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Over 50s could face stay at home order in ‘nuclear plans’ drawn up by Boris Johnson

Millions of overs 50s could be given orders to stay at home as part of Boris Johnson’s ‘nuclear plans’ to avoid another national lockdown.

The Prime Minister was forced to announce a slow down of the lockdown easing on Friday, with planned relaxations for the leisure and beauty sectors delayed after a rise in Covid-19 cases.

It comes just days after around 4.5million people in Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and West Yorkshire were hit with fresh lockdown restrictions last week.

The PM is thought to have held a ‘war game’ session with Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Wednesday to run through possible options for averting another nationwide lockdown that could put the brakes on a potential economic recovery. 

Under the proposals, a greater number of people would be asked to take part in the shielding programme, based on their age or particular risk factors that have been identified since March, said the Telegraph.

It could even see those aged between 50 and 70 given ‘personalised risk ratings’, said the Times, in a move that would add to the 2.2 million who were deemed most vulnerable and asked to shield themselves from society during the spring peak. 

The plans could prove controversial as the factors under which the elderly could be asked to self-isolate might be more heavily influenced by age than clinical vulnerabilities.

Also being considered under the proposals is a city-wide lockdown in London which would include restricting travel beyond the M25, as reported by The Sunday Times.

Any ‘close contact’ services, such as going to the hairdresser, would also be stopped if the capital sees a sudden surge in cases. 

The advice for shielding was only lifted on Saturday for those in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and remains in place until August 16 for those shielding in Wales.     

In other developments yesterday:

  • Britain suffers 771 more Covid-19 cases and 74 deaths amid warnings the infection rate could be at ‘tipping point’;
  • Eden in Cumbria, Sandwell in the Midlands, Northampton, Peterborough, Rotherham and Wakefield were yesterday revealed as six places which are on the government’s coronavirus ‘watch-list’;
  • Passengers arriving at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 were left furious after they were forced to queue for hours with no social distancing;
  • Holland’s top scientists said there’s no solid evidence coverings work and warn they could even damage the fight against Covid-19; 
  • Russia is preparing for a mass coronavirus vaccination campaign in October after finishing clinical trials – with teachers and doctors first in line;
  • Arsenal fans ignored Covid-19 social distancing rules to celebrate outside the Emirates Stadium after the Gunners beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final.

A large number of overs 50s could be given orders to stay at home as part of Boris Johnson's 'nuclear plans' to avoid another national lockdown

A large number of overs 50s could be given orders to stay at home as part of Boris Johnson’s ‘nuclear plans’ to avoid another national lockdown

‘At the moment, shielding is binary, you’re either on this list or off it,’ a source told the Sunday Times.

‘But we know there isn’t a simple cut-off at age 70. People would get a personalised risk assessment. The risk rises after 50, quite gently to start with, and then accelerates after age 70.’ 

It is believed Mr Johnson last week compared the prospect of a full national lockdown to a ‘nuclear deterrent’ to be as a last resort, but aides now say he is wants smaller ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons with which to fight covid-19.

Along with the head of the Covid-19 taskforce, Simon Case, Mr Sunak and other senior figures, the group held an hour-long discussion on three outbreak scenarios; one in northwestern England, one in London and finally a general increase across the country.

A significant proposal in the national model was reimposing the shielding programme, based on their age or particular risk factors that have been identified since March. 

In a more 'segmented approach' to dealing with future lockdowns, people aged between 50 and 70 would be given personalised risk ratings - taking into accounts factors like their age and conditions - and asked to shield in the event of an outbreak

In a more 'segmented approach' to dealing with future lockdowns, people aged between 50 and 70 would be given personalised risk ratings - taking into accounts factors like their age and conditions - and asked to shield in the event of an outbreak

In a more ‘segmented approach’ to dealing with future lockdowns, people aged between 50 and 70 would be given personalised risk ratings – taking into accounts factors like their age and conditions – and asked to shield in the event of an outbreak

And in a move that would burst the public’s figurative ‘bubbles’, ministers could ban mixing of households indoors (including overnight stays), as has happened in the nine local authorities under a partial lockdown in north west England.

