It’s been confirmed that Greater Manchester will remain in Tier 3 for the time being.
Matt Hancock addressed the House of Commons today, revealing the fate of regions across the country following a government review of the tier allocations.
And it was bad news for Greater Manchester, with the health secretary confirming that we will have to remain in the toughest tier of coronavirus restrictions.
The only areas to move down tiers were Bristol and North Somerset, which were confirmed to be moving from Tier 3 into Tier 2 from Saturday.
Herefordshire will also move down a tier, from Tier 2 into Tier 1, the Health Secretary confirmed.
More areas in the East and South East of England are also being plunged into Tier 3, with Bedfordshire, the whole of Hertfordshire, most of Surrey, Peterborough, Buckinghamshire, Hastings, Rother, Hampshire and Gosport moving up a tier.
Mr Hancock told MPs: “As we enter the coldest months we must be vigilant and keep this virus under control.
“Yesterday 25,161 cases were reported and there are 18,038 people in hospital with coronavirus in the UK. We must keep supressing this virus.
“And this isn’t just a matter for Government or for this House, it is a matter for every single person and these are always the most difficult months for people’s health and for the NHS.
“And especially with the vaccine already here, we must be cautious as we accelerate the vaccine deployment as per The Winter Plan. We’ve come so far, we mustn’t blow it now.”
The news won’t come as a huge shock, as earlier this morning the Manchester Evening News revealed that local sources expected the region to stay in Tier 3.
Senior local sources told the MEN that nothing was expected to change in any borough of Greater Manchester following the government review. A second source confirmed that there’d be ‘no change at all’.
There had been hope our region could move down into Tier 2, including from some local leaders and the hospitality sector, as the infection rates have been falling, and are for the most part below the England-wide average.
However, it seems the government is prioritising caution ahead of the relaxation of rules over Christmas and a potential January spike.
Schools will not reopen after February half-term, Boris Johnson confirms
Schools will not open after February half term, prime minister Boris Johnson confirms.
Boris Johnson has confirmed that schools will not reopen after February half term but promises 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.
Boris explains 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 intiatives 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.”
Teacher dies on her 25th birthday after contracting coronavirus
‘Claudia was very special, kind, caring and a dedicated teacher’
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.”
Opening schools is a national priority, government says
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,”
“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.
“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.