihood of developing incurable advanced disease.”

Abemaciclib works by targeting and inhibiting proteins in cancer cells which allow the cancer to divide and grow. It normally costs £2,950 for a packet of 56 150mg-tablets, but the manufacturer, Eli Lilly, has agreed an undisclosed discounted price for NHS England.

“Thanks in part to this latest deal struck by NHS England, NHS patients will be able to access another new targeted drug for a common and aggressive form of breast cancer,” said Prof Peter Johnson, the cancer director of NHS England.

“Abemaciclib, when used alongside a hormone therapy, offers a new, doubly targeted, treatment option, helping to increase the chances of beating the cancer for good, as well as meeting the NHS’s commitment to delivering improved cancer care under our long-term plan.”

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