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Teachers and kids to be given testing priority 

Robert Halfon MP, Tory chairman of the Commons Education Committee, said he understood schools would be included in the Government’s list of priority groups for who should be first in line for Covid-19 tests.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs on Tuesday that tests would need to be rationed due to the current strain on the system.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme, Mr Halfon said: “As I understand it, schools will be on the priority list.

“Also, the Government, the Department for Education need to make a decision – are we going to risk damaging the life chances of our children still further?

“We have got to do everything possible to keep our schools open.”

Mr Halfon has called for schools to have access to coronavirus tests within 48 hours, explaining: “If we don’t do this, we won’t just have over 300 schools partially closed or fully closed as we have at the moment, we could have a lot more.”


This graph shows how hospital admissions have steadily crept up in the UK since July:


More on that lockdown announcement for Wales:

Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru member of the Senedd for the Rhondda, said the local lockdown was “disappointing but not a surprise”.

“This was something we feared would happen due to the increase in transmission rates,” she said.

“I urge everyone to follow the guidance on social distancing, washing hands and only meeting other households outdoors.

“Wearing face masks inside shops is also essential. I also urge everyone who is contacted by Track and Trace to co-operate fully so we can shut this virus down.

“The sooner we get this under control, the sooner we can ease restrictions and the safer our loved ones will be.”


Here’s Sir Keir Starmer’s reaction to his deputy’s performance at today’s PMQs:



NHS and social care staff are being urged to “do their bit” and have a flu jab as the health service ramps up its preparations for winter.

In a letter to all frontline workers in England, leaders including Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, and NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said it was “now more important than ever that we act to protect ourselves, our teams, our families and patients from getting flu”.

NHS chiefs want staff to have their annual free flu jab as soon as possible, as the first vaccine deliveries start to reach local employers this week.

Social care workers are also eligible to get a free flu vaccination from a GP or pharmacist, with pharmacists also visiting care homes to vaccinate staff.

The letter pointed to the fact seasonal flu and Covid-19 will be circulating at the same time this winter, adding: “We strongly urge you to take up the offer of free vaccination against flu as soon as possible; and to remind your patients to get their vaccine.”

Flu virus spreads from person to person “even amongst those not showing any symptoms”, while also contributing to staff sickness rates, it added.

“As we all know, flu can have serious and even fatal consequences, especially for our most vulnerable patients, such as young children, pregnant women and the elderly.

“Therefore, vaccination of healthcare workers is a critical part of the NHS’s flu prevention strategy.”


Sports update: BREAKING

Ten Football League clubs will be permitted to admit spectators, at a capacity of 1,000, into matches this weekend as part of the ongoing fans pilot programme, the English Football League has announced.


PM continues to be tested on testing…

Labour MP for Cardiff South, Stephen Doughty, quizzed Boris Johnson on testing “rationing”.

He told the Commons: “It is clear the problems originate, not in Wales, but with the UK testing and online system which has led to rationing, chaos and confusion, and all the while the virus spreads further.”

“This should have been seen coming months ago,” he added.

“The Prime Minister is incompetent and he hasn’t got control of this. When is he going to get a grip?”

Mr Johnson replied: “Once again the opposition is at risk of undermining the colossal work of NHS test and trace.”

He added that the Government is “continuing to improve the system the whole time”.


Another set of job casualties here:


Meanwhile… Middlesborough steps up Covid fight

Every household in Middlesbrough will be given free masks with information leaflets as the elected mayor steps up its fight against coronavirus.

The town is on the Government register as an area of concern and the independent mayor Andy Preston is in the process of updating residents with 65,000 leaflets.

Re-usable face coverings will be handed out alongside the leaflets to help people follow the latest guidance.

People have been repeatedly warned that lockdown measures could return to some or all of the borough if the local infection rate is not halted.

Mr Preston said: “We always knew there was a risk of new infections with the easing of lockdown, but it’s what we do next that really matters.

“New cases are rising at worrying levels in Middlesbrough and the Government is now watching our situation closely – but we can turn the tide if we work together.

