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Reopening schools and the economic impact of the pandemic were among the issues discussed on the UK’s political programmes this morning.
Here’s a quick recap of the key points covered:
- Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said he was confident children and teachers would be safe when schools return in England – but any reopening would be “staged and careful”
- Gove also defended the government’s record on care homes, saying it had “significantly” increased testing
- Meanwhile, Labour’s Rachel Reeves called on the government to work with teachers, parents and unions to reopen schools safely
- The World Health Organization’s chief scientist said children didn’t seem to be getting severely ill from Covid-19, but there was less data on how effectively they spread the virus to others
- The UK is now over the worst of the economic impact of the pandemic, according to the chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility. But he warned a key issue would be whether the economy is “permanently scarred”
- The head of the CBI said businesses were “really worried” about plans to bring in a 14-day quarantine for those arriving in the UK by air and the government should think “very carefully” about how this might be introduced
- The chief executive of London’s Heathrow Airport has also raised concerns, saying the measure can’t be in place for long if the UK is going to get its economy moving again
Government draft plans for relaxing lockdown restrictions in South Africa would allow the alcohol trade to operate from Monday to Wednesday between 08:00 and 12:00.
However, the Liquor Traders’ Association of South Africa, expecting a boom in demand, has expressed concerns that it will be difficult to maintain social distancing in stores with such a limited schedule.
It suggests extending opening hours from Monday to Saturday and also a system based on customers’ surnames, with the first letter dictating on which days of the week they are allowed to buy alcohol.
Under its recommendations, anyone whose surname starts with a letter between A and M could buy alcohol on Mondays and Wednesdays and people whose surnames begin with letters N to Z could do so on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
There would be no restrictions on Fridays and Saturdays. All customers would have to show identification to prove they meet the criteria.
But no decision has been made yet.
Plans are being made for how schools in England will start to reopen next month.
However, there is disagreement over whether children will be returning too soon and how schools can be made safe.
From smaller class sizes to staggered break times our education team has looked at how children could return to classrooms.
Worshippers in Greece have been able to attend church services for the first time in weeks as a ban on mass gatherings has been eased. On Sunday, some churches replaced pews with chairs spaced two metres (six feet) apart.
Religious services have also resumed in parts of Australia. In New South Wales, up to 10 people are now allowed to worship. But the live streaming of religious services continues as many churches as well as synagogues and mosques have decided to stay closed.
And in France, if you can’t go to Mass you can at least drive to it. What is believed to be the first ever drive-in Mass has been held in Châlons-en-Champagne in the north-east of the country.
Donna Duffy’s father John turned 70 last November. He has had dementia for 16 years and for the past two has been a resident at Brooklands Care Home in West Belfast.
Between Donna and her sister and mother, someone would visit John every day, sometimes twice a day, but that all stopped on 12 March.
On that day, the Department of Health published guidance saying there was not a blanket ban on visiting, because of the important role it plays in mental health for all concerned, but people should follow localised guidelines.
The owners of Brooklands Care Home, Conway Group Healthcare, said “the decision to suspend visiting, was certainly not a decision that was taken lightly” but “one of many necessary actions to attempt to prevent the spread of the virus”.
John doesn’t understand why his family is not coming in anymore, and Donna says tears have trailed down his face when they’re video-calling him.
“He has dementia, so he couldn’t understand what was happening on the outside, he doesn’t have the cognitive ability,” she said.
“We as a family knew the home would be closing, but we just would have liked time to prepare daddy.”
More now of senior minister Michael Gove’s interview to the BBC’s Andrew Marr. Gove has defended the government’s record on care homes, saying it “significantly” increased the number of testing for all people who are symptomatic in those facilities.
There have been concerns that too many patients were discharged from hospitals to care homes without being tested but Gove said those decisions were led by clinicians.
According to the Office for National Statistics there were 8,312 deaths in care homes in England and Wales where coronavirus was written on the death certificate up to 1 May.
On the government’s test, track and trace strategy, Gove said 17,000 contact tracers had now been recruited with a “significant” number” of them having already been trained.
