Covid news – live: England’s third national lockdown to last until March, Gove says as schools shut again

Michael Gove says lockdown to last until March England has entered its third national lockdown after Boris Johnson shut schools and imposed the toughest restrictions in March in an attempt to stem surging coronavirus infections. In a televised address to the nation yesterday evening, the prime minister ordered the country to stay indoors other than for limited exceptions and bowed to controversy to order primary schools, secondaries and colleges to remove to remote learning for the majority of students.

The new lockdown will continue until March and some restrictions will stay in place even longer, Michael Gove said on Tuesday. Mr Johnson’s decision came after Nicola Sturgeon imposed a lockdown on Scotland for the rest of January, which has a legal requirement for people to stay at home and closed schools to most pupils until February. Schools and colleges in Wales will also remain closed until at least 18 January and move to online learning, while in Northern Ireland – which is already under a six-week lockdown – “stay at home” restrictions will be brought back into law and a period of remote learning for schoolchildren is to be extended.

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People should do ‘everything possible to restrict social contact,’ Gove says

Michael Gove said people can meet up with a friend outdoors to go for a walk but should do “everything possible to restrict social contact”.

Asked about the possibility of meeting up with another person for a walk, the Cabinet minister told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Provided you maintain social distance and provided that it is exercise, yes. “But one of the things we do want to stop is the idea of people essentially congregating or socialising outside, so the judgment is clear that one period of exercise a day is appropriate. “For some people that will be running or cycling, for other people it will be walking.

You can walk with one other person but it is important, as I say, to maintain the two metre social distance.” On sitting down during a walk with a friend, Mr Gove added: “I think, inevitably, it may be the case that for a second someone will want to pause and rest in the course of exercise. “We’re anxious to make sure people exercise common sense and the clear message is: do stay at home, of course exercise once a day, but also do everything possible to restrict social contact.”

Samuel Osborne5 January 2021 10:44

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Public overwhelmingly support lockdown, YouGov poll shows

The British public overwhelmingly support the whole country going into a new lockdown, a YouGov poll has shown. Just over half (51 per cent) said they strongly supported the UK going into another lockdown, while 28 per cent said they would somewhat support the measure. Some 9 per cent said they would somewhat oppose another lockdown, while 7 per cent said they would strongly oppose it.

Here’s a handy chart from Statista showing the polling:

(Statista)

Samuel Osborne5 January 2021 10:32

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NHS working ’24/7′ to vaccinate 13 million by mid-February, Gove says

Michael Gove said the NHS was working “24/7” to ensure 13 million people are vaccinated by the middle of February. Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he said: “We know that we’ve vaccinated one million people up to the weekend. “We’re increasing the numbers this week and we’re hoping, as the prime minister outlined, to reach just over 13 million in February.”

Asked about what was being done logistically to ensure the most vulnerable were inoculated by the school half-term, Mr Gove added: “Everything. We do want to make sure these vaccines are delivered in the safest possible way, that we do everything we can not to waste a drop. “The process of making sure the vaccine can be placed in the appropriate vials and then safely injected into people’s arms is a complicated exercise but the NHS has more than risen to the challenge.

“We have some of the best public servants in the world working in our NHS and they are working 24/7 in order to ensure that we can inject people, whether that is in hospitals or through GPs or in other ways. “We’re seeking to reach as many people as possible as quickly as possible.” Samuel Osborne5 January 2021 10:15

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Government must treat pupils without laptops as priority, children’s commissioner says

The government needed to treat pupils without laptops and access to sufficient technology as a priority, Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, said

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There is no doubt that remote learning and a large amount of time out of school has a very negative impact on children. “Remote learning now needs to be a high priority for the government and we need a plan around that to ensure there is consistency in what schools are able to offer but also that tech issue. “A lot of pupils still don’t have laptops.

They are surviving on broken phones – those children now need to be seen as a priority to get into the classroom and deemed to be a vulnerable child. “There is also the issue of the cost of data, and I think this is something that tech companies and broadband companies really need to step up to now.” On exams, she said: “We’re looking at moving to teacher-assessed grades again, even if they are alongside some form of exams, but really having the moderation that wasn’t there last year to give confidence.”

