- Here are the headlines on Monday, March 8
Schools return and care home visits permitted
Pupils will return to schools and loved ones will be able to visit care home residents in person as lockdown is eased in England.
Boris Johnson said he hoped today’s tentative softening of restrictions marked a ‘big step’ on his ‘road map to freedom’ – a plan which could see all Covid measures lifted by June 21.
As well as pupils returning to classrooms for the first time in at least two months, the rules around meeting with a person from another household outdoors will be loosened to permit recreation and not just exercise. While the ‘stay at home’ message remains in place, it means people can leave home to meet one other person for a coffee or picnic.
Proposals to help children catch-up
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he was looking at proposals that included a five-term academic year, a shorter summer holiday and longer school days to help pupils catch up on lost learning during the pandemic in ‘transformative’ measures not seen since the Second World War.
But Ofsted chief Ms Spielman, asked on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday for her opinion, said such ideas had fallen by the wayside in the past and that any proposals should have the support of parents.
Labour is calling for catch-up breakfast clubs before the school day starts, with leader Sir Keir Starmer and his shadow education secretary Kate Green due to argue during a visit to a school in east London today that the concept would allow for both extra socialising and learning.
Rail services ramped up
Train services have been ramped up as schools and colleges reopen across England today.
Operators boosting their capacity through extra and longer trains include Great Western Railway (GWR), Greater Anglia, Southeastern, West Midlands Trains and TransPennine Express (TPE).
Other measures include extra staff providing guidance to passengers at key stations, and enhanced onboard cleaning regimes. Overall service levels are around 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
Public feeling more optimistic
A survey commissioned by Hyundai has found more than half of Brits (54%) have said they feel more optimistic that the nation is heading back towards normal life than at any point since the pandemic began 12 months ago.
In a survey of 2,000 Brits nearly half (47%) were confident we are over the worst of the coronavirus pandemic and that circumstances are only set to get better.
Some 55 per cent are optimistic that the UK will stick to the government’s roadmap outlined by Boris Johnson two weeks ago too, which will see all legal limits on social contact lifted on June 21.
Record level of business confidence
Businesses are now more optimistic about the year ahead than they have been for almost a decade, according to a financial report.
The latest Royal Bank of Scotland purchasing managers’ index (PMI) found firms were positive about the future despite still suffering the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The bank’s analysts noted improved confidence among private-sector firms, the highest recorded in its monthly reports since 2012.
Sturgeon condemns ‘infuriating’ scenes
Nicola Sturgeon has condemned the ‘infuriating and disgraceful’ celebrations in Glasgow by Rangers fans.
Thousands of people flouted the coronavirus lockdown to gather in the streets and celebrate Rangers winning the Scottish Premiership – their first top-flight title in 10 years.
The mass gatherings were widely condemned, with the First Minister warning the celebrations could jeopardise plans to ease coronavirus restrictions.
Bound to be issues to iron out with EU after Brexit, says PM
There were ‘bound’ to be issues that needed ironing out between the UK and Brussels, the Prime Minister has said, as post-Brexit difficulties continue.
Lord Frost, the Cabinet minister who negotiated Britain’s trade deal with the European Union, provoked the ire of Brussels last week by unilaterally making changes that impacted upon the Northern Ireland Protocol.
But Boris Johnson looked to play down the row yesterday, saying he was ‘full of optimism’ about the cross-Channel relationship, telling broadcasters: ‘I think this is one of those issues we were always bound to have in the early stages of our new relationship with our friends in the EU and the various technical issues we are going to iron out.’
Nation should prepare for ‘hard winter’
The nation should prepare itself for a ‘hard winter’ with the threat of Covid-19 and a flu surge still a possibility, a Public Health England official has said.
The NHS will have to be ready for a potential rise in respiratory viruses as people wait to discover if there is a strong level of immunity in the population, according to Dr Susan Hopkins, who advises the government on its Covid policy.
Dr Hopkins, who is Covid-19 strategic response director to Public Health England, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘It’s really important that we’re prepared from the NHS point of view, from public health and contact tracing, that we have everything ready to prepare for a difficult autumn, and we hope that it won’t occur and there will be a normal winter for all of us. We have to make sure that we’re prepared, and that we’re better prepared for this autumn than we have been previously.’
Chinese exports surge as global demand recovers from virus
China’s exports surged 60.6 per cent year-on-year in the first two months of 2021 after factories reopened and global demand started to recover from the pandemic.
Exports rose to £339bn, according to customs data released yesterday, accelerating from December’s 18.1 per cent gain and nearly double the growth expected.
Forecasters say the surge should decelerate as demand for masks and other medical supplies eases and overseas competitors return to global markets.
Restaurant chain plans new openings
Restaurant chain Island Poke has secured a cash injection from hospitality investor Hero Brands to help accelerate its plans for rapid growth.
The Hawaiian poke bowl chain has more than doubled in size over the past year to 17 outlets and is targeting more openings as pandemic restrictions start to lift.
It said it plans to use the ‘substantial’ undisclosed investment to open at least five more sites by the end of 2021.
Fiat opens order books for electric E-Ducato
Fiat has revealed pricing and specifications for its first electric van, the E-Ducato.
Priced from £47,675 excluding VAT and after the government’s plug-in car grant, the E-Ducato arrives with a range of between 113 and 230 miles depending on the variant.
The E-Ducato is available with the option of either a 47kWh or 79kWh battery and can be charged to 80 per cent in as little as 30 minutes via a 50kW charger. The former battery, fitted alongside a 90kW motor, should return up to 146 miles of range.
Dry and sunny
Patchy rain across southern Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland will linger today, but ease in the late afternoon. Elsewhere will remain mostly dry with intermittent sunshine, says the BBC.
Tonight, western parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland will see scattered showers overnight. It will remain dry elsewhere, under patchy cloud cover, but skies will be clearest in southern and central areas.
Largely dry across most areas tomorrow, under variable cloud cover. Later in the evening winds are expected to increase with a band of blustery rain pushing in from the west.
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