Boris Johnson announcement: Jabs rollout SLOWS Omicron as teachers told to merge classes & kids may have to wear masks

COVID has led to an increase of staff shortages and now teachers have been told to combine classes in a bid to deal with it as ministers continue to mull over a return to homeschooling.

The Department of Education warned schools to begin preparing for a chaotic return on Sunday night ahead of students returning this week.

Tory MP's have also fired back at plans to once again make secondary school pupils wear masks in the classroom.

It comes as a string of hugely positive studies show Omicron IS milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.

Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said – and The Sun's Jabs Army campaign is helping get the vital extra vaccines in Brits' arms.

And new data has revealed that coronavirus infections are slowing, amid a spread in Omicron cases in older age groups. But experts have warned that there has been a worrying rise in cases in Brits aged 55-75, which could put pressure on the NHS. Omicron is now responsible for 90 per cent of cases in the UK and has taken over from the Delta variant.

Read our Covid-19 live blog for the latest news and updates…

  • Louis Allwood

    "At the moment there's nothing in the data to suggest we need to go further"

    Scientists believe the full effects of the Christmas period may not show up in the data until the end of this week.

    And Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News this morning: "At the moment there's nothing in the data to suggest we need to go further but of course, we will look at the Wednesday review and then beyond that keep monitoring the data very carefully."

    He added that the numbers of people in hospital with coronavirus have begun to rise in the over-50s, "which we are concerned about, but on the whole, actually the number of people in ICU [intensive care] has come down, which is good news".

  • Louis Allwood

    Can I still have the Covid booster if I have a cold?

    The short answer is yes.

    If you are certain it is not Covid you are suffering with and you are well enough to leave home, you can get your third shot with confidence.

    It might make you feel a bit rougher than if you weren’t ill, but overall it’s perfectly safe – and you can emerge from your sickly funk safe in the knowledge you are protected against coronavirus.

    A cold shouldn’t have an impact on your body’s ability to build an immune response to the flu, even though it is fighting an illness.

    NHS guidance says you should still attend your appointment even if you have a mild illness, including a common cold.

    If you have Covid symptoms, are self-isolating or waiting for your coronavirus test result, you should not attend your appointment.

    It’s easy to rearrange your slot through the booking system.

  • Louis Allwood

    ALL Southern trains into London Victoria cancelled

    Southern Rail confirmed all journeys to and from the central London station have been called off until January 10 due to Covid-related staff shortages.

    Trains will no longer call at London Victoria, Battersea Park, Clapham Junction and Wandsworth Common.

    Routes from further afield – including from Southampton, Hove, Hastings and East Grinstead – are being diverted so passengers can reach the capital.

    But Clapham Junction to Milton Keynes, East Croydon to London Bridge, and Epsom to London Bridge will not run at all.

  • Louis Allwood

    4 key numbers to keep an eye on

    1. Vaccines – In a bid to stop Omicron, millions of booster vaccines have been rolled out across the country and health officials have warned that two doses won’t protect you – which is why it’s imperative everyone gets a booster jab.

    2. Omicron – Cases of the Omicron variant have surged in the last months, but data coming out of South Africa, where it was first detected, indicates that infections have started to slow.

    3. Speed of spread – This is one of the most concerning numbers to look out for as more cases ultimately lead to higher rates of hospitalisations.

    The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said there had been 17,269 additional confirmed cases Omicron reported across the UK yesterday and it is now believed to be responsible for 90 per cent of cases in the UK. In total, there are 177,201 cases of the virus.

    4. Hospitalisations – The number of deaths in England of people with the Omicron variant has risen to 49, according to the UKHSA.
    Hospital admissions in England for people with confirmed or suspected Omicron rose to 668.

  • Louis Allwood

    Boosters provide the most protection

    It comes as a string of hugely positive studies show Omicron IS milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.

    Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.

    The Sun’s Jabs Army campaign is helping get the vital extra vaccines in Brits’ arms to ward off the need for any new restrictions.

  • Louis Allwood

    Boris Johnson set to delay Covid restrictions announcement

    BORIS Johnson is set to delay his announcement on Covid restrictions until ministers have assessed the possible effects of Christmas mixing, it has been reported.

