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COVID-19 inquiry: Dominic Cummings set to give evidence amid Barnard Castle protest | Politics News

The number of people who died from COVID-19 in the UK has been projected onto the walls of Barnard Castle – the evening before Dominic Cummings was set to give evidence to the official inquiry into the virus and how the UK government handled it.

A message saying “231,332 COVID deaths – is that clear enough to read?” on the notorious fortification was organised by campaign group 38 Degrees and COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK.

Mr Cummings, who famously claimed he drove to the castle to test his eyesight while the UK was still under restrictions, is due before Baroness Hallett’s probe later.

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It is not certain when he will be called to give evidence, after Monday’s witnesses overran.

Martin Reynolds – now known as party Marty for his role in the partygate affair – spent hours going over how the government responded to the pandemic.

Questions are piling up for Boris Johnson and Rishi Suank – and it’s likely to get worse

He was a senior civil servant under Boris Johnson.

While the inquiry cross-examined him, messages came out which showed current Civil Service head Simon Case saying that Mr Johnson was unfit to lead due to his constant changing of direction.

Mr Case also claimed that government “isn’t actually that hard, but this guy is making it impossible“.

He is set to give evidence himself at some point, and is currently on medical leave from his role in Number 10.

Mr Reynolds – who invited Downing Street staff to a “bring your own booze” party – was supposed to only spend part of the Monday morning evidence session before the inquiry, but he ended up being required until after lunch.

As such, former Downing Street communications director Lee Cain was told he would not be heard from on Monday and instead will speak on Tuesday morning.

Dominic Cummings. Pic: AP
Dominic Cummings. Pic: AP

Mr Cummings is expected to appear on Tuesday afternoon.

Having worked for Mr Johnson in Downing Street during the pandemic, the preceding election and during the Brexit deadlock, Mr Cummings has since become one of the former prime minister’s harshest critics.

Messages released on Monday show him referring to Mr Johnson as a “trolley” because his tendency to constantly change direction.

Both Mr Cummings and Mr Cain had left Downing Street by the end of 2020, with Mr Cummings claiming that Mr Johnson’s wife had too much power.

Former chancellor George Osborne warned last week that “disgusting and misogynistic” messages from the pandemic were likely to come out this week.

Dominic Cummings reveals when he will give evidence to COVID inquiry – as he describes ‘painful’ process | Politics News

Boris Johnson’s chief adviser during the coronavirus pandemic, Dominic Cummings, has said he will give evidence to the UK COVID-19 Inquiry later this month.

Mr Cummings used his latest Substack post to reveal he had been going through his statement with inquiry lawyers, describing the process as “painful”.

“I finally sent it in on Thursday. I give evidence on 31/10,” he wrote.

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Mr Cummings was Mr Johnson’s closest aide when the pandemic emerged, and the government was forced to defend him after he drove to County Durham beauty spot Barnard Castle during the first lockdown.

But he left Downing Street in November 2020 following infighting in No 10 and has since become a fierce critic of the former prime minister, suggesting he was indecisive in the response to coronavirus.

In his blog, Mr Cummings said he would eventually do a “post-evidence AMA (ask me anything)” on his and other people’s statements to the inquiry, but he had been asked not to write about it yet.

He also criticised the pace of the inquiry, which began this summer and has so far heard evidence from significant political figures, including former health secretary Matt Hancock and ex-prime minister David Cameron.

Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie
Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie

The first part of the inquiry looked at the UK’s resilience and preparedness for a pandemic.

The second part of the public inquiry – which focuses on “core decision making and political governance” – started at the beginning of this month and will also see Mr Johnson give evidence.

The inquiry has already heard how Mr Johnson described long COVID as “b*******” and that his wife, Carrie, had been described as “the real person in charge” by the head of the UK’s civil service.

Scientific advisers have also given evidence, with Professor Stephen Riley telling the inquiry on Tuesday that there could have been fewer deaths if the UK went into the first lockdown two weeks earlier.

Meanwhile, Professor Neil Ferguson – whose COVID modelling was instrumental to the UK going into lockdown – denied stepping “over the line” and telling ministers they needed to shut down.

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He said while he is “very much associated with a particular policy… the reality was a lot more complex”.

“I don’t think I stepped over that line to say: ‘We need to do this now’,” he said.

“What I tried to do was, at times – which was stepping outside the scientific advisory role – to try and focus people’s minds on what was going to happen and the consequences of current trends.”

