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Coronavirus news – live: Teachers and parents criticise threat of fines for children who miss school as scientists claim to have found first patient reinfected with Covid-19

Follow the latest updates

Jon Sharman,Chiara Giordano,Zoe Tidman
Monday 24 August 2020 23:16 BST
Coronavirus in numbers

Teaching unions and parents have hit back over the threat of fines if children do not return to the classroom next week, warning it could undermine trust between families and schools at a crucial point in the UK’s recovery from coronavirus.

It comes after Boris Johnson urged parents to send their children back to school when they reopen in England, saying that yet more time outside the classroom is a greater health risk than returning – a view echoed by Jennie Harries, the deputy chief medical officer, who said car crashes and flu were greater health dangers than Covid-19.

Scientists, meanwhile, claim to have found the first person to be reinfected with coronavirus – a man in Hong Kong who is believed to have caught one strain four months after battling a different incarnation of Covid-19.


Johnson pleads with parents to send their kids to school

Boris Johnson has appealed to parents to send their children to schools when they reopen next week as a major union warned more teachers are needed in preparation, writes Kate Devlin.

The National Education Union (NEU) also accused ministers of being “negligent in the extreme”, saying schools had been left in the dark on how to deal with a coronavirus outbreak.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has warned the exams crisis that has engulfed the government for a fortnight has put the planned reopening of schools “at risk”.

Jon Sharman24 August 2020 07:05

Trump approves plasma treatment despite controversy

The US Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorisation for the use of convalescent plasma to treat coronavirus patients on Sunday, despite top experts urging caution over its use, writes Danielle Zoellner.

Announcing the move, Donald Trump called it a “truly historic breakthrough” in the fight against the virus, which he had been “looking to do for a long time.”

“This is a powerful therapy. Today's action will dramatically expand access to this treatment," Mr Trump said. "The FDA really stepped up, especially in the last few days," the president said.

Jon Sharman24 August 2020 07:30

Auckland lockdown extended

New Zealand will extend coronavirus restrictions in its largest city of Auckland until Sunday night, Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.

A Covid-19 spike about two weeks ago in Auckland prompted the prime minister to put the city's 1.7 million residents in lockdown, forcing businesses to close and schools to shut. The lockdown was due to expire on Wednesday.

Ms Ardern said everyone using public transport under level two restrictions or above will be required to wear masks or any face covering to contain the spread of the virus.

Jon Sharman24 August 2020 07:40

Ministers 'must engage with families' to get kids back to school, says union

A teachers' union has said the government must engage with parents in order to get pupils back to school.

Many parents were anxious about the return, said Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT.

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."

Mr Whiteman said there were worries about the impact on the R-rate and transmission of coronavirus in schools.

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."

Mr Whiteman said he did not support fining parents who declined to let their children attend lessons.

Jon Sharman24 August 2020 07:55

Flu and car crashes greater risks to kids than Covid-19, Harries insists

Jennie Harries, the deputy chief medical officer, has said it is safe for children to return to school next week.

The risk to their health is lower than if they stayed away, she said.

Dr Harries told Sky News: "A well-controlled school environment, with the information and knowledge that we have about Covid now, should be a safe one.

"The long-term harms of children not attending school significantly, we think, outweigh those potential risks.

"No environment is completely risk-free. Every time a parent sent their child off to school pre-Covid, they may have been involved in a road traffic accident.

"There are all sort of things. And, in fact, that risk, or the risk from seasonal flu, we think is probably higher than the current risks of Covid."

Jon Sharman24 August 2020 08:05

Masks now mandatory in Seoul

People in Seoul were ordered on Monday to wear face masks in both indoor and outdoor public places for the first time.

The South Korean capital is battling a surge in coronavirus cases centred in the densely populated metropolitan area.

Many cases have been linked to a church where congregants were refusing to be tested.

In May, the city government ordered that masks be worn on public transport and in taxis, but a recent spike in cases has health officials worried that the country may need to impose its highest level of social distancing.

"If we fail to flatten the curve this week we believe we will be faced with a very important crisis, that the virus will spread to the entire nation," health ministry official Yoon Tae-ho told a briefing.

The Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reported 266 new cases as of midnight on Sunday, down from 397 a day earlier but another in more than a week of triple-digit daily increases.

Overall, South Korea has reported 17,665 coronavirus cases and 309 deaths.

To read more about the recalcitrant religionists, click below:

Jon Sharman24 August 2020 08:20

Tokyo records lowest one-day case tally since early July

Tokyo reported 95 new coronavirus cases on Monday, marking the lowest single-day rise since 8 July, metropolitan government data showed.

The cases were confirmed out of about 2,900 tests, with those under 40 accounting for 60 per cent of new infections.

Total serious cases in the Japanese capital declined by one from the previous day, to 38.

Cases have declined from peaks of above 400 seen in early August.

It came as Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister, paid a second visit to hospital and sparked fears for his health.

Mr Abe has suffered a drop in support to one of the lowest levels since returning to office for a second term in 2012, when he promised to revive the economy and bolster defence.

"I'd like to take care of my health and do my best at my job," he told reporters at his official residence, after visiting a Tokyo hospital where he said he had received results of an exam done last week and undergone additional checks.

Jon Sharman24 August 2020 08:30

Blood pressure meds could boost Covid-19 survival

Medication for high blood pressure could improve Covid-19 survival rates and reduce the severity of the infection in patients with hypertension, a new study suggests.

Researchers studied 28,000 patients taking antihypertensives, a class of drugs that are used to treat hypertension.

Jon Sharman24 August 2020 08:40

Government should consider face masks in schools, says Labour

Ministers should keep under review the question of whether children and teachers should wear face masks at school, the shadow education secretary has said.

Labour's Kate Green told Good Morning Britain: "It's certainly something that I think needs to be kept under review, because in other countries they have been used particularly where there have been high levels of infection, and so I think it's really right that it's kept under very close watch as to where they might be appropriate in school, whether they might be appropriate in school."

She also accused the government of being "asleep at the wheel" when it came to reopening schools, and failing to monitor the details.

Ms Green said: "The union leaders that I'm talking to all the time are as desperate as anyone to see children back in class.

"They're education professionals, they're teachers, they really care as much as anybody about children's futures and it isn't the responsibility of the trade unions ultimately to get children into the classroom.

"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."

"I do agree that it's really important that we get everyone back into school next week and... really welcome the clarity of the chief medial officers' advice, which I hope will bring reassurance to parents."

Jon Sharman24 August 2020 08:50

Anti-Covid-19 measures in schools 'very effective', says Gibb

Nick Gibb has insisted the measures schools were taking to minimise the risk of the transmission of coronavirus when children return to school are "very effective".

Asked about fines for parents, the school standards minister 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."

Mr Gibb said he was confident all schools would reopen on time, and claimed that 90 per cent of parents had indicated they would send their offspring back to class.

He added: "If [parents have] got extra concerns, that is a matter between the headteacher and the family to make sure that their concerns are taken into account, but it is important - it's a moral imperative - that young people are back in school, because what the chief medical officers are saying now is that the risk of not being in school outweigh the very small risk of children being in school, particularly given all the control measures, the hygiene, the cleaning that's taking place in our schools ... there's an absolute determination to make sure that schools are safe for the children and children want to be back."

Earlier, the NAHT said it opposed fining parents.

Jon Sharman24 August 2020 09:05

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