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UK coronavirus LIVE: Schools must open before Easter, Boris Johnson told as lockdown ‘could start easing next month’

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/covid-uk-coronavirus-live-latest-updates-schools-lockdown-b900968.html

UK coronavirus LIVE: Schools must open before Easter, Boris Johnson told as lockdown ‘could start easing next month’

It comes as the Prime Minister suggested rules could start to ease next month. He told reporters this morning that the Government would be “looking at the potential of relaxing some measures” before mid-February.

His comments followed reports by the Telegraph that the country could reopen fully once all over-50s have had their vaccine, with life potentially returning close to “normality” by the first week of July.

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Newlyweds, 90 and 86, get their Covid jabs at converted former DIY store

A newlywed pensioner couple have urged everyone to get vaccinated as they became two of the first to get the jab at a new large-scale centre.

Geoff Holland, 90 and his 86-year-old wife Jenny were only marred in August after they met at the Town View independent living centre, where they live in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.

As they got their jabs of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in a cavernous former Wickes DIY store this morning, Mr and Mrs Holland described how coronavirus has meant they only managed to marry in August at the third time of trying – and with just four guests to celebrate.

Mr Holland said: “We’ve only been married five months. We had to try three times with pandemic. We managed it on the third time.”

His wife added: “It was Geoff’s birthday at the beginning of April and we were going to celebrate that, his 90th, and, of course, that all went pear-shaped.

“And then we were going to get married on my birthday and that all fell through as well.

“We just kept making inquiries and then we got married at the register office.”

Mrs Holland said: “Originally, when we were going to get married, we had everything planned.

“We had the buffet bought and half paid for, and, for all that to go.

“But, never mind. As long as we’re married and we’re happy together.”

Asked how they met, Mrs Holland said: “Geoff came and sat at our table, we got talking and it just went from there.”

And she championed getting married late in life “as long as you find the right person”.

Mr and Mrs Holland said they both tested positive for coronavirus a couple of months ago after Mr Holland was feeling a bit under the weather and they got tested.

But both got through it without developing major symptoms.

Mr Holland’s daughter Kathryn Turner and her husband Roger said that they only see the couple very briefly when they drop off shopping.

Mrs Turner said: “We have missed them so much. They are so in love and such lovely people.”

They got engaged the following New Year’s Eve.

The Mansfield Vaccination Centre has joined 31 other new sites opening across England this week.

People aged 75 and over who live within a 45-minute drive of the centre are being invited to book their vaccination, the NHS said.

UK coronavirus LIVE: Schools must open before Easter, Boris Johnson told as lockdown ‘could start easing next month’
( PA )
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The pandemic is proof of the Union’s strength – PM

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was also asked if he would legally challenge Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s plans for an advisory independence referendum if the Scottish National Party wins a majority in May’s Holyrood elections.

Mr Johnson said: “The whole UK is going through a pandemic, I think what the people of the UK want to see is everybody focussing on beating that pandemic, which we are, rolling out the vaccine, and getting ready to bounce back from that pandemic and have the strongest possible economic recovery.

“I think people also can see everywhere in the UK the visible benefits of our wonderful union.

“A vaccine programme that is being rolled out by a National Health Service, a vaccine that was developed in labs in Oxford and is being administered by the British Army, so I think the strengths and advantages of the Union speak for themselves.”

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Quarantine hotels are ‘definite’ possibility – PM

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said the Government was “definitely looking at” the possibility of travellers arriving in the UK being required to quarantine in hotels.

He said: “We have to realise there is at least the theoretical risk of a new variant that is a vaccine-busting variant coming in, we’ve got to be able to keep that under control.”

Mr Johnson went on: “With this vaccination programme, we’ve done I think 6.3, 6.4 million people now in the UK as a whole.

“We are on target just, just, we’re on target to hit our ambition of vaccinating everybody in those vulnerable groups by the middle of February.

“We want to make sure that we protect our population, protect this country against reinfection from abroad.

“That idea of looking at hotels is certainly one thing we’re actively now working on.

“We need a solution that gives us the maximum possible protection against reinfection from abroad.”

