edics have urged Britons not to celebrate New Year’s Eve with other households as NHS trusts brace for a January surge in coronavirus cases.
Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said that hospitals were “wall to wall” with coronavirus patients on Christmas Day. She told BBC Breakfast: “Please don’t take a chance on this, please don’t make it likely that we have an additional surge. Don’t mix, wear masks, wash your hands, keep separate.”
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1609247292‘Still planning for staggered schools return’
The Government is “still planning for a staggered opening of schools” after Christmas but is keeping the plan under constant review, Downing Street has said.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “We’re still planning for a staggered opening of schools and we are working to ensure testing is in place.
“As we have said throughout the pandemic, we obviously keep all measures under constant review.”
The spokesman also confirmed that Health Secretary Matt Hancock would announce any changes to tier areas in a statement to the Commons on Wednesday afternoon.
1609245241Cases rising in Premier League1609241061‘Poorly planned announcements cause huge upset’
Head teacher Mr Foley added: “I have tried to be honest with our staff about the challenges that we face, and – touch wood – they feel we continue to manage this situation as well as we can.
“School leaders have probably seen that poorly planned announcements cause huge upset – we really try to avoid that.
“I do worry about the wellbeing of senior leaders – they have borne the brunt of changes in guidance.
“I can only speak from my context, but we have tried to build a transparent culture, and I hope that if any of my staff had a genuine concern they would feel able to discuss it.”
Chris Foley, head teacher at St Monica’s RC High School in Prestwich, Manchester, said it was a “huge challenge getting the balance right between supporting pupils’ wellbeing and reducing community transmission”.
He told the PA news agency: “I think our pupils, and hopefully parents, appreciate all the work that we have done to get our pupils back in routines for learning, but this continues to be labour-intensive.
“We do feel that we want our school to be open, and we are equally concerned by the impact of uncertainty on the pupils.
“We have wonderful year 11 pupils who just want to get on with their studies, take their exams and then move onto the next stage of their life.
“The disconnect between national policy, and then the delivery of policy directives at a school-level has been the most challenging part of this, to be honest.
“School leaders have embraced the role of community leadership during this interesting time.”
1609238314‘Weigh up’ the risks of schools
Mr Halfon also called for the Government to “weigh up” the risks of Covid-19 to children, compared to the risk closing schools poses to their wellbeing.
Speaking to Good Morning Britain, the MP, who is chair of the Education Select Committee, said: “We also have to weigh up the risks to children’s academic attainment, their wellbeing, their mental health and I wouldn’t just dismiss that.
“We’ve seen today that eating disorders amongst young people has gone up significantly because of many not being in schools, some of them being in isolation, some of them being exposed to online harm; so we need to weigh up all these things.”
He added: “Already pupils in some years are something like 15 to 22-months behind than they should be, and whilst we have a vaccine for the coronavirus we don’t have a vaccination if we destroy people’s life chances.”
“We need a route map out of this. We can’t have schools as a revolving door that are open, shut, open, shut with parents and the teaching staff not knowing from one day to the next what’s going to happen,” he said.
“I don’t want to have an epidemic of educational poverty endemic in our country.”
1609236372Halfon on schools
Education Select Committee chair Robert Halfon has called for schools to reopen amid uncertainty of how education establishments will cope with implementing a Covid-19 testing programme.
Speaking to Good Morning Britain, the MP said “I hope very much schools will be open, I would like to see teachers and support staff made a priority for vaccinations.
“We’ve got to make sure that the rapid testing regime announced just before Christmas for schools is rolled out properly, and of course if the armed forces are going to be involved, I would welcome their support as well.”
A London A&E doctor has warned that the capital’s hospitals are very close to becoming overwhelmed if coronavirus infection rates are not brought under control.
Dr Sonia Adesara said: “The hospitals are extremely busy – we have seen a massive rise in people coming in with Covid-19 over the past week and this is on top of an increase in the non-Covid cases we see at this time of year.
“Just like the first wave we are also suffering from staff shortages, staff are getting Covid-19 again and it is extremely difficult, the hospitals are very full.”
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, she said: “We are working all-out in the NHS – doctors and nurses are having leave cancelled, they’re doing extra shifts, they’re working extra long hours but its an extremely serious situation.
“The situation is untenable and I think we are very close to becoming overwhelmed.”
The head of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) called for “a more grown-up” debate around the reopening of schools as the Covid-19 pandemic worsens.
Speaking to Good Morning Britain, Geoff Barton said: “This doesn’t have to be binary – it doesn’t have to be all young people in school or not in school.
“I would say the people who best know their communities, the people who best know what facilities young people have got at home, whether it’s IT or books, are the school leaders or the teachers.”
The union leader added: “What we could be doing is reducing the number of young people in schools while we get that testing in place, making sure we focus on those young people who we need to have in school, trusting the other ones not to be in school.
“Why don’t we have a more nuanced debate about it? A more grown-up attitude, and why don’t we trust our school and college leaders who, frankly, are looked to for real leadership by their local communities?”
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