Thousands taking antidepressants for pain despite insufficient evidence they work, say experts | Science & Tech News

Hundreds of thousands of Britons are taking antidepressants for chronic pain without enough evidence they work, according to a large study.

Researchers looked at drugs commonly prescribed by the NHS including amitriptyline, duloxetine, fluoxetine (Prozac), citalopram, paroxetine (Seroxat) and sertraline.

They concluded only duloxetine had robust evidence for pain relief.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) recommends them as an option where the root cause is unknown, including for some cancer pain, and conditions that can cause neuropathic pain, such as stroke.

It said it had reviewed the study in detail but decided an update to guidelines was currently unnecessary.

The research looked at 176 trials and almost 30,000 patients, and included institutions such as University College London, and the universities of Bath, Bristol and Southampton.

It also raised concerns about a lack of long-term data on the drugs’ safety.

Lead author Professor Tamar Pincus said the findings raised a “global public health concern”, with people prescribed the drugs without “sufficient scientific proof they help, nor an understanding of the long-term impact on health”.

“Our review found no reliable evidence for the long-term efficacy of any antidepressant, and no reliable evidence for their safety for chronic pain at any point,” she said.

“Though we did find that duloxetine provided short-term pain relief for patients we studied, we remain concerned about its possible long-term harm due to the gaps in current evidence.”

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Professor Pincus said there were around 15 million low-dose amitriptyline prescriptions in England in 2020 to 2021 – and hundreds of thousands likely taking it for pain – but the drug is “probably not very healthy”.

“The fact that we don’t find evidence whether it works or not is not the same as finding evidence that it doesn’t work,” she added.

“We don’t know – the studies simply are not good enough and, similarly, we don’t know whether it harms or not.”

Patients ‘shouldn’t panic’

The authors are urging people to continue drugs they have been prescribed and to raise any concerns with their GP.

Dr Ryan Patel, from King’s College London, explained that antidepressants are prescribed for pain because “the systems that regulate mood and pain overlap considerably”.

He said the study showed “when clinical trials are designed poorly under the assumption that everyone’s experience of pain is uniform, most antidepressants appear to have limited use for treating chronic pain”.

The chair of the Royal College of GPs said doctors aim to treat chronic pain with a mix of psychological, pharmacological and physical treatments – and to prescribe “the lowest dose of medicines, for the shortest time”.

Professor Kamila Hawthorne said patients “shouldn’t panic” and reiterated they should continue with their medication until they’ve discussed things with their GP.

Nice said its recommendation for antidepressants as a treatment option came after a thorough look at the benefits and harms.

It said evidence showed they can help with “quality of life, pain, sleep and psychological distress, even in the absence of a diagnosis of depression”.

Children as young as eight strip-searched by police as report shows ‘evidence of deeply concerning practice’ | UK News

Children as young as eight are being strip-searched by police officers, according to a report which detailed almost 3,000 searches of minors in England and Wales over four years.

The report also found “ethnic disproportionality”, with black children six times more likely to be strip-searched compared to the national population; white children were half as likely to be searched.

Children’s commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza, demanded the report which showed 2,847 strip-searches of youngsters between eight and 17 took place between 2018 and mid-2022 across England and Wales.

The research showed 52% of strip-searches took place without an appropriate adult present, which is required by law except in situations of “urgency”.

One per cent of the searches occurred “within public view”, with some taking place in police vehicles and schools, a few even in takeaways and amusement parks. However, location was not recorded in 45% of cases – criticised as “poor quality of record-keeping” by Dame Rachel.

The research follows the “traumatic” strip-search of Child Q, a black schoolgirl on her period wrongly suspected by police of carrying cannabis.

The 15-year-old was searched in the school’s medical room by two female officers without teachers present in 2020.

The ordeal, which Scotland Yard said “should never have happened”, left the girl scarred according to family members, who believe the search was racially motivated.

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Police forces ordered to reveal number of ‘intrusive and traumatic’ child strip-searches after Child Q scandal

The incident prompted Dame Rachel to request the report, which showed more than 600 children underwent “intrusive and traumatising” searches over a two-year period, with black boys disproportionately targeted.

Dame Rachel condemned the findings as “utterly unacceptable” and generally that strip-searching children was an “intrusive and potentially traumatic power” which must be subject to “robust safeguards”.

She recommended 17 reforms to the Home Office regarding child strip-searching policy, which include:

  • “Urgency” strip-searches to be banished with constant supervision from an appropriate adult instead. She said only in “the most exceptional situations where there is serious risk to the child’s life or welfare” where this should not be the case.
  • Schools excluded as an appropriate strip-search location, with police stations, medical facilities or at the child’s home address as alternatives.
  • Officers reporting annually on searches, including records of ethnicity, if an appropriate adult was present, the location and if a safeguarding referral was made.

