Colors: Blue Color

Online art website ArtforWalls.co.uk has created a collection of limited edition ‘Hugging’ artworks to celebrate Hug Day, the day loved ones are allowed to hug again.

Friends and family in England who don’t live together, or are part of a social bubble, can legally hug from today, as we move to stage three of the roadmap out of lockdown.

ArtforWalls.co.uk commissioned its artists to create 10 original pieces of artwork for a special collection to commemorate Hug Day. The collection comprises artwork that will appeal to people of all ages.

To make the collection even more special, there are just 10 prints of each artwork available to purchase - a total of 100 pieces of art. Each piece comes with an e-certificate of authenticity, confirming that it is a genuine limited edition.

Jonny Baylis, co-founder of ArtforWalls.co.uk, comments: “Never has the country been more in need of a collective hug, as friends and families across the country have had no physical contact outside their social or family bubbles for over a year. 

“The past 14 months has felt like an eternity and many people will have wondered if this day would ever come. 

“But now as we enter the next stage out of lockdown, it feels like despair has been replaced by hope. And nothing encapsulates that hope more than a simple hug today between a mother and son or a grandparent and grandchild.

“We wanted to celebrate this poignant day when friends and family can finally hug again. These 10 exclusive pieces of art have been created by our artists to commemorate Hug Day, the day a nation was finally able to hug again.”

The RSPCA was called to a house in Atherstone, Warwickshire on Sunday April 18 after concerns were raised about the mice being kept in poor conditions. 

The rodents are Natal Multimammate mice, known for having many more nipples than a standard mouse - between 16 and 24 - meaning they are prolific breeders and can have large litters. Unfortunately, none of the mice were neutered or separated by sex so the situation had spiralled out of control. 

RSPCA inspector Richard Durant attended the property. He said: “This was a situation which had got out of control, some people may not realise that animals will inbreed and steps need to be taken to prevent this. It can be difficult to properly care for this number of animals so we were happy to step in to provide advice to the owner and to help to find the mice new loving homes.” 

Richard and his colleagues worked hard alongside the RSPCA’s network of volunteer drivers to find the mice spaces at centres across the country. The mice are now waiting for new owners at centres at RSPCA centres and branches in Derby, Norwich, Martlesham, South Cotswolds, Birmingham, West Hatch (Taunton), and the Isle of Wight. 

RSPCA Newbrook Animal Centre in Birmingham has ten males looking for homes from this house. They also have eight further mice in their care looking for homes. 

The RSPCA’s Cotswolds centre in Cambridge has 15 mice looking for homes - ten girls and five boys. West Hatch Animal Centre in Taunton has 36 mice - 33 adult females and 3 babies. Millbrook Animal Centre in Chobham has 16 mice looking for homes. RSPCA Martlesham in Suffolk has 11 mice looking for homes. 

All the mice will need a spacious glass home with good ventilation where they are able to explore, but not escape. They will need cleaning out regularly and be provided with fun things to play with and chew. They are fascinating to watch, especially when they’re getting up to mischief.

Multimammate mice aren’t always the easiest to handle, so the mice are ideally looking for an experienced home who understands their needs. Anyone interested in adopting a group of multimammate mice, can complete a Perfect match form on the small furries page of the relevant centre’s website.

The Roadmap is on track and planned Step 3 easements will goes ahead from today (May 17).

The data shows that the government’s “four tests” for easing restrictions have been met. Infection rates are at their lowest level since September, while hospital admissions and patients in hospital continue to decrease - with levels now similar to July last year.

Hospital admissions and cases of severe illness also remain in line with modelling provided by scientific experts for the Roadmap.

From the today, the majority of the indoor and remaining outdoor economy can reopen, and gathering limits will increase indoors and outdoors. Guidance for close contact between friends and family will be updated, with people exercising their own personal judgement in line with the risks.

The Stay in the UK restriction will be lifted and people will be able to travel to green list countries, if they permit inbound travel.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson continued to urge caution. The aim of the Roadmap is to be cautious but irreversible and unlocking too fast, too soon, risks a resurgence of the virus.

The assessment to move to Step 3 was based on four tests:

·         The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully

·         Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated

·         Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS

·         Our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern

As set out in the Roadmap, 4 weeks is needed to fully understand the impact of each step. The Government also committed to provide a further weeks’ notice to businesses.

From today indoor hospitality can reopen and indoor entertainment can resume, including cinemas, museums, and children’s play areas.

Up to 6 people or 2 households will be able to meet indoors and up to 30 people outdoors.

All remaining outdoor entertainment can reopen, such as outdoor cinemas and performances. Some larger events will be able to take place, including conferences, theatre and concert performances, and sports events. Restrictions on the number of attendees will remain as set out in the Roadmap.

Guidance on meeting family and friends will be updated. The public can make informed, personal decisions on close contact, such as hugging, with their friends and family. Close contact continues to carry a risk of catching or spreading COVID-19, and people must consider the risk to themselves and to others. COVID-secure rules remain for the workplace and businesses, such as in shops and hospitality.

The Transport Secretary has confirmed that international travel can begin to safely reopen, allowing people to go on foreign holidays to ‘green’ list countries. Strict border control measures will remain in place, including pre-departure tests and a PCR test on or before day two of their arrival back in the UK.