The move could have been inspired by test and trace data seen by Health Secretary Matt Hancock just before the meeting which showed that the top two ways the virus was transmitted were by an infected person visiting the subject’s house, and by that person visiting an infected friend.

CASES ARE ON THE UP… AND THE R RATE MAY BE ABOVE ONE 

Coronavirus cases in England are now at the highest levels since May and government scientists are ‘no longer confident’ the crucial R rate is below the dreaded level of one. 

Government statisticians yesterday admitted there is ‘now enough evidence’ to prove Covid-19 infections are on the up, calculating that 4,200 people are now catching the virus each day in England alone.

The estimate by the Office for National Statistics, which tracks the size of the outbreak by swabbing thousands of people, has doubled since the end of June and is 68 per cent up on the 2,500 figure given a fortnight ago.

One in 1,500 people currently have the coronavirus – 0.07 per cent of the population. But experts believe the rate is twice as high in London and still rising. The figure does not include care homes and hospitals. 

Number 10’s scientific advisers also upped the R rate in the UK, saying they now believe it stands between 0.8 and 0.9. It had been as low as 0.7 since May.

SAGE also revealed the growth rate – the average number of people each Covid-19 patient infects – may have jumped to above one in the South West, home to the stay-cation hotspots of Devon, Cornwall and Dorset. And they said it was likely to be equally high in the North West. Matt Hancock last night announced tough new lockdown measures in Greater Manchester and parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire. 

Going to work was only third on the list and going out shopping lower still. 

But Downing Street sources distanced themselves from the detail in the reports, calling them ‘speculative’.

On top of the alleged lockdown avoidance preparations, experts have speculated that ministers might have to order the closure of pubs, which were permitted to start serving again on July 4, if schools are to reopen fully in September.   

Professor Graham Medley, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said earlier a ‘trade off’ could be required if the Prime Minister’s pledge is to be met.

His comments followed chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty’s remarks that the country was ‘near the limit’ for opening up society following the coronavirus lockdown.

The moves in Whitehall are seen as a clear indication that ministers are prepared to dial down social interactions to ensure that schools can open again next month and shops can keep doing business.

Boris Johnson previously pledged that all pupils at both primary and secondary schools in England will return in September, following months of closures for most students.

But leading scientists and the head of a major teaching union last night amid signs that cases of Covid-19 are increasing again at an alarming rate. 

Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said the Government will need to provide ‘clarification’ to schools.

He told the Observer: ‘In light of recent changes to plans for relaxing lockdown measures, the Government needs to provide greater clarity to school leaders, teachers and parents about what this will mean for the reopening of schools in September.’

A warning from chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty that the country is ‘near the limit’ for opening up society will prompt questions for parents as well as teachers, Mr Roach told the newspaper.

‘If schools are to reopen safely, the government will need to give them clarification about what they need to do to take account of the latest scientific evidence and advice, as well as sufficient time to review and, if necessary, adjust their reopening plans,’ he added.

Meanwhile, Dr Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, told the Observer that although risks to children and teachers are likely to be low, this transmission would increase infection rates.

The Prime Minister held a 'war game' session with Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Wednesday to run through possible options for averting another nationwide lockdown that could stall any potential economic recovery

The Prime Minister held a 'war game' session with Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Wednesday to run through possible options for averting another nationwide lockdown that could stall any potential economic recovery

The Prime Minister held a ‘war game’ session with Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Wednesday to run through possible options for averting another nationwide lockdown that could stall any potential economic recovery

‘Would reopening schools increase the spread of Covid-19 in the population? Yes. I think it would very probably do that,’ he told the newspaper.

It comes after a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said ministers might have to consider closing pubs in England in order for lessons to start again next month.

Sage member warns England should consider closing pubs to open schools next month

Professor Graham Medley, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said England could have to consider closing pubs in order to reopen schools next month.

When asked about the chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty’s prediction that the country was ‘near the limits’ of opening up society, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine academic told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I think that’s quite possible.

