Coronavirus news UK update – A Levels and GCSEs SCRAPPED for 2021 as schools told testing & masks won't be compulsory

SCHOOLS won't have to enforce face masks or carry out regular testing on pupils, it was revealed today.

Speaking to Good Morning Britain this morning, education minister Nick Gibb said twice-weekly testing will not be compulsory for pupils to go to school in England but remains “highly recommended”.

With pupils returning to schools in March 8, Gibb confirmed a "no test, no school" policy is not in place but said he hopes the majority of students will volunteer to test themselves at home twice a week before coming in to school.

"No, they’re not compulsory but we highly recommend it, it’s everybody doing everything we can to identify asymptomatic cases of Covid, helping to reduce the transmission," he said.

"The first three tests will be taken in the school that will show the students how to do it most effectively and it’s the students themselves that will do it at home with supervision by their parents," he added.

Meanwhile, normal summer exams have been ditched and teachers will instead decide what results students get, with the help of voluntary "mini" subject tests.

And already falling covid rates are expected to tumble even faster after the first large-scale peer-reviewed study of the real-world effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine found a second dose dramatically boosted protection.

The study by Israel's Clalit Research Institute was carried out in collaboration with researchers from Harvard University and published in the highly-respected New England Journal of Medicine earlier this week.

It found two Pfizer doses reduced symptomatic covid by a whopping 94% and severe illness by 92%, while one dose reduced symptomatic covid by 57% and severe disease by 62% three weeks after the jab was given. 

Follow our coronavirus live blog below for the very latest news and updates on the pandemic

  • Joseph Gamp

    FOUR FINED £200 EACH FOR HOT TUB GARDEN PARTY IN COVID LOCKDOWN BREACH

    FOUR lockdown flouters have fined £200 each after being caught at a hot tub garden party.

    The revellers were enjoying a soak at a birthday bash in Nottingham when cops showed up.

    They were each slapped with a £200 fine or breaking Covid laws after the brazen breach on Saturday night.

    Nottingham Police said the group were "celebrating a birthday and enjoying the use of a hot tub in the back garden" when they bust in.

    Read more here.

  • Joseph Gamp

    CASE RATES IN ENGLAND CONTINUING TO FALL AMONG ALL AGE GROUPS, SAYS PHE

    Case rates in England are also continuing to fall among all age groups, Public Health England said.

    The highest rate is among 30 to 39-year-olds, which stood at 174.4 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to February 21, down week-on-week from 197.6.

    Among 20 to 29-year-olds the rate dropped from 178.0 to 157.3, and for 40 to 49-year-olds it fell from 166.9 to 144.6.

    For people aged 80 and over, the rate fell from 133.7 to 98.6.

  • Joseph Gamp

    MAPPED: THE EU'S VACCINE SHAMBLES

  • Joseph Gamp

    MAN STABBED WIFE AND DAUGHTER TO DEATH THEN SET HIMSELF ON FIRE DURING FIRST LOCKDOWN, INQUEST HEARS

    A quantity surveyor stabbed his wife and daughter to death before setting himself and their house on fire at the height of the first coronavirus lockdown, an inquest has heard, with the reason remaining a mystery.

    Gary Walker, 57, killed 50-year-old Caroline Walker and 24-year-old Katie Walker at the family home in Stuarts Close in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, on March 29 last year.

    Housewife Mrs Walker, who had previously been a supervisor at Waitrose but had not worked for the last five years, suffered 39 stab wounds and kennel assistant Miss Walker 38. Both had defensive injuries to their arms.

    Detective Constable Jason Rice, of the Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire Major Crime Unit, told Thursday's hearing in Hatfield that, after the attacks, Mr Walker fetched two bottles of highly flammable paintbrush cleaner from a garden shed.

    He then returned to the house and appeared to have doused himself in the fluid and set himself alight using a gas hob igniter, Mr Rice said.

  • Joseph Gamp

    GRAPHIC: DAILY COVID-19 CASES IN FRANCE AND GERMANY

  • Joseph Gamp

    DOWNING STREET CONFIRMS PUBS WITHOUT GARDENS CAN SERVE TAKEAWAY PINTS FROM APRIL 12

    Downing Street has confirmed that pubs will be able to serve takeaway drinks from April 12, in a potential boost for bars without gardens.

    The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "Outdoor hospitality is permitted so I believe it would be the case that takeaway alcohol will be permitted."

  • Claudia Aoraha

    FRANCE AND GERMANY TO GO INTO NEW LOCKDOWN

    France and Germany are now both braced for further Covid lockdowns after they shunned the Oxford vaccine.

    It comes as a German virologist today revealed the country was sitting on a whopping 1.2 million Oxford jabs – after EU leaders repeatedly made baseless allegations about its efficacy.

    Angela Merkel today said a “third wave" of infections could sweep the country as it struggles with the jab rollout – as the UK counts down the days to freedom.

