Government scientists are planning plans to vaccinate secondary school students in England to curb the spread of the new strain of Covid.
Ministers have vowed to keep schools open after the Christmas break, saying that children's learning has suffered from the effects of Covid-19.
However, experts increasingly fear that the new variant could infect children more effectively than the previous strain.
Government scientists were also told that keeping secondary schools open during the recent national lockdown helped spur the spread of the new variant in hard-hit areas such as Kent and London.
The Joint Vaccination and Immunization Committee – the UK vaccines authority responsible for drawing up the priority lists for the Covid bite – has now been asked to review plans for vaccination in secondary schools in accordance with i.
The early-stage plans were discussed recently at a meeting of the Government's Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE).
The reports come as ministers today vowed to move ahead with plans to introduce mass testing in schools in January, which unions have labeled "undeliverable".
Ministers held crunch talks with educators on Friday about the plans, but union leaders said school principals "have not been reassured that schools are getting the support we think is needed and deserved".
Meanwhile, Matt Hancock fueled speculation last night about school closings in Tier 4 areas in the southeast, saying he was "not ruling anything out".
It comes like in other coronavirus news:
- Germany, France, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Austria have suspended travel from Great Britain to protect themselves from the new stress.
- France also banned British freight wagons, adding to the chaos in the canal's ports.
- Mr Hancock refused to rule out the closure of schools that are already facing delays for the next semester.
- Tory sources confirmed that Tier 4 travel restrictions mean the Prime Minister will be spending Christmas on Downing Street, not his country. In a rare ray of light, the number of those vaccinated last night reached around 500,000;
- Officials expressed hope the Oxford push could be approved this week; Mr Hancock condemned "completely irresponsible" travelers who piled on trains from London on Saturday night before entering the fourth step.
- British traffic police stepped up patrols to prevent residents from leaving London and the south east.
- Scottish police redoubled patrols along the border after Nicola Sturgeon banned entry from England.
- Business leaders called for more support amid warnings that tens of thousands of jobs could be lost;
- Neil Ferguson, a scientist who broke the lockdown, was quietly reinstated as a government adviser and was involved in the decision to close the holiday season.
- A YouGov poll found that 67 percent support the Christmas edge, but 61 percent believe the government handled the situation poorly.
- Labor Keir Starmer called on Mr. Johnson to apologize for "indecision and weak leadership" over the Christmas rules.
- Wales has been under lockdown for the third time, meaning the UK's 21 million residents are now facing toughest restrictions.
Government scientists are planning plans to vaccinate secondary school students (Image: Library image) in England to curb the spread of the new strain of Covid.
In order to combat the spread of the new strain, the British vaccines authority (Image: Carol Patrick receives her Covid-19 shock in Bodmin) has now been asked to outline the modeling requirements for vaccination in schools according to i
It comes when Matt Hancock (pictured) refused last night to rule out post-holiday school closings in parts of England under the strictest of restrictions
The Scottish Minister of Education insists that it is "safe" for children and teachers in schools
Scottish Education Minister John Swinney has insisted that it is "safe" for children and teachers to be in school this week – although the Scottish government postponed classes online for most teenagers in January.
The Christmas break will be extended to January 11th for the majority of students, with distance learning taking place until January 18th at the earliest.
Mr Swinney said he would want to stick with schools which would then return to face-to-face learning.
However, Larry Flanagan, the general secretary of the EIS teaching union, said it would depend on the spread of the coronavirus in communities across Scotland.
The extension of school holidays and the move to distance learning for all but vulnerable youth and key worker children was announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as part of the response to a new, faster-spreading strain of Covid-19.
With these measures, the entire mainland of Scotland will be subject to the strictest coronavirus restrictions as of Saturday 26th December
Mr Swinney told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland program that ministers are "taking a strategic approach in the country to minimize movement so we can maximize our chances of avoiding further spread of the virus".
His comments came when the Scottish Children's Commission said Bruce Adamson was "deeply concerned" that online learning can be "inconsistent" across the country as the Scottish government does not provide national guidance and support.
He added: "Ministers continue to have ultimate responsibility for ensuring that children's rights to education and to mental and physical health are realized".
Mr Swinney said keeping schools open to children has been the government's "top priority" since classes resumed in August.
Dr. Patrick Roach, Secretary General of NASUWT, criticized the approach today.
He said: “The magnitude of the Covid threat has now increased significantly and this is reflected in the First Minister's decision over the weekend to impose new restrictions on the entire population.
“In this regard, we believe there is no justification for keeping schools open this week when distance learning could be introduced to keep students and school staff safe while keeping learning going.
“Moving to distance learning could help protect life and health, which should certainly be a top priority for all of us, given the increasing threat.
"This determination to keep schools open at all costs is ruthless."
Plans to model a mass vaccination program in secondary schools follow the announcement of last week's mass testing program in schools and colleges along with the staggered return of students after Christmas.
Starting January 4, secondary school employees will have access to weekly rapid cross-flow tests.
