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Schools could close in January as new Covid strain thought to infect kids more easily

Experts have released an update

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Taylor Wilcox/Unsplash

The government is reportedly considering closing schools throughout January as it’s thought the new coronavirus strain could infect kids more easily, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Scientific experts have said that a ‘significantly higher’ percentage of children have returned a positive Covid test in recent weeks, coinciding with the rise of the new strain.

Professor Neil Ferguson, a scientist on the Government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats advisory group (NervTag), said at a press briefing: “There is a hint that it has a higher propensity to infect children that may perhaps explain some of the differences, but we haven’t established any sort of causality on that but we can see that in the data.”

He continued: “What we’ve seen is, during the lockdown in England we saw a general distribution of the virus towards children, and that was true in the variant and the non-variant, and it is what we would expect, given that we had locked down which reduced adult contact but schools were still open.

“But what we’ve seen over the course of a five or six-week period is consistently the proportion of pillar two cases for the variant in under-15s was statistically significantly higher than the non-variant virus.

“We are still investigating the significance of that.”

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Professor Ferguson added: “This is a hypothesis at the moment – it’s not been proven. But if it were true, then this might explain a significant proportion, maybe even the majority, of the transmission increase seen.

“But a lot more work needs to be done to actually explore this in more detail.”

However, fellow NervTag member Professor Wendy Barclay, who is the head of the department of infectious disease at Imperial College London, urged people to be cautious in regards to what is said about the spread among kids.

She said: “We are not saying that this is a virus which specifically attacks children. We know that SARS-CoV-2, as it emerged as a virus, was not as efficient in infecting children as it was adults, and there are many hypotheses about that.

“And again, if the (new) virus is having an easier time of finding an entrance cell then that would put children on a more level playing field.”

Professor Barclay added: “Therefore children are equally susceptible perhaps to this virus as adults, and therefore given their mixing patterns, you would expect to see more children being infected.

“It’s not just the viruses specifically targeting them, but it’s just that it’s now less inhibited, if you like, to get into the children.”

CDC/unsplash

According to Professor Ferguson, the most current estimates found the virus might be somewhere between 50-70% more transmissible than the old strain, and he added that NervTag now had ‘high confidence’ there is a substantial increase in transmission.

However, uncertainty around the numbers means the group has not attached a final number on it, although he confirmed the new variant of the virus has spread to other parts of the country – Susan Hopkins, from Public Health England, said they were investigating a hotspot in Cumbria.

The virus, both the original and new strain, will decline over the next two weeks, according to Professor Ferguson’s best assessment of the situation.

He explained: “Contact rates tend to be lower over Christmas with the tightening of Christmas measures and Tier4 for in place in the highest areas. I would hope certainly to be seeing virus decrease.

“If we do that will give us some sense of the level of controls which need to be in place, the real question then is, how much are we able to relax measures in the new year, and still retain control.”

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Aldi launches new ‘bargain hour’ where prices are slashed by 75%

All 912 Aldi stores across the UK will take part in the scheme

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Michael Ely / Geograph

Aldi has announced it’s introducing a special ‘bargain hour’, where shoppers will be able to save 75% on certain goods.

Aldi customers will be able to grab a proper bargain on things like bread, meat and fruit, the supermarket confirmed.

All 912 Aldi stores across the UK will take part in the scheme, marking down perishable products such as fruit, vegetables and meat on their last day of life, just before stores close.

The retailer is doing this to stop fresh produce from going to waste, and it’s part of their wider pledge to halve food waste by 2030.

N Chadwick / Geograph

While at the moment Aldi does reduce the price on certain products when they reach their best-before or use-by dates, it will now be offering bigger savings on products marked with a red sticker.

Julie Ashfield, Managing Director of Buying at Aldi, said: “Aldi is already known for its low prices, but these discounts will help some shoppers to cut their grocery bills even further – all while helping us reduce food waste.

“Customers should look out for the red stickers when shopping at Aldi, but shoppers need to be quick as I’m sure the products will prove popular.”

It’s worth remembering that items will be reduced at different times at different stores, and of course reduced produce is sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

Кирилл Венедиктов / Wikimedia

Meanwhile, Aldi has teamed up with Marcus Rashford to launch a brand new campaign to help feed hungry kids across the UK.

