Great Britain

Coronavirus UK news update – Mass testing chaos feared when schools go back on March 8 as Williamson confirms exams axed

THERE is a fear of mass testing chaos when millions of pupils return to school on March 8.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson stressed that schools could have a few days to get all their children back in as they would need to organise dishing out the tests.

Secondary school kids are to be tested twice a week under fresh plans to get children back in the classroom from March 8 - with the first two done in schools.

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

Marks will not be pegged to previous years, meaning grade inflation could run wild if teachers are generous with their assessed grades.

Ministers are desperate to avoid a repeat of last year’s botched computer algorithm disaster, which saw a massive public outcry over some unfairly low marks.

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

  • WHEN CAN I GO ON HOLIDAYS TO WALES?

    The Welsh government is yet to give an official restart date for holidays, unlike Boris Johnson.

    Mark Drakeford said Wales' potential reopening of the tourism industry around Easter would include bed & breakfasts and hotels with room service as long as the accommodation is self-contained.

    This is yet to be officially confirmed.

  • ISOLATION FEAR

    Quarantine periods could be extended after studies showed the Kent Covid strain was infectious for longer, the deputy chief medical officer suggested last night.

    Jenny Harries said ministers were looking closely at fresh studies which revealed some people were infectious for up to 13 days - compared to eight for the old variant.

    At the moment people have to stay inside for 10 days when they come into the UK from a series of 'red list' countries, but there are fears this may no longer be enough to stop the disease from spreading.

    Ms Harries said the Government were looking closely at the issue and whether quarantine may need to be changed.

  • WEEKLY WELLBEING MEETINGS TO HELP EX-FOOTBALLERS WHO ARE LIVING WITH DEMENTIA

    Former players living with dementia will have the opportunity to reminisce about their careers with fellow ex-professionals as part of a new initiative supported by the Professional Footballers' Association Charity.

    The players' union is working with the Sporting Memories Foundation to set up weekly clubs, designed to boost the ex-pros' physical and mental health through the power of gentle exercise and sharing memories.

    Due to the coronavirus pandemic it is understood the sessions will be virtual for the time being.

    Susie Brindley, the chief operating officer of SMF, said: "We hear time and again from those who attend Sporting Memories Clubs that it becomes the highlight of their week, an anchor, and a time when they meet others in a relaxed environment where what they say is valued and given time.

    "Likewise, family members and carers of those who attend Sporting Memories Club feel benefits, in terms of the increased wellbeing of their loved one or simply time for themselves."

  • NEARLY 800,000 HOME-OWNERS 'VULNERABLE TO REPOSSESSION'

    Nearly 800,000 households across the UK could be at risk of losing their home if they suffer a loss of income, according to analysis by a think-tank.

    The Social Market Foundation said that of the 770,000 it calculates may be at risk of repossession, a quarter (26%) work in retail or manufacturing, sectors badly hit by the pandemic.

    SMF research funded by the Building Societies Association (BSA) suggests more than one in 10 owner-occupiers do not have enough savings to cover a single month's mortgage payment.

    A ban on home repossessions has been put in place as part of coronavirus support measures and borrowers have also been able to take mortgage payment holidays.

  • CONTINUED

    The video was accompanied by the caption: “Meanwhile in Forest Gate….”

    Hairdressers and barbers are currently shut, but Boris Johnson announced earlier this week that they definitely won’t open before April 12.

    Most people said they had no issue with the street haircut.

    One viewer joked: “Anyone know how much he’s charging?”

    Another said: “Not sure I see a problem here. Outdoors so very small risk. Barber should wear a mask and gloves though.”

    One Tweeter said: “Hope he doesn’t ask for a back, sack and crack.”

    For the video click here.

  • FRESH AIRCUT

    A barber was seen giving a customer a short back and sides haircut in the street in an apparent bid to get around Covid rules.

    The video shows the unusual scene in Forest Gate, east London, as a punter gets the shave in full public view.

    And many of those who saw it said it should be allowed as it was taking place in the fresh air.

    The video was posted to Twitter and shows someone walking past a man sitting on a chair on the pavement as a hairdresser gives him a shave.

  • EXAMS OFF

    School exams will be scrapped this year with the grading system to be confirmed tomorrow, Gavin Williamson announced today.

    The Education Secretary this afternoon said trust would be firmly put in the hands of teachers as the Covid lockdown is lifted over the coming months.

    Speaking at the press conference this afternoon, Mr Williamson said: "Tomorrow, we'll be setting out the details on how grades will be awarded this summer.

    "While I cannot pre-empt that announcement, I'm very pleased to say it will confirm this year we are putting our trust firmly in the hand of teachers."

  • DEATHS DROP

    Covid deaths have dropped 40 per cent in a week with 442 more fatalities - as 18million Brits receive a first dose of the vaccine.

