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  • Writer's pictureDan Heley

National Lockdown? Tier 4? School Closures? Government dithers as Weston braces for rules change

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Weston-super-Mare and the wider North Somerset area could be moved up from Tier 3 into Tier 4 as soon as today. The health secretary, Matt Hancock has said that areas in Tier 3 were seeing sharp rises in coronavirus cases, a hint that those parts of the country no already in Tier 4, such as North Somerset, could be moved up to the highest level of restrictions in the near future.

This morning Matt Hancock suggested that stronger restrictions might be necessary nationally, saying; "the old tier system is no longer strong enough". However this comes after the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said only yesterday "what we are doing using the tiering systems, which is very tough".

At the same time reports are emerging that Boris Johnson will decide today whether or not to introduce a national lockdown as the Governments "Covid-O committee" meets today to decide what steps to take next.

Last night, Sir Keir Starmer demanded an immediate nationwide lockdown as he warned the 'virus is clearly out of control'. The Labour leader added: 'Let's not have the Prime Minister saying, 'I'm going to do it, but not yet'. That's the problem he has made so many times. Nationwide lockdown – the Prime Minister has hinted that that's going to happen, but he's delaying again; and we can't afford that again."

The news comes amidst 6 consecutive days of 50,000 + cases nationally and turmoil amongst schools across the country due to dithering and indecisiveness by the government over their re-opening.

North Somerset has seen cases increase, with 246 cases per 100,000 people being reported in the latest week 22 Dec-28 Dec. That equates to 550 cases during that time, an increase of 116 compared with the previous week.

Pressure has been mounting in recent days from parents and teachers to close all schools in order to help curb the spread of the new strain of the virus which is believed to be up to 70% more transmissible. The confusion amongst the future of schools reopening comes during a time of mixed messages from the government with the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, having admitted secondary schools in England could remain closed beyond the middle of January and as the country’s education unions issued a joint statement urging all schools to close to safeguard staff and student safety, whilst headteachers called for next summer’s exams to be reassessed.

In more positive news in the battle to tackle the virus the government has today announced that the first of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines will be administered to people in the UK since its approval. The results from the phase three trial of the vaccine, which had more than 11,500 volunteers from the UK and Brazil, shows the vaccine is 70.4% effective on average. However, when administered at a half dose and then a full dose the vaccine can be up to 90% effective.



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