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Almost 10,000 care home residents have now died from coronavirus in the UK

Almost 10,000 care home residents have now died of coronavirus in Britain, accounting for a quarter of all the country’s victims.   

By the start of this month 8,312 people had died in care homes in England and Wales, along with 1,195 in Scotland and 232 in Northern Ireland – a total of 9,739.  

The true number of coronavirus victims in Britain is likely over 42,000 and a third higher than the Department of Health’s statistics show.

A weekly report by the Office for National Statistics has revealed that the death toll announced yesterday – 32,065 – was actually surpassed weeks ago in April.

And the real number of people to have been killed by the disease appeared to already be 36,697 by May 1. Increasing the current number of deaths counted by the Department of Health (32,065) by the same amount would put the true number of victims at 42,774.

This backdated ONS data includes everyone who has COVID-19 mentioned on their death certificate, regardless of whether they were tested for it. The Government only counts people who have tested positive but has been rationing tests for months. 

The stark data shows a tragic death toll looming larger than the Government is letting on, but it also shows the number of people dying of the pneumonia-causing disease had clearly started to fall by the end of April.

Between April 25 and May 1, 6,035 people died with the coronavirus in England and Wales. This accounted for a third of everyone who died that week and was 2,200 fewer victims than the week before. 

At least 8,314 people had died of COVID-19 in England’s care homes by May 1, data shows. When deaths from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are added the figure is 9,739

Data for England and Wales shows the number of people dying of COVID-19 - and therefore the total number of people dying week-on-week - had clearly started falling by the end of April

Data for England and Wales shows the number of people dying of COVID-19 – and therefore the total number of people dying week-on-week – had clearly started falling by the end of April

By the end of April the number of coronavirus patients dying in either hospitals or care homes was falling

By the end of April the number of coronavirus patients dying in either hospitals or care homes was falling 

The Government has come under intense scrutiny over its handling of how the coronavirus crisis has impacted care homes.

Bosses and staff have accused officials of overlooking them in a scramble to ‘protect the NHS’, despite the fact that nursing homes look after around 400,00 of Britain’s most vulnerable people.

Routine tests were not available for staff or residents for most of March and April and staff say vital personal protective equipment (PPE) has been in limited supply.

Last week top scientists said that ongoing, uncontrolled outbreaks in homes was contributing to Britain’s slow emergence from lockdown.

The reproduction rate of the virus is believed to be higher inside the homes and in hospitals, meaning it is spreading faster and is still a danger, even though it is now at low levels in the community.

ONS data for today shows that, although homes are still reported to be in the grip of the virus, the number of people dying in them had started to fall by the end of April.

Between April 18 and 24, care homes in England and Wales recorded 2,794 residents’ deaths. But between April 25 and May 1 this fell to 2,423. 

Although a single week’s drop is not enough to be certain of a trend, it coincided with a marked drop in deaths of all causes (21,997 to 17,953), in COVID-19 deaths in any location (6,746 to 4,744) and coronavirus hospital deaths (4,841 to 3,214). 

The scale of the tragedy in care homes has become clearer as the outbreak has progressed and appears to have peaked later than the crisis in hospitals.

In the week ending May 1, care home deaths accounted for 40 per cent of the total, while hospital deaths made up 53 per cent.

Two weeks earlier, however (April 11 to 17) this split was 23 per cent and 70 per cent. 

And in the week ending April 3, just five per cent of deaths happened in care homes, compared to 89 per cent in hospitals.

The Alzheimer’s Society said there is a ‘tragically high’ number of people dying in care homes.

Director of research at the charity, Fiona Carragher, said today: ‘Sadly, devastation continues in care homes with more than three times the usual number of deaths than average reported clearly showing the cost of not putting social care on an equal footing with the NHS. 

‘We need to know why the death toll in care homes remains so high in addition to coronavirus-reported deaths. 70 per cent of care home residents have dementia and we’re deeply concerned that this indicates an increase in deaths due to dementia, caused by isolation and reduction in care workers. 