    Just four per cent of the German population has been immunised, compared to England's 27.4 per cent, according to the BBC.

  • Claudia Aoraha

    INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION NEEDED

    Europe's drugs regulator said on Thursday international cooperation over COVID-19 vaccines and treatments was required to respond to emerging variants of the virus, improve access to pregnant women and build confidence in vaccines.

    Health authorities from across the world including, Europe, the United States, Britain and Australia, met during the first few weeks of this year to address the evolving situation and rising infections.

  • Joseph Gamp

    CHART: UK COVID-19 VACCINATIONS

  • Joseph Gamp

    WATCH: QUARANTINE ‘COULD BE EXTENDED’ AFTER NEW STUDIES SUGGEST PEOPLE STAY INFECTED FOR 13 DAYS

    Quarantine ‘could be extended’ suggests Jenny Harries after new studies suggest people stay infected for 13 days

  • Joseph Gamp

    BREAKING: MORE TESTING TO BE ROLLED OUT IN EALING, WEST LONDON AFTER SOUTH AFRICA VARIANT FOUND

    Additional testing is to be rolled out in Ealing, west London after a "small number" of new cases of the South Africa coronavirus variant were found.

    The Department of Health and Social Care said: "Working in partnership with the London Borough of Ealing, additional testing and genomic sequencing is being deployed within the borough, where a small number of additional cases of the COVID-19 variant first identified in South Africa have been found.

    People living in the borough are "strongly encouraged" to take a COVID-19 test when offered, the DHSC said.

  • Joseph Gamp

    WHO SAYS BURDEN OF LONG COVID IS 'REAL AND SIGNIFICANT'

    The burden of long Covid "is real and it is significant", the World Health Organisation's Europe director has said as he urged countries to do more to tackle the issue.

    There are no precise figures for how many people suffer ongoing symptoms after a bout of Covid-19, but it is thought around one in 10 remain unwell after 12 weeks, and many for much longer, Dr Hans Kluge said.

    He told a briefing that as the pandemic had evolved, professionals and patients "have mapped a path in the dark" and stories of people with ongoing "debilitating symptoms" have emerged.

    "Regrettably, some were met with disbelief, or lack of understanding," he said, adding that disability following coronavirus infection can linger for months "with severe social, economic, health and occupational consequences".

    He added: "We need to listen and we need to understand. The sufferers of post-Covid conditions need to be heard if we are to understand the long-term consequences and recovery from Covid-19."

  • Joseph Gamp

    COVID ROUND UP: KEY POINTS FOR SCHOOLS RETURN ON MARCH 8

    The education secretary outlined in the House of Commons how kids will get back to school, including:

    • £200million extra cash for secondary schools for summer schools
    • Face coverings for kids in classrooms until at least Easter – where it will then be reviewed
    • Two tests a week for kids – the first two at home
    • More than 4 million tests have already been completed across primary, secondary schools, colleges and universities
    • Primary school staff will still get two tests a week, but the kids won't have them
    • Staggered start times at schools and bubble groups will continue to keep them safe
    • Ministers confirmed face masks and Covid tests aren't mandatory for students

    FATHER OF AUTISTIC TEENAGER WARNS HOTEL QUARANTINE IS DAMAGING SON'S HEALTH

    The father of a teenager with autism who is quarantining in a hotel at Heathrow has said the experience has left his son depressed, physically unwell and unable to eat properly.

    Nelio Salles De Siqueira, a chef from Peckham in south London, said 16-year-old Caique Pires Salles will barely leave his bed after being forced to stay at the Holiday Inn near the airport following their return to the UK from Brazil.

    Mr Salles De Siqueira travelled to Brazil with his wife and son to attend a family funeral and, while they were there, new rules on quarantining for people returning to England from red list countries were introduced.

    Before coming home, the family tried to find out if it would be possible to get an exemption from the hotel stay because of the effect it would have on Caique's wellbeing, but were unable to find anybody who could help.

    Mr Salles De Siqueira told PA: "We got notes from his psychiatrist, from his school saying it's psychologically unhealthy, because his mental health is not great. But even like that, nobody would listen."

    ALMOST 70,000 FINES HANDED OUT FOR COVID BREACHES

    Almost 70,000 fines have been handed out by police for breaches of Covid-19 laws since they came into force, with more than 6,000 issued in a single week, new figures show.

    Data published by the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) on Thursday shows a total of 68,952 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) were issued by forces, including 63,201 in England and 5,751 in Wales, between March 27 last year and February 14.

    The report said steep rises in the number of tickets handed out following the introduction of Tier 4 restrictions before Christmas and the latest national lockdown in England on January 4 reflected a move towards quicker enforcement by police.

    A total of 4,752 fines were handed out in the seven days to February 11, down from 6,218 the previous week, but higher than the first lockdown's peak of 3,294 during the week of the Easter bank holiday in April.

