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Temporary mortuary brought into use

The temporary mortuary at the former RAF Coltishall base, at Scottow, is being used for the first time since April.
Originally set up during the first lockdown, the facility was not needed then but is now being used as part of what have been called “business continuity plans”.
Dr Richard Goodwin, of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said: “Our priority is to always ensure that the deceased are treated with respect and dignity, and therefore we work with our partners to ensure every year we can use additional mortuary space, if needed.”
The mortuary has been called in to use partly to help with seasonal pressures and partly to allow the installation of new equipment at the N&N mortuary, which is still in use.
The hospital publishes daily figures on covid-related deaths on its website.
Yesterday it announced the deaths of 13 patients who had tested positive between January 12 and 13.

Some Christmas Eve magic…

Christmas eve is the perfect time to settle down with a story – especially if the little ones are too excited to go to bed…

During the first lockdown, Just Regional reader Robert Smith kept us amused with his father’s tales about the bunnies who live near his Sprowston home.

And this Christmas he has recorded a special tail about the Bobtail family and how the magic of Christmas was revealed.

So grab a mince pie, cuddle up, and enjoy a festive bunny “tail”.

Click on this link and follow the instructions – the story lasts around 30 minutes.

https://1drv.ms/u/s!AtJCub4Veq6il2-CxVQCGtcHjx5p

It’s not the end, say Friends of Holt Hall

The Friends of Holt Hall have expressed their disappointment in the decision to close and sell centre, which has been enjoyed for more than 70 years but say the fight to save it is far from over.

At its meeting on December 7, Norfolk County Council Cabinet made the decision FOHH had been dreading, ceasing its activities with immediate effect and putting the hall and its 75 acres of outdoor space and woodland up for sale.

But the group, which has campaigned to keep Holt Hall open, says it is not the end of the road and is looking into the possibility that the hall could become an Asset of Community Value when it does go on the market.

Trustee and treasurer Nic Hopkins said: “To say we are disappointed is an understatement, but this is not the time to list these emotions. It is time to explain why we think it is not the end.”

Holt Hall is to be closed and sold, but campaigners hope they might be able to buy it and continue its activities.

In a statement, FOHH says it is cheered by the supportive letters and the number of people signing its petition at www.change.org/SaveHoltHall – 5,800 have signed so far and are still signing after the council’s decision.

“It is a massive demonstration to show people see the public interest in Saving Holt Hall,” said Nic. “This is not just sentimentality. It is about values. You never know, events might even lead to a change of policy in the administration at County Hall, and public opinion may prove to be a powerful influence on county councillors.”

In October, the council announced it was no longer able to afford the facility, saying it would rather enable outdoor learning than provide it. And this month it was decided to close it completely.

Fearing the worst, the Friends have applied to North Norfolk District Council to have it made an asset of community value, meaning that they could bid for it themselves.

Greg Peck, cabinet member for property, urged them to “honestly appraise their business case and to really consider the viability of operating the site as an outdoor education facility” and Nic said the Friends would be heeding this advice.

“We shall take his advice and further develop a robust business plan, but we are going to do this in consultation with the individuals and organisations who have expressed interest already in partnership ways to take forward an alternative future for Outdoor Learning at Holt Hall.

“We are doing our homework, researching and talking, listening and planning, with possible partners, other Outdoor Learning centres of expertise, users and private individuals and, we hope, Norfolk County Council.”

The decision on the ACV should be made in January and the Friends are hopeful of a positive outcome.

Norfolk Police launch Christmas drink/drug drive campaign

Members of the public are being urged to consider the #IMPACT of driving under the influence of drink or drugs as Norfolk Police launch their Christmas campaign.

The month-long initiative launches today, Tuesday 1 December and continues until Friday 1 January, in conjunction with a UK-wide operation led by the National Police Chiefs’ Council. It will see officers carrying-out roadside checks throughout the day and night, including early morning checks, as well as intelligence-led enforcement activity.

The aim, to target irresponsible and dangerous drivers and also to protect other road users from the harm caused by those drink or drug driving. As we continue to reiterate, driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs is one of the ‘Fatal 4’ offences, which makes you more likely to be involved in either a serious or fatal collision.