‘Each of these deaths is a heart-breaking loss to their friends, families and carers which is why the Government must honour their commitment to ensure care homes get testing for all residents and staff and the protective equipment they need. 

‘We now approach our third month of lockdown, still with a tragically high number of care home deaths.’

The charity added that dementia patients are ‘really struggling’ with visiting restrictions and urged the Government to find a way to facilitate visiting hours to prevent their social wellbeing being ‘irreversibly damaged’.        

Including people who have died in their own houses or elsewhere in the community, at least 10,535 coronavirus deaths in England and Wales had taken place outside of hospitals by May 1. 

This compared to 22,873 in hospitals, which bore the brunt of the outbreak’s early stages.

ONS data shows 1,562 people have died in private homes, while 386 have died in hospices. A further 175 died elsewhere in the community.

One of the most reliable measures for judging the toll COVID-19 has taken on Britain is the number of excess deaths across the country.

Excess deaths are those that would not be expected to have happened had the outbreak not taken place – they are counted by looking at how weekly death numbers compared to averages over the past five years.

In the week ending May 1, there were 17,953 deaths registered across England and Wales – this was lower than the previous three weeks but is still around 8,000 (45 per cent) higher than average for the time of year.

For two weeks in April (11-24) the death count was double the five-year average, with more than 44,000 people dying in that fortnight alone.

And five of the 10 weeks with the highest death tolls since records began in 1993 have all happened during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Nick Stripe, head of health analysis at the ONS, told BBC News: ‘So it [week ending May 1] is actually the seventh highest weekly total since this data set started in 1993 so we have had four out of the top seven weeks in the last four weeks.’

Deputy director of research at the Nuffield Trust health think-tank, Sarah Scobie, said: ‘It is a good sign that we have seen a fall in the number of registered deaths across all settings and every region of England and Wales. This decline goes some way to support the evidence that we have passed the most severe peak of this outbreak.

‘But we can’t afford to lose sight of the devastating impact and burden of this continuing crisis. 

‘Compared to what we would expect to see based on the last five years, over 40,000 additional people have sadly lost their lives so far this year, 20% above the average. 

‘Excess deaths are still far higher than we would hope to see. We still have a long way to go.’

Infectious disease expert warns up to 560,000 Brits could die from COVID-19 if just half the population gets infected and the death rate is really 1.7% – which is what the government’s antibody surveillance scheme suggests

Around 560,000 people could die from coronavirus if half of Britain gets infected, a leading scientist has warned after results from the government antibody surveillance scheme suggested the virus kills 1.7 per cent of all cases. 

Sir Patrick Vallance, Number 10’s chief scientific adviser, revealed last night in the Downing Street press conference that around 4 per cent of Britain and 10 per cent of London has developed antibodies against COVID-19. 

The estimate – based on data from antibody testing across the home nations carried out a fortnight ago – means only around 2.64million Brits have had the infection. It also suggests the illness kills around 1.21 per cent of all cases, making it around 12 times deadlier than the flu.

However, the infection fatality rate could be even higher, when the thousands of the UK’s hidden COVID-19 deaths are included in the tally. Estimates on backdated data from the Office for National Statistics suggest at least 45,550 Britons have actually died – a death rate of around 1.73 per cent. 

Infectious disease expert Professor Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia, told MailOnline that based on the predicted death rate of 1.7 per cent, the disease could cause up to 560,000 deaths in the UK, if half of the population was infected. 

Other global antibody surveillance samples suggest the coronavirus death rate is much lower, between 0.3 and 0.75 per cent of cases. Those studies suggest between six and 12million people have caught the virus in the UK.

Ministers launched surveillance studies to track the rate of COVID-19 in Britain, with the true size of the outbreak remaining a mystery. Millions of cases have been missed because health chiefs controversially decided to abandon widespread testing early on in the outbreak.

Preliminary data from a separate government surveillance system released in Boris Johnson’s 50-page exit plan yesterday suggested that almost 140,000 people in England currently have the coronavirus. 

