English schools face tighter mask rules in government plan to reassure parents

Pupils will have to wear masks outside classroom bubbles amid plans for mass use of lateral flow tests

Rules governing the wearing of masks in schools will be tightened when pupils return to classrooms in England, as the government plans a PR campaign to build up parents’ confidence in school safety ahead of reopening next month.

Amid speculation about when and how schools would reopen to all pupils, it emerged that masks will be compulsory outside classroom bubbles in secondary schools where social distancing is not possible. Previously it has been left to the discretion of head teachers.

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from Coronavirus | The Guardian
via COVID-19 Alerts

UK charities urgently call on PM to set up emergency fund

Cancer Research UK and Comic Relief among charities who signed open letter to Boris Johnson

Hundreds of the UK’s biggest charity names, including Cancer Research UK, Comic Relief and Samaritans have signed a joint letter to the prime minister, Boris Johnson, calling on the government to set up an emergency support fund for the voluntary sector.

They are warning that hundreds of charities could close in the next few months – or be forced to make major cuts to services – unless ministers create a fund to help voluntary organisations maintain services.

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from Coronavirus | The Guardian
via COVID-19 Alerts

England’s poorest areas hit by Covid ‘perfect storm’ – leaked report

Exclusive: government analysis reveals unmet financial needs of many people needing to self-isolate

A “perfect storm” of low wages, cramped housing and failures of the £22bn test-and-trace scheme has led to “stubbornly high” coronavirus rates in England’s most deprived communities, an unpublished government report has found.

A classified analysis by the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC), produced last month, concluded that “unmet financial needs” meant people in poorer areas were less likely to be able to self-isolate because they could not afford to lose income.

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from Coronavirus | The Guardian
via COVID-19 Alerts

Why Leicester, Blackburn and Bradford have been hit hard by Covid

Leaders blame social inequalities, mistrust, and failures of test-and-trace system

Leicester’s deputy mayor, Sarah Russell, sees a pattern in the latest data on the spread of coronavirus in the city. “We don’t get the peaks of other places but we take a longer time coming back down,” she says. In some parts of the country, it is a familiar problem.

Leaked analysis by the government’s Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) has found that low wages, cramped housing and the failures of the test-and-trace system have led to “stubbornly high” case rates in deprived areas such as parts of Leicester, Blackburn with Darwen and Bradford.

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from Coronavirus | The Guardian
via COVID-19 Alerts

The Guardian view on economic predictions: no time to bank on a recovery

When Andrew Haldane claims post-Covid UK is ‘poised like a coiled spring’, he does no favours to either his reputation or the debate over the future

To state the blindingly obvious, the chief economist of the Bank of England, Andrew Haldane, is an intelligent man. No boilerplate praise, this: his speeches on subjects as varied as how to reform economics and the importance of the voluntary sector have been model interventions – both serious and ever-so-slightly subversive. Yet when Mr Haldane writes a newspaper op-ed that claims the post-Covid economy is “poised like a coiled spring”, as he did last week, he risks looking not only silly but, worse, choking the debate over the future of the UK.

To be sure, his argument rests on firm logic. Many workers have spent the past year still employed but with few outlets to spend their incomes, so have built up around £125bn in household savings. Get those jabs, fling open the pubs, allow the football terraces to fill – and let the good economic times roll! And indeed the recent economic news from the UK and elsewhere has been better than hoped.

Yet this is not your normal recession. Too much rests on factors completely out of the hands of chief executives, finance ministers and, yes, central bankers. Mr Haldane has already sat this class. Last summer, he forecast the UK would swiftly rebound from its lows, in a recovery shaped like a V. Not long after, the country went into its second lockdown. That V turned into, at best, a W. The unknowns about this virus, its mutations and their propensity to spread suggest a need for caution and openness to a wide range of outcomes, rather than tabloid tiggerishness.

