Indian variant cases surge by more than 2,000 in a week – as ‘clusters’ appear across UK

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Indian variant cases increased by 2,000 in the space of a week (Photo: Getty Images)Indian variant cases increased by 2,000 in the space of a week (Photo: Getty Images)

Cases of the Indian Covid variant have increased by more than 2,000 in the space of a week, latest figures from Public Health England (PHE) show.

Weekly data shows there are now a total of 3,424 cases of the B.1.617.2 variant in the UK, with most cases concentrated in the North West and London, although ‘clusters’ are now appearing across the country.

The figures are up to 19 May and mark a rise of 2,111 cases on the previous week.

On Thursday (20 May), Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed infections had increased from 2,323 on Monday (17 May), to 2,967.

In England, 3,245 cases have now been confirmed, along with 136 in Scotland, 28 in Wales and 15 in Northern Ireland.

The figures come amid reports that for three weeks in April and May, eight local authorities in England – including Blackburn with Darwen, where cases are high – did not have access to the full data on positive tests in their area, meaning more than 700 cases were not reported or traced locally.

The BBC said a report into the reporting glitch at one of the councils affected concluded that the rapid spread of Indian strain within its boundary was “exacerbated by the sporadic failure of the national Test and Trace system”.

However, Downing Street has denied that the NHS Test and Trace “temporary delay” in alerting local authorities in hotspot areas to positive cases helped contribute to the spread of the Indian variant.

The government said that only a small number of authorities had been involved and that the issue had been “quickly resolved”.

Where have cases been found?

The North West of England has recorded the most number of cases of the variant, with Bolton, Blackburn with Darwen and Bedford among the worst affected.

Surge testing and vaccinations are now underway in six new areas in England to try and control the spread, including Bedford, Burnley, Hounslow, Kirklees, Leicester and North Tyneside. This is in addition to Bolton and Blackburn.

In Scotland, Scottish authorities are taking similar action in Glasgow and Moray.

In the last week across Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen, 26,094 vaccinations have been given, while an extra 75,000 have been delivered.

Dr Meera Chand, the Covid-19 incident director at PHE, said it was essential people in the worst-affected areas who had yet to receive their second dose of the vaccine came forward as soon as it was offered.

She said: “This is vitally important in the light of our current assessment that (B1617.2) has grown rapidly in England and may be highly transmissible.

“PHE will continue to monitor all variants closely, paying particular attention to the impact on hospitalisations and deaths which will help us to understand the protective effects of the vaccine.”

PHE also said it was investigating another new variant after 49 cases were identified, mostly in Yorkshire and the Humber region.

So far, there is no evidence that it causes more severe disease or renders the vaccines less effective.

The latest figures come as a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) warned the country could be seeing the start of a third wave of the pandemic.

Professor Andrew Hayward, an infectious diseases expert at University College London, said he was “very concerned” about the rise of the Indian variant and new measures could be required to bring it under control.

He said it would become apparent over the next one to two weeks whether localised outbreaks of the variant would become more generalised.

Speaking to the BBC, he said: “Obviously we’re doing everything we can to contain the spread of that, but it’s likely that more generalised measures may start to be needed to control it.

“So whilst I think we’ve always thought that we would have another wave of Covid, the size of that wave is going to very much depend on how transmissible the variant that causes it is and what proportion of the population have been vaccinated when it hits.

“Fortunately we’ve had a good proportion of the population vaccinated, but there’s still people who aren’t vaccinated in high-risk groups, the vaccine isn’t 100 per cent effective, and also even in the younger groups, if you get many, many thousands or hundreds of thousands of cases, then you will expect a lot of hospitalisations and deaths to result from that.”


What happens in Las Vegas comes to Blackpool for Netflix promotion of new zombie blockbuster Army of the Dead

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A PR stunt for Netflix’s new $90 million Las Vegas-set Zombie thriller, Army of the Dead, came to the so-called Vegas of the North ahead of its premiere today.