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You can watch Therese Coffey’s awkward head-to-head with Piers Morgan here:

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PM hints some lockdown restrictions could ease within next three weeks

The Prime Minister added the Government will be “looking at the potential of relaxing some measures” before mid-February.

But he could not give a guarantee schools would be back before Easter.

He went on: “I do think now this massive achievement has been made of rolling out this vaccination programme, I think people want to see us making sure we don’t throw that away by having a premature relaxation and then another big surge of infection.

“I totally understand the frustrations of parents, I really thank teachers for what they’re doing, the immense efforts they’re going to to teach kids online, and the Government has provided a lot of laptops… I know that’s no substitute for direct face-to-face learning.

“Believe me there’s nothing I want to do more than reopen schools, I’ve fought to keep schools open for as long as I possibly could.

“We want to see schools back as fast as possible, we want to do that in a way that is consistent with fighting the epidemic and keeping the infection rate down.”

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PM refuses to give schools reopening ‘timetable’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited a vaccination site at Barnet Football Club in north London this morning, where around 13,000 jabs have been delivered since mid-December.

During his visit he talked to reporters about the issue of schools.

Asked if he could give a firm date for schools reopening, Mr Johnson said: “Daily we’re looking at the data and trying to work out when we’re going to be able to lift restrictions.

“Schools obviously will be a priority but I don’t think anybody would want to see the restrictions lifted so quickly while the rate of infection is still very high so as to lead to another great spread of infection.

“We’ve now got the R down below 1 across the whole of the country, that’s a great achievement, we don’t want to see a huge surge of infection just when we’ve got the vaccination programme going so well and people working so hard.

“I understand why people want to get a timetable from me today, what I can tell you is we’ll tell you, tell parents, tell teachers as much as we can as soon as we can.”

( PA )
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Teachers aren’t more at risk of death from Covid than other workers, latest figures suggest

Covid-19 death rates for men and women working as teaching and educational professionals, such as secondary school teachers, were not statistically significantly raised compared with rates for the wider working population, the ONS found.

The rate for male teachers and educational professionals in England and Wales in 2020 was 18.4 deaths per 100,000, compared with 31.4 for all males aged 20 to 64; while for women it was 9.8 compared with 16.8.

For individual teaching occupations, the ONS said it was only possible to calculate a reliable rate for secondary education teaching professionals, with 39.2 deaths per 100,000 males and 21.2 per 100,000 females. The ONS said these were “not statistically significantly different than those of the same age and sex in the wider population”.

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Starmer self-isolating after close contact with Covid case

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said he has been told to self-isolate after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.

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Taxi drivers and chefs among group most at risk of death from Covid – ONS

Process plant workers, security guards, chefs and taxi drivers were some of the occupations recording the highest rates of death involving Covid-19 for male workers in England and Wales in 2020.

People working in close proximity to each other, and in jobs with regular exposure to Covid-19, continue to have higher Covid-19 death rates when compared with the rest of the working age population, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

For female workers, some of the highest rates of death involving Covid-19 were for jobs involving assembly lines and routine machine operations, such as sewing machinists, as well as care workers and home carers.

The figures cover deaths registered in England and Wales between March 9 and December 28 2020.

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Therese Coffey cut her interview with Piers Morgan short this morning

She switched off her camera after accusing the presenter of making “insulting” comments:

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Health service unions demand NHS ‘Covid heroes’ get bigger pay rise after Government recommends 1% increase

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/government-nhs-pay-rise-1-per-cent-increase-b922305.html

Health service unions demand NHS ‘Covid heroes’ get bigger pay rise after Government recommends 1% increase
T

he Government is facing growing calls to grant “Covid heroes” a bigger pay rise after recommending NHS staff are restricted to an increase of just 1 per cent.

But health service unions denounced the proposed award as a “kick in the teeth” for staff who had given “absolutely everything” to keep the public safe.

Joining the backlash on Thursday night, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on the government to give the NHS’s “Covid heroes” a bigger pay rise.

Sir Keir said the proposals would amount to a cut in real-terms, tweeting: “You can’t rebuild a country by cutting nurses’ pay.”