Australian researchers looked at 13 separate studies of death rates around the world and compared them. They ranged from 0.2 per cent to 1.6 per cent, and the scientists published a weighted average estimate of 0.75 per cent. The results from the antibody surveillance tests in Britain suggests the virus kills 1.73 per cent of patients

Australian researchers looked at 13 separate studies of death rates around the world and compared them. They ranged from 0.2 per cent to 1.6 per cent, and the scientists published a weighted average estimate of 0.75 per cent. The results from the antibody surveillance tests in Britain suggests the virus kills 1.73 per cent of patients

HOW BIG IS BRITAIN’S REAL CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK? 

The size of Britain’s real coronavirus outbreak remains a mystery because health chiefs controversially decided to abandon widespread testing early on in the crisis – meaning millions of cases were missed.

As a result, ministers have launched surveillance studies to track the rate of COVID-19 in Britain.

Antibody sampling studies carried out worldwide suggest at least 6million people in Britain have already caught the deadly infection.

While results from other surveillance schemes indicate that the size of the outbreak could be in the region of 25million cases.

SO, HOW BIG COULD BRITAIN’S COVID-19 OUTBREAK REALLY BE?

0.1% death rate (flu) – 45million cases in the UK

0.19% death rate (Helsinki, Finland) – 24million cases in the UK

0.37% death rate (Gangelt, Germany) – 12million cases in the UK

0.4% death rate (Stockholm, Sweden) – 11.3million cases in the UK

0.49% death rate (the lower estimate of an Australian review of 13 studies) – 9.2million cases in the UK

0.75% death rate (the middle estimate of an Australian review of 13 studies) – 6million cases in the UK

0.79% death rate (New York) – 5.7million cases in the UK

1.01% death rate (the upper estimate of an Australian review of 13 studies) – 4.5million cases in the UK

1.73% death rate (based on 10 per cent of Britain having had the virus) – 2.64million cases in the UK 

NOTE: The maths is based on 45,550 Britons having died, an estimate based on backdated data from the Office for National Statistics, which was 42 per cent higher than the official death toll (32,065) at its most recent count. 

In the Downing Street press conference last night, Sir Patrick discussed the early data from antibody surveillance samples carried out in the UK two weeks ago.

He said results suggest around 10 per cent of people whose blood was analysed in London tested positive for antibodies. This means around 900,000 people in the capital have developed some form of immunity to the virus. Around 8,000 people are estimated to have died in London – giving COVID-19 a death rate of 0.89 per cent in London. 

But the rate of people who tested positive for antibodies across the whole of Britain is around 4 per cent – 15 times lower than what is needed for the nation to develop any kind of herd immunity.

Sir Patrick Vallance has previously said around 60 per cent of the population need to catch the virus to build up a national tolerance to curb the spread.  

Data from New York City – the worst-hit place on the planet – suggested a quarter of the city of eight million people had been infected with the illness. 

Applying the various estimated death rates of the virus from studies carried out worldwide, the true number of people infected with the coronavirus in Britain could be one of the following: 

  • 0.1% death rate (flu) – 45million cases in the UK
  • 0.19% death rate (Helsinki, Finland) – 24million cases in the UK
  • 0.37% death rate (Gangelt, Germany) – 12million cases in the UK
  • 0.4% death rate (Stockholm, Sweden) – 11.3million cases in the UK
  • 0.49% death rate (the lower estimate of an Australian review of 13 studies) – 9.2million cases in the UK
  • 0.75% death rate (the middle estimate of an Australian review of 13 studies) – 6million cases in the UK
  • 0.79% death rate (New York) – 5.7million cases in the UK
  • 1.01% death rate (the upper estimate of an Australian review of 13 studies) – 4.5million cases in the UK
  • 1.73% death rate (based on 10 per cent of Britain having had the virus) – 2.64million cases in the UK

Most of the studies carried out worldwide to estimate a death rate are based on antibody tests, which suggest someone has had the illness before.

It can take weeks for patients to get enough antibodies in their system to accurately tell if they have ever had the deadly coronavirus. 