    A further 9,938 infections were recorded - meaning 4,144,577 people have tested positive for the disease since the pandemic began.

    Deaths have also risen to a total of 121,747.

    Yesterday, 548 more fatalities were reported and 8,489 more cases - the lowest rise in infections since October.

  • COVID SPREAD

    Surge testing will be rolled out in Buckinghamshire and Lambeth following the discovery of the South African coronavirus variant.

    Increased testing will be introduced to the new Covid hotspots, with people living in those areas being strongly encouraged to be tested.

    Additional testing and genomic sequencing is being deployed to targeted areas within the HP10 postcode in Buckinghamshire and SW8 and SW9 postcodes in Lambeth, where the COVID-19 variant first identified in South Africa has been found.

    Positive cases will be sequenced for genomic data to help understand Covid-19 variants and their spread within these areas.

  • ISRAEL'S NETANYAHU SETS APRIL TARGET FOR REOPENING ECONOMY

    Israel aims to reopen its economy by April 5 after having vaccinated all its eligible population and is in talks with vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna to open facilities in the country, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.

    Israel has been importing Pfizer-BioNTech PFE.N, BNTX.O and Moderna Inc MRNA.O vaccines.

    It has administered at least one Pfizer dose to almost 50% of its 9 million population so far in one of the world's swiftest campaigns.

    On Sunday, Israel reopened many businesses, including street shops and malls though with some leisure facilities being open only to people immunised by vaccine or by having recovered from COVID-19.

  • PANDEMIC HAS MADE SPENDING TRANSPARENCY HARDER, AUDITOR GENERAL SAYS

    The pandemic has made transparency around public spending more difficult as governments work to rebuild the economy, Scotland's auditor general has said.

    In his latest report on the impact of coronavirus, Stephen Boyle said the Scottish Government had received an extra £9.7 billion to its budget of more than £40 billion during the 2020/21 financial year.

    While this reduced funding uncertainty for the Scottish Government, he said, it created financial management challenges.

    The auditor general noted there had been more than 170 public spending announcements connected to Covid-19 and called on all levels of government to ensure the "pandemic pound" delivered value for money.

  • WILL FESTIVALS GO AHEAD IN SUMMER 2021?

    Boris Johnson outlined his plan for unlocking the nation on Monday, February 22,- which will start in just two weeks' time.

    Big events like concerts and sporting events can go ahead after May 17 - with limits on the number of people allowed to attend.

    But the key date everyone is waiting for is June 21, when all other restrictions will be lifted.

    Lockdown will officially end on this date and restrictions on social contact could be lifted - meaning that mass events are allowed to take place.

    From then on, nightclubs will be allowed to reopen, along with theatre performances.

  • IRISH COVID NUMBERS

    There have been a further 56 deaths of patients who had tested positive for coronavirus in Ireland.

    Another 574 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have also been notified.

    At 8am, 652 Covid positive patients were hospital, with 137 in intensive care.

    As of February 21, 353,971 doses of coronavirus vaccine had been administered - 222,073 first doses and 131,898 second doses.

  • GREECE TO CONTINUE LOCKDOWN AS COVID CASES RISE

     Greece will not be able to lift lockdown restrictions in the wider Athens area next Monday as planned following a sharp increase in coronavirus infections, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Wednesday.

    Athens metropolitan area, where half of Greece's population lives, has been under strict lockdown restrictions that had been set to expire at the end of the month.

    "There has been a steep rise in infections yesterday, particularly in Athens, which pushes back our plan...for a gradually reopening on March 1," Mitsotakis told a cabinet meeting.

    Although it has suffered more than 6,000 deaths, Greece has fared better than much of Europe in containing the pandemic and protecting its health service, badly damaged by years of financial crisis.

  • WILL IT BE FULL TEACHER ASSESSMENT FOR EXAMS AND HOW WILL THE APPEAL PROCESS WORK?

    Mr Williamson said that he would be putting his trust in teachers this year.

    "There's going to be no algorithms whatsoever," he said.

    He added that there will be a very clear and robust appeals mechanism will be announced to the House of Commons tomorrow.

  • ARE SCHOOL DAYS EXTENDED THIS AND WILL SUMMER HOLIDAYS BE CUT SHORT?

    Mr Williamson said that he hopes that schools would hold activities during the summer holidays which they can drawn down from the £200million fund.

    The Education Secretary said that school days would not be extended.

  • FACE MASK MEASURE TO BE REVIEWED AT EASTER

    Mr Williamson confirmed that secondary school pupils would wear face masks while at school with the measure going under review at Easter.

  • TOMORROW SECRETARY WILL LOOK AT HOW STUDENTS ARE TO BE GRADED

    Although the Secretary was unable to announce how students are to be graded he said: "We are putting our trust firmly in the hands of teachers".

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