Secondary Schools In England To Close For Extra Two Weeks For Most Pupils
Secondary schools in England will stay closed for most pupils for an extra two weeks.
Speaking in the House of Commons, education secretary Gavin Williamson said Year 11 and 13 pupils will return to secondary school from 11 January, with all other years returning on 18 January.
He also said the 'overwhelming majority' of primary school students would return on 4 January as planned, except for in a 'small number' of places where coronavirus rates are highest.
He said: "Dealing with this pandemic has always been an exercise in managing risk.
"Throughout we have been adamant that the education of children is an absolute priority, and that keeping schools open is uppermost in all our plans.
"The magnificent efforts of all the leaders, teachers, and staff in all of our schools and colleges have ensures that settings are as safe and Covid-secure as possible.
"But we must always act quickly when circumstances change. The evidence about the new Covid variant and rising infection rate have required some immediate adjustment to our plans for the new term."
It comes after Matt Hancock announced that three quarters of the country will be placed under Tier 4 coronavirus measures.
Speaking in the House of Commons earlier, he said the tighter measures would come into effect from one minute past midnight tonight (30 December).
The North East, parts of the North West, large swathes of the Midlands, and some areas in the South West will face the tightest levels of restrictions tomorrow - under which people are told to 'stay at home' and follow rules broadly in line with the November national lockdown.
You can see the full updated tier list here - with the tiers as of tomorrow in brackets.
The health secretary also took the opportunity to emphasise that a brighter future for the country lies ahead following the approval of the University of Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine earlier today (30 December).
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He said: "We end 2020 still with great challenges but also with hope and confidence that in 2021 we have a brighter future ahead."
He added: "Everyone who wants one can get a vaccine."
Hancock also said the approval of the vaccine would enable the acceleration of the vaccination of NHS staff.
The UK has ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca, which is enough to vaccinate 50 million people.
It is the second vaccine approved for use in the UK after the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, which has been administered to more than 600,000 people so far.
Taken together, the UK has now ordered enough doses of approved vaccines to cover the entire population.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was first developed in the earlier part of this year, with volunteers taking part in trials.
It has since been tested on thousands of people and been approved for roll-out.
The vaccine is a genetically modified version of the common cold virus. It has been engineered to lay the foundations for a part of the coronavirus called the 'spike protein'.
It causes the body to produce this protein, which the immune system quickly stamps out. Then, when the person comes into contact with the deadly virus, it already knows how to deal with it.
Unlike the current vaccine, it doesn't need to be kept at incredibly low temperatures, meaning it is much easier to transport.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: "The Government has today accepted the recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to authorise Oxford University/AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine for use.
"This follows rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA, which has concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness."
Featured Image Credit: PA
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