Teaming up with resort graffiti artist Christian Fenn – aka Seca One – production crews dropped a shipping container on Blackpool Promenade to replicate a zombie escape.

Tagged with slogans from the flick, directed by Dawn of the Dead and Man of Steel’s Zack Synder and starring Dave Bautista and Ella Purnell, the container was said to once house the dead – before they clambered out.

The invasion will begin on the Comedy Carpet between 11am and 5pm on Saturday May and Sunday.

Christian, helped by fellow resort artist Graham ‘Moz’ Morriss, said: “We had two hours to get the design completed. We started early doors and the rain was washing the paint down the sides. It was madness; typical lovely Blackpool weather.

“Luckily I had Moz to help get it all done and work on all the lettering but it’s great to be involved as local artists.

“We could have gone heavy on the zombies and the gore but we wanted to bring more of a Vegas slant and, yeah, we smashed it in the end.”
Graffiti artists Christian Seca One and Graham Morriss working on a crate on the Comedy Carpet to promote new Netflix movie Army of the Dead.Graffiti artists Christian Seca One and Graham Morriss working on a crate on the Comedy Carpet to promote new Netflix movie Army of the Dead.

Snyder, who also produced Army of the Dead, which is available to stream from tomorrow May 21, said: “It’s a charred, weathered husk of a broken world.”

The film was 10 years in the making – after Snyder got the idea after finishing his Dawn of the Dead remake.

“I had so much fun with the genre and it just really got it in my head that I should try to push even further,” Synder said.

Graffiti artists Christian Seca One and Graham Morriss working on a crate on the Comedy Carpet.Graffiti artists Christian Seca One and Graham Morriss working on a crate on the Comedy Carpet.

“So I started thinking about scenarios that would be interesting to me, like a mission-based concept. I knew I wanted the zombie plague to be contained, so I had this idea of building a wall around Las Vegas and the rest grew out of that.”

Critics have so far praised the film, which has been certified ‘fresh’ by review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, with average scores of 74 per cent from professional critics and 79 per cent from audiences.

“Snyder shoots with a blockbuster strut and plots like a 14-year-old raiding their parents’ drinks cabinet,” the Financial Times said.

Graffiti artists Christian Seca One and Graham Morriss working on a crate on the Blackpool Comedy CarpetGraffiti artists Christian Seca One and Graham Morriss working on a crate on the Blackpool Comedy Carpet

Graffiti artists Christian Seca One and Graham Morriss working on a crate on the Comedy Carpet.Graffiti artists Christian Seca One and Graham Morriss working on a crate on the Comedy Carpet.


Blackpool firework warning ahead of Oxford United play-off clash after man loses fingers

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Blackpool FC play Oxford United in a League One semi final play-off clash, with the winner heading to Wembley

Bloomfield Road

Bloomfield Road

A fireworks warning has been issued ahead of Blackpool FC’s League One play-off clash tonight after a man lost his fingers in a pyrotechnic explosion outside Bloomfield Road earlier this month.

The fan, 50-year-old Paul Markham, was celebrating outside the stadium on Sunday, March 9 after the Tangerines secured a spot in the play-offs following a 1-0 win over Bristol Rovers.

Paul quickly spotted a firework that had been fired in the air landing near a group of children.

He quickly moved in the situation to protect the kids – a move that saw the firework explode and blow off his thumb, index, and middle fingers.

Paul, also know as Speedy, was unable to get an ambulance in time and was rushed to Blackpool Victoria Hospital by car where fellow football fans managed to bring his digits in the hope they could be reattached.

He was subsequently transferred to Royal Preston Hospital to meet with a plastic surgeon and assess the damage of his hand after operating.

Blackpool FC’s second-leg play-off match against Oxford United takes place tonight (May 21) and ahead of that, Lancashire Constabulary has issued a stern warning to avoid the same situation.

And the message is more important than ever with fans returning to Bloomfield Road with many more potentially gathering outside as Blackpool protect a 3-0 first leg score.

An investigation the incident that blew off Paul’s fingers is still ongoing, a spokesperson said.

