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Brits struggling to separate work from play as lockdown causes home misery

Almost six in 10 office workers are struggling to separate their work and home life in lockdown after ditching the commute, research has revealed.

A survey of 2,000 UK WFH adults found the average person is saving 60 minutes-a-day due to the lack of travel to and from work.

However, the much-maligned commute acted as a buffer between work and home life, leaving 59% struggling to switch off after their working day now.

And 42% of those surveyed by insurer Vitality went as far as to say the lack of commute is having a negative effect on their physical health and wellbeing.

As a result, 58% are even missing certain aspects of their trip to and from work, with being able to separate home and work the top reason.

Others miss the journey because it gave them time to drive in the car alone (25%), take a break from friends, family and housemates (22%), and exercise by walking and cycling to the station (19%).

Vitality is encouraging Brits to have a "fake commute", to spend at least 20 minutes in the morning before work or 20 minutes afterwards doing exercise, taking time to meditate or taking up a hobby to improve physical and mental health.

Neville Koopowitz, CEO of Vitality, said: "This year has been exceptional and changed our lives in many ways.

"In the first lockdown many of us found we had extra time in our day, taken back from the commute to work, which we were able to use constructively in some way.

"However, our research shows that more recently, likely affected by winter and the longer nights, that many of us have slipped into unhealthy habits, using this time to sleep in or work more, resulting in a struggle to keep boundaries between our working and home lives – which can lead to stress and poor mental health.

"That's why we at Vitality are urging everyone to set aside some of the time they would previously have used getting to or from work, to prioritise their own health.

"By taking just 20 minutes each day to introduce a habit, or one that may have previously been part of our commute, such as a walk, moment of meditation or even just getting outside to grab a coffee, we can all improve our physical and mental wellbeing during a time when it's crucial we look after ourselves."

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The study also found that while 29% have replaced their commute with a walk, 69% admitted they aren't doing much with the extra time they now have.

Almost four in 10 (37%) admitted they simply spend more time in bed.

And 40% are now working longer hours, leaving 45% feeling less happy due to increased stress.

As a result, the research, conducted by OnePoll for Vitality, found 67% feel they need to improve their mental health and wellbeing this winter.

Just under three quarters (72%) also want to boost their physical health.

When it comes to exercise, 36% have been doing more since working from home, but 32% admitted they are doing less than they used to.

A third (33%) said they need more motivation or the offer of incentives to make use of their commute time.

Another 27% felt they needed a plan to follow and 20% could do with a fitness device to monitor their activity.

Alongside the 'fake commute', Vitality's Winter Pack programme offers its insurance members incentives and rewards to stay healthy in mind and in body at home.

  • Full list of lockdown tiers confirmed – which tier is your area in?

Rewards include access to home workouts on Peloton, fitness device discounts and a coffee at home benefit with free guides and tips available for everyone to access on Vitality's social channels.

It comes after the insurer saw an 8% decrease in activity levels within its members during the first week of October, compared to the average weekly level for September.

Claire O'Neill, head of clinician management at Vitality, has highlighted the top five things to do with the fake commute.

Meditate: Switch off for 20 minutes each morning or evening by doing a guided meditation with an app like Headspace – not only will this help you feel set up and ready for the day or able to unwind after work, it'll help dispel any feelings of anxiety and stress that so many of us are feeling at the moment.

Coffee and chill: Are you missing that treat each working day? Go for a walk while it's still light and pick yourself up a coffee or hot drink. Treat yourself – try a new route near your home and time it so it's the same distance as your real commute.

Whip up a storm in the kitchen: Cook a fancy breakfast – nutritionally, breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day and can be key to helping you keep your energy and mood upbeat over winter.

Or, make a nice dinner with the time you have after work and replicate your favourite restaurant dish. Go all out and try something new – after all, you have more time and don't have to grab a slice of toast before running out of the door or quickly put something in the microwave when you get home – make the most of it and try a new recipe today.

Dancing queen: It can be easy to lose motivation to exercise when gyms are closed and it's dark outside, but this could be your chance to try something new that you'd never normally dream of taking up. Why not mix it up and do a dance class or try tai chi? You could find a whole new way of staying fit – and having fun.

Show your creative side: Pursue a hobby – why not try making your own Christmas cards for 20-30 minutes each morning or evening, or you could learn that language you always wanted to pick up for your next holiday. Having interests and a sense of achievement outside of work can help you de-stress and re-focus on something positive that you enjoy.

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Covid expert urges families not to pass gravy boat at Christmas to keep safe

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Grabbing hold of the same gravy boat as the rest of your family is a big Covid no-no this Christmas.

Immunologist Professor Luke O'Neill has created a list of things to avoid doing over the table as relatives get the green light to meet for Christmas.

