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Good morning. Today Boris Johnson is going to unveil what the government describes as its “roadmap for cautiously easing lockdown restrictions in England” and this will include the reopening of all schools on Monday 8 March. Here is our overnight preview story.
This is the third time Johnson has laid out plans for the easing of national lockdown in England and he is anxious to ensure that this one will be the last. In many respects his approach is more tentative than it was in May last year, when he launched the original Covid recovery strategy. But in one at least one respect he is pushing forward more firmly than advisers might like. In Scotland and in Wales, which both went into this phase of lockdown ahead of England, schools are starting to reopen from today, but only for the very youngest pupils. But in England, as Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccination deployment minister told the Today programme, all pupils in England would go back to school.
Yesterday Prof John Edmunds, an epidemiologist who sits on Sage, the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, told the Andrew Marr Show that, if all pupils went back at once, he would expect R, the reproduction number, to rise to “something close to one, potentially slightly above”. (It is currently between 0.7 and 0.9 in England.) Asked if he thought primary schools should reopen first, he accepted that politicians had wider issues to consider, but went on: “Sticking to the epidemiology, yeah, of course it’s always safer to take smaller steps and evaluate.”
On the Today programme Zahawi was asked if he accepted that sending all pupils back at the same time could push R above 1. He did not contest the claim, but he brushed it aside. He said:
First of all, it’s no coincidence that the 8 March date has been chosen because the middle of February is when we offered the vaccine to the top four most vulnerable cohorts, and those who look after them. That is three weeks after that last person has had the first dose, when the protection really does kick in. And so we are being deliberately careful. And, of course, [we are] allowing teachers notice to be able to prepare.
So it’s ambitious, but it’s also careful, and it’s data driven.
Here is the agenda for the day.
9am: Sir Keir Starmer hosts his LBC phone-in.
10am: Boris Johnson chairs cabinet.
12pm: Downing Street is due to hold its daily lobby briefing.
12.15pm: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, is expected to hold a coronavirus briefing.
12.15pm: Kirsty Williams, the Welsh government’s education minister, holds a coronavirus briefing.
2.30pm: Sir Chris Wormald, permanent secretary at the Department for Health and Social Care, Jeremy Pocklington, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England, give evidence to the Commons public administration committee about support for the vulnerable during the Covid crisis.
3.30pm: Boris Johnson makes his statement to MPs about the roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions in England.
7pm: Johnson holds a press conference about the plan at No 10.
At some point today, alongside the publication of the government’s roadmap for leaving lockdown, we are also expected to get a Public Health England report about the impact of the vaccination programme on cases and transmission, and documents from Sage, the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, disclosing advice given to the government ahead of today’s announcement.
Politics Live is now doubling up as the UK coronavirus live blog and, given the way the Covid crisis eclipses everything, this will continue for the foreseeable future. Today I will be focusing mostly on the Johnson announcement.
Here is our global coronavirus live blog.
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Source: The Guardian
Keyword: UK Covid live: Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines reduce hospital admissions by 85% and 94%, study suggests | Politics