‘ALL the modelling’ suggests the UK will suffer another surge in coronavirus cases and deaths this, Chris Whitty has warned.
England’s Chief Medical Officer told the science and technology committee that despite the success of the vaccine rollout, enough virus will remain in circulation this year to cause a rise on cases and deaths.
He said this was due to the numbers of people refusing or unable to take the vaccine as well as the rare few for whom the vaccine does not work.
“Even if you have a relatively small proportion of people still remaining vulnerable, that still equates to a very large number” at risk he said.
“All the modelling suggests at some point we will get a surge in the virus. We hope it doesn’t happen soon – it might happen later in the summer if we open up gradually, or if there is a seasonal effect it might happen over the next autumn and winter,” he added.
“But all the modelling suggests there is going to be a further surge, and when it happens it will find the people who have not been vaccinated or where the vaccine has not worked. Some of them will be hospitalised and sadly some of them will die.”
“That is just the reality of the situation,” Whitty said, adding that the vaccine will see the cases to death “go right down, but not right down to zero”.
Whitty’s comments come cases and deaths in the UK plunged to the lowest levels in five months.
The national lockdown and vaccine rollout saw just 4,712 more coronavirus cases yesterday – a significant month-on-month fall – although tragically 65 more people were recorded as dying within 28 days of contracting Covid-19
Those are the lowest daily death and case numbers since October
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RETURN TO SCHOOL MARKS FIRST MILESTONE IN PM’S ROADMAP FROM LOCKDOWN
Yesterday’s return of schools marks the first step in the PM’s plan to get the country fully out of lockdown on June 21.
Pupils up and down the country headed back to lessons for the first time since December, with a huge mass testing operation under way and extra Covid precautions in place.
Secondary school pupils are being strongly encouraged to wear masks in the classroom until at least the Easter holidays.
Primary school kids won’t have to don face coverings, but extra guidance has been introduced saying visitors and staff should use them in areas where social distancing between adults isn’t possible such as corridors.
BACK TO SCHOOL ROUND-UP: WHAT ELSE HAS HAPPENED?
JENNY HARRIES WARNS ‘A LARGE NUMBER OF PUPILS’ MAY COME OUT OF SCHOOL IN FIRST TWO WEEKS
Deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries warned there may be “a larger number of pupils” coming out of school in the first fortnight.
But she said that situation should only last for a week or two before calming down.
And a top medical expert has questioned the logic behind not offering children tested in school a follow-up PCR test.
Professor Jon Deeks, an expert in biostatistics at Birmingham University, told the Telegraph: “There is no scientific basis for this, you will be restricting freedoms and keeping children out of school completely unnecessarily.”
MINISTERS ADMIT ONE IN EVERY 1,000 LATERAL FLOW TESTS RETURNS A FALSE POSITIVE
Ministers have admitted around one in every thousand lateral flow tests carried out returns a false positive.
Under the new rules children who return a positive lateral flow test that was carried out at home will be asked to take a follow-up PCR swab, which is much more accurate.
If that follow-up test comes back negative, they will then be able to return to the classroom immediately.
But students who get a positive result from a lateral flow test at school won’t be entitled to a follow-up test and will have to self-isolate for the full 10 days.
Ministers say the discrepancy is because tests at school are being carried out “under supervision in a controlled environment”.
CHILDREN WHO GET A FALSE POSITIVE COVID TEST AT SCHOOL WILL BE BANNED FROM CLASS FOR 10 DAYS
CHILDREN who receive a false positive Covid test administered at school will be banned from the classroom for 10 days, it has emerged.
The new rules on the safe reopening of classrooms have been branded “ridiculous” by scientists who say there’s “no rationale” behind them.
PM HAILS SCHOOLS REOPENING A ‘NATIONAL EFFORT’
THE PM hailed today’s re-opening of England’s schools as the result of a national effort to defeat Covid.
Boris Johnson said the return of millions of pupils to the classroom was made possible only by collective efforts to cut infections.
It marks step one of his plan to unlock the country after a year of restrictions to tackle the pandemic.
He declared: “The reopening of schools marks a truly national effort to beat this virus.
“It is because of the determination of every person in this country that we can start moving closer to a sense of normality — and it is right that getting our young people back into the classroom is a first step.”
SCHOOLS COULD BE FORCED TO SHUT IF NOT ENOUGH PUPILS WEAR FACE MASKS
SCHOOLS could be forced to shut again if not enough pupils wear face masks as they return to class today, parents have been warned.
While there is no legal power to enforce it, guidance from the Government states that masks should be worn by students – as well as teaching and support staff – while indoors.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last month that secondary school kids are to be tested twice a week and required to wear face masks if it is not possible to socially distance at two metres apart.
Both measures are not compulsory, however, and the Government has said teachers should not send pupils home for refusing.
HARD-UP parents may be able to claim up to £150 to help cover the cost of school uniforms as pupils return to the classroom.
The support is typically available to households on benefits, but the amount on offer varies wildly depending on where you live.