The coronavirus outbreak may have scuppered lots of wedding plans, but for many lockdown has been a bonding experience and even convinced people it was time to pop the question.
Plenty of couples are still getting engaged, with lots being creative with their proposals.
Our colleague Dougal Shaw spoke to couples who had grand plans to get engaged in Japan and New York, but have had to look closer to home.
Spain, one of the world’s worst-hit countries by coronavirus, has released its latest figures which show its daily death toll dropped below 100 for the first time in two months.
It was 87 on Sunday, the health ministry said, bringing the total deaths from the virus to 27,650. The
number of confirmed cases edged up to 231,350 from 230,698, the
Children don’t seem to be getting severely ill from Covid-19 but there is less data on how effectively they spread the virus to others, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist has said.
Soumya Swaminathan told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show there had not been big outbreaks in schools in countries where they had remained open.
“It does seem from what we know now that children are less capable of spreading it even if they get the infection,” she said.
She added that there were some reports of children being admitted with an inflammatory syndrome, possibly linked to coronavirus, but more data needed to be collected on this.
When deciding how to reopen schools, Dr Swaminathan said whether the disease is under control in the area should be taken into account, as well as whether there had been enough time to put in place safety measures such as rearranging classrooms and handwashing facilities.
UK Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove has said he is “confident that children and teachers will be safe” when returning to schools in England adding
that the reopening would be “staged and careful”.
“Children will have to be distanced,” he said on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show. “We can do that by making sure we have
staggered lunch breaks and staggered arrivals.”
Asked if he could guarantee that no teacher would get the virus, he replied: “There is always, always, always a risk of people catching
the coronavirus – the key thing is we can make these workplaces safe.”
He also said it was “extremely unlikely that any school will be
a source of a [Covid-19] outbreak” and suggested that councils that were worried should “broaden the range of scientific
advice” they were looking at.
“Children only have one chance on education – if you really care
about children you will want them to be in school.”
The UK economy is now over “the worst” of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and is entering a recovery phase as restrictions are loosened, the chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility has said.
Robert Chote told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “The key worry is if you have not just a very sharp downturn in the economy but one that scars its future potential.”
“The key issues are… how swift that recovery is and whether the economy is permanently scarred at the end of it. If we come out of this with the economy being smaller than we would have anticipated going in, that’s a bigger question than exactly how deep it is at the worst point,” he added.
If you want to know more about how the economy is expected to perform in the months to come, here are some charts with Bank of England’s scenarios.
Qatar has made the wearing of face masks compulsory, with anyone defying the order facing a jail term of up to three years or a fine of up to $55,000 (£45,000) for those who repeatedly fail to cover up.
The country has one of the highest per capita infection rates in the world for coronavirus: more than 30,000 people have tested positive out of a population of less than three million.
Mosques, schools and shopping malls remain closed in the tiny Gulf state, one the world’s richest in terms of per capita income. Building sites are open with preventive measures in place in order to prepare for the 2022 Fifa World Cup.
Germany’s Bundesliga resumed on Saturday, becoming the first major European league to return to action since lockdown restrictions began.
With no spectators present, the sound of the crowd was replaced by players and coaches shouting to one another and the satisfying thud of the ball hitting the back of the net – for fans of teams that won, that is…
Six games took place, with Borussia Dortmund beating Schalke 4-0 to close the gap to one point on leaders Bayern Munich, who play on Sunday.
New protocols saw teams arrive in several buses so they could socially distance on the journey to the game – players and staff had been quarantining in team hotels all week and are being tested for coronavirus regularly.
Facemasks were worn on the way into the ground while other people attending, including the media, had their temperatures checked and police patrolled to make sure no crowds gathered at venues.
Footballs were also disinfected by ball boys before the game and again at half-time.
It seems like a different world – our lives before lockdown.
Restrictions have left many of us unable to see our family and friends, head into our workplace or visit restaurants, bars and public places.
So when we asked you to share the last picture you took before lockdowns took place, thousands responded – in fact, #lastnormalphoto became one of the top three most-used Twitter hashtags worldwide.
Here are some of the pictures you shared, and you can see more here.
