Coronavirus UK news LIVE: Higher risk of car crash than of Covid at school and parents to be fined for keeping kids off

CHILDREN are at a greater risk of being in a car crash or having the flu than of Covid, the deputy chief medial officer has warned.

Dr Jenny Harries has said she can "understand entirely" why parents are nervous to send their kids back to school – but that the long term damage of keeping them out of classrooms is too great.

Meanwhile, headteachers can fine parents who keep their kids off school in September – but it's a last resort – the schools minister has said.

Nick Gibb stressed that all children should be back in classrooms next week in order to give them the best chance in life, and repair the damage done by months of lockdown.

Speaking on BBC Radio Four's Today Programme, he said: "Fines for non-attendance have always been a last resort for headteachers and schools. What matters is that young people are attending school.

It comes as the UK death toll rose to 41,429 today, with 1 more death in England reported.

Follow our coronavirus live blog for all the latest news and updates…

  • TESCO CREATES 16,000 JOBS

    Tesco has said it is creating 16,000 new permanent jobs to help it react to “exceptional growth” in its online business.

    Tesco has more than doubled its delivery customers since the start of March.

    It said the recruitment drive will include 10,000 roles for pickers, who select items for customer orders, and 3,000 delivery drivers.

    The retailer will also hire staff for a variety of other roles across its stores and distribution centres in the coming weeks and months.

    These 16,000 jobs are in addition to around 4,000 permanent jobs which have already been created since the start of the pandemic, Tesco said.

  • ITALY BEGINS VACCINE TRIALS

    Italy kicked off human trials of a potential Covid vaccine today, joining a global effort to develop a response to the virus which has shown signs of resurging in Europe.

    Rome's Lazzaro Spallanzani institute will conduct trials on 90 volunteers over the coming weeks, with the hope a vaccine may be available by spring of next year.

    Francesco Vaia, health director of the Spallanzani hospital, said the first patient will be monitored for four hours before being allowed to go home where he will be kept under observation for 12 weeks.

    She said: “We will see if it produces any side effects and if it produces neutralising antibodies.

    “If we are able to be fast, we will have the first shots on the market next spring.”

  • EU COMMISSION 'INVESTIGATING PHIL HOGAN GOLF DINNER'

    European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen is investigating the circumstances surrounding Irish commissioner Phil Hogan's attendance at a controversial golf event.

    Brussels said Mr Hogan, the EU's trade commissioner, had given an account of his actions to the president, but she had requested further clarification from him.

    European Commission spokesman Dana Spinant told reporters: “This is a matter which requires careful assessment on our side.

    “It is a matter where details count, therefore the president has requested Commissioner Hogan to provide a full report covering the matters… the president has received such a report from Commissioner Hogan last night.”

    She added: “The president has requested further clarifications because details are important and she wishes to have them.”

  • TEST & TRACE

    Up to four million Brits could be tested for coronavirus every day by early 2021, it has been reported.

    Health Secretary Matt Hancock is understood to have appointed a global accountancy firm to help develop a mass Covid-19 testing programme.

    It's hoped the regime, which Deloitte will help consult on, will seek out asymptomatic carriers who could go on to unknowingly spread the virus.

    Mr Hancock has said the testing expansion will be instrumental in further easing restrictions and boost the economy, the Telegraph reports.

    A source told the newspaper: “It is at an embryonic stage and it’s going to take a hell of a lot of work.

    “It is nicknamed ‘Operation Moon Shot’ because that is what a moon shot is like: it seems very hard but it’s important and we want to land it.”

    Officials told the Telegraph they were reluctant to set targets or figures on tests but sources acknowledeged they were aiming for “millions a day”.

  • SITUATION IN BIRMINGHAM

    The city of Birmingham was placed on the Government's national watchlist on August 21 as an “area of enhanced support”, meaning it will be provided with extra resources and support to help increase testing and manage outbreaks if necessary.

