New local lockdown restrictions and tough new fines for failing to self-isolate come into force across parts of the UK today.
People across England will be legally required to self-isolate from this week if they test positive for coronavirus or are contacted by the test and trace service. If they do not they risk being hit with new fines starting at £1,000 and increasing up to £10,000 for repeat offenders or serious breaches, the Government said.
Under new rules in England wedding ceremonies will also be restricted to 15 people from Monday. Meanwhile, three more council areas in South Wales will go into local lockdown from 6pm on Monday, the Welsh Government announced. Bans on households mixing came into force in Wigan, Stockport, Blackpool and Leeds on Saturday.
It comes amid reports the Government is planning an “emergency ban” on socialising across London and north England to curb the spread of coronavirus. Under the plans being considered, all pubs, restaurants and bars would be ordered to shut for two weeks initially, and households would also be banned indefinitely from meeting each other indoors.
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Downing Street refuses to rule out introducing further coronavirus restrictions
Downing Street did not rule out introducing further restrictions to limit the spread of coronavirus, including imposing a two-week “circuit break” and a ban on social mixing.
Asked about reported plans, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “There’s nothing new beyond the position that was set out by the Prime Minister on Tuesday. We’ve said that we may require to take additional steps particularly in areas of high prevalence.”
Asked about London, he said there was “no update” since the capital being added to the list of areas of concern.
New national measures were not being anticipated this week, but any sudden change in the number of coronavirus cases could change this.
Downing Street rejects calls to review 10pm curfew
Downing Street has rejected calls to immediately review the 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants in England.
Asked if the restriction would be reconsidered, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “No. I would obviously say we keep all of our social distancing measures under review but no there’s nothing in that regard.”
The spokesman said there are existing rules around how off-licences serve the public during the pandemic when asked about concerns of them being busy after the curfew time.
And he suggested changing the time to allow more flexibility for a staggering of exit times from pubs was not being considered.
He said: “I’m not aware of anything specific in that regard. The decision to reduce time to 10pm was based on the fact it had been in operation in the local lockdown areas and had been considered to strike the right balance.”
The spokesman said there was a “particular media focus around Liverpool” with regards to crowded streets when pubs called time at the deadline on Saturday.
He pointed towards a statement from Merseyside Police Superintendent Chris Gibson who said images of a “spontaneous gathering around a local street performer” did not “reflect the overall behaviour of people in Liverpool this weekend”.
Downing Street unable to judge whether rule of six is working
Downing Street has said it is unable to judge whether the rule of six was working to suppress the coronavirus spread, two weeks after if was introduced.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “What you continue to see in the statistics that have been published in recent days is that infection rates are rising across the country and in all age groups.
“We have introduced a package of measures over the course of recent weeks and the intention of those is to bring the virus under control.”
Asked if the rule introduced on September 14 was not working, he said: “I don’t think we’re in a position to be able to say that. I think it takes a minimum of two weeks to be able to start to see the impact of measures which we have introduced.”
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Rising number of Covid-19 cases in hospitals must be taken ‘seriously’, Sturgeon says
Nicola Sturgeon also warned that the rise in cases in hospital must be taken seriously.
She said: “I still occasionally hear some people say that the rises in cases we’ve seen in recent weeks is nothing to worry about because the number of people in hospital is not rising as steeply.
“I certainly concede that it is not as high at this stage as it was earlier in the year and long may that continue, we don’t want to see it go back to those levels, but the number of people in hospital is rising and nobody should be under any illusion about that.
“On September 15, which was the day we changed the definition of a Covid hospital case to make it more accurate, we reported 48 people in hospital, today less than two weeks later the number I’ve just reported to you is 122 so you can see the rise that has taken place.
“Back then on September 15, six people were in ICU and today that number is 16.”
She added: “We have to take this rise in cases seriously and do all of the things that are being asked of all of us to try and stem that rise and bring Covid back under control.
“Because just as was the case earlier this year, not getting Covid back under control will result in lives that are lost and none of us want to see that.”