A social distancing warning is also in place, with gatherings of up to 30 people the legal limit for the time being.

Chief Insp Chris Hardy, of Blackpool Police, said: “We know this is a significant moment in the season for Blackpool fans but our overarching aim is ensuring all supporters go home safely and the team secure their place at Wembley.”


Revamped toilets reopened on Fleetwood seafront after 15 years

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Public conveniences on Fleetwood seafront which have been closed for more than 15 years have been reopened thanks to a community action group

Grand reopening of refurbished toilets on Laidleys Walk in Fleetwood. Kalvin Townsend and Jack Anderton from Shakespeare Primary hold the toilet paper for Coun Mary Stirzaker to cut.Grand reopening of refurbished toilets on Laidleys Walk in Fleetwood. Kalvin Townsend and Jack Anderton from Shakespeare Primary hold the toilet paper for Coun Mary Stirzaker to cut.

The conveniences are just yards away from Fleetwood Yacht Lake, which often plays host to international model yacht tournaments, as well as Dolly’s Kiosk, which is popular with residents and visitors alike.

Yet for a decade and half the facilities, on Laidleys Walk, have been shut, meaning people had to walk some distance if they needed to use a lavatory or washing facilities.

However, a determined campaign by the Friends Of Fleetwood Yacht Lake Public Conveniences Group succeeded in raising the £14,000 needed to restore them and obtaining permission from local authority Wyre Council to reopen them.

The gleaming new public conveniences at FleetwoodThe gleaming new public conveniences at Fleetwood

A grand opening ceremony was held today to launch the gleaming, revamped conveniences, which include baby-changing facilities.

Coun Brian Crawford, a Fleetwood Town Council member, is vice chairman of the Friends group and was able to draw on his experiences of setting up similar projects when he was a councillor in Millom, Cumbria.

He said : “This was a real community-led effort and shows what can be achieved when people pull together.

“We had a facility which was perfectly placed but had been shut for years,m which wasn’t good enough.
The exterior of the public conveniences on Laidleys Walk, Fleetwood
The exterior of the public conveniences on Laidleys Walk, Fleetwood

“The goodwill and support from the Fleetwood community has really helped.”

The Friends group, which has a constitution, a committee and a bank account and is led by chairman William Hargreaves, was helped by a £7,000 grant from Fleetwood Town Council and substantial donations from Dolly’s, the Model Yacht Club and members of the local community.

The conveniences were officially opened by Fleetwood Town Council chairman, Coun Mary Stirzaker, with help from Shakespeare Primary School pupils Kalvin Townsend and Jack Anderton.

Coun Stirzaker said: “As a town council we’re over the moon to have helped get these facilities reopened, they are essential for residents and visitors alike.”

Although Wyre Council, which owns the facilities, has no plans to reopen the toilets itself the authority allowed the Friends to lease the facilities at a peppercorn rent of just £1 a year, to allow the project to move forward.

The conveniences were constructed in 1920 but were finally closed in 2005.

The conveniences will be free to use and will be open during the periods when Dolly’s Kiosks are open, which is seven days a week except when the weather is very poor.

Users are invited to make a donation towards the annual running costs, expected to be around £2,000.

The Friends Group will continue to manage the conveniences.

Any volunteers keen to help can contact William by email on


Over £400,000 to be invested in getting Blackpool rough sleepers into homes

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It will go towards supporting shelters, specialist mental health and addiction services

A general view of Blackpool by night

A general view of Blackpool by night (Image: Getty Images)

Hundreds of thousands of pounds is to be ploughed into getting more rough sleepers in Blackpool off the streets and into permanent accommodation.

The council has received a grant of £428,750 from the government as part of a national investment of £203m.

Figures also show Wyre Council has received £130,000 and Fylde Council has received £25,000.

The money will be used by local authorities, charities and other organisations in 281 areas around the country to try to get rough sleepers off the streets for good.

It will go towards supporting shelters, specialist mental health services and addiction programmes.