    No new restrictions have been placed on residents, however, and the number of new cases is falling.

    Birmingham currently has the 17th highest rate in England, with 23.6 cases per 100,000 people recorded in the seven days to August 20 – down from 30.4 in the previous seven days.

  • SITUATION IN LEICESTER

    Cases continue to fall in Leicester.

    The latest figures show 167 new cases were recorded in the seven days to August 20, or 47.1 per 100,000 people.

    This is down from 60.7 in the previous seven days. At the peak of the recent outbreak in the city, the rolling rate was as high as 159.5 cases per 100,000 for the seven days to June 24.

  • COVID CASES IN OLDHAM

    There were 149 new cases of Covid-19 recorded in Oldham in the seven days to August 20.

    This is the equivalent of 62.8 cases per 100,000 people – down from 102.5 per 100,000 in the previous week (the seven days to August 13).

    Oldham continues to record the highest rate of new cases in England, but the rolling rate has fallen steadily since a peak of 112.2 in the seven days to August 11.

    Further restrictions were introduced in Oldham from midnight on Saturday August 22, with people told not to socialise with anyone outside their household and to use public transport only if it is essential.

  • RISK IN SCHOOLS HIGHEST 'BETWEEN STAFF'

    Dr Jenny Harries said that the risk for teachers in schools is probably highest “between staff”.

    England's deputy chief medical officer also said it would be “unlikely” that there would be a scenario where all schools across the country would be forced to close again.

    But in areas subject to a local lockdown there could be individual schools forced to close.

    Speaking to Sky News, she said that no environment is “risk free” but added that the risk to children was higher from seasonal flu compared to the current risks posed by Covid-19.

    And she said that a single case in a school “bubble” may not lead to the whole bubble being forced into isolation.

  • WEATHERSPOONS FORECASTS 2020 LOSS

    Weatherspoons has forecast a loss for the year, the company announced today.

    It said sales had been helped by extra outside seating and also received a boost from the government's subsidised meal scheme but were still sharply lower compared with the year-ago period.

    Sales are likely to fall further as the scheme winds down, Wetherspoon said, appealing to the government to maintain a lower value-added tax (VAT) rate for meals.

    “The Company expects to make a loss for the year ending 26 July 2020, both before and after exceptional items. Some of these exceptional items will be related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Chairman Tim Martin said.

    Wetherspoon, which has opened 844 of its 873 pubs, said like-for-like bar and food sales fell 16.9% for the 44 days to Aug. 16.

  • 'SCHOOLS NEEDED FOR KIDS' WELLBEING'

    Boris Johnson said that kids need to be back in school for their health and wellbeing.

    The Prime Minister said: “Well thanks to the heroic efforts of the British people, the huge collective act of will that we've all shown to get this disease down, the spread of the virus is much, much less rapid than it was in March.

    “So now is the time, as we've long said, to get pupils back into school, give them the chances they need to build the necessary bedrock for their academic futures.

    “They need to be back in school and they need to be back in school for their health and their wellbeing as well.”

  • BOJO: 'BACK TO SCHOOL ABSOLUTELY VITAL'

    Boris Johnson has sought to assure parents that the risk of children getting Covid-19 as they return to school is “very, very, very small”.

    In a video posted on Twitter, the Prime Minister said: “It's absolutely vital that pupils get back into school in September.

    “It's vital for their education, it's vital for their welfare, it's vital for their physical, and indeed, their mental wellbeing. So let's make sure that all kids, all pupils, get back to school at the beginning of September.”

  • FRANCE TO 'RECIPROCATE QUARANTINE DECISION'

    French authorities will reciprocate Britain's decision to impose a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals from France, the junior minister for European affairs has said.

    Since August 15 British authorities have required travellers returning from France to self-isolate upon their return due to high COVID-19 infection rates in France.

    French Junior European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune told French TV France 2: “We will have a measure called reciprocity so that our British friends do not close the border in one single way.