Sturgeon thanks students for following lockdown rules
Nicola Sturgeon said a “big thank you” to students, saying that it’s clear the “vast majority” of them had followed the rules over the weekend on not meeting other households indoors and had followed the advice on staying away from pubs, cafes and restaurants.
She said: “Sticking to guidelines like that isn’t easy especially in the early days of a university term but it will make a difference.
“The incubation period for this virus means I am absolutely sure that we will continue to see increased numbers of infections amongst students for several days to come and there will always be a need for vigilance.
“But the responsibility that has been shown over the past few days will help our efforts to stem this spread and I want to say thank you for that.”
The First Minister said that many students will be concerned about Christmas, but said the rules may have changed by then depending on the course of the pandemic.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Don’t assume that the rules in place now for home visits will still apply at Christmas.
“We review the rules every three weeks and that’s why we cannot provide specific guidance for Christmas right now because that will of course depend on the course of the pandemic but I want to be very clear that it is absolutely our priority to make sure students can go home for Christmas as I know everybody will want to do.”
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Online learning should become ‘norm’ for university students, union says
The Prime Minister has been urged to ensure online learning “becomes the norm” for university students.
In a letter to Boris Johnson, the University and College Union (UCU) claimed university employers were “hiding behind the Government’s current sectoral guidance, with all the ambiguities associated with the term ‘blended learning’”.
It added: “Whilst other sectors are being encouraged by the Government to work from home to help control the spread of the virus, universities are requiring staff to travel across their local regions to work on-site and in-person with any number of students.
“Considering the known risks associated with in-person teaching and students living in close quarters, why did the Government not insist on minimising in-person teaching and students travelling to universities?
“We have concerns that universities are taking this stubborn position because they depend on rents from student accommodation – and because your own Government refuses to step in and underwrite universities’ lost income for the duration of the pandemic to ensure they are not negatively impacted and jobs are not lost.”
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Government should ‘step up’ testing to ensure students can return home for Christmas
The Government should “step up” testing capacity to help ensure university students can return home for Christmas, the shadow education secretary has said.
Appearing on Sky News, Kate Green said: “Students will desperately want to be able to go home to be with friends and family at Christmas.
“And, of course, it’s right that we all have a part to play in keeping distance and keeping safe.
“But the real key to this is getting the mass testing rolled out so that students can be tested, we can know if somebody is testing positive and make sure that they are isolated and don’t travel.
“But it would mean the other students would be able to get back home for Christmas and that’s why the Government needs to step up too and make sure that that testing capacity is available.”
Shadow education secretary apologises for coronavirus pandemic comments
Shadow education secretary Kate Green has apologised for comments relating to the Covid-19 pandemic in which she said the Labour Party should not “let a good crisis go to waste”.
Appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, she said: “That was the wrong thing to say. I regret it. I know it will have caused pain and offence to people who’ve suffered under this terrible pandemic and I should not have said that.
“What I would say is that the crisis has exposed all sorts of things about our economy and about the pressure on our public services that we’ve got to learn from, we have to learn the lessons of this pandemic.”
She added: “I apologise profusely for those comments, they were the wrong thing to say and I’m particularly ashamed that people should feel that I was seeking to make political capital out of a crisis.”
University students ‘trapped’ in ‘disgusting conditions’ while self-isolating – NUS
Students self-isolating at universities are “trapped” in “disgusting conditions”, the president of the National Union of Students (NUS) has said.
Appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Larissa Kennedy said: “I’m hearing from some students across the country where there are security guards outside of these blocks where students are being kept, stopping people from leaving, coming and going, where students are being discouraged from getting deliveries and told by the university that they’ll deliver food and that delivery has not arrived and so they’ve gone for the day without food.
“I’ve heard from other students who, they’ve turned up with an amount of toilet roll, told with no notice that they’re going to be locked down and wondering where the next roll of toilet roll is coming from.
“It just feels like these are disgusting conditions for students to have been trapped in.”