Students and staff can be tested daily for seven days if identified as having close contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19.
Primary schools are expected to follow the test regime from April.
As of January 4, schools and colleges will have up to 11 million cross-flow tests available to test up to 5.5 million children and teenagers in the New Year, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced today.
The armed forces are drafted to support the mass tests.
As a result, GCSE, A-Level and Vocational students in England will be returning to school as planned for the first full week of January.
Other secondary school students have online classes for the first week of the semester before returning to school starting Monday January 11th.
Elementary school students will return as usual in January.
Meanwhile, schools in Scotland and Wales will also be returning in a staggered manner, while schools in Northern Ireland will return as normal in January.
Amid concerns over the spread of the new strain of Covid in the southeast, Mr Hancock sparked speculation last night about a possible change to school schedules.
He refused to exclude the possibility of keeping schools closed under strict restrictions after the holidays in parts of England.
When asked whether schools in Tier 4 areas will remain open, the Minister of Health said: "I have learned not to rule anything out in this pandemic."
Despite Mr Hancock's comments, education leaders today reiterated the government's commitment to keep schools open despite tighter restrictions.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Education told MailOnline: “Our huge expansion of rapid tests will help secondary schools remain open to all students and reduce the risk of transmission within local communities.
“The Chief Medical Officers have made it clear, time and again, how important it is for children to be in school for their mental health, wellbeing and development.
"As a result, there are no plans to close schools and it was rightly a national priority for all students to return to school all day."
The spokesman added: "Schools, colleges and institutions at a young age across the country have worked extremely hard to put in place protective measures that will help reduce the risk of transmitting the virus and the department will continue to support local authorities and schools." with opening and support in the next term of office remain open. & # 39;
In an article to the Telegraph today, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he had "no doubt about the scale of the (mass testing) task" but said that keeping schools open was a "national priority".
He said: "It was rightly a national priority for all students to return to school full time. So we will continue to support local authorities, providers, school foundations, colleges and childcare facilities to open and stay open for the next semester."
“I'm not sure how big this task is … This effort will build on the heroic steps teachers have taken this year to keep schools as safe as possible.
"It will reduce the spread of the virus in the community by identifying those without symptoms – who can unwittingly spread Covid-19 – and reduce disruption in schools in the spring and summer."
Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London, who is also a member of the government's Advisory Group on New and Emerging Respiratory Viruses (NervTag), said today experts would use the Christmas break to monitor the schools' impact on the spread of the virus.
The epidemiologist, who resigned from his role as a government adviser after breaking the rules to watch his married lover, told BBC Radio 4's Today program: “The data suggests this variant may be slightly more effective at infecting children than the previous variants it is very difficult to prove causality.
Meanwhile, Professor Neil Ferguson said today experts would use the Christmas break to monitor the schools' impact on the spread of the virus
“I think what we'll see over the next two weeks while schools are closed are likely to be all of the variants of the virus that are currently floating around in decline.
“We will be monitoring very carefully whether we can see any differences in this rate of decline and it is really the data that is being compiled now and unfortunately during the Christmas break that will influence policy action in January.
“It's just too early to say. This will undoubtedly be difficult … but it is too early to say exactly what additional action may be required. & # 39;
He added, "The sooner we can get the vaccine into people's arms, the faster we will be able not to fully return to normal, but at least to relax the restrictions."
When do schools in the UK reopen after Christmas?
Starting in January, secondary school employees will have access to weekly quick cross-flow tests.
Students and staff can be tested daily for seven days if identified as having close contact with someone who tested positive. Primary schools are expected to follow from April.
Up to 11 million cross-flow tests will be available to schools and colleges through Jan. 4, which can test up to 5.5 million children and teens in the New Year, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said.
The armed forces are drafted to support the mass tests.
As a result, GCSE, A-Level and Vocational students in England will return to school as planned in the first full week of January, while other secondary students will have online classes in the first week of the semester before returning to school on Monday. 11th January.
Elementary school students return as usual.
Schools in Scotland and Wales will also return in a staggered manner, while schools in Northern Ireland will return as normal in January.
Over the weekend, union leaders said the return of secondary schools should be delayed for two weeks to help reduce infection rates.
Kevin Courtney, Joint Secretary General of the National Education Union (NEW), said: “It would be right to postpone the opening of the secondary school until January 18th. The latest figures show that the highest rates of infection are now among secondary school students. & # 39;
However, Child Commissioner Anne Longfield has warned that this could mean compromising children's learning and wellbeing.
Meanwhile, Hancock said, "Our goal is to bring schools back with a major testing regime in January, and that means we need a staggered start to test people with the coronavirus test."
To the allegation that the test plan was announced too late, the Minister of Health replied: "There are three weeks between now and the start of the semester, and like so many people in the NHS, there will be some work interruption over Christmas."
This came after unions announced they were going to go ahead with government plans to introduce mass coronavirus testing in secondary schools and colleges and told members not to work on it over Christmas.