Blackpool Council leader Coun Lynn Williams said: “In total we have received more than £400,000 to enable us to continue to support rough sleepers, building on the efforts of the last year.

“The initial allocation of £228,750 includes funding for specialist addiction services and housing related support. It also will go towards contingency measures during the winter months.

“An additional £200,000 has been allocated to enable us to continue to provide temporary accommodation whilst we are still in the period of restrictions, and additional support thereafter.

“The number of people in temporary accommodation is steadily reducing but we are still at a higher level than pre-pandemic. This funding will enable us to provide the support required as people move on.”

A total of 10 people were found sleeping on the streets in Blackpool during the 2020 official rough sleeper count, compared to 15 the year before.

The drop was in line with the national trend and followed intervention by councils to find accommodation for homeless people to protect them during the Covid pandemic.

The rough sleeper count, which in Blackpool is usually held in November, is designed to provide a snapshot of homelessness.

It does not include all the homeless people in the town – many people without their own home will have found a bed in a hostel or be sleeping temporarily on a friend’s sofa.


Blackpool Pleasure Beach: full list of rollercoasters, height restrictions and ride information

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This is everything you need to know about the rollercoasters located at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.


Blackpool Pleasure Beach

Blackpool Pleasure Beach, one of the resort’s biggest attractions, has been celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.

Featuring some of the most historic and famous rollercoasters in the world, including ICON – the UK’s first double launch roller coaster – to the Big One which stands at an impressive 235ft, the park has something for everyone to enjoy.

We’ve compiled a list of all of everything you need to know about the park’s rollercoasters, from height restrictions to ride information.

Check it out below:

*If you’re planning a trip to the UK’s most ride intensive park, read our full guide HERE to find all the information you need to make your day as enjoyable as possible.

Cheap Blackpool hotels: 10 best places to stay in the Lancashire seaside town

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Planning a staycation in Lancashire? Check out our selection of budget-friendly hotels in Blackpool

The sun rises behind the Blackpool Tower in Blackpool, Lancashire. Picture date: Friday April 2, 2021. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

The sun rises behind the Blackpool Tower in Blackpool, Lancashire – who wouldn’t want to visit to see it for real? (Image: PA)

Sunnier skies await most of us (hopefully) this summer. And as such, you’ll probably want to get away.

But with restrictions on international travel being a bit hit-and-miss, it’s likely many of us will stay in the UK this year.

One destination which will be at the top of the list for many will be Blackpool.

This seaside town in Lancashire boasts great attractions, a great coastline and the famous Blackpool Tower.

It’s ideal as a getaway place, but what do you do if you’re on a budget?

Here’s a selection of cheap hotels in Blackpool, in no particular order, that provide good value for money for a much needed trip away from home after a year of lockdowns.

1 – Tulip Hotel

This hotel is just nine minutes walk from Blackpool Tower and has a selection of rooms on offer.

After tucking into breakfast in their very own decorated dining room, take a stroll along the Blackpool Promenade or see what fun you could have at the local Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

Find out more.

Blackpool Tower reopened to tourists on May 17

Blackpool Tower reopened to tourists on May 17 (Image: This is Influential)

2 – Lucena Hotel

Also close to the action is Lucena Hotel, just a stone’s throw from Blackpool Promenade.

Rooms include a flat-screen TV with tea and coffee-making facilities.

There is also a lounge area.

Once you’re done relaxing in there, you can access Blackpool Pier just 10 minutes away by foot or the Blackpool Pleasure Beach theme park which is 20 minutes walk away.

3 – Darfield Hotel

The Darfield Hotel is just five minutes from Blackpool’s seafront.

All rooms are en-suite and extra storage space is also on offer.

Blackpool’s bars and restaurants are only a 10-minute walk away.

This place caters for a family getaway or couples coming for a romantic break.

One to check if you’re wanting to holiday in Blackpool.

Read more about the hotel.

4 – Foxhall Village Guest House

Praised by customers for their friendly and helpful staff, Foxhall Village Guest House is another offering in the heart of Blackpool.