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said while the performance of the NHS had been “first class”, many people in the private sector faced losing their jobs.

“No one is doubting the NHS has been absolutely first class in this whole pandemic. What I am suggesting is that the whole economy has been under huge pressure,” he told BBC Question Time.

“When I look at people in the hospitality sector, in aviation, in retail, many of them are very, very worried they won’t even be in a job in two or three months.”

The move follows Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement in last year’s spending review of a pay freeze for most public sector workers outside the NHS.

Starmer claims planned cuts to health spending ‘hidden’ in Budget

In its submission, the pay review bodies for NHS staff and for doctors and dentists, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the NHS budget was based on a headline pay rise of 1 per cent.

It suggested any award above that would require cuts to services with a “re-prioritisation” of funding within the service.

It said they needed to strike “the right balance between pay and staff numbers through systems of reward that are affordable and fit for purpose”.

The proposal was angrily condemned by Royal College of Nursing general secretary, Dame Donna Kinnair who said it would amount to an increase of just £3.50 a week in take home pay for an experienced nurse.

“This is pitiful and bitterly disappointing. The Government is dangerously out of touch with nursing staff, NHS workers and the public,” she said.

“Nobody would think that is fair in the middle of a pandemic and it will do nothing to prevent the exodus from nursing.”

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, who chairs the British Medical Association council, said it came as a “kick in the teeth” after a decade in which doctors had experienced real terms pay cuts of up to 30 per cent.

“This is a total dereliction of the Government’s moral duty and obligation to a workforce that is keeping the NHS on its feet and patients alive,” he said.

Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: “A 1 per cent pay rise is the worst kind of insult the Government could give health workers who’ve given their absolute everything over the past year.

“The public will be horrified. Staff will think it’s some kind of joke.”

For Labour, Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “A pay cut for NHS staff is the ultimate kick in the teeth to our NHS heroes who have done so much to keep us safe over the past year.”

A Government spokesman said ministers would “carefully” consider the recommendations of the pay review bodies when they report in late spring.

“Over one million NHS staff continue to benefit from multi-year pay deals agreed with trade unions, which have delivered a pay rise of over 12 per cent for newly-qualified nurses and will increase junior doctors’ pay scales by 8.2 per cent,” the spokesman said.

“Pay rises in the rest of the public sector will be paused this year due to the challenging economic environment, but we will continue to provide pay rises for NHS workers, on top of a £513 million investment in professional development and increased recruitment.”

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Government faces growing calls to grant NHS ‘Covid heroes’ bigger pay rise after recommending 1% increase

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/government-nhs-pay-rise-1-per-cent-increase-b922305.html

Government faces growing calls to grant NHS ‘Covid heroes’ bigger pay rise after recommending 1% increase
T

he Government is facing growing calls to grant “Covid heroes” a bigger pay rise after recommending NHS staff are restricted to an increase of just 1 per cent.

But health service unions denounced the proposed award as a “kick in the teeth” for staff who had given “absolutely everything” to keep the public safe.

Joining the backlash on Thursday night, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on the government to give the NHS’s “Covid heroes” a bigger pay rise.

Sir Keir said the proposals would amount to a cut in real-terms, tweeting: “You can’t rebuild a country by cutting nurses’ pay.”

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said while the performance of the NHS had been “first class”, many people in the private sector faced losing their jobs.

“No one is doubting the NHS has been absolutely first class in this whole pandemic. What I am suggesting is that the whole economy has been under huge pressure,” he told BBC Question Time.

“When I look at people in the hospitality sector, in aviation, in retail, many of them are very, very worried they won’t even be in a job in two or three months.”

The move follows Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement in last year’s spending review of a pay freeze for most public sector workers outside the NHS.

Starmer claims planned cuts to health spending ‘hidden’ in Budget

In its submission, the pay review bodies for NHS staff and for doctors and dentists, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the NHS budget was based on a headline pay rise of 1 per cent.

It suggested any award above that would require cuts to services with a “re-prioritisation” of funding within the service.

It said they needed to strike “the right balance between pay and staff numbers through systems of reward that are affordable and fit for purpose”.

