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Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has banned household mixing (Credit: PA)


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Nicola Sturgeon has announced a ban on households mixing in Scotland, claiming experts say the restrictions introduced in England by Boris Johnson do not go far enough.

The first minister said the Scottish government’s top experts had warned the curbs announced by the Prime Minister on Tuesday would not make a big enough impact on Covid-19 transmission rates.

“The advice given to the Cabinet by the chief medical officer and the national clinical director is that this on its own will not be sufficient to bring the R number down,” she told the Scottish parliament.

“They stress that we must act, not just quickly and decisively, but also on a scale significant enough to have an impact on the spread of the virus, and they advise that we must take account of the fact that household interaction is a key driver of transmission.”

Mr Johnson has imposed a 10pm curfew on the hospitality industry from midnight on Thursday, as well as a legal requirement for those working in the sector, and in retail, to wear masks.

The PM stopped short of preventing different households from socialising with each other outside of local lockdown areas, but said people should work from home wherever possible.

Mrs Sturgeon said she planned to impose similar restrictions on pubs, bars and restaurants but would also go further.

“To that end, we intend as Northern Ireland did yesterday to also introduce nationwide additional restrictions on household gatherings, similar to those already in place in the west of Scotland,” she added.

Earlier in the Commons, Mr Johnson claimed the four nations of the UK were following “similar” restriction plans, despite Northern Ireland announcing on Monday that it would ban socialising between households.

This applies in places like pubs and restaurants as well as in people’s homes.

In Wales, people are not allowed to mix indoors with people outside their own household or support bubble, and meetings or gatherings indoors even within an extended household is limited to six people.

Reports suggest insiders were worried about the prospect of Mrs Sturgeon diverging and implementing a “circuit-breaker” of stricter measures – leaving the actions of Mr Johnson’s government further exposed should they fail.

Some members of the prime minister’s frontbench – including Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Priti Patel – are believed to have lobbied for lighter intervention, while other cabinet ministers were in favour of a more drastic approach.

Mr Johnson told MPs: “I want to stress that this is by no means a return to the full lockdown of March.  We’re not issuing a genuine instruction to stay at home, we will ensure that schools, colleges and universities stay open.”

He added: “We will continue to act against local flare ups, working alongside councils and strengthening measures where necessary.”

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Democrats elect Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney to lead campaign arm

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As incoming DCCC chief, Maloney will have one of the trickiest jobs in Washington after the Democrats’ down-ballot trouncing at the polls last month that left Republicans between five and seven seats away from the majority. He will have to convince dozens of new candidates to run in a potentially unfavorable environment and in districts that have yet to be drawn.

Maloney will be immediately inserted into the center of an ideological debate that has gripped House Democrats since Nov 3., with the caucus’s warring factions pointing fingers at each other over exactly why they’re staring down a shrunken majority come January.

Many moderate Democrats — who largely supported Maloney for his ability to win in a Trump-won district — are demanding a new party message that veers starkly away from the GOP’s attacks on socialism and progressive slogans like “defund the police.”

Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, are dissecting the internal gears at DCCC, arguing that the operation needs to rely on more diverse staff and consultants, devote more resources to get-out-the-vote efforts and completely rethink its digital operations.

Many progressives, particularly lawmakers of color, had flocked behind Cárdenas, who proved to be a prolific fundraiser and organizer as he built the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s campaign arm, BOLD Pac, from the ground up. And he staked his campaign on a vow to Democrats’ increasingly apparent struggles with Latino. The party suffered surprising losses in heavily Latino seats in Florida, Texas and California.

Cárdenas was vocal about reforming some of DCCC’s practices, including ending a contentious policy that banned the organization from hiring any consultant that has helped a primary challenger of a sitting Democrat — a practice that enraged progressives.

Maloney has acknowledged concerns with messaging and said he would reconsider the DCCC blacklist, though he has been mostly restrained — both publicly and privately — in his assessment of DCCC’s miscalculations.