    No10 is due to review the current Plan B measures on Wednesday, when parliament returns from recess.

    But ministers believe any changes to the rules – either stripping the country of Plan B measures or mirroring tougher restrictions like those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – are unlikely.

    A source told the i: “We are cautiously optimistic for now, but things could change in a single day.”

    Daily cases and hospitalisations have grown rapidly in the last fortnight, with the number of Covid patients reaching its highest level since February.

  • Louis Allwood

    Hospital trust declares ‘critical’ incident

    United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust said it was "unable to maintain safe staffing levels" leading to "compromised care" across its sites.

    An alert from the Trust said the staffing levels at Lincoln County Hospital and Pilgrim Hospital in Boston was causing the "compromised care."

    The "critical" incident was announced late last night and has continued into today.

    The hospitals said they are currently unable to support and staff "key pathways" – including stroke, cardiac care, and urgent care.

    It's not clear if surgeries are continuing to take place during the unprecedented staff shortage caused by surging Covid infections.

  • Louis Allwood

    School ventilation

    The Government announced that a further 7,000 air cleaning units will be rolled out to classrooms across the country.

    Thousands of new air filters will be introduced to protect face-to-face education and minimise disruption, ahead of the pupils returning to the classroom this week.

    Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has announced an additional 7,000 air cleaning units to be provided to early years, schools and colleges to improve ventilation in teaching spaces.

  • Louis Allwood

    Unvaccinated mum and dad both die of Covid

    Alvaro Fernandez, 44, and his wife Sylvia, 42, both passed away on the same day after not getting their jabs.

    The couple were high school sweethearts who had been married for 25 years after first getting together when they were just 15.

    Alvaro and Sylvia had four children together, including 17-year-old twins.

    The couple died within hours of each other on December 19 after catching Covid just days earlier, family said.

    Neither of them had received the jab.

    Family said that Alvaro had actively refused the jab, while Sylvia had been open to it but did not get her first dose in time.

    Relatives have now set up a fundraising page to help support their four children who have lost their mum and dad.

  • Louis Allwood

    Further restrictions

    THE Prime Minister is NOT expected to impose further restrictions when Plan B is reviewed this week, The Sun has been told.

    Whitehall sources say the PM is set to "maintain the status quo" of indoor mask-wearing, working from home advice and vaccine passports on Wednesday.

    But in a New Year boost he's likely to hold off announcing dreaded measures like the Rule of Six or return to outdoor pints. Ministers are being driven by encouraging evidence showing Omicron is up to 70 per cent milder than Delta and appears vulnerable to booster jabs.

  • Louis Allwood

    Covid experts among New Year Honors

    Among 1,122 people receiving awards are tennis player Emma Raducanu, Olympians and Paralympians, and actor Daniel Craig.

    Leading figures of science and medicine during the coronavirus pandemic have been feted in the Queen’s new year honours list. This also includes chief medical officer for England, Prof Chris Whitty, who is to receive a knighthood.

    The teenage tennis star Emma Raducanu – praised for her “remarkable achievement at such a young age” by the Queen and is to be awarded an MBE.

    Other sports personnel include Olympians and Paralympians cyclist Jody Cundy, who gets a CBE, and sprinter and cyclist Kadeena Cox, who receives an OBE. 

    Actors Joanna Lumley and Vanessa Redgrave become dames for their services to drama, entertainment and charity.

    Alongside them, actor Daniel Craig receives the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (CMG) for outstanding contribution to film.

  • Louis Allwood

    Teachers told to combine classes to deal with Covid staff shortages

    The Department of Education warned schools to begin preparing for a chaotic return on Sunday night ahead of students returning this week.

    Headteachers have been told to use support staff to fill in, while merging classes and a return to online learning are also on the cards.

    It comes after ministers discussed scrapping face-to-face learning again as a crippling number of Covid-related absences hit the teaching workforce.

    Experts have urged Boris Johnson to slash isolation for those who test positive down to five days in a bid to secure teachers behind desks.

    Now the Department of Education told schools to pool together their resources as shortages threaten to wreak havoc on children's education once again.

