Saturday, February 27, 2021

UK Covid live: school reopening in England could be staggered by region, says medical chief | Politics


21% of primary school pupils in England in school last week, latest figures show


Nicola Sturgeon also insisted that the reason why Scotland’s vaccine figures were overall lower than England’s is because her government made a deliberate decision to focus first on elderly care home residents. She told the Scottish parliament:

Vaccinating in care homes – for obvious reasons – is more time consuming and labour intensive than doing so in the community, and this is why overall figures are at this stage lower than in England, where more over-80s generally but a lower proportion of care home residents have so far received the vaccine.

However, doctors’ leaders have continued to raise serious concerns about patchy roll-out, with patients getting anxious and practices frustrated at lack of supply and bureaucracy involved for those who have volunteered to help administer the vaccine.

Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in the Scottish parliament, did not get a clear answer when she asked Sturgeon why Scotland had been allocated 700,000 doses and yet 400,000 doses appeared to be awaiting distribution to the frontline.

Sturgeon insisted that the pace of progress in the over 80s group is now picking up, and the target that everyone else in JCVI groups 1 & 2 – all care home residents and over-80s – to have been offered the first dose would be met by the start of February.

She said that by the middle of February she expected to have completed first doses for all over 70s, and for all those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, and that first doses for over 65s would be completed by the start of March, with first doses to everyone on the JCVI priority list by early May. She went on:

That means that in around 3 months’ time, around 3 million people in total will have received at least the first dose of the vaccine – this is, of course, the majority of the adult population and includes everyone over the age of 50, and many younger people with an underlying health condition.

Scotland’s lockdown to continue until at least middle of February, says Sturgeon

Scotland’s lockdown will continue until “at least the middle of February”, Nicola Sturgeon has told the Scottish parliament, with no definite date for a full return to schools and nurseries.

Acknowledging how “difficult, distressing and damaging” the ongoing disruption to early years care and schooling has been, Sturgeon said that her cabinet’s “reluctant judgment” was that community transmission of the virus was too high, and likely to remain so for the next period, to allow a safe return to school on at the start of February.

Except for vulnerable and key worker children, school and nursery premises will remain closed until mid-February at the earliest.

Sturgeon said that there was some evidence that restrictions – including the strict stay-at-home requirement – were beginning to have an impact, even against the faster-spreading variant, but that these trends needed to continue before any relaxation of lockdown could be considered.

Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish parliament.

Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish parliament. Photograph: Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish parliament


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The Welsh health minister, Vaughan Gething, has accepted that citizens have been unsettled by the suggestion that the distribution of coronavirus vaccines in Wales is being staggered, but insisted that no doses are being held back.

Gething promised by the end of the week seven out of 10 care home residents and people aged over 80 would have received their first doses and argued Wales remained on course to meet its target of vaccinating all members of the top four priority groups by mid-February.

The Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, faced severe criticism yesterday after saying the deployment of tens of thousands of Pfizer/BioNTech jabs was being staggered to avoid staff sitting around with nothing to do once the country got through its current supply.

Doctors’ representatives, opposition politicians and people waiting for the vaccine expressed deep concern and called for the Labour-led government to speed up its distribution. Drakeford rowed back later, insisting “nobody is holding back vaccines” and claiming all Welsh health boards were receiving the Pfizer vaccine as quickly as they could use it.

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales today, Gething said he understood why Drakeford’s original interview had an “unsettling effect” but that the first minister and other members of the government had clarified the message. He said:

We’re not holding vaccine back. We’re absolutely going as fast as possible. We’re doing a good job in increasing the pace. We need to. This is a race against the virus.

School reopening in England likely to be staggered on regional basis, says health chief

Schools are likely to see a phased reopening, based on region, rather than in one fell swoop with a lifting of lockdown, according to England’s deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries.

She told MPs on the education committee that where infection rates were already dropping in areassuch as London, schools were likely to reopen sooner than elsewhere in the country, depending on infection levels.

There was also lots of good evidence on the disastrous impact of school closures on children’s health and wellbeing, a strong defence of the role of lateral flow tests in schools and a call for schools to be allowed to gradually reopen, while the rest of society remains in lockdown as soon as infection levels allow.


Health chief defends use of later flow tests in schools, saying they are ‘highly effective’

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