A Minister Has Suggested Pupils And Parents Will Be A High Priority Group When Testing Is Rationed
3 min read
Pupils and their parents will be in the highest priority group after NHS and care staff for coronavirus testing when rationing is introduced shortly, the justice secretary has suggested.
Robert Buckland said the move would be made to try to keep schools open. He was speaking after teachers described to PoliticsHome how badly the coronavirus testing crisis is affecting them, with some saying the impact is so severe they may have to shut classrooms altogether.
In response to a backlog of swab kits at laboratories and reports of tests not being available almost anywhere in England yesterday, health secretary Matt Hancock suggested the government will begin to prioritise who can get a test in the coming days.
Currently anyone who displays coronavirus symptoms can, in theory, get a test, but Hancock told MPs staff and patients in hospitals and care homes would soon be first in line as they deal with “operational challenges” which could take weeks to fix.
And Mr Buckland suggested school pupils and their parents could be next in line for testing.
He told Sky News: “It has to be the NHS first and then social care, and then I think what we need to do is have a cascading system where we know where our priority should be.
“For me, our priority should be children in school and their parents in order to make sure their lives are safe and also, importantly, they’re not disrupted in the way that we’re seeing.”
He admitted the government was facing “real challenges” after people opted to turn up to hospital A&Es as there were no available bookings online on Tuesday.
Mr Buckland added: “I think laboratory capacity has been an issue, we’re working our way through that, we’re increasing the number of test centres – we’ve got 400 test centres, getting it up to 500 – but clearly there are still real challenges.
“I think the announcement by Matt Hancock yesterday to create a prioritisation system is the right thing to do.
“He is going to develop that very quickly over the next few days, to explain to us what that looks like but I think… it has to be the NHS first and then social care.
“And then I think what we need to do is have a cascading system where we know where our priority should be and for me priority should be for children in school and their parents in order to ensure their lives are safe and also importantly they are not disrupted in the way we are seeing.”
His comments come after Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said keeping schools open would become “unsustainable” if issues with testing capacity were not fixed.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said headteachers were being forced to decide whether the “bubble has to stay at home” if a pupil or teacher in a particular year group had shown Covid-19 symptoms, but could not get a test to prove they were negative.
“This will feel I think like lockdown by default – it will be more frustrating for parents because you can’t predict whether it is going to happen,” he said.
“And similarly from the headteacher’s point of view, if my Year 4 teacher today shows symptoms, will he or she be in school tomorrow, will they be here for the next 14 days?
“As soon as you start to get that with six, seven, eight teachers, it becomes unsustainable to be able to run things.”
Mr Barton said teachers should be given testing priority and they “need to be counted as key workers in order that you can at least keep that maths teacher in front of 30 young people if their test is negative”.
Egypt adds restaurant at ancient pyramid site
Developers late on Tuesday night opened a new restaurant, “9 Pyramids Lounge”, which covers an area of 1,341 square meters and overlooks the Giza pyramids. There will also be a fleet of new environmentally-friendly buses to guide tourists around the plateau.
“One of the problems always faced is that people say there are no special services for tourists, that there is no cafeteria, no restaurant, nothing that can be offered to visitors,” said Mostafa Waziri, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.
The new facilities are all easily taken part and reassembled so as to protect the antiquities and Waziri said the open-air restaurant offered “a panorama view that cannot be matched anywhere in the world.”
Tourism accounts for up to 15% of Egypt’s national output. However, officials have said previously the sector is losing around $1 billion each month after largely shutting down for several months from March due to the spread of coronavirus.
The changes at the plateau are part of wider efforts to develop key tourist sites in the country. Next year the Grand Egyptian Museum, which is set to be the world’s largest archaeological museum, is due to open just beyond the Giza Pyramids.
Egyptian business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, the plateau’s main developer, said the 301 million Egyptian pound ($19.23 million)project is part of a greater plan to develop the UNESCO world heritage site and streamline tourists’ experience.
“We will organise the salespeople,” said Sawiris. “We will not deprive them of their income but we will put them into suitable, nice places.”
Pelosi suggests coronavirus relief deal could slip past November elections
Talks between the speaker and White House over a coronavirus relief package have remained at an impasse for months, though Pelosi said Tuesday that she and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are “on a path” to a deal. But a larger relief agreement has met resistance in the GOP-controlled Senate, where some Republicans have blanched at a multi-trillion dollar price tag.