He says elderly and vulnerable guests should spend most of the time sitting beside an open window for good air flow.

The professor's advice which includes guests bringing their own crockery, is designed to limit the chance of coronavirus spreading from one family member to another.

Revealing his guidance to Claire Byrne on Ireland's national public service media, RTÉ on Wednesday, Prof O'Neill said that children should "hug their grandparents briefly outdoors, while wearing a mask".

The professor of biochemistry at the School of Biochemistry and Immunology at Trinity College Dublin, said: "Sadly the less time the better", spent with older people in the family who are more at risk.

Another recommended instruction from Prof O'Neill was: "Don't pass the gravy boat."

If people are defiant in enjoying Christmas dinner with friends or family from other households, Prof O'Neill advises on the following:

  • They should bring their own dinnerware
  • Have a single person do all the serving to keep numbers down in the kitchen
  • Stagger people sitting around the table to avoid people sitting opposite each other
  • Have good ventilation
  • Do not to spend too long in each other's company

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"You can't be having ten hours in a stuffy room together playing family games," Prof O'Neill said.

Ahead of Thanksgiving celebrations, the Center of Disease Control told Americans that ventilation was the most important thing to consider before getting comfortable with loved ones.

O'Neill added: "Good ventilation, open the window, have a heater on if you get cold.

"Stick grandpa by the window and have a good breeze blowing through, and this will really decrease the risk, so it is possible to have a Christmas together."

  • Christmas
  • Family
  • Coronavirus

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Birmingham hailed the ‘most festive city’ in the country, survey says

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Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff and London are home to the most festive people in the country.

A study of 2,000 adults found the people of Birmingham love Christmas more than those in any other part of the country, with more than three quarters declaring it the best time of the year.

And 35% of those who live in 'Brum' said their street tends to go 'all out' when it comes to decorating the outside of their homes.

Three in 10 Londoners will have their Christmas decorations up before the end of November, while a fifth of Bristolians start looking forward to the festive period months early.

At the other end of the scale, less than two thirds of Norwich residents consider Christmas to be a highlight of their year.

More than one in five even went as far as to say they don't look forward to it at all.

The study, commissioned by Next, found that despite half feeling Covid had put a dampener on this year's celebrations, 46% are planning to make more of an effort to ensure a good end to 2020.

One in seven will even be spending more money to make this festive period one to remember, with that extra cash going on Christmas presents (67%), indoor decorations (41%) and even the tree itself (34%).

A spokesperson for Next said: "It's generally considered that everywhere gets pretty excited for Christmas, but apparently not as much as Birmingham.

"This Christmas looks likely to be different, but it seems that one thing that won't change is the festive spirit in many cities across the country.

"In fact, many are planning to go bigger and better than ever on presents and decorations this year to make sure they end a less than perfect 2020 with a brilliant Christmas."

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The study found 73% of UK adults see Christmas as one of the best times of the year – with 16% getting excited months before the big day.

As a result, a fifth decorate their homes before December has even begun, with the task of decking the halls taking an average of almost four hours.

The tree was considered the most important decoration to have up (79%), along with the baubles which decorate it (55 per cent) and indoor lighting.

But for many, the decorating doesn't stop with their homes, with 42% owning a Christmas jumper and more than one in five even donning festive pyjamas (22%).

Others wear Christmas socks (26%), slippers (11%) and dresses (7%) to help them celebrate.

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The study, carried out via OnePoll, also revealed one in five adults admitted to being 'competitive' when it comes to having the most lavish decorations, giving the best gifts or cooking the most delicious dinner.

As a result, more than a third post images of their Christmas on social media, with the tree (22%), presents (13%) and indoor decorations (11%) the most likely things to show off.

The Next spokesperson added: "This Christmas is going to be different from any other in living memory.

"It's still unclear what restrictions will be in place come the big day, which could lead to much less contact than we're used to.

"For that reason, people seem to be planning to spend more time decorating their homes than usual, which makes sense as it's likely they'll be spending much longer in them."

Top five most festive cities

1. Birmingham

2. Bristol

3. Cardiff

4. London

5. York

Top five least festive cities

1. Norwich

2. Edinburgh

3. Liverpool

4. Glasgow

5. Plymouth

  • Christmas

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Christmas shopping saved as ‘all stores to reopen regardless of tier’ in 10 days

Christmas shopping in England looks like being saved as all stores will be allowed to open December 2 no matter what coronavirus lockdown tier they are place into.

England will enter a new three-tiered system of local coronavirus measure when the national lockdown ends which is set to be even stricter than the previous one.

Despite tougher restrictions, the Prime Minister is expected to announce that all shops can now remain open, the Mail on Sunday reports.

