Boris Johnson laid out his ‘roadmap out of lockdown’ yesterday, which will see the gradual reopening of our country over four key stages.
The first of these begins on March 8th, with the full reopening of schools across England.
As part of this reopening, the government has confirmed that secondary school and college students will have to take two Covid tests a week.
Addressing the House of Commons yesterday afternoon, the Prime Minister announced that the return of face-to-face teaching in schools would be ‘supported by twice weekly tests in secondary schools’.
Pupils’ families will also be encouraged to take regular tests, as well as anyone in a support of childcare bubble, although it’s unclear at this stage how that will work.
The official roadmap out of lockdown document says: “In addition to the already established rapid testing regime and regular testing of staff, there will be twice-weekly testing of secondary school and college pupils, initially with on-site testing and then home testing.
“All households with school children, members of their support and childcare bubbles, and those in related occupations will also be encouraged to get tested regularly.”
According to the Department for Education, school children will be tested as they return on March 8th, with the guidance stating: “After an initial programme of three tests in school/college, students will be provided with two rapid tests to use each week at home.
“Staff in secondary schools will also be supplied with test kits to self swab and test themselves twice a week at home.”
However, there have been some concerns over implementing a testing programme like this, including doubts over the reliability of results.
Glyn Potts, headteacher at Newman RC College in Oldham, told the MEN: “Schools have spent a great deal of time and money planning for mass testing.
“If we are to continue to be asked to offer tests to students in school, then the logistical demands, extra staffing and disruption need to be weighed against the benefits of what is widely reported as an inaccurate test.”
In regards to asking families to do the tests at home, he added that it ‘would call into question the validity and expectation of such tests thus making the goal questionable’.
This follows the news that secondary school pupils will have to wear masks in classrooms and corridors when they return.
The face covering rule will be in place for a ‘limited period’, which will include at least the ‘initial weeks’ when kids return to schools.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach officially confirms date for reopening
Not long to go now
The Blackpool Pleasure Beach owners have confirmed the date on which the theme park will reopen.
Posting a video on social media of staff testing the rides, the caption stated that the venue is prepping for customers’ return on April 12th.
A statement on social media said: “In line with Government guidelines, we plan to re-open COVID secure and ‘Good To Go’ on Monday 12th April.
“We look forward to welcoming you back to share in our 125th year.”
Under current government plans to ease restrictions, theme parks along with zoos will be opening in Stage Two, which will happen on April 12th at the earliest.
It comes after the council announced that Blackpool Illuminations will be extended in 2021, with an additional two months of the spectacle.
You can see more info on the opening here, along with all the Covid-19 policies you can expect on your visits such as bookings made in advance and eTickets.
One of UK’s largest care home groups says it won’t hire anyone who isn’t vaccinated
New staff must have received the Covid vaccine
Care UK, one of the UK’s largest care home companies, has put a ‘no jab, no job’ system in place.
It comes after Care UK, which runs 120 homes, has seen more than two-thirds of its staff vaccinated.
A spokesperson said: “Everyone applying for a role which requires them to go into a home will be expected to have been vaccinated before they start work.”
Barchester, which operates 220 private care homes, said it would be insisting on staff having vaccines, warning that ‘if they refuse… on non-medical grounds [they] will, by reason of their own decision, make themselves unavailable for work’.
Employment lawyers have warned that such a move could result in legal challenges for unfair dismissal. However, Barchester stressed it might be possible to find such people work in roles away from frontline care.
Mike Cain, an associate at Leigh Day, said employment tribunals would weigh the care home’s clinical safety obligations to residents against the civil liberties of any employee whose refusal to have the vaccine might not be an impediment to safe working.
Barchester explains they expect all staff to have the vaccine by April 23rd, excluding those who have medical – including pregnancy – grounds for exemption.
So far 82% of its staff have received a first dose. A spokesperson said: “We are very aware of concerns around possible discrimination which is in no way our intention.
“We are doing everything possible to ensure fairness while also delivering on our duty to protect our residents, patients and staff.”
Bupa has said it is considering a policy for staff in hospitals, care homes and dental practices.
The largest not-for-profit home chain, MHA, said it is ‘being explicit with new staff that we want all of our frontline colleagues to take up the vaccine’ but it will not require new starters to prove it.
Unison, which represents care workers, warned that a ‘hardline approach’ risked hindering take-up.
Senior national care officer, Gavin Edwards, said: “Hesitant staff need encouraging and persuading.
“Intimidation and threats won’t deliver the results necessary for life to return to normal.”
17-year-old boy arrested after the George Floyd mural was defaced with racist graffiti
It’s the third time it’s been defaced
A 17-year-old boy has been arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated criminal damage to the George Floyd mural in the Northern Quarter.
The tribute to George Floyd in Stevenson Square was painted by artist Akse P19 following the killing of Mr Floyd in May 2020.
The artwork was vandalised with a racist word on Friday morning for the third time since the painting was completed.
The suspect was seen doing the act on CCTV and police are now holding him on suspicion of racially aggravated criminal damage.
It comes just a matter of weeks after the last vandalising of the artwork.
Mr Floyd was killed by a white police officer who knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.
His face became an icon of the resurgence of the Black Live Matter campaign across the globe.
Speaking on the last incident of defacing, Councillor Jon-Connor Lyons said: “Racism has no place in Manchester, we will not tolerate it and the Council will repair the memorial working with the artist.
“We’ll be working to review CCTV footage and any leads will be followed to find the culprit.
“Manchester is an inclusive, welcoming city with people from across the globe [and] this does not represent Manchester or Mancunians.
“Whoever did this has achieved nothing.”