INFLATION is continuing to rise in the UK as a result of the current energy crisis, and increased inflation will mean the value of the state pension will also grow. However, half a million people will not reap the benefits as their income remains frozen.
The Government is set to announce its “traffic light” system from tomorrow, delivering the news of which countries are “categorised” as green. From May 17, Britons will be able to jet off to these nations without the need for quarantine, though pre-and post-departure testing will apply.
However, while excitement may be mounting among Covid-weary holidaymakers, one expert has warned many of the destinations on the list could be out of reach.
According to travel expert Simon Calder, between “30 and 40” countries will be listed as “green”.
Sadly, many of these nations currently have travel restrictions banning Britons from travelling for leisure purposes.
In a Twitter update, Mr Calder said: “Green/amber/red lists announced tomorrow.
“I calculate 30 to 40 countries will be ‘green’ but half are inaccessible: either they don’t want us (Australia, New Zealand), or we can’t reach them without going through amber or red nations (Bhutan, San Marino).”
Though the travel expert did not predict the entire list, he did share some short and medium-haul holidays which are within reach.
“For short/medium-haul holidays, it looks to me like Finland, Gibraltar, Iceland, Ireland, Israel and Norway, with three bigger beach destinations possible: Malta, Portugal and plucky Albania,” wrote Mr Calder.
Though the Government has remained tight-lipped on exactly which countries will be on the “green” list, in recent days there have been some hints from the Foreign Office.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has lifted its travel advisory against all “non-essential travel” to a selection of countries.
Among these is the majority of Portugal, the Greek islands and the Canary Islands.
The FCDO is no longer advising against “non-essential” travel to mainland Portugal and Madeira, the whole of the Canary Islands, as well as the Greek islands of Rhodes, Kos, Zakynthos, Corfu and Crete.
The FCDO has also lifted its travel advisory for Malta and Israel.
According to travel expert Paul Charles, this could be a good sign for the nations which are set to be listed as “green”.
Speaking on Sky News earlier in the week, Mr Charles said: “Indeed this morning the Foreign Office, perhaps accidentally, has updated its own website pages to also add Kos, Rhodes, Canary Islands, Zakinthos, Corfu, Crete among others to its list of places now acceptable to travel to.
“That is very encouraging because it suggests the list could be much wider.”
He also predicted many Caribbean nations would join the likes of the Greek islands and Israel on the list.
“In our analysis, we’re predicting up to 24 countries, especially when you include the 14 British overseas territories – the likes of Gibraltar, Cayman Islands, Monserrat, Falkland Islands,” said Mr Charles
“Small islands, small places, but the wider the list the better.
“I think you’re also going to see Malta, Israel, possibly Barbados, Grenada opening up.”
He has also shown hope for the majority of Europe by the peak summer months.
Posting to Twitter, the travel expert added: “The green list due to be published on Thursday or Friday this week will be wider than first thought and Europe will be green by early June.”
Many people with neovascular age-related macular degeneration (nAMD) lost less vision than expected during treatment delays imposed by COVID-19, researchers say.
The finding suggests that physicians may be overtreating these patients, said James Talks, MB BChir, a consultant ophthalmologist at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.
“If you delay people with macular degeneration, they’re likely to get worse,” he told Medscape Medical News. “We’ve quantified that, to some extent. And you could argue it wasn’t as bad as you might have thought.”
The study was presented at the virtual Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) 2021 annual meeting.
Intravitreal injections with anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) treatments have proved potent in improving the visual acuity of people with nAMD. But the injections are uncomfortable and require frequent visits, imposing a burden on both patients and the healthcare system.
So most ophthalmologists have adopted a treat-and-extend approach, increasing the intervals between injections while monitoring to make sure the patient’s vision doesn’t deteriorate.
Deciding how much to delay is an inexact science. The pandemic created an accidental test of what happens when the intervals between injections stretch out much longer than what has been tested in a clinical trial.
Physicians at the Royal Victoria Infirmary treat their patients with aflibercept (Eylea). After the first few weeks, they typically extend the gap between injections to about 8 weeks, Talks said.
National guidelines in the United Kingdom recommended delaying treatment only in those patients with diabetic macular edema or retinal vein occlusion, which would have been about a quarter of all the patients getting anti-VEGF treatment at the clinic.
But many patients with nAMD decided to delay treatment as well, either because they feared contracting COVID-19 or because they didn’t want to impose a burden on healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients, Talks said. Altogether, 67% of the clinic’s anti-VEGF patients delayed treatment.
