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It’s ‘too early to know’ if schools will go back in February, Hancock says

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The government refuses to commit to reopening schools before the Easter holidays.

The prime minister and education secretary are coming under increasing pressure to reopen schools and provide a ‘route map’ for the reopening plan. 

Rob Halfon, the chairman of the Commons Education Committee, wrote on Twitter that he was seeking ‘clarity’ from the Department for Education and ‘an education route map out of coronavirus to get children learning again at school’.

It comes after growing concern that children are the ‘forgotten victims of the pandemic’. 

Former cabinet minister Esther McVey says the government need to take into account the damage the prolonged closures will do to the future prospects of a generation of children. 

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, she said: “We genuinely seem to have forgotten about the children,”

“Millions of them are missing out on an education, not developing socially with their friends and aren’t allowed to enrich their lives by playing sports and music any more.

“They are the pandemic’s forgotten victims and we’ve got to start thinking about their prospects and futures as well.”

Tory MP, Tom Tugendhat added: “Closed schools increases inequality, exposes the most vulnerable, and creates gaps that cannot be filled. We must open schools as soon as possible.”

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A senior government source cautioned that the picture has become ‘more pessimistic’ as slowing infection rates were not falling ‘nearly as sharply as had been expected’, reports The Guardian

Robert Halfon urges ministers to put ‘the whole engine of the state’ behind paving the way for schools to reopen.

He told The Guardian: “The whole engine of the state must do everything possible to get our schools open after half-term as was originally proposed,

“If it means priority vaccinations for teachers and support staff then it is worth it because despite the efforts of individual teachers and support staff who are doing their best we are facing an epidemic of mental health problems and educational poverty.

“This is putting enormous pressure on parents and families, many of whom have to give up their livelihoods to look after their children at home. With all the laptops in the world, you still need motivation from parents and when they are working that is very hard, especially with younger children.”

Annie Spratt / Unsplash

General secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Geoff Barton said: “At a time when we are worrying about the mental health of young people, the last thing we need now is no one back in school till after Easter,”

Downing Street and the Department for Education are expected to examine the data this week before making a judgment. 

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has said schools will be given a minimum of two weeks notice to plan a return of pupils. He added that he is hoping to be able to give teachers and parents an update this week. 

However, it is believed the majority of pupils will not return until at least Easter, despite the government aspiring to have pupils returning to schools from February half-term.

It comes after Matt Hancock told Sky News that we are a ‘long, long, long way off’ easing lockdown restrictions.

The health secretary refused to commit to either mid-February or after Easter as a point for schools to reopen with all pupils.

He told the Andrew Marr Show: “We’re really clear we want to get schools back and as safe as we can, but we have to watch the data,”

“Of course I hope schools go back after Easter and the vaccination programme is going fast. But we’ve got to make sure that we get the cases down and we’ve got to protect the country from new variants coming in from abroad.”

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Wayne Rooney breaks silence after hotel photos leak online

The photos quickly went viral on social media

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@waynerooney / Instagram

Wayne Rooney has broken his silence after he was pictured with several young women in a hotel in Manchester.

The former Manchester United captain apologised to his family and to the club he currently manages, Derby County.

Rooney spoke to Sky Sports after Derby’s friendly against Real Betis on Wednesday, saying: “I made a mistake.

“I went to a private party with two of my friends and from me, I’d like to apologise to my family and the club for the images which were going round and I want to move forward on this.

“I’m grateful to Derby County for giving me this opportunity to get this club back to where it belongs, and I’ll do everything in my power to make sure I do that.”

He added: “It’s dealt with. I’m looking forward to moving forward and preparing for another game on Sunday.”

Rooney was photographed asleep in a hotel bedroom on the weekend, with the images quickly going viral.

The photos show a fully clothed Rooney passed out in a chair after a night out in Manchester, after he went to the hotel with three women.

Yesterday we reported that the former Manchester United captain was asked for £10,000 to keep the photos hidden from his wife Coleen.

According to reports, the police launched a blackmail probe over a message sent to Rooney on Instagram that included a photo from the hotel and the comment: “Morning Wayne 10 grand please mate or Coleen sees this.”

However, officers have now dropped the investigation after concluding that no offence had been committed.

Станислав Ведмидь / Wikimedia

A Cheshire Police spokesman said: “On Monday July 26th Cheshire Constabulary received reports of a possible blackmail relating to a number of images circulating online.

“Officers have spoken to the person involved and are satisfied that no offences have taken place.