The California Democrat said she has been buoyed by recent progress made between House Democrats and the White House, but several issues remain outstanding with less than two weeks until Election Day.
“We’re in a better place than we have been,” she said. “None of it is insurmountable if you want to make a decision.”
The speaker said that “it’s up to” President Donald Trump — who has said he wants a relief package with a higher price tag than the $2.2 trillion proposal Democrats are pushing — to cajole members of his party and get the eventual agreement over the finish line.
“I wouldn’t even be having these discussions if we didn’t think the president had some sway as to whether the Senate would take this legislation up,” she said. Senate Democrats on Wednesday also blocked a narrow, $500 billion GOP-pushed Covid-19 relief package from moving forward in the upper chamber, essentially dismissing it as a political stunt.
Pelosi’s comments echoed those she made earlier in the day on Sirius XM, in which she said “the president needs this legislation.”
“We obviously want to have a deal by November 3rd,” she said. “That really is going to be up to whether the president can convince Mitch McConnell to do so.”
US election 2020: A really simple guide
Click or tap on an underlined word for a short definition or explanation
The US president has a huge influence on people’s lives both at home and abroad, so when the next election is held on 3 November, the outcome will matter to everyone.
The US political system is dominated by just two parties, so the president always belongs to one of them.
The Republicans are the conservative political party in the US and their candidate in this year’s election is President Donald Trump, who is hoping to secure another four years in power.
The Democrats are the liberal political party in the US and their candidate is Joe Biden, an experienced politician best-known for serving as Barack Obama’s vice president for eight years.
Both men are in their 70s – Mr Trump would be 74 years old at the start of his second term, while at 78, Mr Biden would be the oldest first-term president in history.
How is the winner decided?
Both candidates compete to win electoral college votes.
Each state gets a certain number of electoral college votes partly based on its population and there are a total of 538 up for grabs, so the winner is the candidate that wins 270 or more.
This means voters decide state-level contests rather than the national one, which is why it’s possible for a candidate to win the most votes nationally – like Hillary Clinton did in 2016 – but still be defeated by the electoral college.
All but two states have a winner-takes-all rule, so whichever candidate wins the highest number of votes is awarded all of the state’s electoral college votes.
Most states lean heavily towards one party or the other, so the focus is usually on a dozen or so states where either of them could win. These are known as the battleground states.
Who can vote and how do they do it?
If you’re a US citizen and you’re 18 or over, you should be eligible to vote in the presidential election, which takes place every four years.
However, lots of states have passed laws requiring voters to show identification documents to prove who they are before they can vote.
These laws are often put into place by Republicans who say they’re needed to guard against voter fraud. But Democrats accuse them of using this as a form of voter suppression as it is often poorer, minority voters who are unable to provide ID like a driving licence.
How people vote is a contentious issue this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Some politicians are calling for wider use of postal ballots, but President Trump has said – with very little evidence – that this could result in more voter fraud.
Is the election just about who is president?
No. All of the attention will be on Trump v Biden, but voters will also be choosing new members of Congress when they fill in their ballots.
Democrats already have control of the House so they will be looking to keep hold of that while also gaining control of the Senate.
If they had a majority in both chambers they would be able to block or delay President Trump’s plans if he were to be re-elected.
All 435 seats in the House are up for election this year, while 33 Senate seats are also up for grabs.
When will we find out the result?
It can take several days for every vote to be counted, but it’s usually pretty clear who the winner is by the early hours of the following morning.
In 2016, Donald Trump took to the stage in New York at about 3am to give his victory speech in front of a crowd of jubilant supporters.
But don’t set your alarm clocks just yet. Officials are already warning that we may have to wait longer – possibly days, even weeks – for the result this year because of the expected surge in postal ballots.
The last time the result wasn’t clear within a few hours was in 2000, when the winner wasn’t confirmed until a Supreme Court ruling was made a month later.
When does the winner take office?
If Joe Biden wins the election, he wouldn’t immediately replace President Trump as there is a set transition period to give the new leader time to appoint cabinet ministers and make plans.
The new president is officially sworn into office on 20 January in a ceremony known as the inauguration, which is held on the steps of the Capitol building in Washington DC.
After the ceremony, the new president makes their way to the White House to begin their four-year term in office.
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