Video: What YOU can do in Leicester this Christmas

By Thomas Carter and Luke Williamson

With the holiday season upon us, Christmas spirit has well and truly landed in Leicester.

Leicestershire Press reporters Thomas and Luke take you on a tour of the city to see all of the festive celebrations on offer.

First up on the tour was the Jubilee Square Ice Rink, which opens this evening (THU,DEC2). Tickets can be purchased at the rink for a 45-minute skating session.

From there, it was on to the Christmas Wheel of Light attraction (next door to the ice rink), where riders of all ages can take in the sights of Leicester.

After being cancelled last year due to Covid-19, Santa Claus will be returning to Leicester at his grotto in Green Dragon Square on Saturday (DEC4).

The lights of Highcross shopping centre, nativity scenes at Town Hall Square and the Clock Tower Christmas tree also feature on the tour.

For more details on festivities in Leicester this year, go to https://www.visitleicester.info/

Leicester residents urged to get booster jab amid Omicron fears

By Thomas Carter

Fear has gripped the nation this week amid concerns of a new Covid-19 variant that could bring tighter restrictions leading up to Christmas.

Coronavirus variant B.1.1.529 (now labelled Omicron) was recently discovered by South African scientists, with 22 cases already confirmed in the UK.

As a result, the government has made the third ‘booster’ Covid-19 vaccine available for all adults, in the hope it will lead to a larger percentage of the country to be protected against the latest variant.

Similarly to the initial vaccine rollout, adults will become eligible for their booster jab in grouped age bands, with the gap between vaccinations being reduced from six months to three.

Philippa Blakeley, 21, an International Relations MA student at De Montfort University, said: “I will be having a booster jab as soon as I am able to.

“For me personally, getting a booster jab is the best way to keep any form of normality within the country, enabling us to see friends and family.

“Speaking as someone who is enjoying the return to ‘more like normal’, my mental health could not cope with another lockdown. 

“Similarly, I think the wider impacts of the lockdowns on people’s mental health and also on their education is something we have failed to fully try and understand throughout the course of the pandemic.”

KEEPING TRACK: Leicester residents are continually urged to get tested for Covid-19

As with all Covid-19 variants, there is the danger of mutation that results in a strain evading the current vaccines, which would pose major problems in the country’s fight against the pandemic.

In addition to making the booster jab more widely available, the government has reintroduced mandatory face covering rules for indoor settings including retail shops, secondary schools and on public transport.

Philippa continued: “I definitely feel safer when wearing a face mask, and while numbers are high, or with the risk of the new variant, I am more than happy to wear one if it means I am able to continue doing the things I enjoy.”

As of Sunday (NOV28), vaccine uptake records show that 89 per cent of the population have received their first dose, 81 per cent have received their second dose, and 31 per cent have had the third booster jab.

Latest government data also shows that in the last 24 hours the UK recorded 39,716 positive cases and 159 deaths (statistics correct as of NOV30).

For advice on the new Omicron variant and to book a vaccination visit: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

Drug offences ramp up in Leicester this year

by Joshua Solomon

The rate of drug crimes in Leicester has been on a steady increase, with the overall crime rate hitting 97 crimes per 1,000 people in 2020.

This year, there were 1,577 drug related crimes committed in Leicester, which was at a percentage of 3.8 crimes per year, according to crimerate.co.uk.

This compares to 2016 where it only accounted for 1.6% of crimes in Leicester and is now the 30th highest crime rate out of 99 England and Wales postcode areas.

Leicester has been steadily getting worse in comparison with Leicestershire, as in every department there is a rise in the rate of crimes.

This year the police in the UK have targeted the ‘ county lines’ issue and the Leicestershire police force have put initiatives in place.

The East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) is one of the largest collaborative policing units in the country, and it’s not just Leicestershire they help to protect.

EMSOU investigates drugs and firearm trafficking, kidnaps, cyber-crime, fraud, money laundering and prison corruption and protects societies’ most vulnerable from modern slavery and human trafficking, and county lines.

The operation was part of a national County Lines Intensification Week (CLIW) (Monday 11 October to Sunday 17 October) which saw police forces up and down the country working with colleagues from a range of other agencies including children’s services, youth services, youth justice, housing providers, Community Safety Partnerships and local Violence Reduction Networks.

