John Swinney defends need for continued coronavirus lockdown
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The third coronavirus lockdown in England is drawing closer to its end with schools due to reopen in less than three weeks. The Prime Minister is due to unveil his plan for easing lockdown restrictions next week, including measures to protect students, staff and their families as schools reopen in March. One of those protective initiatives could involve requiring parents to test their children for coronavirus, but how would that work?
Covid infections have fallen by two-thirds in a month in England but the virus is still spreading at the fastest pace among primary-age children and young people according to new research.
The React-1 study from Imperial College London showed the third national lockdown has significantly curbed the spread of coronavirus, despite new variants being detected around the country.
Prevalence of the virus remains high among children, however, which the investigating team suggested is caused by a greater proportion of children in these age groups attending school.
Earlier this month, a survey found that almost a quarter of primary school pupils were being taught in-person.
Coronavirus levels are still high generally across the UK, with one in 200 testing positive between February 4 and 13.
However, the evidence, based on more than 85,000 swab tests, found infections had dropped by two-thirds, with cases falling by 80 percent in London.
The positive findings came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson highlighted his plan to take a “data not dates” approach to leaving lockdown.
The PM is due to announce his proposal for lockdown easing on Monday, February 22.
The new roadmap will outline exactly how easing of lockdown restrictions will take place.
Mr Johnson said the country would leave lockdown “in stages, cautiously” and stressed the need for progress to be “one way”.
Schools reopening has been highlighted as a high priority for lockdown easing.
All schools in England are expected to reopen on March 8, followed by non-essential shops and then the hospitality sector.
But the conditions for the reopening are yet to be revealed.
Mr Johnson ordered ministers to ramp up preparations for reopening schools after being told the UK had passed the peak of the current coronavirus wave.
Ministers are currently discussing different proposals for the return of primary and secondary schools.
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Parents across the country will be asked to test their children twice a week, as part of Boris Johnson’s plan for a phased return to school, according to the Telegraph.
Secondary school pupils will be required to undertake lateral flow tests at home under the guidance of their parents or guardians during term time.
Schools will reportedly oversee the mass testing of secondary students once, at the start of term, after education unions struck a deal with ministers.
However, after that time, the testing responsibility will be levied at parents.
Unions and ministers are understood to have struck a compromise which would permit both home and school testing, it said.
The Government is reportedly planning to launch a mass coronavirus testing blitz across England as the lockdown is lifted.
NHS Test and Trace is preparing to send out more than 400,000 rapid lateral flow tests by post each day in a bid to get the country back to normal.
The plan, called “Are you ready? Get testing. Go”, will be rolled out before children return to school.
The scheme is designed to encourage Britons to get tested, even if they have no symptoms.
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), Britain’s largest union for secondary heads, had previously called for pupils to be given home test kits.
Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the ASCL, said: “We think that is a good idea.
“It reinforces the responsibility for families rather than assuming that bits of the state, like schools, will carry out the tests.”
Face mask rules are also expected to be tightened when pupils return to schools.
Masks will be made compulsory in secondary schools where social distancing is not possible outside classroom bubbles.
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