The proposal was angrily condemned by Royal College of Nursing general secretary, Dame Donna Kinnair who said it would amount to an increase of just £3.50 a week in take home pay for an experienced nurse.

“This is pitiful and bitterly disappointing. The Government is dangerously out of touch with nursing staff, NHS workers and the public,” she said.

“Nobody would think that is fair in the middle of a pandemic and it will do nothing to prevent the exodus from nursing.”

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, who chairs the British Medical Association council, said it came as a “kick in the teeth” after a decade in which doctors had experienced real terms pay cuts of up to 30 per cent.

“This is a total dereliction of the Government’s moral duty and obligation to a workforce that is keeping the NHS on its feet and patients alive,” he said.

Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: “A 1 per cent pay rise is the worst kind of insult the Government could give health workers who’ve given their absolute everything over the past year.

“The public will be horrified. Staff will think it’s some kind of joke.”

For Labour, Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “A pay cut for NHS staff is the ultimate kick in the teeth to our NHS heroes who have done so much to keep us safe over the past year.”

A Government spokesman said ministers would “carefully” consider the recommendations of the pay review bodies when they report in late spring.

“Over one million NHS staff continue to benefit from multi-year pay deals agreed with trade unions, which have delivered a pay rise of over 12 per cent for newly-qualified nurses and will increase junior doctors’ pay scales by 8.2 per cent,” the spokesman said.

“Pay rises in the rest of the public sector will be paused this year due to the challenging economic environment, but we will continue to provide pay rises for NHS workers, on top of a £513 million investment in professional development and increased recruitment.”

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Powerful 8.1 magnitude earthquake off New Zealand sparks evacuations and tsunami warnings

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/new-zealand-earthquake-tsunami-warning-b922184.html

Powerful 8.1 magnitude earthquake off New Zealand sparks evacuations and tsunami warnings
A

powerful magnitude 8.1 earthquake has struck in the ocean off the coast of New Zealand, prompting thousands of people to evacuate and triggering tsunami warnings across the South Pacific.

The quake was the largest in a series of tremors that struck the region over several hours, including two earlier quakes that registered magnitude 7.4 and magnitude 7.3.

It triggered warning systems and caused traffic jams and some chaos in New Zealand as people scrambled to get to higher ground.

However, it did not appear to pose a widespread threat to lives or major infrastructure, due to the remoteness of where they hit.

<p>The closest major city to the epicentre is Gisborne with a population of about 35,500  </p>

The closest major city to the epicentre is Gisborne with a population of about 35,500

/ Google Maps

The largest struck about 620 miles off the coast of New Zealand.

One of the earlier quakes hit much closer to New Zealand and awoke many people during the night as they felt a long, rumbling shaking.

“Hope everyone is ok out there,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wrote on Facebook.

After the largest quake, civil defence authorities in New Zealand told people in certain areas on the East Coast of the North Island that they should move immediately to higher ground and not stay in their homes.

They said a damaging tsunami was possible.

The US Tsunami Warning System also cautioned that the larger quake could cause tsunami waves of between one and three metres inFrench Polynesia and waves of up to one metre in Niue, New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said tsunamis could later strike Hawaii.

The US Geological Survey said the larger quake was centred in the remote Kermadec Islands at a depth of 12 miles.

Officials in New Zealand had hours earlier issued a tsunami warning for coastal areas after the first of the smaller earthquakes struck off its north-eastern coast.

There were no immediate reports of serious damage or casualties, and the warning was lifted just before the larger quake struck.

The US Geological Survey said the first quake was centred at a depth of 13 miles under the ocean about 108 miles north east of the city of Gisborne.

It was widely felt in New Zealand, and residents in the major cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch reported being shake nawake.

In 2011, a magnitude 6.3 quake hit the city of Christchurch, killing 185 people and destroying much of the city centre.

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Royal family focus on pandemic in Commonwealth show ahead of Oprah interview

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/queen-commonwealth-tv-special-harry-meghan-oprah-interview-b922158.html

Royal family focus on pandemic in Commonwealth show ahead of Oprah interview

It comes after CBS revealed that Harry and Meghan’s intimate interview with Oprah Winfrey is set to be released at 8pm in the US on Sunday, which will be in the early hours of Monday UK time.