To see how well these patients fared, Talks and his colleagues randomly sampled 681 eyes in 585 patients who had received treatment between January 1, 2020 and March 23, 2020, when the United Kingdom went into lockdown.
They found that the mean number of weeks of delay was 12.7 weeks and that 8.2% of patients had not yet returned at the time of follow-up, whereas 28.5% had delayed treatment before returning and 63.3% had continued treatment on schedule.
The patients who delayed treatment but eventually returned dropped 4.9 letters, from 60.1 to 55.2. Those who did not delay dropped an average of 1.5 letters, from 61.4 to 59.9 letters. The difference was statistically significant (P = .001). By November, 74.6% of eyes had returned within 5 letters of baseline vision.
The researchers analyzed the optical coherence tomography (OCT) images of the patients’ eyes to see if they could figure out which ones were most likely to have lost vision.
The delayed eyes’ central macular thickness increased from 311 µm to 342 µm. A majority (73%) of the eyes with delayed treatment showed evidence of intraretinal or subretinal fluid. They were about evenly divided among subretinal fluid, intraretinal fluid, and the combination.
But there was no clear pattern that could have been used to predict which patients were most likely to lose vision, Talks said.
The best method for determining which patients could have their treatments delayed is to try longer intervals in a treat-and-extend regimen, he said. “Say they came back after an 8-week gap today. If it was dry, we could then maybe treat and bring them back at 10 weeks, and that would be a 2-week extension. And if it was still dry, we treat and bring them back at 12 weeks.”
Another possible lesson from the pandemic is that patients were less likely to delay treatment if they had one eye with better vision that was being treated. They were motivated to preserve the vision in that eye because they couldn’t fall back on the other eye, Talks said.
This lesson could apply in the event of another lockdown, he said. “If you’re under pressure, you should prioritize those in whom you’re treating their better eye.”
As expected, patients with diabetic macular edema lost less vision than those with nAMD.
Ophthalmologists in the United States are also trying to measure the damage the pandemic caused to their patients’ vision, said Jayanth Sridhar, MD, associate professor of clinical ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, Florida.
If another lockdown were to occur, he would like to see more effort devoted to educating patients and primary care doctors about key symptoms that should lead patients to most urgently seek care from an ophthalmologist.
Better technology for mobile monitoring and screening, such as home OCT, is important in those patients getting anti-VEGF treatment, he said. “If we can get those things out, they’ll help if there are future pandemics.”
Dr John Wells
John Wells, MD, of the Palmetto Retina Center in Columbia, South Carolina told Medscape Medical News that the clinic did whatever it could to respond to patients’ fears. “We actually had some patients who refused to come into the office and we would go out to their car and inject them,” he said. “Kind of like a drive-through injection clinic.”
Talks disclosed financial relationships with Alimera, Allergan, Bayer, Novartis and Roche.Wells disclosed relationships to Adverum, Genentech, Roche, Alimera, Bayer, Iveric Bio, Kodiak, Neurotech, and Regeneron. Sridhar disclosed a relationship to Regeneron.
Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) 2021 annual meeting: Abstract. Presented May 6, 2021.
Laird Harrison writes about science, health and culture. His work has appeared in national magazines, in newspapers, on public radio and on websites. He is at work on a novel about alternate realities in physics. Harrison teaches writing at the Writers Grotto. Visit him at www.lairdharrison.comor follow him on Twitter: @LairdH
Portugal is set to see “floods” of Britons looking to relocate to the nation this year after Brexit. According to a recent survey conducted by the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce in the UK, 59 percent of those who took part in their annual survey said they were looking to move there permanently once the Government reopens travel.
The annual June 2020 report from Portugal’s immigration authorities revealed that British residents are the single largest group of foreign residents in Portugal.
The report, by the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce in the UK, states: “Portugal’s 2021 census, currently underway, looks likely to show a large increase in this number, given the twin pressures of Brexit and the pandemic.”
In a bid to deal with what the chamber is describing as “pent up interest”, they are set to host a series of live and virtual Moving to Portugal webinars and events over the coming weeks.
By identifying the data of Britons who have already sought advice from the Chamber, they found 57 percent were looking to move within the next 12 to 24 months.
Around 37 percent of respondents were also looking to either move an existing business to Portugal or start a new business there.
The nation’s business opportunities are one of the key draws of the country for Britons according to the Chamber’s general manager Christina Hippisley.
She said: “Every day we are receiving calls and emails from British residents just waiting to get on a plane to Portugal.
“The most common enquiries are about what residency options there are in Portugal for Brits now we are no longer part of Europe, followed by questions about how to move their businesses there and work remotely.