During last year’s campaign, in Norfolk 613 breath tests were carried out with 95 drivers providing positive readings (74 men/21 women). Of the 100 drug tests conducted, 82 drivers failed (78 men/four women). In addition, 15 people failed to provide a specimen and 22 people were arrested for being unfit to drive through drink or drugs.

Whilst we continue to detect and prosecute these offences throughout the year during ‘business as usual’, recent research published by Drinkaware shows that some people have significantly increased their alcohol consumption at home during the lockdown. Our message this year, is therefore to remind those celebrating at home, that no matter what the setting, drink driving will not be tolerated and those who get behind the wheel and put themselves and others at risk will face the full force of the law.

This year we will be teaming up with the Norfolk Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service to raise awareness of the #IMPACT that driving under the influence of drink or drugs can have.

The #IMPACT campaign is a joint initiative, launched by the PCC in 2016, which delivers hard-hitting road safety messages to young and future drivers in an attempt to deter them from putting their own lives and the lives of others at risk. Visiting colleges and sixth forms around Norfolk, #IMPACT gives students an insight into what it is like to be involved in a car crash and what is involved for our emergency services in trying to free someone from a vehicle.

As part of the Christmas Drink Drive Campaign, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service are staging three mock ‘crashed car’ scenes along roads near its fire stations in King’s Lynn, Thetford and Sprowston, in Norwich. The aim is to have a wider reaching #IMPACT on motorists who will be driving past. The project will also carry the Fatal4 messaging and the scenes will be created next week and left there for a month to highlight the problem throughout the Christmas and New Year holiday.

Members of the public are also being encouraged to provide information about potential offenders to help officers identify who they are, so they can take appropriate action and prevent such collisions occuring.

Specific time slots have once again been reserved at Norwich Magistrates Courts for every Wednesday of the month to deal with those caught drink-driving. This effectively means that offenders could lose their driving licence within 24 hours of being breathalysed whilst facing additional fines.

Temporary Chief Inspector Jon Chapman, Head of the Joint Roads and Armed Policing Team, said: “This has been a very difficult and challenging year for everyone, with little opportunity to get together with loved ones or celebrate special occasions. With that in mind, we are more than aware that many people will be desperate for some respite over the Christmas period and the chance to share a drink with friends and family – wherever the Covid-19 regulations allow.

“We want people to be able to enjoy themselves, but to do so sensibly and without risking the lives of others. There is no room for people to think that just because it’s Christmas, or that 2020 has been a year to forget, that getting behind the wheel of a vehicle under the influence of drink or drugs is any more acceptable than it would usually be.

“Our message is consistent – it is not acceptable any year, or at any time of the year – drink and drug driving kills and we urge friends and relatives not to tolerate or condone their loved ones taking this unnecessary risk.

“It is also worth remembering that every year we often catch people driving over the limit the morning after a night of drinking. You need time for the effects of alcohol to wear off, so the advice to anyone who has to drive early the next morning is not to drink at all.

“Please don’t gamble with peoples’ lives for the sake of a drink and do not let anyone you know do so either – the same applies if you know someone has used drugs. The chances of being caught, put in a police cell and losing your driving licence and your job is high, as is the risk of destroying a life and causing death or serious injury – it is just not worth it.”

Councillor Margaret Dewsbury, Cabinet Member for Communities and Partnerships at Norfolk County Council, said: “Our fire crews and road safety team see all too often the devastating impact of drink and drug driving, as well as the other Fatal 4 factors of speed, using mobile phones and not wearing a seatbelt.”

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Scott Norman said: “We hope these mock scenes will get motorists thinking twice before they get behind the wheel this winter. Drink and drug driving can affect not only those involved in an accident, but their families, friends and whole communities. Although we see the aftermath of collisions every day, the scenes still have a real and lasting effect on us all, and many of the accidents are entirely avoidable.

Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Lorne Green, said: “Since its launch four years ago, #IMPACT has targeted young and future drivers specifically, but its hard-hitting and massively important messages – about the responsibility we accept when we get behind the steering wheel, and the potential consequences when we don’t take that responsibility seriously – are a useful reminder for us all as we head out of lockdown and into the Christmas period.

