Sajid Javid has suggested that schools could be forced to close after Christmas in the fight against the Omicron variant.
Appearing on LBC this morning, the health secretary refused to rule out closing schools to protect the country from a wave of the Omicron variant, warning: “When it comes to our fight against this pandemic, there are no guarantees.”
He continued: “I don’t want to see that or any of these kinds of measures. I think I’d say this… if you’re asking me for guarantees, I will just say – as the health secretary of course, I’m not the education secretary – there are, when it comes to our fight against this pandemic, there are no guarantees.
“But what we do know that works is, in this case, a booster shot of a vaccine. This vaccine still is incredibly effective with a booster shot and that’s why we’re so focussed on it.”
Javid also addressed the NHS potentially postponing planned surgeries and non-urgent appointments in order to free up resources for the booster rollout, saying: “We are in another race against the virus.
“We must get more booster jabs out there without delay… They were important before, but they have never, ever been so important.
“This is our best way of dealing with this new variant, and please do come forward to protect yourselves, to protect your loved ones and your community.”
However, Javid’s comments have been met with a wave of backlash by concerned parents, who have pointed out that children have ‘suffered enough’.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously said keeping children in classrooms is a ‘national priority’, with schools being expected to be the last to close in any new lockdown.
Last night, the PM announced that booster jabs will be offered to everyone over the age of eighteen in a pre-recorded message to the nation.
He said the target to vaccinate all adults by the end of January will be brought forward by a month in a bid to combat the rising Omicron infection rates, noting that ‘no one should be in any doubt, there is a tidal wave of Omicron coming.’
Huge protests taking place in Manchester and UK this weekend over soaring cost of living
Thousands of people are set to protest the government’s response to the cost of living crisis
Thousands of people are set to take to the streets across the UK this weekend in protest of the soaring cost of living.
Enough is Enough – a campaign group calling for the government to take action against the ongoing cost of living crisis – has so far organised rallies in fifty different towns and cities across the country for this Saturday (October 1st).
Manchester is one of the cities involved in the mass protests, with a rally due to begin at 12pm at Piccadilly Gardens.
Other locations also staging protests include Leeds, Birmingham, Newcastle, Ellesmere Port, Preston and Sheffield.
The campaign wrote on its official Instagram account: “It’s time to say #EnoughlsEnough.
“No to handouts for the rich and hardship for the rest. This Saturday, October 1st, we’ll be protesting in 50 cities and towns across Britain.
“Main protests on listed graphic but dozens more on the website. Join the campaign today to find out about your local event.”
Enough Is Enough was established by trade union and community organisation leaders over the summer in a bid to ‘push back against the misery forced on millions by rising bills, low wages, food poverty, shoddy housing and a society run only for a wealthy elite’.
The campaign has five demands:
- A real pay rise.
- Slash energy bills.
- End food poverty.
- Decent homes for all.
- Tax the rich.
Back in August, Mayor Andy Burnham threw his support behind the movement, with him attending a protest in Manchester on August 30th.
Speaking to Channel 4 news outside of Manchester Cathedral ahead of the rally, Burnham said: “I go round this city all the time. People are scared. They don’t know how they’re going to get through.
“People’s resilience is already low. Their mental health is low. How are people going to get through?”
Visit the Enough Is Enough website for more information on the movement and any protests happening near you.
All primary school kids to get free breakfast as part of Labour’s childcare plan
Labour hopes to fund the plan by reversing Kwasi Kwarteng’s abolition of the 45p higher tax rate
All primary school pupils will receive free breakfast under Labour’s newly unveiled childcare plan.
Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson will announce the plan at the Labour conference in Liverpool today, where she will reveal that all children regardless of wealth would get a free morning meal.
Currently, schools are only eligible for free breakfasts if 40% of their pupils come from poorer families.
Labour say the plan would cost roughly £365million, and would be funded by reversing Kwasi Kwarteng’s abolition of the 45p higher tax rate.
The reintroduction of the tax rate would bring in an estimated £2billion, with the remaining cash to go towards a recruitment drive of NHS doctors, nurses and midwives.
Phillipson also hopes the pledge will reduce childcare costs for parents who need to start work early.
She will say at the conference today: “Labour will build a modern childcare system. One that supports families from the end of parental leave through to the end of primary school.
“As the first step on that road, we will introduce breakfast clubs for every primary school child in England, driving up standards in maths, reading, and writing, and giving mams and dads choices.”
The Association of School and College Leaders said of the plan: “Not only is this important in terms of wellbeing, but it is also educationally important as pupils are not in a fit state to learn if they are hungry.”
Research by KidsHealth.org showed that high protein and fibre-rich breakfasts help to boost children’s attention span, concentration and memory, all of which are essential for good performance at school.
By reducing the stress of the morning routine for families and children, breakfast clubs can also help to improve behaviour and attendance.
Sam Bailey, the headteacher of the Forest Academy in Barnsley, said after the launch of their own free breakfast club: “Pupil behaviour has improved dramatically and attitudes to learning are the best they have ever been.”
Manchester ruled out of hosting Eurovision 2023
BREAKING: The decision now lays between two northern cities
Manchester has been ruled out of hosting the Eurovision song contest for 2023 as the shortlist for cities is cut from seven to two.
The BBC has announced today that Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Newcastle and Sheffield have been axed from the shortlist of wannabe hosts for the competition.
This leaves Liverpool and Glasgow as the last standing contenders.
The BBC said the two remaining cities, which both have riverside arena venues, had ‘the strongest overall offer’.
A final decision will be made ‘within weeks’, the broadcaster added.
If Liverpool is selected as the host, the competition would be staged at the 11,000-capacity dockside M&S Bank Arena, which is next to a conference centre and near the city centre’s hotels and rail links.
In Glasgow, alternatively, the 14,300-capacity OVO Hydro venue would play home to Eurovision.
Liverpool and Glasgow will be scored on a set of criteria, the BBC said, including:
- “Having a suitable venue and sufficient space to deliver the requirements of the Song Contest.
- “The commitment that can be made by a city or region to hosting the event, including the financial contribution.
- “The strength of the cultural offer which includes off screen local and regional activity as well as showcasing Ukrainian culture and music.
- “And alignment with the BBC’s strategic priorities as a public service broadcaster, such as providing value to all audiences and supporting the creative economy in the UK.”
It was announced last month that the UK would host the annual song contest for the first time in twenty-four years after organisers decided it could not go ahead in Ukraine – who won this year’s competition – due to the ongoing conflict with Russia.
The UK came in second place thanks to Sam Ryder’s smash-hit ‘Spaceman’, prompting the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) to open talks with the BBC.
A statement from BBC director general Tim Davie read: “It is a matter of great regret that our colleagues and friends in Ukraine are not able to host the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest.
“Being asked to host the largest and most complex music competition in the world is a great privilege. The BBC is committed to making the event a true reflection of Ukrainian culture alongside showcasing the diversity of British music and creativity.”