    • Joseph Gamp

      RISHI SUNAK URGED TO GIVE BRITS FREE HIGH STREET VOUCHERS AS PART OF 'SHOP OUT TO HELP OUT' SCHEME

      Rishi Sunak has been urged to give Brits free high street vouchers in next week's budget as part of a 'Shop Out to Help Out' scheme.

      Influential think-tank The Resolution Foundation says the Chancellor must pump £30billion into business bailouts, furlough and a Shop Out to Help Out voucher scheme to aid the high street.

      Read more here.

    • Joseph Gamp

      1.7 MILLION RAPID TESTS ADMINISTERED IN ENGLAND LAST WEEK

      A total of 1,756,402 lateral flow device (LFD) tests for Covid-19, or rapid tests, were conducted in England in the week to February 17, according to the latest Test and Trace figures.

      This is down from a record 2,401,651 rapid tests in the previous week.

      The Department of Health said the drop coincided with school half-term holidays.

      LFD tests are swab tests that give results in 30 minutes or less, without the need for processing in a laboratory.

      By contrast, 1,116,433 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests were conducted in the week to February 17. PCR tests are swab tests that are processed in a laboratory.

    • Joseph Gamp

      FRANCE TO SEND 10K PFIZER VACCINES TO CZECH REPUBLIC

      France will provide 100,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to the Czech Republic by mid-March, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis told CTK news agency on Thursday.

      The Czech Republic has been struggling with resurgent COVID-19 pandemic in the past weeks, ranking among the worst-hit countries in the world in terms of infections and deaths from the global pandemic.

    • Joseph Gamp

      BRIT OFFICE WORKERS COULD BE CHECKED BY ‘FEVER CAMERAS’

      Office workers in Britain may be checked by fever cameras to stop the spread of Covid.

      Workers have been told they should expect to continue to work from home until at least June under Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown.

      Read more here.

    • Joseph Gamp

      SIGNIFICANT DROP IN NUMBER OF GP APPOINTMENTS BOOKED IN JANUARY

      The estimated total number of GP appointments in England dropped by nearly 14% in January compared to the previous year, new data shows.

      Experimental figures from NHS Digital, published on Thursday, show that an estimated 24.0 million GP appointments were estimated to have taken place in England in January 2021 compared to 27.9 in January 2020.

      The total number of appointments recorded in GP practice systems increased from 23,759,106 in December to 23,776,396 in January – a rise of 0.1%. This is a drop compared to the same period last year, when there was a 15% increase seen from December to January.

      NHS Digital said this was likely to be due to the third national lockdown in England, which was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on January 4.

      The data from December 2020 onwards also contains appointments related to Covid-19 vaccinations, NHS Digital said.

    • Joseph Gamp

      AMSTERDAM TIGHTENS RULES AS WARM WEATHER DRAWS OUT DUTCH SUN SEEKERS

      Amsterdam is restricting access to a large park after thousands of people gathered there Wednesday, many of them flouting social distancing rules.

      With warm spring weather in the Netherlands expected to continue through much of Thursday, the side entrances to Amsterdams Vondelpark will be closed and City Hall says it is closely monitoring the main gates.

      The municipality says if it gets too busy in the lawns and ponds close to the citys museums neighborhood then the park will be completely closed. The city says it will not accept deliberate breaches of the rules with all the ensuing risks to public health.

      The Netherlands has been in a tough lockdown since mid-December. Public support for the measures has been eroding in recent weeks as numbers of infections have steadily declined.

      Despite a rise in infections over the past week, the government on Tuesday announced that high school students will be allowed back to their classrooms starting next Monday for at least one day per week. Businesses such as hair and beauty salons also will reopen.

    • Joseph Gamp

      TRAINEE TEACHERS COULD RUN SUMMER SCHOOLS

      Trainee teachers and new graduates could run the summer schools that are being funded, the Government has suggested.

      Asked who would facilitate the extra catch-up sessions during the holidays, schools minister Nick Gibb told Sky News: “We want them run from schools but the reason why there is funding is to enable the schools to be able to employ people to be able to run those summer schools – we want a summer of activities.

      “There are a whole raft of people who will be able to come in – young graduates, people who are training to be teachers, retired teachers – that is a matter for the school to decide.

      “But we are providing £200 million to enable schools to run those summer schools, and that is on top of all the other measures.”

    • Joseph Gamp

      BORIS JOHNSON HAILS 'FAIR AND FLEXIBLE' SCHOOL SYSTEM

      The Prime Minister tweeted this morning: "This fair and flexible system will ensure all young people can progress to the next stage of their education or career."

    • Joseph Gamp

      RISHI SUNAK TO EXTEND FURLOUGH AND UNIVERSAL CREDIT SUPPORT

      The Chancellor is set to extend furlough and the Universal Credit uplift – but painful tax hikes are on the cards too.

      Insiders have described the Budget next week as a sandwich of good and bad news for families.

      Read more here.

    • Joseph Gamp

      BORIS' ROADMAP OUT OF LOCKDOWN

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