    “For travellers returning from the United Kingdom, there will probably be restrictive measures decided in the next few days by the Prime Minister and by the Defence Council.”

  • 'WE HAVE TO GET KIDS BACK TO SCHOOL'

    Tory chair of the Education Select Committee Robert Halfon has said “we have to do everything possible to get our children back to school next week”.

    He told ITV's Good Morning Britain: “In my view this is possibly the most important issue facing our nation. We've had millions of children not learning during the lockdown, millions of children with very little contact with teachers, we've got safeguarding issues, a potential epidemic of education poverty, we've got a digital divide with hundreds of thousands of kids not having computers at home, so whatever happens we do need to get our children back to school.

    “Of course we're in a national pandemic and people are concerned, but I've been campaigning for a long time for children to go back to school and I really welcome what the chief medical officers have said that actually the risks (of) staying at home, the risks to mental health, safeguarding, their educational life chances are much greater than the minimal risks, thank goodness, of children getting the coronavirus, so we have to do everything possible to get our children back to school next week.”

  • 'CLOSING SCHOOLS A LAST RESORT'

    Minister for school standards Nick Gibb said the Prime Minister “has made very clear that closing schools will be the last resort in terms of tackling a local increase in the infection rate”.

    He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: “The Prime Minister has made very clear that closing schools will be the last resort in terms of tackling a local increase in the infection rate, but we will take swift action, advised by the local health protection teams when we identify a rise in the infection rate in local areas around the country.

    “That's the only way we can sort of suffocate this virus, to deal with it, to stop it spreading more widely in the community.”

  • 'WE ALWAYS LISTEN TO ADVICE'
    When asked about wearing masks in schools, Minister for school standards Nick Gibb told BBC Radio 4: “What the current advice is, is that if a school puts in place the measures that are in the guidance that we issued in early July, all the hygiene measures that I've been talking about, then masks are not necessary for staff or pupils.

    “Well, we always listen to whatever the current advice is from PHE, the chief medical officers, we always adhere to that advice, and it's that advice that drives the content of the guidance that we give to schools.”

  • NEW SCHOOL MEASURES 'VERY EFFECTIVE'

    Minister for school standards Nick Gibb insisted the measures schools were taking to minimise the risk of the transmission of the virus are “very effective”.

    Asked about fines for parents, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: “Well, look, fines for non-attendance have always been a last resort for headteachers and schools. What matters is that young people are attending school.

    “We live in a country where education is compulsory and I think parents can be reassured that the measures that schools are taking to make sure that we minimise the risk of the transmission of the virus are very effective.”

  • 65 MORE DEATHS IN RUSSIA

    Russia reported 4,744 new coronavirus cases on Monday, pushing its confirmed infection tally to 961,493, the fourth largest in the world.

    Authorities said 65 people had died over the past 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 16,448.

  • TEEN ANXIETY 'IMPROVED DURING LOCKDOWN', STUDY SAYS

    Teenagers' anxiety levels improved during lockdown, according to a new study.

    Researchers at Bristol University said this is because they did not have to experience the day-to-day pressures that come with school life and peer relationships.

    In October 2019 experts surveyed more than 1,000 year nine students from 17 secondary schools across the West Country.

    More than half of the girls surveyed were at risk of anxiety, according to the study, compared to 26% of boys at the same age.

    When they were asked again in May, the figures among girls dropped by nearly 10%. For boys, they dropped by 6%.

  • SWEDEN 'DOING FINE'

    Sweden's health experts have claimed they are beating coronavirus because of immunity after refusing to never lockdown.

    Sweden, which controversially never went into lockdown and has rejected the use of masks, currently has a 14-day case rate of 36.6 per 100,000, according to data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

    Arne Elofsson, a professor in biometrics at Stockholm University, said: “Sweden is doing fine. Strict rules do not work as people seem to break them.”

