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Chester Zoo to reopen on Monday as government gives green light

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The news we’ve all been waiting for, zoos, safari parks and drive-through outdoor cinemas will be allowed to reopen from next Monday says Boris Johnson.

The Prime Minister has decided to lift the restrictions on outdoor attractions to provide parents with more opportunities to entertain their kids after 12 weeks of lockdown.

He is expected to announce as part of the latest easing of the coronavirus lockdown that will be coming into effect on 15th June. 

Zoos, safari parks and drive-through outdoor cinemas will be allowed to reopen from June 15th as long as they can abide by social distancing rules.

Safari Parks and outdoor cinemas have also been added to the list as people remain in their cars and therefore the risk of spreading the disease is lower.

This news is also alongside the reopening of non-essential shops on the same date, including fashion, charity, betting, gift shops, craft fairs, auction houses and plenty of others.

A Downing Street official said last night: “People are continuing to make huge sacrifices to reduce the spread of coronavirus and avoid a second spike, but we know it is tough and where we can safely open up more attractions, and it is supported by the science, we will do so.

“This is by necessity a careful process, but we hope the reopening of safari parks and zoos will help provide families with more options to spend time outdoors while supporting the industry caring for these incredible animals.”

Chester Zoo

This is great news for zoos like Chester Zoo which has been campaigning over the last week to ‘save our zoo’ and raised over £2.2 million to do so. 

The indoor exhibitions at zoos will remain closed such as reptile houses and any cafes must be only for take-away.

Andrew Hall, spokesperson for Biaza – British and Irish Association for Zoos and Aquariums, said: “Biaza is obviously delighted that zoos and safari parks have been given the flexibility to reopen.

Chester Zoo / Instagram

“But as a sector, we are not out of the woods. Aquariums are still closed, and zoos and safari parks have taken a real hit. For some zoos, particularly those reliant on tourism, reopening isn’t going to be financially viable for them.

“It’s helpful today but it’s not the full answer to the challenges we face. We know that as a sector, zoos, aquariums and safari parks will be struggling, especially with limited entry, so we do still need the support of Government – but we’re very pleased about today’s announcement.”

He added: “Zoos and aquariums in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will still be facing significant challenges and we will be working hard to achieve positive outcomes in these nations.”

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Schools will not reopen after February half-term, Boris Johnson confirms

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Schools will not open after February half-term, the prime minister has confirmed.

Boris Johnson has announced that schools will not reopen after February half-term, but has promised a route out of lockdown.

The prime minister says ‘we don’t have enough data to judge the full effect of vaccines in blocking transmission’.

Adding: “What we do know is that we remain in a perilous situation.”

He goes onto explain that the government will be in a better position to chart a course out of lockdown by mid-February. 

A review and plan for taking the country out of lockdown can be expected when parliament is back from recess in the week commencing February 22nd. 

Number 10/Flickr

Mr Johnson explained that the ‘first sign of normality’ will be schools returning, however, it will not be possible for this to happen immediately after the February half-term. 

He explains that if the vaccine target is hit by mid-February, and those groups developed immunity from the virus around March 8th, schools could reopen.

The prime minister acknowledged the ‘huge impact’ of school closures and pledged £300m of new money for tutoring and extra initiatives for summer schools.

Finishing his speech, the PM says: “As we inoculate more people hour by hour, this is the time to hold our nerve in the endgame in the battle against the virus.

“Our goal now must be to bide the extra weeks we need to immunise the most vulnerable and get this virus under control, so that together we can defeat this most wretched disease.”

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Teacher dies on her 25th birthday after contracting coronavirus

‘Claudia was very special, kind, caring and a dedicated teacher’

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Tina Marsh / Just Giving

Recently-qualified teacher Claudia Marsh died with coronavirus on her 25th birthday.

Claudia’s death has been described as ‘sudden and unexpected’ by the charity that helped her recover from an eating disorder a few years ago.

She had gone on to volunteer at the organisation, becoming a ‘beacon of hope’ for others. 

Her mother, Tina Marsh, said she was ‘very proud’ and ‘blown away’ by the number of tributes after Claudia died at Liverpool’s Royal University Hospital on Wednesday.

Posting on Facebook, Ms Marsh said Claudia was a ‘beautiful daughter and incredible sister’ who was selfless with her work at the Merseyside-based charities, Talking Eating Disorders (TEDS) and The Whitechapel Centre.

Her mother said: “She loved giving back to people less fortunate than herself.”

Founder of TEDS and family friend Leigh Best described the death as ‘heartbreaking’, adding: “Claudia was very special, kind, caring and a dedicated teacher.

“She supported countless families across the UK. Claudia made her own little packs to give out to others with eating disorders with positive affirmations.

“She was full of positivity, kindness and hope, and had a smile that would brighten up the whole room.”

The Whitechapel Centre also released a statement where they said staff were ‘devastated’, adding she would leave behind a ‘legacy of care, dedication and enthusiasm’.

Throughout the pandemic Claudia spent her time providing food and clothing to those who need it, the centre said, adding: “Claudia always put others before herself and her memory will live on through the impact and contribution she made to our organisation.

“She was instrumental in bringing together our volunteer community.”

Her mother has set up an online fundraising page for the two charities which has already raised £16,495.

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Opening schools is a national priority, government says

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Schools Minister, Nick Gibb told the commons that schools in England will be reopen ‘as soon as possible’. 

Responding to an urgent question brought by Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green, Mr Gibb said the government would ‘prioritise the reopening of schools as we begin the process of lifting lockdown restrictions’.

Ms Green went onto say that the government had ‘failed  to give parents, children and staff the credible plan they deserve’.

Adding: “We simply don’t know what the government’s plan is for school reopening – other than what we read in the newspapers,”

Jonathan Borba / Unsplash

“In recent days, we’ve had reports that the prime minister wants pupils back before Easter, the health secretary saying he wants pupils back after Easter, Public Health England saying overnight the primary schools are already safe to reopen – so which is it?

“What is the plan for full reopening? The schools minister mentioned some metrics but was vague about the required performance against them – can he give us some more clarity?”

Mr Gibb said it was the government’s ‘strong desire to reopen all schools, colleges and universities as soon as possible’.

“We are acutely aware of the damage to children’s education and development – particularly to the most disadvantaged pupils by being away from school and of the increased burdens placed on parents.

He added that the ‘government has been clear that education is a national priority’ throughout the pandemic.

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“We had worked hard to keep all schools, colleges and universities fully open but scientific advice we received in January meant we had no choice but to close schools and colleges to all but vulnerable children and the children of critical workers.

“And to restrict in-person teaching in university to those studying to be future critical workers.” He said. 

He added that there will be an announcement in the next few days as remote learning is no substitute for face-to-face learning. 

“We want to give two weeks’ notice so parents can make arrangement for the care of their children and we will be making announcements in the next few days.” He said.

Chairman of the education select committee, Robert Halfon, told Mr Gibb that parents and children were suffering.

“We need to get our schools open again sooner rather than later,” he said.

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