Face coverings will no longer be needed in classrooms or for students in communal areas in secondary schools and colleges. Twice weekly home testing will remain to control infection rates. All remaining university students will be eligible to return to in-person teaching and learning and should get tested twice a week upon return.

Up to 30 people will now be able to attend weddings, receptions, and commemorative events including wakes, as well as standalone life-cycle events. These can take place outdoors or at any indoor Covid secure venue that is permitted to open. The number of people able to attend a funeral will be determined by the number that can be safely accommodated in the venue with social distancing in place.

30 people will be able to attend a support group or parent and child group. The limit will not apply to children under 5.

Organised adult sport and exercise classes can resume indoors and saunas and steam rooms may reopen.

Care homes residents will be able to have up to five named visitors, with two visitors able to attend at once provided they are tested and follow infection control measures. Residents will also have greater freedoms to leave their home without having to isolate on their return.

The successful vaccination rollout continues, with over 35 million people receiving at least one dose, and nearly 18 million receiving both doses. One quarter of all adults have now received the strongest protection available.

The latest data shows that the estimated reduction in symptomatic disease is 60% and hospitalisations 80% for one dose of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine for people aged 80 and over. Data published by PHE today estimates that for the over 80s, two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine reduces the risk of hospitalisation by 93%.

Step 4 is due to take place no earlier than June 21. Further detail on Step 4 will be set out at the end of the month

Birmingham City Council launches a thought-provoking film today (Thursday 13 May) on the city’s journey to clean air.

Brum Breathes: A Better Birmingham is a short film about the impact of air pollution on the city and the steps being taken towards cleaner air, created ahead of the launch of Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone, commencing 1 June 2021.

Produced by Birmingham-based Blue Monday and Story Comms, the film looks at the issue of poor-quality air from the perspectives of residents, a parent of a child with asthma, as well as businesses and leaders.

Councillor Waseem Zaffar MBE, Cabinet Member for Transport Environment said: “To breathe clean air is a basic human right and the Clean Air Zone is the start of our journey towards a better Birmingham and a safer and greener environment for our communities.

“This film shares important stories of those who have been impacted and the brilliant things businesses and organisations are doing to support a safer future for us all. My deepest thanks go out to all who have supported this. Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone is the first major step as part of Birmingham’s Air Quality Action Plan working to reduce emissions and encourage, where possible, less use of polluting cars within the city centre.

Dr Justin Varney, Director of Public Health for Birmingham City Council, who has also contributed to the film, added: “Air pollution is a hidden danger that we just cannot ignore. The crisis will only continue to worsen if no action is taken.

 “Toxic fumes affect our lungs, our hearts and even our brains, the damage pollution does is both short and long term when it comes to health. We have a city to protect and this is just one of steps we are taking to give a better future to our children and improve the lives of our adults and older people.” Brum Breathes: A Better Birmingham can be watched at: https://youtu.be/Dd_MYX8fAp8.

West Midlands Metro has taken delivery of the first of eight new state-of-the-art trams arriving this year ahead of the expansion of the region’s network.

The third generation Urbos tram has been shipped from the factory in Zaragoza, Spain and arrived at the Metro depot in Wednesbury on a huge 40m lorry, driven under escort. The vehicle, which weighs 45.5 tonnes, was then carefully lowered down a specially built ramp onto the track.

The eight trams, manufactured to order by CAF, are arriving in the West Midlands over the next few months and the first five will be put into service later this year ready for the opening of extensions to the network in Birmingham and Wolverhampton city centres. The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), of which Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) is part, owns West Midlands Metro.

A further 13 trams will be delivered in 2023 ahead of the opening of the Metro extension currently under construction between Wednesbury and Brierley Hill. The Metro expansion programme is being planned, designed and delivered by the Midland Metro Alliance.

Increasing capacity on the Metro will support the region in its ambitious #WM2041 target to become carbon neutral within the next 20 years. The bright blue liveried trams are able to run under power from overhead electric cables, while recharging the on-board battery ready for cable free sections of track.

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “These are incredibly exciting times for the Metro in the West Midlands, as we undergo a huge expansion of the network after decades of under investment.

“With the extension to the Westside of Birmingham nearing completion, and diggers in the ground on both the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill and Birmingham Eastside extensions, it is clear we are going to need significantly more trams in service as we attract more and more people onto the Metro. Not only are our trams a quick and easy alternative to the car, but they’re also far more environmentally friendly, helping to reduce air pollution and tackle the climate emergency.”

The section of track between the Grand Central and Library stops in Birmingham city centre, which opened 18 months ago, was the first in the UK to see battery powered passenger trams in regular use.

Councillor Ian Ward, WMCA portfolio holder for transport and leader of Birmingham City Council said: “These brand new trams are arriving as we prepare to open our next extensions to Edgbaston Village in Birmingham at one end of the line and the new Wolverhampton railway station at the other.

“Investment in public transport like this is a vital part of our work to reduce the region’s carbon footprint as well as supporting the region’s economic recovery after Covid by better connecting more people to more places for both work and leisure.”

The purchase of the 21 vehicles was part on an £83.5 million deal signed in 2019 between West Midlands Metro and manufacturer CAF. Also included is technical support and battery management services over 30 years, as well as an option to purchase a further 29 trams as the network grows.