A uniform costs £101.19 per child in secondary school on average, according to a retailer survey by The Schoolwear Association.
The cost means a million kids’ families have to cut back on food and other essentials to pay for it, a report by the The Children’s Society has found.
The charity is backing the School Uniform Bill, which is calling for schools to add a value for money criteria to their uniform policies.
NURSES COULD BE IN LINE FOR BIGGER PAY RISE
Nurses could be in line for a bigger pay rise after a Cabinet minister today hinted at a U-turn on the 1% offer which has prompted fury and been branded a “slap in the face”.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said he wants to see NHS staff “recognised in a way that’s appropriate” as pressure mounts on the Government to up its miserly proposal.
Health bosses and union chiefs have lambasted the offer, which amounts to just £3.50 a week, with a recent poll also showing 72% of the public would back a more generous settlement.
Mr Buckland hinted that the Government will be prepared to accept those suggestions, which will come after negotiations between independent NHS pay review bodies, unions, and ministers.
He said: “This is the beginning of a process. The recommendations have not yet been made. We’ve got to remember, of course, that in large other swathes of the public sector there will be a pay freeze save for the very lowest paid. I don’t think at the moment we’re at the end of this process, we need to see what the recommendations are.”
EXPERTS SAY KIDS COULD SUFFER ‘LONGER TERM SCARRING’ AFTER BEING AWAY FROM SCHOOLS
Experts believe kids who have spent a long time away from school could suffer “longer-term scarring”.
Prof Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, told Times Radio: “We closed down our children’s lives.
“The key issues around meeting friends, development socially, learning to trust, learning to be human, learning all of those things, that’s been lost as well as the loss of actual straight-up learning.
“Many of those things can’t be done online. The harms to mental health are very clear.”
UNION LEADER SAYS ATTENDANCE IN MOST SCHOOLS ‘VERY ENCOURAGING’
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said attendance in most schools was “very encouraging”.
He said the requirement to provide on-site Covid tests had been “onerous” and introducing face coverings in class had been a “minefield” for teachers to navigate.
Dr Mary Bousted, National Education Union chief, said it was possible children may have to return to remote learning.
She said: “I hope, and my members hope, this will be the last time we close schools to the majority of pupils. But the jury’s out.”
JOY AS MILLIONS OF PUPILS HEAD BACK TO CLASSROOM AND FIRST LOCKDOWN RESTRICTIONS ARE EASED
Millions of kids headed back to school for the first time in months yesterday as the first lockdown restrictions were eased.
VIDEO: SCHOOLS GOING BACK WILL IMPACT INFECTION RATE, WARNS BORIS JOHNSON BUT ROADMAP STILL ON TRACK
RUSSIA: 9,445 NEW COVID CASES REPORTED IN 24 HOURS
Russia reported 9,445 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, the first time since early October that the daily tally has dropped below 10,000.
That took the total number of coronavirus infections in Russia to 4,342,474.
Authorities said 336 people had died in the last 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 89,809.
LOCKDOWN RESTRICTIONS REDUCED THE TIME PEOPLE SPENT IN GREEN SPACES – STUDY
Almost two-thirds of people reported spending less time in green spaces after movement restrictions were imposed in the first pandemic lockdown, a study found.
The research, led by the University of Glasgow, also found that inequalities in using green space, which is shown to have mental health benefits, were sustained or even exacerbated by lockdowns.
The study, based on analysis of a YouGov poll of 2,252 UK adults from April 30-May 1 2020, found 63% of people reported using green space such as parks, countryside and recreation grounds less after restrictions were imposed.
It also showed 93% of people had visited a green space in the year before the limits on leaving home for only medical needs, shopping for necessities and exercising once a day were brought in to curb the spread of coronavirus.
After the rules were imposed only half (53%) had visited a green space, the study found.
MATT HANCOCK SAYS CLOSURE OF NIGHTINGALE HOSPITALS ‘AN IMPORTANT MOMENT IN OUR RECOVERY’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the closure of the Nightingale hospitals was an “important moment in our national recovery”.
In a video posted to Twitter, Mr Hancock said the vaccine programme and lockdown restrictions had meant that there were now fewer than 10,000 people in hospitals across the UK, down from 40,000 seven weeks ago.
He said the hospitals were a “monument to this country’s ability to get things done fast when it really matters” and played a “critical role” in the UK’s response to coronavirus.
NIGHTINGALE HOSPITALS SET UP TO DEAL WITH COVID WILL CLOSE IN APRIL
Nightingale hospitals set up to cope with a spike in Covid-19 cases are to close from April, although the sites in London and Sunderland will stay open for vaccinations.
NHS England said existing hospitals have been able to increase their beds so successfully that the Nightingales are no longer needed.
A network of seven hospitals in England was set up last spring amid fears that the health service may end up overwhelmed, as had happened in some other countries.
The Nightingale hospitals in England were largely not needed and some were stepped down to rehabilitation centres.
