UK coronavirus LIVE: Boris Johnson says country has 'moral duty' to reopen schools as minister says virus 'unlikely to spread in classrooms'

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  • August 10, 2020
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Boris Johnson has said the UK has a “moral duty” to get children back to the classroom in September amid widespread calls for him to boost coronavirus testing and tracing to help with the safe reopening of schools.

On a visit to a school in east London on Monday, the Prime Minister said it was the “right thing” for youngsters go back to lessons, adding that social distancing, bubbling and staggered start times would help to keep schools “Covid secure”.

Teachers, scientists, opposition politicians and the children’s commissioner for England Anne Longfield have all called for improvements to testing before pupils return, but Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said there is little evidence of the virus spreading in classrooms.

Meanwhile the travel industry is urging the government to reconsider its two week self-isolation policy for holidaymakers returning from countries such as Belgium and Spain as coronavirus cases continue to rise in these European countries.

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WHO director believes a ‘safe and effective’ coronavirus vaccine will be found

Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies programme, said that he believed a safe and effective vaccine would be found.

But he said even with a vaccine, there would still be challenges. “I believe we will get vaccines that are both safe and effective,” he said.

“The challenge is going to be scaling up to production, allocating those vaccines in a way that does the most good around the world, stops this virus to the greatest extent possible, paying for all of that and preparing national systems to deliver this.

“We have perfectly effective polio vaccines, perfectly effective measles vaccines and we still struggle to eradicate or eliminate disease.

“So having an effective vaccine is only part of the answer. You have to have enough of that vaccine, the right people have got to have access to that vaccine and you’ve got to be able to deliver that vaccine to a population that want and demand to have that vaccine.”


Global death toll from Covid-19 to surpass 750,000 this week, says WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) also said the number of virus cases around the world will reach 20 million.

The grim milestones come as the global health body praised the UK and France for “strong and precise measures” to stamp out the virus.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, also urged countries to “suppress, suppress, suppress” the virus.

He told a virtual press briefing: “This week we will reach 20 million registered cases of Covid-19 and 750,000 deaths.

“Behind these statistics is a great deal of pain and suffering. Every life lost matters.”

He said that as countries reopen, segments of society, including schools, “they must remain vigilant for potential clusters of the virus”.


Australia reports highest daily death total since the coronavirus outbreak began

But Australia also reported the the smallest number of new daily cases in its virus hotspot, Melbourne, since last month.

The state of Victoria – of which Melbourne is the capital – reported 322 new infections and 19 new deaths on Monday, with 14 of the deaths connected to outbreaks at care homes.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was more hopeful now that cases are stabilising in Victoria than he has been at any time over the past week.

But state premier Daniel Andrews warned that not too much could be read into a single day’s worth of data, and that some of the state’s most stringent lockdown measures had only come into effect at midnight on Sunday.

The number of new cases was the lowest recorded in Victoria since July 29. The figures did not include new infections and deaths from other Australian states, although Victoria has been accounting for the vast majority of both in recent weeks.

Members of the Australian Defence Force walk through Fitzroy Gardens in Melbourne (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)


PM’s spokesman responds to queries that France could be added to UK quarantine list

Asked if France could be added to the quarantine list, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We keep the data for all countries and territories under constant review.

“Any decisions to update the exemptions list will be informed by the latest health data and we can and will act rapidly. We have been updating the exemptions list on a weekly basis in order to make sure that it reflects the changes in the international health picture.”

He added: “If there is a need to act very rapidly in order to protect public health, then we wouldn’t hesitate to do so.”

He went on: “Unfortunately, during this pandemic there isn’t a risk-free way of travelling overseas. The population’s made a huge effort to get the disease down to the levels that we’re seeing in the UK and if we feel that we need to act in relation to the travel exemptions list then we’ll do so.”

He continued: “While we can amend the list at any time and we can remove countries from the exempt list, if there’s a sustained improvement in the health situation in a particular country we can reinstate exemptions or add some new ones.”


Mask rule a ‘welcome kick up the backside’ in fight against Covid-19 – shopper

A new rule making face coverings mandatory in shops has been welcomed in a Belfast neighbourhood as a “welcome kick up the backside”.

From Monday, masks were required to enter enclosed public spaces with a limited number of exceptional circumstances amid the ongoing battle against coronavirus.

It has been welcomed by both shoppers and retailers on the Belmont Road in east Belfast. Anna McCartney said she thought the rule enforcing the wearing of masks was sensible.

“It’s being sensible, I think it is the right thing to do,” she said. “None of us want to do it but it really is the right thing to do.”

Mark Thompson, whose partner is a health worker, said he has been wearing a mask since the start of the pandemic and is glad that more will doing the same.

“I think it’s a bit irresponsible if you don’t wear a mask, specifically in shops,” he said. “I can understand it on the pavement as long as you keep social distancing.”

Business owners said so far most customers had been happy to comply. Lisa Drennan of the Just For You card and gift shop said:  “If everyone plays their part, hopefully we won’t get this second wave, and with people wearing masks, at least we feel more protected as staff members.”


Apologise to teacher over exam marks row, Sturgeon urged

Ian Murray, shadow secretary of state for Scotland, called on Ms Sturgeon to apologise to teachers directly following the exam results row.

He tweeted: “What about an apology to the hard-working teachers that the FM blamed last week? Or to those young people who have lost conditional uni places. Without the no confidence motion placed this would never have changed.

“Let’s see the detail tomorrow in Parliament rather press event.”


Four of London’s biggest pantos postponed to 2021 amid theatre uncertainty


Four of the biggest pantomimes in London will not go ahead this year because of uncertainty over when indoor performances can resume without social distancing.