Professor Hunter last night told MailOnline he believes the death rate is likely to be ‘much lower’ than 1.7 per cent, meaning millions more Britons have been struck down than the government sampling shows.

Prime Minister Mr Johnson last night revealed the crisis in the UK constitutes a risk level of four, which means the virus is barely contained

Prime Minister Mr Johnson last night revealed the crisis in the UK constitutes a risk level of four, which means the virus is barely contained

This means the sample – which was taken two weeks ago – may not offer Number 10 a full picture about exactly how many Brits have ever been struck down. 

Leading virologists have repeatedly warned the truth on whether COVID-19 survivors have any degree of immunity is still murky. 

It comes as the Government released a ‘road map released’ yesterday which outlined the next stages of a phased easing of lockdown – 12 hours after the PM’s confusing address to the nation.

From Wednesday people will be able to exercise as often as they like, sunbathing in parks will be permitted so long as strict social distancing rules are obeyed. Schools will start to reopen next month – subject to conditions.

The blueprint published yesterday revealed: ‘As of 9 May, it is estimated that 136,000 people in England are currently infected with COVID-19.’

The results – from swab samples taken from thousands of people – suggests the life-threatening virus has been detected in 0.24 per cent of England’s population (56million people). 

This equates to approximately 136,000 people in England – but could be as low as 76,000 or as high as 225,000, officials admitted.

The data on infection levels is some of the first to come from a major scheme, which is co-led by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), to track spread of COVID-19 in general population.    

HOW TESTING WILL TRACK THE VIRUS’S R VALUE AND MONITOR COVID-19

As it steps up surveillance of COVID-19 the Government is now moving into four major population testing schemes:

REGULAR SWAB TESTS FOR 25,000 

At least 25,000 people will be enrolled into a scheme in which they will take swab tests each month to see if they are infected at the time. 

The mass sampling study will continue for the next year and will be scaled up to include 300,000 people if it is found to be useful.

The surveillance scheme is being co-led by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The first official results are expected imminently. 

REGULAR ANTIBODY TESTING 

Further antibody testing will be rolled out to 1,000 households across the country, to work out how much of the population has already been infected.

Trained nurses will take blood samples from the volunteers and send them to a lab where they are analysed to see if they have developed any immunity.  

The scheme is also being run by the ONS and Oxford University, which will analyse the anonymised blood tests in one of their laboratories.

100,000 RANDOM TESTS

Imperial College London will oversee a two-part REACT programme (Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission).

The first part of this will be the 100,000 tests of random people in 315 different areas of the UK, to see how many of them are currently infected.

RANDOM ANTIBODY HOME TESTS 

Part two will be a roll-out of at-home antibody tests, which can tell whether people have already had the disease and recovered. These will be given to 300 people for an initial trial and then rolled out to 10,000 people and then to 100,000 if it is successful.

The antibody tests will create a picture of how many people have had the virus already and may have immunity to it, meaning they won’t catch it again, at least in the short-term. 

The ‘Infection Survey in England’ has so far received the results of swab tests collected from 7,087 individual participants between 26 April and 8 May 2020. It aims to get the results from 25,000 people before being scaled up to swab 300,000 in 12 months.

Preliminary data from the scheme last week suggested the life-threatening virus had been detected in between 0.2 and 0.6 across the whole of Britain (130,000 to 396,000 people), The Times reported.

Participants have to swab themselves every week for the first five weeks and monthly for a whole year. They also answer some questions from a health worker about any symptoms.

The first phase of the study will involve 25,000 people from 10,000 households which will later expand to include a targeted 300,000 people over the next 12 months.

Antibody testing will also be conducted on adults from around 1,000 households to help work out what proportion of the population has developed antibodies to COVID-19 – suggesting they have already fought the infection. 

The sampling study involved both forms of tests to give Number 10 a better snapshot about the size of the crisis and how to emerge from lockdown.

The government’s 50-page document published today comes after drafts have been leaked over the past week.

It seeks to answer hundreds of questions left in the air about what is allowed in the next stage of the lockdown – such as whether people can meet family or if they have to go to work.