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from Coronavirus | The Guardian
via COVID-19 Alerts

The Guardian view on two-party politics: a binary choice is bad for democracy

The pandemic has postponed the crisis of representation exposed by the Brexit referendum that forced people – and the UK’s nations – apart

The pandemic has not dimmed hostility between political parties at Westminster, but it has downgraded the contest as a focus of public attention. Identification as Labour or Conservative is marginal to most people’s lives between elections, and irrelevant to the coronavirus. Last year many said they would like to see opposition and government working together, improbable though that may be given the rancorous state of British politics.

Sir Keir Starmer has struck a tricky and thankless balance between conditional support, constructive criticism and more pugnacious attacks on the government. He has to compete for attention with rebellious Tory MPs. In a parliament where the prime minister has a large majority, dissent from within the ruling party often excites media attention more than the official opposition. That tendency bestows privilege on libertarian, anti-lockdown views that are peripheral to mainstream opinion. Not for the first time, the frame of a national debate has been skewed by small, well-amplified rightwing faction with disproportionate leverage over a Tory prime minister.

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from Coronavirus | The Guardian
via COVID-19 Alerts

Air systems in some UK quarantine hotels ‘risk spreading Covid’

Expert says some hotels’ ventilation systems provide inadequate airflow or could spread virus

Some quarantine hotels housing people who have travelled to the UK from Covid-19 hotspots are using ventilation systems that risk causing localised outbreaks, according to a report.

The ventilation expert’s survey, seen by the Guardian, found that multiple hotels near Heathrow airport have systems that provide inadequate airflow or could even spread the virus, prompting calls from Labour and the Unite trade union for urgent government action.

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from Coronavirus | The Guardian
via COVID-19 Alerts

How we are counting every US healthcare worker who dies from coronavirus

Over 70 reporters at the Guardian and Kaiser Health News have scrutinized data sources, interviewed the bereaved and spoken with healthcare experts

Why is there a need to count frontline healthcare worker deaths from Covid-19?

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from Coronavirus | The Guardian
via COVID-19 Alerts

Cummings a Tory rebel? The Covid cronyism shows he’s just another insider | Owen Jones

Revelations about government contracts make a mockery of his carefully cultivated anti-elite image

Dominic Cummings is the perfect totem for rightwing populism. You can see it in his careful cultivation of outsider status, from his theatrical bickering with the press pack camped outside his home (he pretends to find it all slightly irritating, but you can tell he’s really enjoying it), to his final exit from the front door of No 10, which was as dramatic as it was contrived. Likewise, his choice of casual attire suggests that he is a man who supposedly does not care what the world thinks of him, although the fact that one of Cummings’ previous blogs was edited in mid-April to make it look as though he predicted the pandemic tells us otherwise.

That Cummings has never joined a political party, and privately believes the Tories are too wedded to the establishment, helps him cling on to this outsider status. But as the willing servant of an Old Etonian Conservative prime minister who sought power for its own sake, Cummings’ career in government tells a rather different story. While he expressed contempt for the British media ecosystem, he fed tasty morsels to favoured journalists who haplessly danced to his tune. When he declared that the public were right to believe that “Tory MPs largely do not care about these poorer people”, he wanted the world to know he was different. But as the second most powerful figure in a government whose mismanagement of the pandemic has had a terrible consequences for the lives of the poor, he was not.

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from Coronavirus | The Guardian
via COVID-19 Alerts

‘I’ve accepted the risk’: volunteering to be exposed to Covid in new trials

Healthy adult volunteers aged 18 to 30 will be exposed to virus in controlled environment

Human challenge trials for coronavirus are to begin in the UK, a world first in the global fight against Covid-19.

Healthy adult volunteers aged between 18 and 30 will be exposed to coronavirus in a controlled environment, to learn more about how their body reacts to the virus, how it is transmitted and how much of the virus is needed to cause infection.

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from Coronavirus | The Guardian
via COVID-19 Alerts

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