Samuel Osborne5 January 2021 09:53

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Government to mandate pre-departure Covid tests for UK-bound flights – but for foreigners only

Nine months after the aviation industry started calling for testing to reduce the spread of coronavirus, the UK government is set to make a negative Covid result compulsory for some travellers to the UK, travel correspondent Simon Calder reports. Samuel Osborne5 January 2021 09:37

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Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will receive one-off grant worth GBP9,000, Rishi Sunak announces

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a grant worth up to GBP9,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses hit by the new lockdown. The one-off payment is expected to benefit more than 600,000 business properties across the whole UK, at a total cost of GBP4bn, the Treasury said.

Political editor Andrew Woodcock has more details: Samuel Osborne5 January 2021 09:21

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End-of-year exams could be cancelled in favour of alternative styles of assessment, Gove says

Michael Gove suggested that end-of-year exams for pupils will be abolished in favour of alternative styles of assessment following the new lockdown. Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether A-levels and GCSEs in England are cancelled, the former education secretary said: “Yes.”

He added: “My own daughter is due to sit A-levels this year, my son due to sit GCSEs – I know how hard students across the country between Years 11 and 13 have been working. “We will be putting in place alternative arrangements in order to make sure that the hard work that students have put in to acquire knowledge and develop their skills is appropriately assessed, recognised and awarded.” Mr Gove said the full details are being worked out between Ofqual and the education secretary, Gavin Williamson.

He added: “One of the things about assessment is that it necessarily involves those students doing particular tasks which teachers will assess. Whether or not they are moderated in a particular fashion by particular awarding bodies or others is a delicate process.” Samuel Osborne5 January 2021 09:08

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Concerns raised cancer surgeries could be cancelled

Professor Neil Mortensen, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, raised concerns about the prospect of cancer surgeries being cancelled.

He told Times Radio: “Over the weekend we talked about a slow-motion car crash, but I think it’s getting much worse than that now. “My colleagues in London doing ward rounds, for example, report that there are problems with staff numbers on the wards, staff numbers in theatres. “And then of course if you need to go to the intensive care unit, if the intensive care unit is full of Covid patients there’s no room for you.

“So it’s a really serious situation and, obviously, the less-priority operations have already stopped in many places – hips, knees, ENT (ear nose and throat) procedures. “We’re now concerned about operations like cancer surgeries being cancelled or postponed because there just isn’t the capacity to be able to manage them.” He added: “I think if you have a delayed operation for cancer that may have an effect.

“If you come in from a road traffic accident and you’re seriously ill, and you need to go to an intensive care unit afterwards and there is no intensive care unit, that’s going to have serious consequences. “And that’s why everybody is so concerned right now that we are properly locked down, that we’re as far as we possibly can reducing the transmission of the virus, and making it possible for what facilities we do have to carry on working effectively to keep people alive.” Samuel Osborne5 January 2021 08:50

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Alcohol takeaways to be banned in England until mid-February

All restaurants, pubs and other hospitality settings must close their doors to customers from tomorrow under the new rules announced by the prime minister in a televised statement from 10 Downing Street, political editor Andrew Woodcock reports. 

But in a tightening of the restrictions imposed under tier 4 of the PM’s regionalised system, while restaurants will be able to sell food and soft drinks for delivery, click-and-collect and takeaway, venues will no longer be able to serve takeaway or click-and-collect alcohol. Samuel Osborne5 January 2021 08:28

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Labour leader backs new lockdown

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he will back the new national lockdown in England. When asked on BBC Breakfast if the new restrictions were what he had in mind when he called for another lockdown, Sir Keir said: “Yes, it is what we had in mind and we will back it.

“It was inevitable we needed a national set of restrictions. That’s why I called for it.” He said that it was now a race against time to ramp up the national vaccination programme.

“We are in a race against time now. We have got a contract with the British people to say these are tough restrictions, in return for that the government has got to roll out the vaccination programme at speed and accelerate that. “This is a huge challenge and I think we need to pull together.”

Samuel Osborne5 January 2021 08:15

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