Step one to easing the lockdown begins on Wednesday, with only minor tweaks to the current rules.

The document, which spells out a staggered exit plan from now until July and beyond, said: ‘The Government cannot yet be confident that major adjustments now will not risk a second peak of infections that might overwhelm the NHS.

‘Therefore, the Government is only in a position to lift cautiously elements of the existing measures.’

Those who cannot work from home ‘actively encouraged’ to return to their jobs – but to avoid public transport as much as possible.

People will be able to exercise as often as they like, an extension on the current one hour, and sunbathers can finally spend as much time as they like in parks – so long as they obey strict social distancing rules. 

Scientists believe that, when the COVID-19 outbreak, started in the UK, the virus's R rate was between 2.7 and 3 (above). But, as people have followed social distancing rules, stayed home and self-isolated when they are ill, the number has been forced below 1

Scientists believe that, when the COVID-19 outbreak, started in the UK, the virus’s R rate was between 2.7 and 3 (above). But, as people have followed social distancing rules, stayed home and self-isolated when they are ill, the number has been forced below 1

The government issued a series of graphics last night to illustrate the potential path out of the coronavirus lockdown

The government issued a series of graphics last night to illustrate the potential path out of the coronavirus lockdown

The old 'stay home' slogan with a red edging

The new 'stay alert' slogan has green edging

The PM has dropped the ‘stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives’ slogan in favour of a ‘stay alert’ version in England – which notably has green edging instead of red

ARE CORONAVIRUS SURVIVORS IMMUNE TO BEING STRUCK DOWN AGAIN?

Leading virologists have repeatedly warned the truth on whether COVID-19 survivors have any degree of immunity is still murky.

With some infectious diseases, such as measles, the immunity can be lifelong. With others, immunity can wane over time.

When someone gets infected with a virus their immune system must work out how to fight it off and produce substances called antibodies.

Antibodies – which can be found in blood tests – are stored in the immune system so if it comes into contact with that same virus again it can fight it off.

While antibodies typically confer some degree of immunity, whether that is the case with this unique coronavirus is not yet known.

Most scientists tracking the pandemic, which started in China in December, agree that COVID-19 survivors will get some degree of protection.

But the World Health Organization has warned there is ‘currently no evidence’ recovered patients are protected from a second infection at all.

Other experts have claimed similar coronaviruses – including ones that cause the common cold – also induce immunity for around three months.

Number 10’s chief scientific adviser yesterday told MPs that survivors will ‘almost certainly’ not obtain ‘absolute immunity’.

Sir Patrick Vallance told the Health and Social Care Select Committee that any immunity may last for ‘one, two, three years’ – but not for ‘many, many years’.

Laboratory tests on rhesus monkeys – often used in scientific experiments because of their similarities to humans – boosted COVID-19 immunity hopes.

Chinese scientists purposely infected monkeys before re-exposing them to the virus 28 days later. Results showed they did not become re-infected. 

It was confirmed today people can meet with up to one person from outside their household – a detail that was left vague by the PM last night. 

Anyone meeting with someone outside their household should stay a two metre distance from there and they must meet in a public place, not a house or garden.

But those who are extremely vulnerable, such as those with pre-existing health conditions, are advised to avoid contact with others as much as possible. 

People may also ‘drive to outdoor open spaces irrespective of distance’ as long as they are not in other parts of the UK.

This is because devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own strategies out of lockdown.

The government hope for step two of releasing the lockdown on June 1 – which will include opening schools – and step two by July 4 – which could see some hospitality re-open.

But this is subject to the virus remaining under control, measured by the reproduction number. 

Mr Johnson said last night the R level is currently close to 1. If it rises above 1, the numbers of cases will start to snowball. 

If R is below one, then on average each infected person will infect fewer than one other person and the number of new infections will dwindle.

When R is above one, the number of new infections is accelerating.

Scientists believe that, when the COVID-19 outbreak, started in the UK, the virus’s R rate was between 2.7 and 3 – possibly 4.