A spokesperson said the Home Office takes safeguarding children extremely seriously.

“Strip-search is one of the most intrusive powers available to the police,” the spokesperson said. “No one should be subject to strip-search on the basis of race or ethnicity and safeguards exist to prevent this.”

Nicola Bulley: Family and friends insist there is ‘no evidence’ behind the police theory dog walker fell in river | UK News

Family and friends of missing woman Nicola Bulley have claimed there is “no evidence whatsoever” behind a police update suggesting the mother-of-two fell into the river.

Officers believe the 45-year-old “sadly” fell into the River Wyre while she was walking her dog last Friday morning but are continuing the search.

It is understood Ms Bulley went missing in just “a 10-minute window” while she was walking her dog, Willow, close to the River Wyre, after dropping off her daughters – aged six and nine – at school.

Search teams from Lancashire Constabulary are continuing to trawl the waterway near St Michael’s.

Ms Bulley’s friend, Emma White, told Sky News that the “police hypothesis is on limited information”.

She said: “When we are talking about a life we can’t base it on a hypothesis – surely we need this factual evidence.

“That’s what the family and all of us are holding on to – that we are sadly no further on than last Friday.

“We still have no evidence, and that’s why we’re out together in force.

“You don’t base life on a hypothesis.”

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Retracing Nicola Bulley’s journey

Meanwhile, Ms Bulley’s sister Louise Cunningham shared a Facebook post urging people to carry on the search and to “keep an open mind”.

She said: “Off the back of the latest Police media update, please can I add there is no evidence whatsoever that she has gone into the river, it’s just a theory.

“Everyone needs to keep an open mind as not all cctv and leads have been investigated fully, the police confirmed the case is far from over.”

Ms Bulley’s friend Ms White also dismissed the theory that she may have tried to retrieve a tennis ball from the river while playing with her dog Willow.

“Willow loved using a tennis ball very much, but it used to disturb their walk so they haven’t had a tennis ball since last year”.

“There was definitely no ball,” she added.

Police have speculated that Nicola Bulley had an issue with her dog, Willow.
Police have speculated that Nicola Bulley had an issue with her dog, Willow.

Police have urged the public to look out along the river for the items of clothing that Ms Bulley was last seen wearing.

This includes an ankle-length black quilted gilet jacket, a black Engelbert Strauss waist-length coat, tight-fitting black jeans, long green walking socks, ankle-length green Next wellies, a necklace and a pale blue Fitbit.

Specialist search teams from Lancashire Police, beside the bench (top left) where Nicola Bulley's phone was found, on the banks of the River Wyre, in St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire, as the search continues for the missing woman who was last seen on the morning of Friday January 27
Specialist search teams from Lancashire Police, beside the bench (top left) where Nicola Bulley’s phone was found

Search teams are also being helped by specialists and divers from HM Coastguard, mountain rescue, and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service – with sniffer dogs, drones, and police helicopters also being used.

Read more:
Police vow to bring missing mum home as they urge search teams to scour river bank for clothes

Police believe missing dog walker fell into river as investigation focuses on 10-minute window
Nicola Bulley’s friends given new hope after ‘influx of calls’ to police

Police officers on the River Wyre, in St Michael's on Wyre, Lancashire, as police continue their search for missing woman Nicola Bulley, 45, who was last seen on the morning of Friday January 27, when she was spotted walking her dog on a footpath by the nearby River Wyre. Picture date: Friday February 3, 2023.
Police officers on the River Wyre, in St Michael’s on Wyre, Lancashire, as the search continues

Detectives are also analysing CCTV and dashcam videos, and members of the public with footage which could be useful have been urged to come forward.

Speaking at a news conference on Friday, Superintendent Sally Riley said there may have been an “issue with the dog that led her to the water’s edge, she puts her phone down to go and deal with the dog momentarily, and Nicola may have fallen in”.

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Supt Sally Riley said officers believe Nicola Bulley fell into the River Wyre

However, Ms Bulley’s partner Paul Ansell, 44, said he would “never lose hope” of finding her.

“We’re never, ever going to lose hope, of course we’re not, but it is as though she has vanished into thin air. It’s just insane,” he said.

The 44-year-old said his “whole focus is my two girls” and that he was “hoping to goodness” that people would come forward with new information.