    The email, published by The Guardian, read: "You may wish to use existing teaching, temporary and support staff more flexibly where required to ensure your setting remains open, while ensuring that you continue to have appropriate support in place for pupils with [special education needs and disabilities].

    "As pupils do not need to be kept in consistent groups, you may wish to consider combining classes.

    "Where there is a need for remote education, live streaming is the preferred method for providing this wherever possible."

  • Louis Allwood

    Runny nose or Covid?

    Covid-19 rates are high, and while you may know the NHS' three key symptoms – high temperature, a new continuous cough, loss or change to sense of taste and smell – there are a range of other stealth signs to look out for.

    Experts say Omicron doesn't tend to present in the same way as Delta and previous variants.

    According to experts there a few cold-like symptoms you must never ignore.

    A runny nose – which you might just dismiss as a classic winter bug – is thought to be a sign of Omicron.

    The ZOE experts said: "This may come as a surprise to some, as the UK government never updated guidance on Covid symptoms beyond the classic three symptoms."

    At the moment it appears symptoms such as as runny nose, sneezing and a sore throat, are among those being most recorded.

  • Louis Allwood

    Sign up to The Sun’s Jabs Army campaign

    The Sun’s Jabs Army campaign is helping get the vital extra vaccines in Brits’ arms to ward off the need for any new restrictions.

    Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.

    Boris Johnson has begged millions of people to book their first, second or booster jabs in now to protect them from the virus, admitting that cases of omicron are still rising.

  • Louis Allwood

    Profiteers flog free NHS Covid tests for up to £100

    Ministers announced this morning that every pupil will be tested in classrooms before starting term.

    But thousands of working Brits are struggling to get their hands on the DIY lateral flow kits, which have sold out in pharmacies and are regularly unavailable online.

    Soaring cases of the Omicron variant have sparked a shortage across Britain, where another 137,583 Covid cases were recorded yesterday along with 73 deaths.

    However, The Sun discovered tests — free from the government website — being snapped up online for up to £100 at independent auction houses, Facebook and eBay.

    Such shameless profiteering sparked outrage from MPs, with Tory Nigel Mills ­fuming: “It is a disgrace that some people would try to exploit a national shortage of tests as a way to make money.

    "The online websites and any auction houses should refuse to list the tests for sale.”

  • Louis Allwood

    Bin collections CANCELLED

    Councils in Manchester, Essex, Somerset and Buckinghamshire have scaled back and in some cases cancelled bin collections as staff absences have risen by a quarter.

    Chelmsford council said 23 members of staff were absent and cancelled three days’ worth of rubbish collecting.

    While Lincolnshire United Hospitals declared a critical incident because of “extreme and unprecedented” staff shortages.

    It comes as the Government is set to announce plans to prioritise public sector workers for lateral flow tests as they expect 25 per cent to be absent from work.

    The Local Government Association said bin collectors should also be prioritised for tests.

  • Milica Cosic

    PM set to avoid new Covid restrictions this week 

    No10 is set to review current restrictions this week but are not expected to make any changes. 

    Current Plan B measures – for Covid passes and masks in some settings – will be reviewed this week but insiders are not expecting anything to change.

    Health minister Ed Agar has said: “I’m seeing nothing in the data right in front of me in the immediate situation, that suggests a need for further restrictions.”

    “We need cool, calm heads. We need to look at the data and we need to do everything possible to avoid any restrictions – restrictions or curbs must be the absolute last resort.”

    The minister said Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Sajid Javid are monitoring the data every day. 

  • Milica Cosic

    'Long lockdown did more harm than good'

    Professor Woolhouse, an expert on infectious diseases at Edinburgh University has argued that the lockdown Brits endured 'did more harm than good.

    He said that: “We did serious harm to our children and young adults who were robbed of their education, jobs and normal existence, as well as suffering damage to their future prospects, while they were left to inherit a record-breaking mountain of public debt.

    “All this to protect the NHS from a disease that is a far, far greater threat to the elderly, frail and infirm than to the young and healthy.

    “We were mesmerised by the once-in-a-century scale of the emergency and succeeded only in making a crisis even worse. In short, we panicked. This was an epidemic crying out for a precision public health approach and it got the opposite.”