Marcus has been busy over the past year, highlighting the shocking food inequalities in our country and holding the government to account, and he’s been doing a fantastic job.

And while one in five children in the UK currently live in food poverty, the Man United star – who experienced food poverty when he was a kid – won’t stop on his mission to help end this tragedy.

To help tackle the issue of child food poverty, Aldi has confirmed that it will donate 10 million meals to feed families in need across the UK during 2021.

The supermarket has also released a short animation that personifies ‘hunger’ through a child’s eyes, to mark the collaboration with Marcus, with the footballer narrating the emotional poem that accompanies the short film.

The video explores a young kid’s relationship with hunger, using a poem by Giles Andreae, with illustrator Lisa Stickley bringing the story to life via the animation.

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MP calls for teachers to be given the vaccine next so schools can reopen

He’s called on Matt Hancock to give teachers increased priority

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An MP has called for teachers to be given the Covid-19 vaccine so kids can get back to school.

Richard Graham MP is asking Matt Hancock to vaccinate teachers, following the news that Education Secretary Gavin Williamson can’t guarantee schools will reopen after the February half term as was originally planned.

Mr Graham said vaccination was the only way forward, confirming that he has asked the government to make sure teachers are included in the next round of vaccinations, once the 13 million most vulnerable have had their jabs.

Chris McAndrew / Wikimedia

He told GloucestershireLive: “If we want to give teachers, parents, pupils, families real certainty on schools, I think there’s only one way to do it, to vaccinate all the teachers.

“That way schools will know their staff will not have to go off and self-isolate, and are not going to catch the virus.

“Parents will also know their pupils are not going to be either infected by teachers or infect them.

“That would be a huge step forward. It doesn’t rule out all the risks. Pupils can still spread it amongst themselves and then back to their parents at home.”

Hereward House School/Wikimedia

A teacher from Derbyshire has created a petition asking for teachers, school and childcare staff to be prioritised for the coronavirus vaccine.

Charlotte Appleyard’s petition has already gained more than 470,000 signatures, which meant it was discussed in parliament on Monday.

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Sir Alex Ferguson’s emotional message to Marcus Rashford as he’s honoured for his charity work

The footballer was honoured at the Football Writers’ Association annual tribute awards

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marcusrashford / Instagram

Marcus Rashford has been in the news a lot over the past year for his valiant efforts in fighting child food poverty in the UK.

The Manchester United star has now been honoured again for his efforts, becoming the youngest person ever to receive an award at the Football Writers’ Association annual tribute awards.

Sir Alex Ferguson sent the 23-year-old an emotional message after he was honoured in recognition of his hard work tackling child poverty during the Covid-19 crisis, praising the ‘wonderful person’ he had become.

Marcus has been busy highlighting the shocking food inequalities in our country and holding the government to account, and he’s been doing a fantastic job.

And while one in five children in the UK currently live in food poverty, the striker – who experienced food poverty when he was a kid – won’t stop on his mission to help end this tragedy.

The footballer campaigned for free school meals to be extended during holidays, and more recently has raised awareness of the ‘woefully inadequate’ meal parcels some families have been receiving this week.

Marcus has been working with charity FareShare to help deliver food to hungry kids who are no longer getting free school meals, and yesterday it was reported that he’d teamed up with Aldi to donate 10 million meals to families in need.

Sir Alex said: “I would like to congratulate Marcus on his achievement and presentation (of the FWA Tribute Award) tonight.

“I have known him since being a kid of 7 years of age, and seen him develop through the ranks of Manchester United into a truly wonderful person.

“Apart from his football life, what he has achieved in the last few months is quite astonishing, how he has helped the people in need is a truly amazing achievement.

“I would like to congratulate him on that. He has shown to young people in particular there is a different way of dealing with life.

“He has shown great humility, he has shown courage to do what he did, so this achievement is well deserved and should be recognised with what he has done.

“So Marcus, well done on a fantastic achievement.”

Кирилл Венедиктов / Wikimedia

Marcus responded by thanking the legendary United manager, saying: “He has always, from the beginning really, backed me with what I am doing.

“Probably when other people in sports were telling me not to do it and just focus on football, he said if I believed in that, and I believe it is the right thing to do, then he is behind it.

“Those words from him are an amazing feeling to hear that.”

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