In January, the Health Service Journal (HSJ) reported figures published by minister for innovation Lord Bethell, which put the total cost of the temporary hospitals at around £532 million by the end of the 2022 financial year. The estimate included costs for setting up the Nightingales, running costs, stand-by costs and decommissioning costs.
NICOLA STURGEON SET TO EASE RESTRICTIONS ON OUTDOOR MEET-UPS FOR SCOTS
An easing on the restrictions on outdoor meetings could be announced by Nicola Sturgeon in her latest coronavirus update.
The First Minister is due to give a statement on the ongoing fight against Covid-19 to MSPs in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday afternoon.
She has already indicated a change in the rules on outdoor meetings – which at the moment only allow for two people from two different households to get together – could be coming.
On Friday, Ms Sturgeon indicated “good progress” with the vaccination programme and the falling number of infections could mean that “greater normality is firmly on the horizon”.
She said then she was “hopeful” the Scottish Government may be able to make some “relatively minor, but I think important, changes in our ability to meet outdoors and also how young people are able to interact with their friends outdoors”.
HOW WILL TESTING WORK?
Students in England will be tested for Covid-19 three times in the first two weeks of school.
After that, they’ll be given two tests each week to use at home. These will be lateral flow tests, which involve taking a swab of the nose and throat.
The sample is then inserted into a tube of liquid and gives a result within 30 minutes.
Testing is voluntary and children will only be tested in school if a parent or carer has given consent.
The Government recommends, however, that anyone “going to a school or college premises,” or anyone who shares a bubble or household with someone who is “should also get tested”.
AUTISTIC TEENAGER SENDS ALMOST 700 THANK YOU CARDS TO HOSPITAL STAFF
An autistic teenager has sent almost 700 thank you cards to staff at a hospital to share messages of support with those on the front line dealing with Covid-19.
Paddy Joyce, 17, from Glasgow, began writing to healthcare staff in mid-January as a way to help with his anxiety after he became very upset over the death statistics.
With the assistance of staff at Glasgow Royal Infirmary (GRI), he has now been able to hand-write 663 individually named cards to members of the team.
So far Paddy, who has autism with significant global development delays, has written more than 1,000 cards and hopes to send more than 5,000 by the end of the year.
He said: “I saw how sad and upset they were on the news. My mum said I should write to someone, so I asked her to find someone and lots of people wanted one, so I want to write to everyone.”
WHAT HAVE HEADTEACHERS SAID ABOUT FINES?
Headteachers unions, the Association of School and College Leaders, and the National Association of Head Teachers agree it is right to prioritise keeping pupils in the classroom.
They have called on ministers to be transparent about the risks to children, families and school staff.
The unions have previously called on the government to remove fines for parents who keep their children out of school, the Guardian reports.
NEU Joint General Secretary Kevin Courtney insisted last November that ONS data showed schools “are an engine for virus transmission”.
A joint statement by teachers’ unions this week warned bringing all pupils in England back to school together on March 8 would be “reckless”.
KIDS KEEN TO COMBAT COVID
Most pupils in more than half of secondary schools and colleges across the country have opted in for voluntary Covid tests on the premises.
A survey found 73% of secondary school headteachers had reported more than 90% of students had agreed to wear face coverings in classrooms.
The snap poll by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) also reported a reluctance to wear masks. 2% of heads complained the compliance rate was below 70%.
KIDS AREN’T ALRIGHT
ENGLAND’S chief schools inspector has expressed concern about eating disorders and self-harming among children after she said pupils endured “boredom, loneliness, misery and anxiety” during the school shutdown since January.
Amanda Spielman said home learning “has been a real slog” for many and that teachers and parents “need to be alert” to more serious mental health difficulties persisting for a minority of children even after classrooms open again this morning.
The Ofsted boss said for the “vast majority of children the restoration of normality” should be enough to “lift those symptoms” of mental health difficulties like loneliness and anxiety.
And she added that there is “no perfect solution” for exam results this year but that teacher assessments were “a good attempt at creating the best we can do in very, very unsatisfactory circumstances”.
PARENTS of a Year 9 pupil were left “gobsmacked” after they were told she will be banned from face-to-face classes until Easter as they didn’t consent to the school’s Covid-19 rapid tests.
The 14-year-old who attends Hornchurch High School in Havering, east London, was told by her headmistress that failing to take a regular lateral flow test would mean she wouldn’t be allowed to mix with other students.
After being strongly encouraged to reconsider, her parents said they felt “coerced at best, blackmailed at worst” by the school’s decision to exclude their daughter and continue learning in an isolated room in the school.
DOS AND DON’TS
Hopefully your child’s school has set out what pupils can and can’t bring into the classroom – and informed you of its updated measures.
It’s not clear whether pencil cases can be brought into the classroom as there is no specific advice on this on the government’s website.
There has been no official guidance given on whether water bottles will be allowed to be brought into school by children.
Despite this, some schools have said that pupils are allowed to bring in their own water bottles.
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