In Leicestershire, teams from a range of agencies made 85 safeguarding visits to vulnerable young people.

Chief Inspector Emma Maxwell said: “If you add the results from the national week of action as well then we have had an incredibly successful month tackling county lines criminality across the force area.

“However, our operation is about more than just disrupting the supply lines, we are working with local organisations to get help for those who want it and during the national week of action we made 85 safeguarding visits to vulnerable young people.”

Leicester becomes one of the global leaders for climate change action

By Shantelle Gondo

Leicester has been mentioned as the leader amongst 11 cities in the UK to receive the top ratings for climate change action.

After over 1,000 cities across the world revealed their climate data in 2021 through the International climate research charity (CDP), it named Leicester amongst 95 places in the world to achieve it’s grade A within leadership in environmental transparency and action.

The Deputy City Mayor, leader of the environment and transportation, Councillor Adam Clarke, said: “We’re very proud to achieve an A grade and to be recognised by CDP for our ongoing work to reduce carbon emissions across Leicester.

“As a city we have almost halved our carbon emissions since 1990 – and as a council we’ve cut our own carbon footprint by two-thirds in just over ten years. 

“Last year we published the first Leicester Climate Emergency Strategy and will continue to deliver important projects and develop our ambitious plans to help us become a carbon neutral and climate-adapted city by 2030.

“Being named as one of just 95 cities globally that are leading on climate action and transparency is a huge endorsement that we’re on the right track, but we’re under no illusion that we still face an enormous task.”

Other cities also mentioned within the UK are:

–  Bristol

– Greater Manchester

-Newcastle 

-Nottingham

And those within the world to receive an A grade include Paris, Helsinki, Stockholm and Reykjavik.

CDP’s global director of cities, states and regions, Kyra Appleby, said: “We are thrilled to champion the 95 cities from around the globe on CDP’s 2021 Cities A List. A new generation of climate conscious cities is showing what is possible when action replaces words.” 

For more information on climate action and those tackling it , visit: https://www.leicester.gov.uk/your-council/policies-plans-and-strategies/environment-and-sustainability/climate-emergency/

De Montfort University students required to wear face coverings on campus once again

By Luke Williamson

Students at De Montfort University must wear a face covering inside campus buildings again, after new government guidance was released on Saturday [NOV27].

All students in lessons, moving around campus buildings or working in the library must be wearing a face covering, except when eating in the Food Village or library café.

On top of this, people are being encouraged to get their booster vaccinations, scrapping the rule that people would need to wait for six months after their second before becoming eligible.

MANDATORY. Face coverings are mandatory for all students again after the emergence of the Omicron variant

In light of the Omicron variant, first discovered in South Africa, Prime Minister Boris Johnson made face coverings mandatory in shops and on public transport.

Some students are more than happy to oblige by the new rules, which is nothing different to the entirety of the 2020/2021 academic year.

Shivani Maisuria, a third-year Law and Criminal Justice student, said: “We are used to it now, it isn’t for too long at any one time and if it makes life a bit safer then why not?

“My lessons aren’t always socially distanced, so wearing a mask makes you a bit more comfortable being on campus, especially with this new variant around.”

There is little information about the Omicron variant, but there is a general feeling of worry by leaders worldwide which has led to the return of mandatory mask wearing.

The number of mutations on the new variant – which is double the number of the Delta variant which swept the world earlier this year – is the leading concern, with government deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam saying: “The number of mutations present makes us worry about a possible effect on vaccine effectiveness.”

Shivani added: “I will start to worry about it if the vaccine is not good enough to protect me anymore from the new variant.

“I will get my booster jab, though, as it is still the best way to protect ourselves from Covid-19.”

The symptoms are not yet known completely but suggestions from South Africa say that they could differ from the Delta variant, including more aches and pains and no loss of smell or taste.

Besides making masks mandatory, DMU is not adding any more restrictions for the time-being, meaning students will not see a change to their timetables.

Face coverings are available around campus, including Student Advice Centres, the Library and the Students’ Union building.