“Portugal appeals to a relatively wealthy demographic. On top of its existing fan base of older, more established retirees and second homeowners, the country’s growing reputation as a tech investment and manufacturing hub is attracting a new breed of younger, working families keen to live there permanently.”
Previously, some experts have suggested Portugal could overtake Spain as “the place to be” for expats.
According to expatnetwork, Portugal could be set to become more popular due to the onset of new post-Brexit requirements to gain permanent residency in Spain.
“In order to retire to countries in the EU, now that the UK is no longer a member, it is necessary first to apply for a visa,” explained an expert from expatnetwork.
“Those who are thinking about retiring to Spain or who plan to move there but do not intend to work there, can either choose a Golden Visa or the Non-Lucrative Visa (NLV).
“The Golden Visa requires you to invest €500,000 (approximately £433,551) in property and so is out of the reach of many British retirees.”
The NLV, meanwhile, is said to be “causing difficulty” for some British expats – particularly retirees.
“You have to demonstrate an income of €33,893 (approximately £29,388) a year for a couple and €47,451 (£41,144) for a family of four,” continued the expatnetwork expert.
“Portugal offers similar benefits with regard to climate, lifestyle, and low cost of living,” they explained.
“Portugal has a similar visa to Spain’s NLV, the Passive Income Visa, which has a significantly lower annual income requirement – €11,970 (approximately £10,379) for a couple and €16,658 (approximately £14,444) for a family of four).
“The visa also does not restrict you from working or setting up a business as the Spanish NLV does.”
They added: “Add to that the tax advantages and the fact that you can work in Portugal if you want to, and there is a clear case for considering retiring to Portugal instead of Spain if you only have limited income.”
Luckily, there is plenty of support for those eyeing a move to Portugal.
“If you are planning on moving to Portugal, you are following a well-trodden path, which means that there are clear processes in place for how to achieve what you need to,” commented Ms Hippisley, general manager of the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce in the UK.
Forecasters expect severe weather, including flash flooding and the possibility of tornadoes, to continue threatening much of the southern United States on Tuesday, after two days of storms caused widespread damage and killed at least two people.
The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center said there was an “enhanced risk” of severe thunderstorms for large stretches of the South, including southern Mississippi and west-central Alabama. There, damaging winds of up to 70 miles per hour and hail up to the size of golf balls were likely from late Tuesday morning into the early evening, with tornadoes possible, according to the forecast office in Jackson, Miss.
The area was placed under a flash flood watch, with as much as two to four inches of rain within three hours having the potential to flood roads and threaten structures.
Much of central Tennessee was under a severe thunderstorm watch Tuesday morning, with concerns of wind gusts up to 70 miles per hour and quarter-sized hail. “An isolated tornado or two cannot be ruled out,” meteorologists said.
In Georgia, forecasters warned “several rounds of strong to severe storms” could be possible into Tuesday night.
Tens of thousands of people were without power Tuesday morning in Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky, according to PowerOutage.us, a website that tracks loss of service. Cities and towns across the South reported structural damage from tornadoes, high winds and punishing rains, with images and videos on social media showing uprooted trees and damaged buildings.
In Texas, local news outlets reported at least two tornadoes on Monday. Three people were injured, one seriously, when three 18-wheelers flipped and several other vehicles were involved in a crash on Interstate 35 near Dallas, according to WFAA, a Dallas news station.
April was a quiet month for severe weather in the United States, with half of the usual number of severe weather reports, the fewest tornado reports since 2000 and the fourth-fewest tornado watches on record, according to the National Weather Service.
Which countries are expected to be on the green list?
The Government is due to announce the categories for each country around the world in “early May”.
The Commons’ Transport Select Committee issued a report last week which stated that the green, amber and red lists of destinations must be published by Saturday “at the latest”, but this has not happened.
Many have said the Department for Transport has missed the deadline for responses.
However, a spokeswoman said: “The Government has not missed a deadline.
“We have always said we will confirm by early May if international travel can resume on May 17 and which countries will fall into which list.
“This will determine the requirements for travel for passengers.”
She added the Government’s Global Travel Taskforce is working towards restarting travel abroad in a “safe and sustainable way”.
Paul Pogba has thrived when played out wide and given more attacking freedom in recent weeks and that is set to continue.
Solskjaer has confirmed that Marcus Rashford is available for selection, saying: “We’ve managed Marcus and we’ve had to manage him quite a while actually. Last year with his back, then he had his shoulder, which he’s recovered really well from, and I feel he’s gone through the worst of this foot.