But, as people have followed social distancing rules, stayed home and self-isolated when they are ill, the number has been forced below 1, potentially as low as 0.5 in some places. 

The reproduction number changes as behaviour changes or as immunity develops among the population, which is why the Government is so tentative to lift draconian measures.

The Prime Minister said the Government ‘will not hesitate to put on the brakes’ if the virus starts to spread widely again while telling Britons to ‘stay alert, protect the NHS and save lives’.

Mathematical modellers at Imperial College London are attempting to track how the R number changes over time. 

Here is how the government’s three-step plan to ease the lockdown shapes up: 

STEP ONE

Work 

From Wednesday, a series of tweaks will be implemented in England – although the rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will not necessarily be the same.

The document said that people should work from home ‘wherever possible’ for the ‘foreseeable future’, to ‘minimise the number of social contacts across the country’.

In an attempt to blow away any stigma for those who do carry on doing their jobs, the plan said: ‘All those who work are contributing taxes that help pay for the healthcare provision on which the UK relies. 

‘People who are able to work at home make it possible for people who have to attend workplaces in person to do so while minimising the risk of overcrowding on transport and in public places.’ 

But even if they cannot work from home, most people are now being ‘actively encouraged’ to go back.  

‘The only exceptions to this are those workplaces such as hospitality and non-essential retail which during this first step the Government is requiring to remain closed,’ the blueprint said.

The plan said ‘COVID-19 Secure’ guidelines will be produced this week, but merely stated that businesses should follow these ‘as soon as practicable’ – leaving a considerable degree of uncertainty about how and when workers can be reassured about safety.

Anyone who displays symptoms should isolate as was advised before.

Schools

The document admits that the ‘rate of infection remains too high’ to allow reopening of schools ‘for all pupils’.

But it insisted that there is a ‘large societal benefit’ from vulnerable children and the offspring of key workers attending school. ‘Local authorities and schools should therefore urge more children who would benefit from attending in person to do so,’ it added.

The Government is also amending its guidance to allow for nannies and childminders, saying it will ‘enable more working parents to return’.

Travel

The plan stressed that ‘most journeys to work involve people travelling either by bike, by car or on foot’.

But it conceded that public transport is critical, ‘particularly in urban centres and at peak times’.

The blueprint said ‘everybody (including critical workers) should continue to avoid public transport wherever possible’, instead cycling, walking or driving.  

Moves are under way to widen pavements, create pop-up cycle lanes, and close some roads in cities to traffic to enable other social-distancing friendly transport methods.

Face coverings 

The document said in this stage face coverings will help people avoid transmitting the disease to others if they have it without any symptoms.

It added that homemade cloth face-coverings can help reduce the risk, but surgical masks or respirators should continue to be reserved for healthcare workers.

Ministers added that face coverings should not be used by children aged under two or those with respiratory conditions.

People who may find it difficult to manage the masks correctly such as primary age children unassisted are also advised not to wear them.

Officials said the new guidance was being issued in response to there being ‘more movement outside people’s immediate household’ as people start returning to work.

Public spaces

In a loosening that will come as a huge relief in England, the once-a-day restriction on exercise is being lifted.

You can spend time outside with one other person outside your household, as long as you stay two metres apart. This means tennis or golf with another person is now allowed. 

However, team sports are still off limits, as are playgrounds and outdoor gyms. 

People may travel as far as they want to get to outdoor spaces, and are permitted to stop and sunbathe as long as they keep two metres from anyone not in their own household.

That means, for example, people can drive to the beach and park, before sunning themselves.  

In acknowledgement of the widening splits across the UK, the document noted that ‘it is important that people respect the rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and do not travel to different parts of the UK where it would be inconsistent with guidance or regulations’. 

The plan noted: ‘These measures may come with some risk; it is important that everyone continues to act responsibly, as the large majority have done to date. The infection rate will increase if people begin to break these rules and, for example, mix in groups in parks, which will trigger the need for further restrictions.’

Tougher fines, of up to £3,200 are being introduced to help enforce the increasingly complex rules.  