“Any new lockdown will seriously damage jobs and mental health, so we need to act now.

“The information in this leaflet – and the face coverings we’re giving out for free – couldn’t be more important, so I’m urging everyone to play their part.”


What about weddings?

Tory MP Gagan Mohindra asked the PM if he was open to changing the current 30-person limit on weddings in favour of a “fairer system”.

Mr Mohindra suggested that if venues were allowed to operate at a proportion of their normal capacity – say 50 per cent – they would be able to “bounce back” and keep staff.

In reply, Mr Johnson said he understood and appreciated the concerns raised by businesses facing restrictions, adding: “The trouble is that in all these things there is an increase in the risk involved, an increase in the risk of contagion and we simply have to balance that risk with what we’re seeing now in the spread of the virus.

“So I must reluctantly say to (Mr Mohindra) that we will work as fast as possible to get our whole economy open, to take all these restrictions off.”

Mr Johnson said the best way to achieve this is for the country to work together to enforce social distancing, obey the rules, and take a test if they have symptoms.


What about support for ailing air travel?

Boris Johnson said he would “certainly look at” air passenger duty reforms but added it would be wrong of him to “make any fiscal commitment at this stage”.

His remarks came after Conservative Steve Double (St Austell and Newquay) warned smaller airports face closure unless they receive support.

Mr Double asked: “Could (Mr Johnson) please ensure our regional airports get all the help that they need, whether that’s through grants, the Government backing more public service obligation routes and would he carefully look at reducing air passenger duty – particularly on domestic flights?”

The Prime Minister replied: “Yes, I can tell (Mr Double)… we will continue to consider applications for public service obligations on routes such as into Newquay and elsewhere, and we will certainly look at air passenger duty though it’d be wrong of me to make any fiscal commitment at this stage.”


Government will ‘creatively’ continue to ‘put arms around’ UK workforce – PM

Boris Johnson insisted the Government would act with “maximum creativity” to support jobs when pressed by Labour MP Rachael Maskell (York Central) to extend the furlough scheme in a reformed and targeted way to help thousands of workers.

The Prime Minister replied in the Commons: “We need to get people off furlough and into work and that is what this Government is doing.”

He listed schemes to help keep people in work, adding: “We will continue to apply the maximum creativity as we have in putting our arms around the workforce of the UK.”


More on today’s lockdown announcement for Wales:

The Welsh Government said the new restrictions would apply to everyone living in the Rhondda Cynon Taf area.

They follow a “rapid increase” in the number of Covid-19 cases, which have been linked to people meeting indoors, not following social distancing guidelines and returning from holidays abroad, it said.

Further measures will be considered by the Welsh Government, working with Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and Public Health Wales, if cases do not fall.

Health minister Vaughan Gething said: “We have seen a rapid rise in cases in Rhondda Cynon Taf in a very short space of time, linked to people socialising indoors and not following social distancing guidelines.

“We now have evidence of wider community transmission in the borough, which means we need to take urgent action to control and, ultimately, reduce the spread of the virus and protect people’s health.”


Don’t leave disabled behind – Lib Dem leader

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) called on the Government to “protect the rights to care of disabled people and act lawfully” during the pandemic.

He said: “Research by the Disabled Children’s Partnership shows that three quarters of families with disabled children had their care support stopped during lockdown. The Coronavirus Act is partly to blame as it relaxed the duties to assess and meet the needs of disabled people.

“As the father of a disabled child and the patron of the Disability Law Service, I’ve seen legal advice that suggests that his Government broke international law in how the Coronavirus Act reduced the rights of disabled people. So before this House is asked to renew the Coronavirus Act, will he meet with me to discuss how we protect the rights to care of disabled people and act lawfully?”

Mr Johnson responded: “I must say to him I’m not aware of that particular allegation about the legal effects of the Coronavirus Act and would be only too happy to write to him very shortly to clarify the matter.”


BREAKING: Wales to enforce new local lockdown

Rhondda Cynon Taf in south Wales will be placed under a local lockdown following an increase of coronavirus cases, the Welsh Government has confirmed.