This one’s just nine minutes walk away from Blackpool Tower, and an even shorter walk to the Blackpool Promenade.

It can be spotted easily by its red and white exterior.

Inside, it has a bar and restaurant, and free WiFi access.

Rooms come with a TV and electric kettle.

Visit the guest house’s website.

5 – Hotel Avano – Pleasure Beach

If rides and thrill-seeking are the reasons for your stay, you’re going to want to be as close to the action as possible.

Just a short walk to the Blackpool Pleasure Beach theme park, this hotel offers a good option for experiencing what this town has to offer.

The accommodation has a bar, restaurant and a games room on-site to keep the kids entertained when you’re not at the attractions.

Local pubs are also not too far away.

If it’s summer you want, you will have to book early to avoid disappointment.

Extra info is available on

6 – Roker Hotel

Another hotel which is only a few minutes walk to Blackpool Pleasure Beach is the Roker Hotel, which will be perfect to visit now lockdown restrictions have eased.

Sit down to some Mediterranean cuisine in the hotel’s restaurant after a busy day enjoying the thrills and fun of all the local attractions.

You can then grab a tram just outside for all your evening entertainment needs, as local amenities are close by.

Find out more.

Blackpool beach

Blackpool beach

7 – 100 Pipers Hotel

If you’re after being able to bask in hot weather, this one’s ideally located.

Near Blackpool South Beach, the 100 Pipers Hotel offers WiFi access in its rooms, with a shared bar and lounge area.

This quaint hotel also provides guests with a morning breakfast.

Sun-worshippers are going to love this place so book early to avoid disappointment.

Visit the hotel website.

8 – Leatham Park Guest House

Another one which is close to the action, Leatham Park Guest House is just a five-minute walk to Blackpool Promenade.

All rooms are en-suite and towels are provided too.

A cafe can be found 2 minutes walk away, while even more restaurants and bars are just 10 minutes down the road.

Other amenities can be accessed by tram.

Additional information on the guest house here.

9 – Rest and Welcome

Now, this one’s strictly only for adults, but is very close to the train station and local amenities.

Rest and Welcome offers a continental breakfast, and each room has a TV and tea and coffee-making facilities.

The hotel’s guest WiFi can also be accessed.

If you’re after an escape from the kids, then check-in to Rest and Welcome.

The hotel website has more details.

10 – Newburn Hotel

Another hotel which is very close to local entertainment and amenities.

This three-star offering caters for families and couples.

It is only two kilometres from Coral Island and two kilometres from Blackpool Tower.

Rooms come with a TV.


Blackpool house is shutdown by the council after sea of raw sewage found in basement

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A  Blackpool property has been shutdown by the council over serious health concerns after a sea of raw sewage was found in the basement.

A Blackpool legal caseworker even described 10 Palatine Road in the town centre as the worst property he had seen in his 30-year career.

The house was rented by Sue Graham, with her husband, son and daughter-in-law living there as well.

The family were originally unlawfully evicted from the premises and it was only after the intervention of a legal centre when they secured an injunction requiring the landlord to allow them to re-enter and occupy the premises off Central Drive.

The house, formerly the Broomcroft Hotel, was shutdown by the council over serious health concernsThe house, formerly the Broomcroft Hotel, was shutdown by the council over serious health concerns

However, during this time it was apparent that the premises were not fit for human habitation and a referral was made to the council to request them to inspect the premises.

The major issue was that there was raw sewage in the basement, a serious health hazard to anyone in the building.

Shortly after she had moved into the premises, Sue had complained about the housing conditions but little or no action was taken by her landlord.

Sue said: “I’m astonished at the way the landlord has failed to deal with all the problems at the property over a number of years.

“This has included dampness throughout the premises, the possibility of subsidence and most importantly the presence of raw sewage. This has affected my health together with other members of my family”.

On Tuesday, housing enforcement officials, as well as police officers for support, visited 10 Palatine Road and due to the ‘extremely serious detrimental health issues’ an immediate emergency prohibition order was made preventing anyone from living there.