‘I think we’re in a situation whereby most people think that opening schools is a priority for the health and wellbeing of children and that when we do that we are going to reconnect lots of households.

‘And so actually, closing some of the other networks, some of the other activities may well be required to enable us to open schools.

‘It might come down to a question of which do you trade off against each other and then that’s a matter of prioritising, do we think pubs are more important than schools?’

Professor Graham Medley, who chairs the Sage sub-group on pandemic modelling, said this scenario was ‘quite possible’.

‘I think we’re in a situation whereby most people think that opening schools is a priority for the health and wellbeing of children and that when we do that we are going to reconnect lots of households,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

‘And so actually, closing some of the other networks, some of the other activities may well be required to enable us to open schools.

‘It might come down to a question of which do you trade off against each other and then that’s a matter of prioritising, do we think pubs are more important than schools?’

Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) was forced to deny that it had abandoned its pledge to regularly test care home residents through the summer following a leaked memo from Professor Jane Cummings, the Government’s adult social care testing director.

The Tory administration has come in for criticism for failing to do more to prevent Covid-19 infections from reaching care homes, where some of the country’s most vulnerable population reside, during the initial spring peak.

According to the Times, Prof Cummings wrote to local authority leaders to inform them that ‘previously advised timelines for rolling out regular testing in care homes’ were being altered because of ‘unexpected delays’.

Regular testing of residents and staff was meant to have started on July 6 but will now be pushed back until September 7 for older people and those with dementia, PA news agency understands.

A department spokeswoman confirmed there were issues with ‘asymptomatic re-testing’.

The problems relate to a combination of factors, including a restraint on the ability to build testing kits, already announced issues with Randox swab kits, overall lab capacity, and greater than anticipated return rate of care home test kits.

The DHSC spokeswoman said: ‘It is completely wrong to suggest care homes were deliberately deprived of testing resources and any care home resident or member of staff with symptoms can immediately access a free test.

‘We continue to issue at least 50,000 tests a day to care homes across the country and prioritise tests for higher-risk outbreak areas.

‘A combination of factors have meant that a more limited number of testing kits, predominantly used in care homes, are currently available for asymptomatic re-testing and we are working round the clock with providers to restore capacity.’

DHSC said it would not comment on leaked documents when asked about Prof Cummings’ memo.

Ministers promise exasperated parents that schools will reopen full-time in the autumn – despite Whitehall ‘murmurings’ it will only be part-time

by Glen Owen, Political Editor for the Mail on Sunday

Downing Street has moved quickly to try to reassure exasperated parents that schools will open full-time again in the autumn – despite reports that Ministers were considering introducing a ‘part-time rota system’ in September. 

Many working parents were left infuriated by mixed messages from Education Secretary Gavin Williamson over whether full-time schooling would return before the summer holidays, and now they’re left wondering whether it really will start again this year. 

Yesterday, it was claimed that there were ‘murmurings’ in Whitehall that schooling would still only be part-time when pupils returned from their holidays, as Ministers struggle to plan for what they fear will be a second wave of the virus. 

But a senior source said: ‘The Prime Minister is absolutely committed to the full re-opening of schools. 

Many working parents were left infuriated by mixed messages from Education Secretary Gavin Williamson (pictured)

Many working parents were left infuriated by mixed messages from Education Secretary Gavin Williamson (pictured)

Many working parents were left infuriated by mixed messages from Education Secretary Gavin Williamson (pictured)

‘Parents are becoming increasingly confident in their children returning to school, which is testament to the work of school staff across the country who are putting in place a range of protective measures to prepare to welcome back all pupils at the start of term. 

‘These should be proportionate and follow the system of controls, while ensuring that pupils receive an ambitious and broad curriculum in all subjects from the start of the autumn term.’  

Mr Williamson has been accused by critics within his party of ‘rolling over’ in the face of opposition from the teachers unions, who claim that returning to full school operation would jeopardise the health of their members. 