“As more of us return to the roads over the coming days and weeks, please heed this warning from our police and fire & rescue services about the potential #IMPACT of your actions. I urge you to think about other road users, think about our emergency services but ultimately remember the life you save may even be your own.”

Anyone with information about suspected drink or drug driving should contact Norfolk Police on 101.

Norfolk joins the quest for a vaccine

Hospital staff, scientists and residents in Norfolk have joined the quest to find an effective covid-19 vaccine by taking part in a new clinical trial at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

The NHS is playing a leading role in developing a vaccine for covid-19 and the N&N has a key role in delivering a new vaccine clinical trial with support from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

Hundreds of participants – volunteers from the hospital, across Norwich Research Park and the local community – have joined the research study at the N&N-run Clinical Research Facility at the Quadram Institute.

It comes after 15,000 UK volunteers were invited to join a new phase three covid-19 vaccine clinical trial. The Novavax vaccine trial is a randomised controlled trial where half of the participants will receive two shots of the vaccine and the other half will receive two shots of a placebo.

The whole of the hospital’s research department – up to 50 staff, including research nurses, practitioners and administrators – have been diverted to work on covid-19 studies, including the vaccine trial, whilst continuing to run their own research portfolios.

The covid-19 vaccination research team

Sam Higginson, N&N chief executive, is one of the 500 from the site to take part in the vaccine trial.

He said: “I’m thrilled that we are playing our part in this vitally important research, which will hopefully lead to a successful covid-19 vaccine in the future. I had no hesitation in putting my name forward to take part in this Phase 3 trial, which is testing the effectiveness of the vaccine. The team has received a lot of interest from potential participants and it is great to hear that so many staff and colleagues from Norwich Research Park want to take part in this study. Congratulations to the research team for their hard work on this.”

David Parfrey, chief executive of Norwich Research Park, said: “Norwich Research Park has a unique mix of four world-leading research institutes, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and University of East Anglia on the same campus. It means that, through the power of collaboration, issues critical to the health of the nation and beyond can be tackled here in a unique way. The covid-19 pandemic is undoubtedly the biggest crisis the UK has had to deal with in a lifetime and it’s fantastic that colleagues at the Quadram Institute have joined forces with those at the hospital to actively work together on this, and that so many colleagues from across our Park have volunteered to participate in the trial.”

To find out more about taking part in covid-19 vaccine research click here , or to register your interest in joining future trials, click here.

Bernard Matthews staff tested for covid-19

Precautionary testing for covid-19 is under way at the Bernard Matthews site in Great Witchingham after several members of staff tested positive for the virus.

The testing of approximately 1,000 staff at the site has begun and will continue into early next week.

There have been a number of cases among staff at the site, although at this point there is not evidence to suggest transmission of the virus there. It is anticipated that this measure will identify if there are any asymptomatic staff who are currently showing no signs.

Following government guidance, any staff member who tests positive will be advised to self-isolate, along with their households. Norfolk’s Outbreak Management Team and partners are working closely with Bernard Matthews to take measures to reduce transmission in order to protect both staff and the public.

Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk’s Director of Public Health, said: “Our top priority is to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, which will help to protect the staff at Bernard Matthews and the public.  This testing is a sensible, precautionary measure that will help us understand who at the site has covid-19 and who else they may have been in contact with.

“While there is currently no evidence to suggest widespread transmission at the Great Witchingham site, we know that testing can help to understand and contain the spread of the virus. We would remind everyone across Norfolk, to continue to act responsibly, respect the Rule of Six and follow the government’s guidance. We must all continue to wash our hands, wear face coverings when required to and observe social distancing – hands, face and space – to have the best chance of keeping the virus under control.”

A spokesman for Bernard Matthews said: “We can confirm a small number of positive cases at our site at Great Witchingham. These colleagues and their contacts are now self-isolating at home, and we will continue to work closely with public health officials to monitor the situation. There is no evidence these transmissions occurred in the factory. Food production and safety remain unaffected.”