“He almost played a full game against Leeds and he’s available for selection for tomorrow. He’s happy with the progress he’s made.”
With Anthony Martial out injured, Edinson Cavani is expected to lead the line.
Expected Man Utd XI to play Roma – De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Bailly, Shaw; Fred, McTominay; Pogba, Fernandes, Rashford; Cavani
Ex-Formula 1 driver Ralf Schumacher reckons Lewis Hamilton will make more mistakes than usual this year because Max Verstappen will push him closer than ever before. Mercedes have won the last seven Championships and are expected to extend their dominance this term.
Hamilton is looking to pull away from the world title record he shares with Michael Schumacher, but he will not have it his own way this term.
Verstappen has already shown in the opening two races of the season that he is ready to launch his first serious assault on the Drivers’ Championship.
Rare mistakes have started to creep into Hamilton’s races and Schumacher reckons he knows why.
“Hamilton has to go more to the limit now to even keep up with Verstappen,” he told Sky Germany. “And when I go to the limit more, mistakes happen.
“It will be close again between Lewis and Max. However, I see the Mercedes almost stronger than the Red Bull at this circuit.”
Hamilton won the season-opener in Bahrain and Verstappen emerged victorious at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix.
The pair will next lock horns in Portugal this weekend and Schumacher is expecting fireworks.
“We saw it last year that it’s a difficult circuit,” he explained. “It’s new, but it’s very fast.
“There are many passages that you can’t see at all. Therefore, there is room for a lot of mistakes.
“If a car doesn’t work, it’s obviously difficult for the driver.”
Meanwhile, former F1 driver Gerhard Berger thinks Verstappen is the real deal this year.
“Why not? I think he is bloody good,” Berger told the F1 Nation podcast. “Of course he doesn’t have to experience of Lewis and Lewis showed him the way in Bahrain when he sent him out.
“But he learned very quick and the first corner at Imola he just said ‘Lewis, come and try to overtake me, you’re gonna go off’.
“So I think he already has experience, he’s still young, and what he doesn’t have he learns very quickly.
HOUSTON, Texas — Houston Rockets point guard John Wall is expected to be sidelined for the remainder of the season due to a Grade 2 hamstring strain, sources told ESPN.
The typical recovery time for such an injury is approximately three weeks, and the Rockets have no intention of rushing Wall back with the team eliminated from playoff contention.
Wall averaged 20.6 points and 6.9 assists while shooting 40.4% from the floor in 40 games this season for the Rockets, who have the NBA’s worst record at 15-46 in the first year of a rebuilding project on the heels of trading longtime franchise cornerstone James Harden.
Wall, a five-time All-Star, had missed the previous season and a half due to heel and Achilles tendon injuries. Wall missed several games this season due to swelling in his left knee, an issue that sources said could require offseason arthroscopic surgery.
The Rockets acquired Wall and a future protected first-round pick for Russell Westbrook in a trade with the Washington Wizards just before the beginning of training camp.
Wall, 30, is owed $ 91.7 million on his maximum contract over the next two seasons.
The state’s main power grid operator asked Texans to conserve power Tuesday afternoon and into the evening as the electricity grid is barely keeping up with the demand for electricity.
But the Electric Reliability Council of Texas said it does not expect customer outages like those caused in February.
The tight conditions for the grid are being caused by a stalled cold front over Texas, combined with a high number of energy-producing plants being offline for maintenance.
“This emergency declaration allows us to access tools that will bring supply and demand back into line,” Woody Rickerson, an ERCOT vice president, said in a statement.
Maintenance outages are very common during the spring and fall. Those outages are higher than usual right now, a spokesperson told the Tribune early Tuesday, due to additional repairs necessary from the February winter storm.
A spokesperson for ERCOT was not immediately available to comment Tuesday afternoon.
Data from ERCOT showed that the current demand for energy on the grid was near 49,000 megawatts at 5 p.m., when the available supply to the grid was about 50,000 megawatts. That’s much less than the peak demand it neared during February, about 72,000 megawatts, when energy use surpassed record levels as Texans tried to stay warm during a severe winter storm.
But ERCOT said a significant chunk of its generation is currently down due to maintenance. Approximately 33,000 megawatts of generation was offline earlier this week, according to an ERCOT spokesperson.
The supply and demand for power must remain balanced on electricity grids at all times. Asking Texans to conserve power is among the first steps the grid operator takes in order to bring it back in balance.
While maintenance repairs are common this time of year, experts said the amount of outages was still significant.
“It borders the edge of reasonable,” Beth Garza, director of ERCOT’s independent watchdog from 2014 to 2019, told the Tribune.