Health minister Vaughan Gething announced that the measures, which will be reviewed within two weeks, would come into force at 6pm today.

Rhondda Cynon Taf, which has a population of around 240,000, has seen a rolling seven-day case rate of 82.1 per 100,000 people.

Under the measures, people must not enter or leave the Rhondda Cynon Taf council area without a reasonable excuse.

People will only be able to meet outdoors and will not be able to meet members of their extended household indoors.

All licensed premises will have to close at 11pm.


In a brief aside from today’s PMQs session: 


The number of people admitted to hospital with coronavirus in England on Sunday was the highest it has been since the beginning of July, figures show.

The latest Government data reveals 153 people with Covid-19 were admitted on Sunday – the most since July 1 when the figure was 201.

It brings the total number of people admitted to hospital with coronavirus in England up to 115,097.

The data, published on Tuesday, includes people admitted to hospital in England who tested positive for Covid-19 in the 14 days prior to admission and those who tested positive in hospital after admission.

Inpatients diagnosed with Covid-19 after admission are reported as being admitted on the day prior to their diagnosis.

The data, from the Government’s coronavirus dashboard, also shows there were 101 Covid-19 patients in mechanical ventilation beds in England on Tuesday.

It is the first time that figure has been above 100 since July 23, when it was also 101.

There were 866 confirmed Covid-19 patients in hospitals in England on Tuesday, the highest number since July 28 when there were 868.

The highest number of confirmed Covid-19 patients in hospital was in the North West at 269, the highest since 370 on July 22.

This was followed by 190 in the Midlands, 152 in the North East and Yorkshire and 134 in London.

The areas with the fewest coronavirus patients in hospital were the East of England with 35, then 73 in the South East.


Elsewhere in Westminster: No10’s lips are sealed over curfew rumours

Downing Street did not deny reports that curfews were being considered to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Asked about reports that a curfew could be introduced in London, a Number 10 spokesman said: “We will continue to keep the transmission rate under review.

“We’ve introduced the rule of six to try and bear down on the transmission rate given that it has risen recently.

“But as I say we will keep that data and the scientific evidence under review.”


Does grouse shooting takes priority over families? – Rayner

Angela Rayner also questioned whether Boris Johnson’s priority is the resumption of grouse shooting.

Ms Rayner said: “This winter, we are staring down the barrel of a second wave with no plan for the looming crisis.

“People can’t say goodbye to their loved ones, grandparents can’t see their grandchildren and frontline staff can’t get the tests that they need – and what was the top priority for the Covid war cabinet this weekend? Restoring grouse shooting.”

She added: “So Prime Minister, is this really your top priority?”

Mr Johnson replied that “while the Labour opposition has been consistently carping from the sidelines throughout this crisis” the Conservative Government are “getting on with delivering for the British public”.


Don’t let women give birth alone – Rayner

Angela Rayner asked Boris Johnson to commit to ensuring that no woman is forced to give birth alone due to coronavirus.

Ms Rayner said: “We’ve heard of relatives dying alone in care homes and people not being able to say goodbye to their loved ones. We’ve also heard from mothers who have had to give birth without the support of their partners or their family.

“The Health Secretary yesterday said that the new guidance had been issued, but even under that new guidance many birth partners will not be allowed to join until that moment of established labour, leaving women enduring difficult labours or even worse, traumatic and devastating miscarriages alone without support.

“Will the Prime Minister agree to meet with me and my honourable friends and work with us to ensure that no woman is forced to give birth without the support that they need?”

Mr Johnson replied: “I totally agree that birth partners should be able to attend the birth, that’s why we changed the guidance in the way that we did.

“But of course I’m very happy to encourage co-operation between her and my right honourable friends in the Health Department to take the matter forward.”


Only get tested if you show symptoms – PM

Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged only those who need a test to get one.

Responding to Labour’s Angela Rayner he said: “The British people, quite understandably, are responding to that system, with a huge, huge surge in demand.

“And so it’s very important that everybody follows the guidance about when they should be getting a test.”