Rebecca Hams, Consultant in Health Protection at Public Health England East, said: “Testing and tracing is one of the key steps in identifying and containing the spread of covid-19 and staff at the factory are being tested as a precautionary measure. Mass testing in this way will help to protect staff and the community, by allowing us to identify people who are carrying the virus but who may not have developed symptoms.”

Arts venues celebrate grants

Three arts venues in North Norfolk are celebrating after receiving a share of the Arts Council England Cultural Recovery Fund grants.

Cromer Pier has £250,000, Sheringham Little Theatre has been awarded £76,644 and Wells Maltings is in receipt of £90,000.

This money will be vital to see the venues through the next few months after takings and income were badly hit by the covid-19 restrictions on live venues.

Sheringham Little Theatre director Debbie Thompson said: “This is fantastic news, and the team here are delighted after some worrying weeks.

” The grant helps us recoup past losses – and to be sustainable in the future, operating under the social distancing restrictions which cuts our capacity to 30pc. It means we can carry on with the programming we were planning – including a panto, some exciting new plays showcasing emerging young talent – and a pioneering project by our youngsters looking at rural racism issues.”

The Little Theatre team celebrate the grant which will help see them through the winter.

Rory Holburn, Director at Openwide Coastal, the managers of Cromer Pier, said: “This grant will help by covering some of the losses we have already incurred and will incur from being closed this year. It also assists in ensuring the team we still have on payroll can now remain in place to enable us to re-open next summer without losing any of their knowledge and expertise that help make the show such a renowned success.

“The Pier and Pavilion Theatre are also cornerstones of the local Tourism economy so we are delighted that we will be able to also help provide a much needed boost next spring as all  businesses attempt to recover from the damage the pandemic has done.”

Wells Maltings director Simon Daykin said: “We are thrilled – it’s a true lifeline in these stormy times, and allows us to keep on doing what we can to entertain, delight and support our audiences and community. We know how important entertainment and the arts in all their forms are to public wellbeing, and together with the huge generosity of our community through our recent Road to Recovery campaign, this much needed funding ensures that the show in Wells will go on.”

Woman fined £10,000 after covid protest in city centre

A woman involved in an illegal gathering in Norwich on Thursday has been given a £10,000 fixed penalty notice.

It follows a gathering on the Haymarket which started just after midday and involved more than 80 people protesting against the covid-19 prevention restrictions.

The 37-year-old, from the Norwich area, was arrested at the scene after refusing to provide her details to police. She was taken into custody at Wymondham and following enquiries later issued with the fixed penalty notice for contravening the ban on being involved in holding a gathering of more than 30 people.

In addition, a 25-year-old man from the Norwich area arrested at the scene on suspicion of common assault after allegedly coughing at a woman, has since been charged with the offence. He has been released on bail to appear at Norwich Magistrates’ Court on Monday, November 23.

Three other people at the gathering were reported for the offence of organising or facilitating a gathering of more than 30 people, in breach of the Health Protection Regulations.

Assistant Chief Constable Simon Megicks, who has been leading the local police response to coronavirus, said: “As a police force, we fully appreciate how difficult the past six months have been for the county and I am pleased that the vast of majority of people have played and continue to play their part, following the guidance and legislation helping to protect Norfolk and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“However, the infection rate is now rising rapidly across the country and while in Norfolk it is not increasing as significantly as other areas, we must carry on working together to keep everyone safe. Our focus will remain on our use of the 4Es – engaging, explaining, encouraging and then enforcing when required.

“The gathering yesterday was in breach of the Health Protection Regulations and we took action to disperse the group including making two arrests. We will all have a role to play in keeping our county safe going forward and we won’t hesitate to take action if needed.

“We police by consent and we need people and businesses to work with us on this. Our approach will remain the same: engaging with people first, explaining the guidance and law and encouraging people to do the right thing. However, we will not sit back and allow people to deliberately break the law. Where we are left with no choice but to enforce, we will do so to protect our communities.

“If members of the public are concerned that the law is being broken or they are experiencing anti-social behaviour, they can report this to us and we will consider the most appropriate response, targeting repeat and high-risk behaviour.  We all have a personal responsibility to reduce the spread of coronavirus and ensure that police enforcement is used only as a last resort.  Reports should be made through our online reporting wherever possible.”