The restrictions on our movement have hit the travel sector hard and we’re starting to get a sense of its impact in numbers.
traffic at London’s Heathrow Airport, one of the busiest in the world, has fallen by 97%, John Holland-Kaye, the airport’s chief executive, has said.
Like other business leaders, Holland-Kaye has also expressed concern over plans to introduce a quarantine for people flying into the UK, saying the measure can’t be in place for more than a relatively
short amount of time “if we’re going to get the economy moving again”.
He called on the government to work with the EU and the
US to create an international standard when it comes to quarantine rules, arguing that countries having different plans was creating confusion.
“It’s no good having an immunity passport, if other
countries have different systems,” he told Sky News.
The head of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has said businesses are “really worried” about potential plans to bring in a 14-day quarantine for those arriving in the UK via air.
Carolyn Fairbairn told Sky News the government should think “very carefully” about how this might be introduced. The new restriction is expected to take effect at the end of this month though few details are known.
It is also not clear whether there are plans to quarantine people arriving to the UK via other modes of transport.
Fairbairn called for collaboration with the aviation sector to make flying safe, noting that airports like those in Vienna and Hong Kong are introducing testing as an alternative to quarantines.
Getting people flying again would be “an incredibly powerful boost to our economy”, she added.
US President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus has come under a lot of criticism as the country has the highest numbers of cases – nearly 1,5 million – and deaths – almost 89,000.
His predecessor, Barack Obama, has again hit out at the administration’s response. In an online address to graduating college students, he said the pandemic had shown that many officials “aren’t even pretending to be in charge”. We have more on what he said.
Meanwhile, here are some other developments around the world:
- Religious services have resumed in parts of Australia seven weeks after lockdown measures were introduced. New South Wales is the latest jurisdiction to allow places of worship – as well as cafes and restaurants – to reopen under strict conditions, with up to 10 people allowed to worship. Many churches, synagogues and mosques have decided to stay closed. The live streaming of religious services will continue
- Italy is taking a “calculated risk” in easing its lockdown measures, PM Giuseppe Conte has admitted. He said “the contagion curve” could rise again, but the country could not afford to wait for a vaccine
- Kenya has closed its land borders with Tanzania and Somalia except for cargo transport. Testing for the coronavirus at border posts will be compulsory for all drivers
A number of Western officials have criticised China’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, accusing the country of not being transparent enough at the beggining of the outbreak or of trying to cover up the true extent of the cases – accusations the Chinese government has consistently denied.
Add one more name to the list. Former UK International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has called on China to be more transparent
and share data about the coronavirus with the World Health Organization (WHO).
“If we don’t get these answers it will only increase the sense
that China doesn’t want to be a member of the family of nations,” he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge programme.
He also pointed to scientific research that suggests the number of
cases could have been reduced if China had acted earlier.
Last month, our security correspondent Gordon Corera reported that intelligence officials in the UK and the US believed that China’s real casualty figure from the virus was much higher.
World Athletics President Lord Coe has warned athletics may have to be held in stadiums without spectators when it returns.
The annual Diamond League of elite track and field athletic competitions is scheduled to return in mid-August after a revised calendar was announced a few days ago.
But Coe says the 11 events of the series are all likely to be held behind closed doors.
“In the short term we may have to compromise on that,” he told Inside the Games website. “We can’t be oblivious or tin-eared to what we’re being told by local communities and public health authorities.
“I don’t think anybody is contemplating this as the ideal long-term solution – sport would wither on the vine quite quickly if that were the case.
“But that may well be a compromise we have to make in order to get the athletes back into competition, leagues finished, at least some kind of competition.”
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves has called on the government to work with teachers, parents and unions on reopening schools.
The government is planning to begin a phased reopening of schools in England from 1 June, but teachers’ unions have said the date is too soon for this to be safe.
The Labour MP told Sky News “all of us want to see more children attending school” and “for the best possible education we want to see our children in the classroom”.
But to safely reopen schools and gain the confidence of parents and teachers she said the government needed to be more transparent about the science behind its decisions.
“Instead of dialling up the rhetoric, we want government to work with teachers, parents and the teaching unions to get this right,” she added.