The Prime Minister vowed to use “every second” under the stringent new restrictions to put an “invisible shield” around the elderly and vulnerable through a mass vaccination programme. Speaking from Downing Street this evening he said that, so far, more than 1.3 million people have received Covid-19 vaccines across the UK, including 23 per cent of all the over 80s in England.

However, Mr Johnson said there was a “prospect” that the measures could be relaxed in mid-February once a “very considerable proportion of the most vulnerable groups have been vaccinated.” His comments came as the UK recorded nearly 61,000 new Covid cases overnight as the death toll rose by 830.

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1609883865The confusion surrounding this summer’s exams continues…1609878963Gavin Williamson thanks BBC for supporting learning from home

The BBC has said it will deliver the “biggest education offer in its history” for school pupils.

The move comes after Boris Johnson put England into a national lockdown, while schools are also currently closed to most pupils in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

From Monday, CBBC will offer three hours of primary school programming from 9am, while BBC Two will support pupils studying for their GCSEs with at least two hours of dedicated programming each weekday.

Educational programmes such as Our School, Celebrity Supply Teacher, Horrible Histories, Art Ninja and Operation Ouch will all be broadcast.

BBC director-general Tim Davie said: “Ensuring children across the UK have the opportunity to continue to follow the appropriate core parts of their nation’s school curriculum has been a key priority for the BBC throughout this past year.

“Education is absolutely vital – the BBC is here to play its part and I’m delighted that we have been able to bring this to audiences so swiftly.”

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Responding to the news, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson tweeted: “Thank you (BBC) for supporting continued education for pupils at home, alongside the strengthened remote education offer from schools + access to 10,000 @oaknational online lessons.

“We’re also delivering 1m laptops + tablets to those who need them the most.”

1609878270In all of this, University students seem to feel increasingly overlooked:1609877673Education secretary to set out support package for school kids tomorrow

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will deliver a statement to MPs on Wednesday on a package of support for young people following the announcement that schools and colleges will close to all but vulnerable children and children of key workers.

He said: “I know what a challenging time this is for families, young people, and for everyone working so hard in education. I also know the enormous lengths that teachers and support staff have gone to throughout this pandemic – the benefit of that work on children’s education and wellbeing is quite simply immeasurable, and has enabled millions to be back in classrooms spending valuable time with their teachers.

“It is now vital that we support our young people at home, including making sure all students are receiving the best possible remote education, and that those students who were due to take exams can still progress to their next stage of education or training.

“Education continues to be a national priority – these new national restrictions do not change that. I am determined that this virus, and the steps we all must take to fight it, do not come at the cost of children’s life chances.”

1609876779Second jabs must be urgently rolled out to ‘stamp out virus’

Virologist Professor Lawrence Young said the Government needs to focus on rolling out second coronavirus jabs, not just the first, to curb the “alarming rise in infections” which is being “fuelled by the new coronavirus variant”.

The number of daily confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK topped 60,000 for the first time while a further 830 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Tuesday.

Prof Young, who is also a molecular oncology expert at Warwick Medical School, said: “The Prime Minister stated that we are dealing with the virus ‘day by day and jab by jab’ but did not discuss the need for the second dose of the vaccine to provide the greatest level of protection for the longest time.

“There was no mention of how we can use this new period of lockdown to improve surveillance through testing, tracing and isolating or how such rapid testing can best be deployed to support students returning to schools and universities.

“We need to use this lockdown to stamp out the virus not only by vaccination but by breaking the chains of transmission (hands, face, space) and by using our testing capacity in a more determined and directed way.”

1609875087Temporary nursing register expanded to cope with ‘time of crisis’ in healthcare

The Covid-19 temporary register of nurses is being widened in an effort to bolster staff numbers as health and social care services face their “toughest challenge yet”.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) said it is hoped “as many overseas-trained nurses as possible” can opt to help the NHS as it copes in this “time of crisis”.

The temporary emergency register established as the pandemic took hold in March last year already includes includes thousands of former nurses who the NMC said stand ready to help.

As part of an expansion announced on Tuesday, a little over 2,000 nurses who have trained overseas and are ready to take the final stage of their permanent registration application process will be invited to join the register.

The approach, which will also see overseas-trained nurses whose applications to join the permanent register are in progress contacted from next week, has been agreed by the Department of Health and Social Care and the four UK chief nursing officers.

Andrea Sutcliffe, the NMC’s chief executive and registrar, said: “As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, we can all see that health and social care services in England and right across the UK are facing their toughest challenge yet.”

She said there is a “tremendous strain” on health staff due to rising infections and hospital admissions, alongside winter pressures and the vaccine rollout and that the need for “as many people as possible to provide skilled care and support in hospitals, nursing homes and in the community has never been greater”.

She said “conditions of practice” will be applied to the temporary registration of both groups in the expansion “to ensure safe and supported practice”.

She added: “At this time of crisis, I hope our actions will help support health and social care services during the coming weeks.”

1609874549Labour accuses Downing St of ‘letting down British people’… again

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner tweeted: “The government has let down the British people again.

“Why did the PM not act sooner, again? Why – after £22 billion of taxpayers’ money – is the test and trace system still not working? And why have businesses and millions of people still not been given the support they need?”

1609874365Latest coronavirus lockdown laws published

The latest coronavirus regulations have been published just hours ahead of the new laws coming into force.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 3) and (All Tiers) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 will become law tomorrow and MPs are expected to vote on them later in the day.

It comes after the Prime Minister ordered England to enter a third national lockdown, meaning people can no longer leave their home without a reasonable excuse and schools must shut for most pupils.

The five-page document, signed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock this afternoon, states the new regulations “strengthen the Tier 4 restrictions” and “apply those restrictions to every area in England”, as well as extending the expiry date for existing regulations.

It lists a series of amendments to previous coronavirus laws rather than setting out the latest legislation in detail. The rules appear to be similar to current Tier 4 restrictions with minimal changes.

1609872876Unions hit out at January exam announcement

The Government’s decision to let colleges decide whether to go ahead with vocational exams this month “leads to more uncertainty”, the Association of Colleges (AoC) has said.

On the response from the Department for Education (DfE), David Hughes, chief executive of the AoC, said: “The risk is that this continues the confusion, leads to more uncertainty for every student and puts thousands of young people and their families at risk as well as the college staff managing the exams.”

He added: “Every college leader has been spending all day trying to weigh up the pros and cons of cancelling or going ahead.

“They were hoping that the Government would be decisive, but that has not happened, and students will have to look locally for the leadership and certainty they seek.

“A national decision would have allowed for more fairness for all students across vocational and general qualifications – this compromise does not achieve that and I suspect that will cause more problems over the coming months. We are likely to see many colleges cancelling and some going ahead.”

1609871986Schools can make their own decisions on this month’s exams – DfE

The Department for Education (DfE) has said schools and colleges in England will be given the flexibility over whether to run vocational exams due to take place this month.

A DfE spokeswoman said: “In light of the evolving public health measures, schools and colleges can continue with the vocational and technical exams that are due to take place in January, where they judge it right to do so.

“We understand this is a difficult time but we want to support schools and colleges whose students have worked hard to prepare for assessments and exams where necessary. This may be particularly important for VTQs, which require a ‘licence to practise’ which can only be fulfilled through practical assessment, such as an electrician.

“Schools and colleges have already implemented extensive protective measures to make them as safe as possible. We will continue to work with Ofqual, awarding organisations and other stakeholders to discuss the next steps and provide more detail on the way forward, including ensuring other students have a way to progress with as little disruption as possible.”

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