U-turns: new England lockdown is latest in series | Coronavirus

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The new lockdown in England is the latest in a string of U-turns performed by Boris Johnson’s government since the pandemic began.

The prime minister and his team had been insisting right up until Friday that their system of three tiers was the best approach to tackling the second wave while avoiding the economic damage of a full circuit-break.

Here are some of the other major U-turns performed by ministers during the pandemic.

Extending business support

Just last month the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, completely revamped his job support scheme, which replaces the furlough system.

Sunak had earlier resisted calls to give greater support to businesses as the second wave and tier restrictions hit the economy.

But he came up with more money after firms – especially those in hospitality – warned of big drops in revenue as a result of socialising restrictions and the risk of forced closure.

Decision to lift Covid restrictions in Bolton and Trafford reversed

Coronavirus restrictions banning people from different households from meeting indoors or in private gardens were due to be lifted in the two Greater Manchester boroughs at the start of September.

But the decision was reversed by the health secretary, Matt Hancock, who said there had been a “significant change” in infection rates in both areas.

The statement was released by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) shortly after midday on 2 September, the point at which it said the restrictions had been due to be lifted.

The U-turn came after council leaders in both boroughs had called for the ban on two households mixing to be maintained.

U-turn on face coverings being worn in schools

The Department for Education (DfE) reversed its policy in August, announcing that face coverings should be worn in corridors and communal areas by staff and students in year 7 and above in schools in areas with coronavirus restrictions.

The new advice came after the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, had previously insisted measures being adopted by schools to limit the spread of the virus meant masks were not required and a day after a No 10 spokesman said there were no plans to review the guidance.

A-level and GCSE results U-turn in England

Following criticism from students and headteachers, and a backlash by Tory MPs, the government announced A-level and GCSE grades would be based on teachers’ assessments rather than a controversial algorithm devised by regulator Ofqual.

The prime minister and Williamson had previously defended the “robust” system, which saw almost 40% of A-level grades reduced from teachers’ predictions.

The announcement on 17 August, just days before GCSE results were due to come out, followed an earlier vow from Williamson that there would be “no U-turn, no change”.

Government’s coronavirus contact-tracing app plans ditched

A new NHSX app for contact tracing was announced by Hancock on 12 April when he said it would be “crucial” for preventing the transmission of coronavirus.

The app was trialled on the Isle of Wight with a view to it being rolled out more widely across the country in May.

However, on 18 June the government abandoned plans for its own app, instead switching to one using technology developed by Apple and Google.

Trials of this one were launched in August on the Isle of Wight, in the London Borough of Newham and among NHS volunteer personnel and the app was finally rolled out nationwide in September.

Primary school children to return

In early May, Williamson set out the government’s ambition that all primary-age children in England would have at least four weeks in school before the summer.

But on 9 June, he said there was “no choice” but to scrap those plans amid concerns that the two-metre social-distancing rule would make a full return impossible.

In August, the government said its plans would be for all pupils, in all year groups, to return to school full-time from the beginning of the autumn term.

Bereavement scheme for NHS staff extended

After criticism that care workers, cleaners and porters were being excluded from a Home Office scheme granting families of foreign health workers indefinite leave to remain in the UK if their loved ones died of Covid-19, the government announced an extension of the scheme on 20 May.

The scheme had been introduced in April but did not initially include all support staff in the NHS.

The home secretary, Priti Patel, said the extension to a bereavement scheme for NHS support staff would be “effective immediately and retrospectively”.

NHS surcharge for overseas health and care staff

A day later, on 21 May, Johnson stood by the fee that overseas health workers were being charged to use the NHS.

However, just hours later, following mounting pressure from senior Tories, it was announced that foreign health and care workers would be exempted from the scheme.

Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, called the U-turn a “victory for common decency”.

School meals voucher scheme

England footballer Marcus Rashford was credited with playing a key part in forcing the government to U-turn on its decision not to extend the children’s food voucher scheme into the summer holidays.

On 16 June, cabinet minister Grant Shapps said free school meals were not normally extended to cover the summer period.

Yet a few hours later, No 10 backtracked on its stance, confirming that it would in fact extend the programme.

Speaking the next day, Hancock mistakenly praised “Daniel Rashford” for his campaigning efforts.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: U-turns: new England lockdown is latest in series | Coronavirus

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