  • Milica Cosic

    Covid news you may have missed

    • World’s strictest lockdown in China ISN’T WORKING as Covid cases rise
    • The 8 symptoms of Omicron to never ignore
    • Boris Johnson demands ‘robust contingency plans’ to deal with 300,000 NHS staff absences
    • Secondary school pupils will return to wearing face masks in classroom
    • Most secondary school pupils could be taught from home if teachers forced to isolate

    Covid could spawn ANOTHER variant, says WHO boss

    Head of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu, says wealthy countries need to share their vaccines to stop the virus mutating again.

    In a 2022 New Year message Dr Tedros said that vaccine inequality had "created the ideal conditions for the emergence of the Omicron variant".

    He said: "And the longer inequity continues, the higher the risks of this virus evolving in ways we can’t prevent or predict."

    He continued: "If we end inequity, we end the pandemic.

    "Through the ACT-Accelerator, which includes COVAX, WHO and our partners are helping to make vaccines, tests and treatments accessible to people who need them, all over the world.

    "As we enter the third year of this pandemic, I’m confident that this will be the year we end it – but only if we do it together."

    Ministers desperate to avoid a repeat of schooling like last year

    Ministers are said to be desperate to avoid a repeat of last year's fiasco when students returned to school for one day before being sent home.

    Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “Being in the classroom is undoubtedly the very best place for children and I'm looking forward to welcoming pupils back next week to continue their face-to-face learning, which is so important for their education and wellbeing.

    “There is no doubt that the Omicron variant presents challenges but the entire education sector has responded with a Herculean effort, and for that I thank each and every one of you.

    “The Prime Minister and I have been clear that education is our number one priority.

    "These measures will bolster our support schools as we do everything in our power to minimise disruption.”

    • Milica Cosic

      Secondary school pupils ‘will return to wearing face masks'

      PUPILS in secondary school in England will return to wearing masks in the classroom, ministers have said.

      The new advice comes as the Omicron variants tears across the country – and Ministers are desperate to avoid a repeat of last year's homeschooling fiasco.

      It will be the first time the rule will be in force in classrooms since last May – but it is already in place in Wales and Scotland.

      The measures are being welcomed by education bosses, after many schools introduced their own rules around mask wearing in the run up to Christmas.

      General secretary of the Association of School and College leaders, Geoff Barton told The Times: “Face coverings are already advised in communal areas for pupils in year 7 and above.

      “Pupils are accustomed to their use and we are sure the reintroduction of face coverings in classrooms is something that schools and colleges will take in their stride.”

    • Milica Cosic

      Most secondary school pupils could be taught from home

      Ministers are considering back up plans, created by civil sevants, amid rising coronavirus cases, and are discussing proposals to prioritise face to face teaching in a bid to prevent more education chaos.

      Ministers are yet to sign off on the last resort plans, and are keen to get all children back in the classroom on Tuesday.

      Secondary school pupils will also have to wear facemasks in the classroom again – with ministers desperately trying to avoid another home-schooling fiasco.

      Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi announced the measure to help “maximise the number of children in Schools”.

      The new rules come as a string of hugely positive studies show Omicron IS milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.

      Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.

    • Milica Cosic

      Jabs Army campaign

      The Sun's Jabs Army campaign is helping get the vital extra vaccines in Brits' arms to ward off the need for any new restrictions.

      Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.

      A string of hugely positive studies show Omicron IS milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.

    • Milica Cosic

      World’s strictest lockdown in China ISN’T WORKING

      The country is desperately clinging on to its "zero tolerance" strategy with 13 million people banned from going outside – but fresh infections are continuing to rise.

      The National Health Commission reported 175 new community infections with confirmed symptoms on January 1, bringing the total number of local symptomatic cases in mainland China in the past week to 1,151.

      The surge has been driven mostly by an outbreak in the northwestern industrial and tech hub of Xian.

      It shows little sign of easing despite the city of 13 million people being plunged into lockdown with draconian restrictions.

      Brutal measures include being banned from leaving home – even for essential reasons like buying food – as well as tight border controls and lengthy quarantines.

      Source: Read Full Article