    Stefan Lofven, the prime minister, said on Friday: “The strategy that we adopted, I believe is right – to protect individuals, limit the spread of the infection.Advertisement

    “What has been discussed most, and what we did differently in Sweden, was that we did not close schools. Now there are quite a few people who think we were right.”

  • GOVERNMENT 'ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL'

    Shadow education secretary Kate Green accused the Government of being “asleep at the wheel” on reopening of schools.

    She told ITV's Good Morning Britain: “The Government has to make the conditions suitable and safe for schools, for staff, for students and it's been asleep at the wheel, it's been not paying the attention that schools need to the details of how they are going to reopen, nor has it been out sending a strong and clear message to parents.”

  • 'INCREASE IN FINES WELCOME'

    Waheed Saleem, West Midlands deputy police and crime commissioner, has welcomed new police powers which allow fines of up to £10,000 for organisers of illegal gatherings.

    He told BBC Breakfast this morning: “I welcome the increase in fines because I've been calling for these over the last couple of weeks because we've seen a steady increase in the number of these events across our patch.

    “Although we could have done with these fines far earlier, I think these fines will act as a deterrent of people who are gathering, who are organising these illegal gatherings.

    “We always try and engage and encourage and explain to people before we go into enforcement and so the majority of the public do listen, however there is a minority who don't and a lot of people were also very annoyed that we are coming to break up these street parties.”

  • GOVERNMENT 'MISSING IN ACTION'

    Shadow education secretary Kate Green accused the Government of being “missing in action” over schools policy during the pandemic.

    Of schools reopening in September, she told ITV's Good Morning Britain: “In terms of making preparations for their return, while headteachers, principals and school staff have been working really hard over the last few weeks of the summer holidays to make the schools safe, I think the Government has been missing in action to be quite honest.

    “The guidance that's been given to schools is one-size-fits-all, it doesn't take account of the fact that a small school, perhaps in very constrained premises will have to make different arrangements from a large inner city school.

    “There hasn't been information for school leaders, so that they can't plan what they might have to do if there was a sudden spike in the local infection rate and the guidance that has come out I think has been – it's been contradictory, it's been confusing, it came very late, shortly before the summer holidays.”

  • 'ACCOMMODATE SCHOOLS'

    Asked about teachers who are concerned about their own health when back in the classroom, Mr Whiteman said: “It's about what can be done, what accommodations can be made for people to come back.

    “If we force people back into the situation where they're unsure or they feel they're in danger then their performance isn't going to be what it needs to be in any event and so it's about talking to those individuals.”

  • FINING PARENTS 'NOT HELPFUL'

    Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, said fining parents for not sending children back to school would not be helpful and would risk the relationships teachers have with families.

    He told BBC Breakfast: “Everyone understands the need for education and I think with a proper engagement from Government, real encouragement, and the messages about how safe it is and what to do around those areas of risk – if we acknowledge the risk, quantify it and mitigate it, I think there'd be enough confidence for parents to return their children.

    “We can engage with those that still have a lack of confidence hopefully without fines.”

    He added: “I think if the Government puts schools in a position where they have to enforce (fines) I think that damages the relationship between school and home at a point when you need it to be at its absolute strongest, so I don't see that as the strongest way of encouraging children back into school.”

  • 'NOT DEFEATIST TO PREPARE FOR WORST'

    Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, said the Government needs to engage with families to help parents send pupils back to school.

    He told BBC Breakfast: “The Government's back-to-school campaign has really got to engage with parents, let parents know what to do, and to make sure that parents know what to do around the school as well to make sure all of the measures being taken in school are as secure as they can be.”

    He added: “We want to engage with Government, we want some more advice from Government about what to do if the pressure on R comes and what to do if we do need a plan B.

    “It seems to be an act of heresy at the moment if you talk about wanting a plan B. It's not defeatist to prepare for the worst whilst hoping for the best.

    “If we do have to experience some form of shutdown going forward, we want to learn from what happened before when we had no time to prepare, and be prepared if it comes again.”

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