During England's lockdown which kicked in on November 5, non-essential businesses have been forced shut but it is looking like all will be able to open their doors next month.

The news will give a welcome boost to traders who have already missed out on early Christmas gift shopping, as it will for the parents to fill stockings.

However, in areas with the highest infection rates, bookmakers and so-called 'wet pubs' that do not serve food may be required to remain closed.

Boris Johnson is set to announce the revised three-tier system for Christmas coronavirus restrictions.

A tougher tier system will be introduced and explained for when England comes out of a national lockdown on December 2 in an attempt to limit Covid-19 infections.

He is expected to announce the winter plan which will reveal how people celebrate Christmas with their loved ones.

A so-called four-nation 'truce' will reportedly place those living in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland under the same rules of celebrating with family and friends.

Scientists warned last week that for every day of eased restrictions, it would take up to five days of tough lockdown measures to make up for it.

But Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have emphasised the need to return to a "functioning economy", and a source said: "We've got to get normality back."

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Nicola Sturgeon closes Scottish border to the rest of the UK in Covid-19 battle

Scotland's borders have been closed to people from England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Eire.

The extreme measures have been taken by SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, who has plunged the country in to strict multiple-tiered lockdown measures in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Non-residents will only be allowed in to the country – and vice versa – with a 'reasonable excuse'.

The new rules came into effect from 6pm on Friday and also made it illegal for people from tier three and four areas to leave their local authority unless it is for essential reasons.

Edinburgh Live reports that Scots also aren't allowed to travel to other parts of the UK under the news rules, which could see Brits illegally coming in and out of Scotland hit with a £60 fine.

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The new travel guidance reads: "Under current Scottish regulations, given the state of the epidemic in these countries, unless you have a reasonable excuse (see exceptions) you must not travel between Scotland and England, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and Wales.

"This applies to people who live in Scotland and to people who live in any of these countries who are thinking of coming to Scotland."

  • Boris Johnson to unveil Christmas Covid rules tomorrow in TV address

Miss Sturgeon has also encouraged Scots not to take a holiday this year, making it illegal for people to travel out of their tier three or four local authority to travel to an airport.

She said: "I know people have been asking why are we making it against the law depending on where you live to travel to an airport, but not against the law to fly to another country.

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"Just because it's not against the law… does not mean we think it's ok to do it right now.

"This is a global pandemic and it's for that reason that we have in recent months repeatedly advised people not to travel overseas unless its for an essential purpose."

Last month, she plunged Scotland in to a two-week 'circuit breaker' lockdown that banned pubs from opening between 6pm and 6am.

It coincided with the school half-term, and was intended to "apply a brake to the virus for 16 days from Saturday 10 to Sunday 25 October across Scotland".

With Christmas approaching, it is expected that Sturgeon will work alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson to agree to a plan that will allow families to spend time together, even if just for a few days.

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Boris Johnson to ‘kill off normal Christmas hopes’ with new tougher tier system

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to dash Brits' hopes of a "normal" Christmas this year with the announcement of a tougher tier system from December 2.

England will enter a strengthened three-tiered system of local restrictions when the second national lockdown ends on December 2, Downing Street has said.

Boris Johnson is expected to detail his plan for winter, which includes details on how families can see their loved ones at Christmas, to MPs on Monday.

The "Covid winter plan" is expected to place more areas into the higher tiers to keep the virus under control to ensure further restrictions are not needed, No 10 said.

And while some local measures will be the same as those in the previous system, some tiers will be strengthened to safeguard the gains made during the national lockdown.

The Cabinet is expected to discuss and sign off the plan on Sunday before Mr Johnson announces it to Parliament the following day.

This plan will set out how people will be able to spend their Christmas, but ministers have made clear that the festive season will be different to normal, with some restrictions expected to remain in place.

Ministers will set out what tier each area will be placed into on Thursday and MPs are expected to be given the vote to approve the new tiering system, as promised by Mr Johnson, in the days before it comes into force on December 2.

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They are optimistic that restrictions can be gradually reduced in the run-up to spring, providing vaccines are approved by regulators, allowing a plan for the rollout to begin next month before a wider programme in the new year.

The plans emerged as the Government announced a further 341 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Saturday, bringing the UK total to 54,626.

Labour has so far been supportive of the need for restrictions to slow the spread of Covid-19, and a full-scale Commons defeat on the plan is unlikely.

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But shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds, in a speech ahead of the Downing Street announcement, said the nation could not be allowed to return "to the shambles we had before this lockdown" in calling for "clarity" on economic support.

A No 10 spokeswoman said: "Everyone's efforts during the current national restrictions have helped bring the virus back under control, slowed its spread and eased pressures on the NHS.

"But the Prime Minister and his scientific advisers are clear the virus is still present – and without regional restrictions, it could quickly run out of control again before vaccines and mass testing have had an effect.