Travel

As the outbreak subsides in the UK, there will be action to prevent ‘leakage’ in from abroad.  

All international arrivals will need to supply contact and accommodation information. ‘They will also be strongly advised to download and use the NHS contact tracing app,’ the document said.

‘Second, the Government will require all international arrivals not on a short list of exemptions to self-isolate in their accommodation for fourteen days on arrival into the UK.’

However, there is no deadline for these measures to be introduced, with the plan merely saying ‘as soon as possible’.

STEP TWO 

Schools and shops reopen and ‘family bubbles’ allowed

Step Two will not be implemented until June 1 at the earliest and the Government will give at least 48 hours notice that changes are to be made.

The biggest measure for families across Britain is the prospective return to school and nursery of thousands of children.

Teachers have been told to prepare to reopen their doors on June 1, with reception, year one and year six pupils the first to go back, in smaller classes.

The strategy said that the ambition is for all primary school children to return to school before the summer holidays for a month ‘if feasible’ – but this will be kept under review.

Secondary schools and further education colleges should prepare to begin some ‘face-to-face contact’ with Year 10 and 12 students who have key exams next year.

However, ministers face a potential problem in the shape of reticent teachers and parents. More than 380,000 people have signed a petition urging the Government to give parents a choice on sending their children back to school if they reopen next month.

And Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said: ‘Parents are quite rightly concerned about the risks to their children, not just at school but on their daily journeys to and from school.

‘This in turn threatens the safety of adults in the school community: parents, families, teachers, heads and support staff.

‘Social distancing for younger children will be difficult to achieve and for others there will be the issues of narrow corridors and classrooms that just aren’t big enough to allow social distancing.’

In response to parents, the Government announced that fines usually levelled for truanting would not apply if parents did not send their children back to school.

Step two would also allow the creation of ‘family bubbles’. The idea is that two branches of a family could be allowed to socialise together, allowing things like grandparents access to see their grandchildren and visa versa. 

Sage has been asked to look at ways of making this possible, with more information nearer the time, with the guidance saying: ‘The intention of this change would be to allow those who are isolated some more social contact, and to reduce the most harmful effects of the current social restrictions, while continuing to limit the risk of chains of transmission. 

‘It would also support some families to return to work by, for example, allowing two households to share childcare.’

Further proposals are being looked at for larger groups to gather to allow weddings to go ahead with small congregations. 

Stage two would also allow for the return of sporting and cultural events, albeit behind closed doors.

A slew of events including Glastonbury, Wimbledon and the British Grand Prix have already been cancelled and are unlikely to be resurrected this year.

But the plans to allow ‘cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed-doors for broadcast, while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact’, would allow professional sports like football, rugby and cricket to resume in early summer.

This would also coincide with the reopening of the UK high street. Non-essential retailers, who have been closed since March at huge cost to the taxpayer, are expected to open in phases from June 1.

Rather than one flinging open of doors the Government warned it will be done in phases and that bars, pubs and restaurants, and ‘personal care’ like hairdressers and beauty salons, will remain closed because of the higher risk of infection.  

Because of the expected increase in movement during this phase, it will also see more public transport return.

Buses and trains have been operating a limited service since march because demand fell off a cliff. 

Step three 

Something approaching normal – but some businesses could still be stuck in limbo

Stage three is not expected to come into force until July 4, US Independence Day, at the earliest. 

Plans would include the reopening of businesses that were still closed: pubs, restaurants and hotels, hairdressers and beauty salons, churches and lesiure facilities like cinemas,.

But there is still a caveat at this stage that some places will not be able to open.

‘Some venues which are, by design, crowded and where it may prove difficult to enact distancing may still not be able to re-open safely at this point, or may be able to open safely only in part,’ it warns,

‘Nevertheless the Government will wish to open as many businesses and public places as the data and information at the time allows.’

It adds that it will watch places around the world that are already emerging from their lockdown and use them as guide as to how premises could open safely.

But it does raise the possibility that some  businesses will potentially still have their doors closed heading in to the autumn, raising the spectre of job losses over the summer.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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