Sue and her family have been housed in emergency accommodation.

Dr Ron Heywood, senior legal caseworker at the Fylde Advice and Legal Centre said: “I have dealt with housing conditions throughout most of my career and this is one of the worst that I have ever encountered.

“Landlords must ensure that they comply with all legal obligations and certainly this one is not.

“The actions taken by the council ensure it is a local authority with a very pro-active approach to housing enforcement and on this occasion can be only congratulated on the steps taken”

Ron also explained the dangers of sewer gas, which contains methane, ammonia and hydrogen sulphide which are all toxic when inhaled.

He added: “If exposed to very high concentrations of sewer gas, a person can asphyxiate and die. More common symptoms of exposure to sewer gas include nausea, eye irritation and difficulty breathing.

“I’m glad that the Graham family are now out of the property and hopefully the landlord will be able to rectify the serious problems with the property.”


Work starts on new Kirkham housing estate ahead of construction for 231 properties

Home | Blackpool Gazette

Work on a new housing estate in Kirkham, that has been planned for more than six years, has finally started.

Morris Homes confirmed it has begun clearing work off the Kirkham Bypass ahead of building 231 properties on former farming land.

The land is opposite the Kingfisher Tavern on St George’s Park and runs partly along the Kirkham and Wesham to Blackpool South railway line.

The proposals to use the land for a housing estate were originally submitted in 2015 with Fylde Council planning officers giving approval two years later, however Morris Homes only purchased the land last month.

Work has started on the housing estate off the Kirkham BypassWork has started on the housing estate off the Kirkham Bypass

A spokesman for the house builder said: “Although this site received planning approval on 11th October 2017, there were a number of legal issues to be resolved with the landowner. These issues were resolved at adjudication. Morris Homes then purchased the site on April 28 and work commenced on May 3.

“We anticipate starting house construction during Summer 2021, with the first completions being in early 2022. We also intend to operate the site across both Morris Homes and Shelbourne Estates, to accelerate production and provide the much needed houses that this area so badly needs.”

The housing estate will be close to other developments by Story Homes and Barratt Homes, with more than 300 new homes between them.


Cambridge dad on 11k mile hike for Children in Need treks into Blackpool

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A rambler on an 11,000 mile journey around the coast of Britain braved the rain and trekked into the heart of Blackpool today.

Chris HowardChris Howard

Chris Howard, 36, from Cambridge, set off from Norfolk in March last year with little more than the clothes on his back. Since then he has been slowly travelling clockwise around the coast, camping in fields overnight and walking at least 30 miles every day, all to raise money for Children in Need.

He has already raised £24,000, and hopes to double that by the time his journey comes to an end.

He said: “When lockdown began, I was left thinking how difficult it must be for children living in poverty. My children are lucky enough to have a good home and a loving family, but not every child can be that lucky.

Chris camping outChris camping out

“I have previously done a fair amount of endurance challenges, from marathons to cycling. I’ve rowed across the Atlantic and did the Tour De France, so I’m no stranger to pushing my body. Physically it can be tough, but mostly I get lonely. I can go for weeks without talking to anybody. It’s quite hard, so it’s good when someone does strike up a conversation or wave or smile.”

Lockdown threw a spanner in the works for Chris, a dad of three, as he was forced to abandon his trek for four months due to restrictions in Wales. However, he still hopes to complete the challenge by November, when Children in Need will celebrate its 41st birthday.

The charity’s annual appeal, supporting more than 3,900 local charities and projects in communities across the UK, is scheduled to air on BBC One on Friday, November 13.

He said: “I didn’t think people would be interested in the beginning. I set a target of £10k and smashed that within a few months, so I doubled it. Now I’m hoping to double it again.

“It has been a challenge to do this during lockdown. I could have spent my nights couch-surfing, but I’ve had to camp out instead because of the restrictions – which was especially difficult in Wales!”

After visiting Blackpool for the very first time today, he will head north to Fleetwood, and walk around the Wyre Estuary to Knott End.

People can keep up with his country-wide journey on his website,