Hackney Empire, Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch and Theatre Royal Stratford East have all announced they will not be producing their annual pantomimes this year and will postpone until 2021.

Last year the four festive shows at those theatres were attended by more than 145,000 people, including more than 40,500 schoolchildren.

The fours shows usually employ more than 285 freelance artists, including writers, directors, designers, actors, technicians and stage management.

The production process for such large-scale pantomimes would have begun at the start of August and the theatres have said that without an announced date from the Government on when theatre performances can resume without social distancing to make the productions economically viable, they will have to postpone.


Nicola Sturgeon apologises for how exam results were dealt with during pandemic

Ms Sturgeon said pupils who had their recent exam results downgraded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority will not all be expected to appeal.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing, the First Minister apologised for how exam results were dealt with.

She said: “I do acknowledge that we did not get this right and I am sorry for that.”


Nicola Sturgeon provides update on Aberdeen virus outbreak

Ms Sturgeon said there have been 231 coronavirus cases in Aberdeen since the start of the local outbreak on July 26.

Of these, 157 were linked to the Covid-19 cluster and 852 contacts have been identified.


Scotland has recorded 29 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, says Nicola Sturgeon

The figure is down 19 from the 48 confirmed on Sunday and takes the total people in Scotland who have tested positive for the virus to 19,027.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s regular coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said no deaths have been recorded of patients who tested positive for coronavirus in the previous 28 days.

There have been no deaths under this measure for 25 consecutive days, with this total remaining at 2,491. Of the people who tested positive, 267 are in hospital – up six from the previous day.

Of these, three were in intensive care, no change.


Irish meat plant urged to close amid efforts to suppress coronavirus spike

A Co Offaly meat factory that has been hit by a Covid-19 outbreak has been urged to close amid tightened coronavirus restrictions in the Irish Midlands.

Three plants impacted by the virus in the three county area covered by the localised infection control steps have halted operations.

The spike in cases that prompted the restrictions in Offaly, Kildare and Laois have been linked to outbreaks in meat processing factories.

The intensified focus on the plants came as coverings became mandatory in shops across Ireland on Monday, with those breaching the laws potentially facing up to a 2,500 euro fine or six months in prison.

Carroll Cuisine in Tullamore was open on Monday morning. Nine staff members had previously tested positive for Covid-19.

The company said 200-plus employees were tested for the virus on Sunday and the situation had not escalated. It said a deep clean was also being carried out.

The Covid-19 testing facility in Tullamore, Co Offaly (PA)


WHO director general praises UK government’s decision to implement local lockdowns

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organisation, praised the decision to implement local lockdowns in the UK.

He told a virtual press briefing that the number of cases of Covid-19 around the world will reach 20 million cases this week and the global death toll will reach 750,000.

“Over the last few days, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson put areas of northern England under stay at home notifications as clusters of cases were identified,” he said.

“In France, President Emmanuel Macron introduced compulsory masking in busy outdoor spaces of Paris in response to an increase in cases. Strong and precise measures like these, in combination with utilising every tool at our disposal, are key to preventing any resurgence in Covid-19 and allowing societies to be reopened safely.”


Shopper numbers on the rise after launch of Eat Out to Help Out scheme

Shopper numbers across all British retail destinations rose by 3.8% in the week to August 8 after the government launched its Eat Out to Help Out scheme, according to data from researcher Springboard.

The government scheme aims to help restaurants offer 50 per cent discounts on food and soft drinks every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in August. The reduction will cap at £10, and the government will reimburse the restaurants for all the discounts. 

Springboard said shopper numbers remained more than a third lower than in 2019, with a year-on-year decline of 34%.


Government will ‘not hesitate’ to impose quarantines where necessary, says PM

Boris Johnson has said ministers will “not hesitate” to impose a quarantine system for travellers from other countries to the UK if needed.

The Prime Minister said:

I don’t want to advise people about their individual holidays, individual decisions, they should look at the travel advice from the Foreign Office clearly.

But what I will say, and I hope people would expect us to do this, in the context of a global pandemic, we’ve got to keep looking at the data in all the countries to which British people want to travel.

Where it is necessary to impose restrictions or to impose a quarantine system, we will not hesitate to do so.

It’s been a huge effort for the entire population of this country to get the disease down to the levels that we are currently seeing, but we do not want reinfection and that’s why we’ve got to keep a very, very close eye on the data in destinations around the world.”


Boris Johnson tries out his archery skills during a visit to the Premier Education Summer Camp at Sacred Heart of Mary Girl’s School, Upminster



Boris Johnson ‘very keen’ for exams to go ahead as normal next year

The Prime Minister said he understood the anxiety felt by pupils waiting for results after exams were cancelled and said he was “very keen” to get back to normal assessments in the coming school year.

“I’m very, very keen that exams should go ahead as normal. Exams are a vital part of our education and I thank all the teachers for all the preparations they are making,” he told reporters during a visit to a school in east London.

“Clearly, because of what has happened this year, there is some anxiety about what grades pupils are going to get, and everybody understands the system that the teachers are setting the grades, then there’s a standardisation system.

“We will do our best to ensure that the hard work of pupils is properly reflected.”

The prime minister met with head teacher, Bernadette Matthews at St Josephs Catholic School in Upminster (Lucy Young)


Boris Johnson says he hopes schools will not be forced to close as a result of local action

The Prime Minister, who was visiting a school in east London, said: “I very much hope that doesn’t happen for any pupils but clearly what we are doing – the way we are trying to manage the Covid pandemic – is to have local measures in place and local test and trace to introduce restrictions where that’s necessary.

“But, as we have all said, the last thing we want to do is to close schools.

“We think that education is the priority for the country and that is simple social justice.”