Live UK coronavirus: Matt Hancock ‘incredibly worried’ about variant of South African covid

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Latest updates: health secretary says the new version is ‘an even bigger challenge’ while claiming that while considering another lockdown, the government would ‘rule nothing out’

Boris Johnson suggested yesterday that in the near future he would have to tighten coronavirus restrictions in England, although he implied that this was not yet a certainty.

In an interview with Andrew Marr of the BBC, he stated:

In the next few weeks, we will have to do stuff that will be… It will be harder in certain parts of the world… With that, I totally agree.

And I bet that this country’s people are reconciled to that.

He seems to have solidified his opinion this morning; tougher steps are now necessary, he said.

In an interview during a visit to north London’s Chase Farm Hospital, he said:

We already have a number of Tier 4 nations, some of them in Tier 3. What we’re waiting for is to see the effect on the virus from the Tier 4 steps.

Right now it is a little bit vague.

But I think if you look at the numbers, there’s no doubt that we’re going to have to take tougher steps, and in due course, we’re going to announce them.

I will share more of his interview shortly.

A new nationwide lockdown and the closing of both primary and special schools has been called for by the leader of Birmingham City Council.

In an interview with BBC WM, Ian Ward said that any principal who wishes not to open up to pupils for safety reasons will respect the authority. He was saying:

I don’t know, at the moment, how many elementary schools are not going to reopen, but we’re going to collect that data later this morning.

We encourage all elementary and special schools to perform a risk assessment to decide if the reopening for the spring semester is safe.

Birmingham City Council will assist the teaching staff in making this decision if this risk assessment concludes that it is not safe for schools to reopen.

For the week ending Dec. 29, Birmingham’s new case rate was 429 per 100,000 persons, a 36 percent rise. 568 cases per 100,000 people were registered in neighboring Wolverhampton.

Nearly 1,500 staff are currently off work at University Hospital Birmingham, with more than 43 percent of Covid-19 related absences.

According to the Birmingham Mail, 98% of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s ITU (intensive therapy unit) beds are occupied, and 100% of the City and Sandwell ITU beds.

Ward replied:

From London, we know that it will spread until the new version is in schools and then students will take the virus home.

So we are in a very, really serious situation, and the government needs to understand this and agree that elementary and special schools will have to close in all Tier 4 regions.

A joint statement was released by the three main teaching unions in England – the NEU, NASUWT and NAHT – and three major unions representing non-teaching workers in schools – the GMB, Unison and Unite – calling on the government to “pause” the reopening of schools while evaluating their protection with Covid.

It notes that:

The chaotic management of the opening of schools by the government has created uncertainty between teachers, school staff and parents alike.

When infection rates are so high, bringing all students back into classrooms puts education staff at significant risk of illness and could fuel the pandemic.

Unions also called for a break for those other than disadvantaged children and children of key employees to reopen classrooms, as well as a move to distance learning for everyone when updating Covid-backed job arrangements.

Priority access to Covid-19 vaccines should be provided to all school employees who continue to work in schools.

The Prime Minister should sit down with unions instead of casually claiming that schools are safe, to discuss a common approach to ensuring safe working arrangements in all schools and prioritize ensuring that all students have the equipment and access they need to receive a high standard of distance learning until they and the staff in their school can be safeguarded.

Frances O’Grady, Secretary General of the TUC, endorsed the proposal by saying:

The Sage government’s own advice (pdf) makes clear that opening schools to all pupils now risks increasing infection rates. This is in the interests of no one.

Rather than the production of chaos for parents and di

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