“The person involved has also stated that they do not wish to take the matter any further.”

It’s not been suggested that the women from the photos, Tayler Ryan, Elise Melvin and Brooke Morgan, all aged 21, were knowingly involved in any criminal activity.

As the photos went viral on social media, Rooney’s legal team contacted Greater Manchester Police, before the case was passed to Cheshire Police.

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Tesco offers lorry drivers £1,000 joining bonus amid HGV crisis

There is a chronic shortage of drivers in the industry at the moment

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The ongoing shortage of HGV drivers has seen supermarket shelves empty across the country, with Tesco recently revealing the shortage in drivers is resulting in forty-eight tonnes of food waste each week as fresh goods are being left to rot.

Now the supermarket has stepped up in its bid to entice more drivers to come forward, with a £1,000 joining bonus up for grabs.

Tesco will be offering the £1,000 incentive to recruits who join before September 30th.

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Similar recruitment incentives are also being offered by other companies for HGV drivers, it’s understood, with Morrisons saying it was working on training staff to become lorry drivers.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimates there is currently a shortfall of up to 100,000 lorry drivers in the UK – and as well as this issue, the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit are also being blamed for shortages, The Mirror reports.

The Covid pandemic has seen travel become extremely restricted, with haulage companies saying their European drivers have simply decided not to return to the UK due to the virus and Brexit.

As well as food deliveries, there have also been issues with some council services, and several councils have been forced to halt services like garden waste collection, according to the chair of the Local Government Association, James Jamieson.

The environment spokesperson for the LGA, Darren Rodwell, said: “While most councils have been able to keep services running, some are having to reduce services such as green waste collection.

“These issues are partly due to the increase in ‘pinged’ staff but also a larger problem with a shortage of HGV drivers.

“The announcement that waste collection staff can apply for exemption is pleasing, but we are awaiting details on how quick the application process will be and whether it includes all waste collection staff.”

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Empty shelves ‘crisis’ in supermarkets to get worse in ‘next three weeks’, haulage boss warns

‘In the next two to three weeks we are facing a collapse of the supply chain’

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@kentishsal & Dr Mike Galsworthy / Twitter

Shoppers have been urged not to start panic buying amid empty shelves and supply shortages in Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Lidl stores across the country.

In scenes reminiscent of the start of the Covid pandemic in March 2020, shelves across countless supermarkets up and down the country have been sparse, leaving frustrated customers speculating what could possibly be the cause of the issue.

Now shoppers have been warned by industry bosses there could be further more empty shelves because of a collapse in the supply chain.

Jivee Blau / Wikimedia

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, said: “In the next two to three weeks we are facing a collapse of the supply chain meaning even bigger gaps on supermarket shelves.

“We already have hauliers unable to move goods on a daily basis and we’re now facing a perfect storm.

“This is a crisis on a scale we have never seen before in this industry and the government is burying its head in the sand.

“It is not recognising the seriousness.”

A Morrisons spokeswoman told the BBC: “As per the whole of the UK, we are experiencing a rise in cases and close contact notifications.

“We provide guidance and support for colleagues who may need to self-isolate including sick pay and have covid secure controls in place in all our stores to ensure we can continue to operate and keep them open.

“Throughout the whole of the pandemic, we have not been required to close a store.”

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has acknowledged industry-wide problems but said stores are working closely with suppliers so customers can still buy what they need.

But what’s actually causing these shortages?

Rept0n1x / Wikimedia

Well, a large part of the problem can be credited to the ongoing lack of HGV drivers – Tesco recently revealed that the shortage in drivers is resulting in forty-eight tonnes of food waste each week as fresh goods destined for its stores are being left to rot.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimates there is currently a shortfall of up to 100,000 lorry drivers in the UK – and as well as this issue, the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit are also being blamed for shortages, The Mirror reports.

The Covid pandemic has seen travel become extremely restricted, with haulage companies saying their European drivers have simply decided not to return to the UK due to the virus and Brexit.

The recent reopening of all shops and hospitality establishments such as nightclubs also means there’s been a sudden demand for certain goods.

Amid all of these issues, the RHA has called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take action on the HGV driver shortage.

In response, the government says it has ramped up testing for lorry drivers, is paying for more apprentices and is allowing current drivers to increase their working hours. But, even before Covid, the estimated shortage of drivers was around 60,000.

Other circumstances that have been blamed on causing delays include the earlier blockage of the Suez Canal.

Despite all the issues with supply, customers are being warned not to panic buy.

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