The Association of School and University Directors (ASCL) said the announcement of the test proposals at the last minute before the festive break made the program "undeliverable".
In addition, another education sector warned that school principals could work on Christmas Day to make things right.
The four main apprenticeship unions and the National Governance Association issued a statement calling on employees to postpone preparations until the new year begins.
It added that they should also refuse to work on the program on their Christmas days off.
"We believe that the government's plan as it stands, due to the chaotic and rash nature of this announcement, the lack of adequate guidance and support for most schools and colleges, will not be feasible," the said Explanation.
Kevin Courtney (pictured left), Joint Secretary General of the National Education Union (NEW), called for a delay in students returning to schools after Christmas. Gavin Williamson (pictured right) had crunch talks with apprentice unions on Friday about plans for mass testing
“Schools and universities simply do not have the human capacity to do this themselves. Therefore, most will not be able to do this in a safe and effective manner. "
Ministers later reportedly held crunch talks with union leaders over the proposals for mass testing in hopes of gaining more support for educational staff under the program.
However, according to the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), no breakthrough has been achieved.
In a letter to NAHT members seen by MailOnline, union leaders said: “At that meeting, Secretary of State (Gavin Williamson) reiterated the government's rationale for introducing mass testing in schools with secondary school students aged 4 years old January.
He also reaffirmed the support that the DfE intends to offer schools. To be clear, this was essentially the same support as last week.
As a result, the position of NAHT remains as it was previously communicated to you. NAHT has not been reassured that the schools will receive the support we consider necessary and deserved.
"Our joint declaration and advice made on Friday remains unchanged."
In the meantime, Labor has urged the government to keep its promises of mass testing.
Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, union leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “I don't think the Prime Minister should delay the return of schools any more than they are delayed.
“We need a plan so schools can return safely and that includes mass testing.
"The Prime Minister offered mass tests and now he has to do them."
Mass tests found that 1.24% of students and 1.29% of staff tested positive for coronavirus in the first fourteen days after the November lockdown
By Sam Blanchard, Senior Health Reporter at MailOnline
A mass test study in England's schools found that one in 79 people tested positive for coronavirus without knowing they had it in November.
Data from the Bureau of National Statistics showed 1.24 percent of students and 1.29 percent of staff carried the virus during lockdown at school.
The program captured one or more cases in 58 of the 105 schools involved in the research between November 3rd and 19th.
The same number of schools found one case as multiple – 29 in each category (27.6 percent of the total).
Infection rates were highest among secondary school students in the study and lowest among elementary school staff, the report said.
Although teenagers had some of the highest infection rates in the country during the second wave, school closings are no longer included in the lockdown, as experts fear it could harm the teenagers.
The ONS survey was conducted among 9,662 employees and students in 63 secondary schools and 43 elementary schools.
Two-thirds of the schools were in areas with relatively high rates of coronavirus – statisticians said the survey results were not fully representative of the whole of England as selecting areas with high prevalence meant bias, likely in the north.
One of the study's lead investigators said "a significant number of students and staff attending school had coronavirus infection".
However, they admitted that the results of the study were not statistically significant, which means that they are not strong enough to show differences between groups.
The ONS survey found that in the worst-hit parts of the country, 1.47 percent of students and 1.5 percent of employees tested positive for coronavirus.
That is roughly one in 67 people.
In areas with lower rates of officially diagnosed coronavirus, the survey found that 0.79 percent of students and 0.87 percent of employees were unknowingly infected – about one in 124.
In this area, the secondary school staff were more positive than their students, according to the survey.
No cases were found in elementary schools in areas with low prevalence.
Schools are a primary focus of academics and officials as they have the potential to be breeding grounds for transmission as adequate social distancing is impossible – but for some reason they have not been clearly linked to outbreaks.
According to scientists, children and adolescents are significantly less likely to develop Covid-19 or symptoms of a viral infection than adults.
And they believe this may also make young people less likely to spread the virus, and the better immune response could mean they are less likely to get the disease in the first place.
Dr. Shamez Ladhani, lead investigator on the study and epidemiologist for Public Health England, said, “While more research needs to be done, these results seem to show that the rate of infection among students and staff attending school is a reflection of what is outside passes the school gates.
"So we all have to take responsibility for fighting infection if we are to keep schools open and safe for our children."
He said this was the "clearest picture" yet of how the coronavirus is affecting schools.
His colleague Professor James Hargreaves of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine added: “These results show that in November a significant number of students and staff attending the school had coronavirus infection.
"With this crucial collaboration between academics, school staff and students and their parents, we hope to answer questions to ensure that the children's education can continue as safely as possible."
Separate data from Public Health England shows that some of the highest infection rates were among teenagers during the second wave.
In the last week that ended December 6, 10 to 19 year olds had 193 positive tests per 100,000 people across England.
This was a higher per person rate than any other age group except for those in their forties, including 196.
The highest rate for teenagers was 295 per 100,000 in the week leading up to October 11, when it was just 302 lower than for people in their twenties.
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