In an attempt to defuse the opposition, Mr Williamson says he will introduce new protective measures, including reducing the size of classes, keeping children in small groups, minimising mixing with others, staggering breaks and lunch times, as well as drop-offs and pick-ups, increasing the frequency of cleaning, reducing the used of shared items and utilising outdoor space. 

'The Prime Minister is absolutely committed to the full re-opening of schools,' according to a senior source

'The Prime Minister is absolutely committed to the full re-opening of schools,' according to a senior source

‘The Prime Minister is absolutely committed to the full re-opening of schools,’ according to a senior source

Pupils will also be expected to wash their hands more often than usual and ‘ensure good respiratory hygiene’. 

No10 advisers realise that a return to something approaching normal working life for parents will be impossible if they are also juggling the demands of childcare, and say schools should be ‘the last thing’ to be locked down again. 

However parents will still face challenges because schools are reluctant to offer the after-school clubs, which extend the school day beyond mid-afternoon. 

A Government spokesman said: ‘It is our plan that all pupils, in all year groups, will return to school fulltime from the beginning of the autumn term. 

‘As we know, school is the best place for children to learn and enjoy being back with their teachers and friends. There are no plans for a part-time rota system. ‘Rotas do not provide the consistency of education and care we want to reintroduce.’ 

Experts warn that enforced home schooling during the lockdown has also widened the divide between high and low-income households, with poorer families unable to afford the technology required for home learning. 

They say it has also exposed the academic gulf between state and private schools, which have been able to make extensive provision for remote teaching. 

Pub bosses warn ministers that shutting bars again ‘will destroy jobs’ after government Sage adviser said closing may be a trade-off to get children back to school

by Brendan Carlin and Stephen Adams for Mail on Sunday

Shutting pubs again to allow schools to reopen risks putting millions out of work, shattering confidence and costing the economy dear, Ministers were warned last night.

A top Government adviser yesterday said the move might be necessary as a ‘trade-off’ to stem a possible rise in coronavirus cases caused by 10 million children returning to the classroom.

Professor Graham Medley, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said most people would prioritise ‘the health and wellbeing of children’ over going to the pub.

His comments came amid growing concerns over a possible second wave of coronavirus. But pub bosses hit back, saying a return to closures would be devastating for the industry and households that rely on it for work. 

Government advisers have warned that stricter lockdown rules may be necessary if the PM wants to reopen schools in September

Government advisers have warned that stricter lockdown rules may be necessary if the PM wants to reopen schools in September

Government advisers have warned that stricter lockdown rules may be necessary if the PM wants to reopen schools in September 

Kate Nicholls, of Hospitality UK, which represents pubs, restaurants and hotels, said shutting down ‘large chunks of the economy’ was a short-sighted strategy. 

‘We need to be focusing on collective efforts to drive down and control infections,’ she said, adding that the hospitality industry directly employs 3.2 million, with another two million reliant through supply chains. ‘It’s simply too big to just switch off. 

‘We would be talking about millions of people unemployed, a major loss of economic activity.’

Her comments came after England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty cautioned the country was ‘near the limit’ on how much social distancing measures could be eased without triggering a dangerous increase in virus levels.

Another Sage member, Prof Calum Semple, said there would probably be a second wave in October and ‘hard decisions will need to be made about what restrictions need to be reintroduced’. 

There are genuine fears that the lack of social distancing could lead to a second spike

There are genuine fears that the lack of social distancing could lead to a second spike

There are genuine fears that the lack of social distancing could lead to a second spike 

He told the BBC: ‘Whether that’s potentially the pubs and the hospitality sector taking a hit in preference to education will be a political decision.’

But senior Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith said it was a ‘false choice’ to say pubs should close to allow schools to open. The former Tory leader pleaded for Ministers to ensure both are kept open.

He told The Mail on Sunday that impending ‘economic Armageddon’ was a far greater risk than Covid-19. He said: ‘Of course, we must protect the vulnerable. We must protect people with co-morbidities.’ 

But he added: ‘The rest of us should be back at work by now and schools should be opening. If we don’t get this economy moving, more people will die because the economy collapsed than will ever die of Covid.’  

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