"That would put in jeopardy the progress the country has made, and once again risk intolerable pressure on the NHS."

A Labour spokesman said "we will look closely at any proposals the Government brings forward" but called for "proper packages of support" for businesses that are unable to fully reopen.

"The previous system was failing – simply returning to it without other measures in place will not work," he added.

  • Christmas
  • Boris Johnson
  • Coronavirus
  • Lockdown

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Brits could spend Christmas abroad as govt considers cutting Covid quarantine

Hopes have been raised for Brits wishing to spend Christmas abroad as the government plans to relax the current 14-day coronavirus quarantine.

Millions of families may be able to pack their bags for the festive season, with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirming the government is due to shortly announce a new regime of Covid-19 testing to allow airport and airlines to get Britain flying again.

It would shorten the quarantine time, possibly to as little as five days.

Mr Shapps said: "It's true that we think now with the capacity on testing, and in particular the ability of the private sector to provide tests for people who have travelled, on the basis that people would pay them, would open up the way to help to get air travel going again once we are out of this lockdown…and safely.

"If we can shorten the quarantine, or the self-isolation, in return for a test after a number of days, then absolutely that is what we want to do and I will be saying more about this very shortly."

When asked by LBC presenter Nick Ferrari whether this meant people would be able to go on foreign holidays this Christmas, Mr Shapps replied: "Yes, of course, I do hope that is the case.

"We set up a global travel taskforce, we have been working on this with the industry, with the scientific advisers, and we are very close to conclusions on that which we will be able to announce very, very quickly."

England's second national lockdown is due to end on Wednesday, December 2.

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There is currently a mandatory 14-day quarantine in place for anyone entering England, except if they are coming from a country on the official travel corridor list.

Countries can be added to and removed from the list at short notice.

The travel taskforce is believed to have examined whether the quarantine time can be slashed to seven days, or possibly even five.

Mr Shapps made it clear the move depended on the state of the pandemic in the UK, with "very worrying" figures showing a record number of daily cases and a growing number of daily deaths.

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Coronavirus vaccine breakthrough as Brits may get jab by start of December

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A coronavirus vaccine could be given to Brits in time for them to hug their loved ones at Christmas.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said the NHS is gearing up for a major inoculation programme – which could start in just 21 days.

The first vaccines could even be jabbed into Brits' arms as soon as December 1.

On Monday Pfizer announced its vaccine candidate is more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19.

Older adults who live in resident care homes and care home workers will receive the vaccine first according to the government's list of priorities.

The Pfizer vaccine has already been hailed a "critical milestone", with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday promising the UK "will be ready" to distribute it as soon as it is ready.

Anyone getting vaccinated will need to receive two doses of the jab, three or four weeks apart, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam told Monday's Downing Street press conference.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency is examining the effectiveness of the injection.

Its findings could allow care home residents to safely receive visitors – reuniting families at Christmas.

The watchdog’s guidance will have an immediate bearing on how those vaccinated can behave if it is approved for rollout in December.

  • UK coronavirus deaths rise by 532 – highest jump in six months 

But a source has warned that allowing behaviour change in time for Christmas will be tight as immunity only develops 14 days after the second dose is administered, Mirror Online reports.

The UK has bought 40 million doses of the Pfizer/Biontech jab, with clinics expected to operate seven days a week to distribute it.

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Hancock told the Commons: “The deployment of the vaccine will involve working long days and weekends, and it comes on top of all the NHS has already done for us this year, and I want to thank in advance my NHS colleagues for the work that this will entail.

“I know that they will rise to this challenge of being ready when the science comes good to inject hope into millions of arms this winter.”

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Confirming the military maybe involved in the vaccine rollout, he added: “The logistics are complex, the uncertainties are real and the scale of the job is vast, but I know that the NHS, brilliantly assisted by the Armed Services, will be up to the task.”

Experts have warned of technical difficulties delivering the jab, which must be stored at minus 70C until a few hours before it is injected.

Temperature limits “will only add to the complexity around transportation and storage logistics with specialist storage needed”, warned Cranfield University’s professor of supply chain strategy, Richard Wilding.

He said: “The specialist infrastructure and storage equipment will become a supply chain in its own right with its own manufacturing and distribution processes attached to it.

“Stresses on this supply chain will then impact on how much vaccine you can move.”

The rollout of the programme is “likely to be one of the biggest logistical challenges we have faced this century”, he believed.

Prof Wilding went on: “A successful rapid deployment of any proven vaccine doesn’t just rely on the amount of vaccine that can be produced, it relies on multiple factors such as infrastructure, information systems and having a workforce that can administer the vaccine.”

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  • NHS
  • Christmas
  • Coronavirus

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