“The smart thing for the DCCC chair to do is to say, I don’t know what happened until I’ve really had a chance to dig into the numbers,” Maloney said in a recent interview.

As chair, Maloney will have an additional task of shepherding members through the decennial redistricting process, which is fraught with politics and internal bickering, particularly in states that are on track to lose a seat. Adding to the uncertainty is the fact that the Census Bureau will almost certainly not be able to release its reapportionment data in December, delaying states ability to draw new maps.

It’s entirely possible that redistricting alone creates enough red-friendly seats to place Republicans in the majority in 2022. The GOP has total control of the process in many key states, including Texas, Florida and North Carolina, which could have a combined total of 82 seats.

Heather Caygle contributed to this report.

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Students May Not Be Allowed To Return To University For Five Weeks After Christmas To Prevent Spreading Coronavirus Round Campus

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Many students can only begin to return to campus at the end of January, and some not until 5 week into the spring term


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Students who go home for Christmas may have to wait five weeks into the spring term before they can return to campus.

That is according to new government coronavirus guidance, which says the measure “is to minimise transmission risks from the mass movement of students”.

The plan says those on practical or medical courses should be allowed to come back on a staggered basis over three weeks from 4 January.

But for those who do not have work, clinical or practical placements or on “courses requiring access to specialist or technical equipment”, they should not begin to go back until 25 January at the earliest, and should be spread out over a fortnight until 7 February.

As most universities plan to end their spring term after 12 weeks on 26 March, some students may be away from campus for almost half of that time.

And with the education department guidance on going home for Christmas stating people should return between tomorrow and 9 December, some students may be off-campus for more than two months.

Professor Glen O’Hara, who teaches modern and contemporary history at Oxford Brookes university criticised the plans, tweeting: “It is a total joke and an insult to hard-working lecturers and students. 

“It is badly-written, badly-planned and a complete mess. Disgusting.”

The document to higher education providers, published this afternoon, states: “The government is committed to prioritising education and wants to enable all students, including those who have travelled home for the winter break, to return to university and resume blended learning. 

“While we are confident that the face-to-face teaching element of blended learning can be done in COVID-secure environments, the mass movement of students across the country poses a greater risk for the transmission of infection between areas.

“It is important that measures are taken to manage the return to university carefully, to protect students, staff and local communities, while reducing disruption to education. 

“This guidance sets out how we will support HE providers to enable students to return as safely as possible following the winter break, by staggering this process and to facilitate testing for all.”

Providers are advised that: “The return of students should be staggered over 5 weeks – this is to minimise transmission risks from the mass movement of students.”

It also states universities must offer “asymptomatic mass testing to all students on their return”, and says if they are using lateral flow tests then they should be tested twice, the second one three days after their arrival.

The guidance on who can return says “from 4 January to week commencing 18 January 2021 HE providers should allow those students on practical courses to return to campus in line with their planned start dates”.

It adds: “The remaining courses should be offered online from the beginning of term so that students can continue their studies from home. 

“HE providers should plan for students to return gradually from 25 January, over a 2-week period.”

Students are also told to “use private transport wherever possible and only use public transport if they have no other option”, and universities should encourage people to “avoid car sharing with anyone outside their household or support bubble”.

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said:   “The health and wellbeing of students, staff and local communities is always our primary concern and this plan will enable a safer return for all students. But we must do this in a way which minimises the risk of transmission.

“I know students have had to make sacrifices this year and have faced a number of challenges, but this staggered return will help to protect students, staff and communities.

“It is so important students have the support they need to continue their education, which is why we are providing up to £20m funding for those facing hardship in these exceptional times.”

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Joe Biden: Covid vaccination in US will not be mandatory

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Mr Biden, and state governors who would be on the front lines of any such mandate, might prefer to target only certain segments of the population more at risk of contracting or spreading Covid-19. For instance, employers could be encouraged to require healthcare and nursing home workers to be immunised, and most children already must have up-to-date shot records before attending public or private schools.

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