ITV also announced it secured the exclusive UK television rights to the 90-minute interview and will air it on the Monday at 9pm.

The Palace said in a statement: “In Her Majesty’s annual Commonwealth Day message, the Queen will pay tribute to the way in which communities across the family of nations have come together in response to the pandemic.”

A Celebration for Commonwealth Day will be broadcast on BBC One at 5pm on Sunday, March 7.

<p>A Celebration for Commonwealth Day will be broadcast on BBC One at 5pm on Sunday, March 7.</p>

A Celebration for Commonwealth Day will be broadcast on BBC One at 5pm on Sunday, March 7.

/ AP

The Prince of Wales has recorded a message for the programme addressing “the universal devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic”.

Charles will also celebrate the “critical work” being carried out by nations across the Commonwealth to combat climate change and protect its unique landscapes, marine environments and biodiversity.

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London Mayoral campaign: Sadiq Khan forced to hole-up inside coffee shop after protesters turn up at launch

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/mayor/sadiq-khan-cafe-london-mayoral-race-launch-shaun-bailey-b922137.html

London Mayoral campaign: Sadiq Khan forced to hole-up inside coffee shop after protesters turn up at launch
S

adiq Khan’s re-election campaign hit trouble today when he was forced to hole-up inside a coffee shop for an hour to avoid a small group of residents protesting about a transport scheme. 

The Mayor had chosen the Hot Milk cafe in Bounds Green for the media launch of his bid to win a second term at City Hall. 

But as news of his visit began to spread, six residents gathered outside, asking to speak with Mr Khan about a low traffic neighbourhood (LTN) introduced by Enfield council. 

They said it had made their lives a misery by forcing them to divert via the North Circular Road. 

Mr Khan, on the advice of his police protection officers, remained in the cafe for an hour in the hope the protesters would leave. When they refused to go, he made a dash for his car and ignored their requests.

Mr Khan launched his campaign for a second term with nine weeks until polling day on May 6 and after last year’s election was postponed due to Covid.

Mr Khan called for a 1945-style programme to rebuild the economy and promised to focus on “jobs, jobs, jobs” and encouraging domestic tourists back to central London.

He criticised Chancellor Rishi Sunak for failing to provide a “long-term vision” for after the lifting of lockdown, or to guarantee jobs or training and said that a £367million hole in City Hall’s finances due to Covid meant “inevitable” cuts to public services.

At the campaign launch at Hot Milk Cafe in Bounds Green, which has received £5,000 from City Hall to keep trading and £12,500 from the Mayor’s “pay it forward” advance payment scheme, Mr Khan vowed to “relentlessly bang the drum for London — both at home and around the world” to attract jobs and investment.

More than 18,000 Londoners have died with Covid. Mr Khan said he was determined to “build an even better London” in their memory.

<p>Mr Khan had chosen the Hot Milk cafe in Bounds Green for the media launch of his bid to win a second term at City Hall</p>

Mr Khan had chosen the Hot Milk cafe in Bounds Green for the media launch of his bid to win a second term at City Hall

/ PA

He said: “In 1945, a Labour government rebuilt Britain from the ashes of war. Like so many, I benefited from their work decades later as I grew up on a council estate and was given the opportunities to fulfil my potential.

“That’s why jobs, jobs, jobs are a top priority for my second term. I am hopeful that with the right support from the Government we can help get the 300,000 Londoners who have lost jobs during the pandemic back into work.”

At least 16 candidates, including several independents, are expected to run for mayor but Mr Khan said it was a “two-horse race” between himself and Tory rival Shaun Bailey.

“We’re the only two candidates who can win and the choice couldn’t be starker,” he said. Mr Bailey said the Budget was “supporting London’s recovery, because Sadiq Khan won’t”.

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Mr Bailey said: “In the middle of a pandemic Londoners need support, not higher taxes. So as mayor, I’ll reverse these harmful decisions.”

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