Boris Johnson struggles to explain new restrictions; Williamson says students can go home for Christmas – but might have to self-isolate first
Scottish ministers have released another £1.1bn for health boards and social care partnerships to spend on tackling the coronavirus, including extra staffing and infection prevention.
Jeane Freeman, the Scottish health secretary, said the funding would also go on buying protective equipment, adding to the record £15bn in health and social care funding allocated in this year’s budget. She said:
The health and social care sector has a critical frontline role in responding to the single greatest public health crisis of our lifetimes.
The announcement, which follows sharply increased funding from the Treasury for the UK’s devolved governments, came as Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, said testing had detected 806 new cases – although many of those were delayed by a lag in results coming through.
She said a “significant majority” of those cases were amongst under 40s, and the bulk of those were under 25s, following a surge of infections at university halls of residence around the country. They included 302 new cases in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 180 in Lothian and 91 in Lanarkshire.
Western Isles NHS confirmed the outbreak in South Uist and Eriskay had grown to 19 confirmed cases, with one person airlifted on Monday to the Queen Elizabeth University hospital in Glasgow. Access to the local hospital has been restricted to essential visits only, the health board said.
The outbreak marks the first significant Covid-related event in the Western Isles, which had had the UK’s lowest infection rate: before the outbreak emerged last week, it had reported only 7 cases and no deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, has said that Boris Johnson’s inability to give a clear explanation of the new coronavirus restriction in the north east of England (see 12.47pm) was “absolutely dire”.
It’s absolutely dire stuff, after all the issues of confusing messages from the government on #COVID19 the PM fluffs the message yet again. It’s not fair on people, not fair on businesses or the country to persistently get it wrong over and over again. Get a grip! @BorisJohnson https://t.co/dHjRJ72MkQ
In the Commons Gavin Williamson, the education secretary for England, has just delivered a statement on students and coronavirus.
He said the government would work to ensure that all students can return home for Christmas if they want to. But that could involve students having to self-isolate towards the end of term, and give up in-person teaching, he said.
I know there has been some anxiety about the impact safety measures will have on the Christmas holidays.
Students are important members of the communities that they choose to study in. We expect them to follow the same guidance as those same local communities.
We are going to work with universities to make sure that all students are supported to return home safely and spend Christmas with their loved ones if they choose to do so.
In this context, it is essential we put in place measures to ensure this can happen while minimising the risk of transmission.
Where there are specific circumstances that warrant it, there may be a requirement for some students to self-isolate at the end of term and we will be working with the sector to ensure this will be possible, including ending in-person learning early if that is deemed to be necessary.
Williamson said the DfE would publish guidance covering this shortly “so that every student will be able to spend Christmas with their family”.
“We will continue monitoring the situation closely”Education Secretary @GavinWilliamson says students at university may be ordered to self-isolate at the end of term to be allowed to return home for Christmas.Follow live: https://t.co/VhVRrbCbzp pic.twitter.com/XtJpOagErM
Here are the main points from Boris Johnson’s Q&A. (I will post more on the speech later.)
On the rule of six, outside the areas such as the north east where extra measures have been brought in, it’s six inside, six outside. And in the north east and other areas where extra tight measures have been brought in, you should follow the guidance of local authorities. But it’s six in a home, six in hospitality, but, as I understand it, not six outside. That’s the situation there.
But, clearly for everybody watching this, and I appreciate that this is one of those things that people will feel is confusing, just bear in mind that we are fighting a pandemic with the tools that we have, which is the great common sense of this country. It was very, very effective in March and April, it worked in driving the virus down. We need it to work again. Follow the guidance, wash your hands, cover your face in the settings, in enclosed spaces where you should, keep your distance, get a test if you have symptoms – that’s the most effective thing we can do.
But in the areas where particular measures have been brought in by local councils or the government, then look at the guidance for what exactly you should do in those cases.
This morning the Department of Health has said that under the new restrictions in the north east inter-household mixing outside (such as in a pub garden) won’t be illegal. But the England-wide rule of six will still apply. In his answer Johnson came close to getting this right: “not … outside”. But he actually said “not six outside”, which implied the rule of six does not apply to outside gatherings, even though it does. By adding “as I understand it” Johnson signalled that he was not entirely sure and, returning to the question at the end of his answer, he just advised people to check the guidance, again implying uncertainty.
This answer will reinforce claims that the rules – and, in particular, the interaction of national and local ones – are becoming increasingly confusing.
What I would say about hospitality – no one wants to impose a curfew or a limit of any kind but you’ve got to look at the spread of this disease and that it is spread by human contact.
We have to get it down and that’s what we’re doing, that’s what the country is again doing together.
I can certainly tell you I’m fitter than I was before, it may irritate you to know. I’m as fit as a butcher’s dog. Thanks basically to losing weight. I hesitate to give anybody any advice but losing weight is a very good thing when you reach 17 stone 6 as I did at a height of about 5 foot 10, it’s probably a good idea to lose weight and that’s what I’ve done.
Boris Johnson is due to hold a press conference tomorrow with Prof Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical adviser, and Sir Patrick Vallance, its chief scientific adviser, No 10 has just announced.
Asked if he was suffering from long Covid, Johnson said that he was fitter than he was before and as “fit as a butcher’s dog”. He said what had made the difference was losing weight.
Here is some comment from journalists on Boris Johnson’s failure to give a clear answer to the question about what the new restrictions in the north east mean. (See 11.57am.)
No one seems entirely clear yet as to whether what he did say about the rules was right or wrong – but that’s partly because it was not very clear what he was saying.
PM seems unsure about his own rules on where people can meet in NE: “As I understand it…” Didn’t he invent these rules?
Andy Bell asks PM to clarify the new(ish) Covid rules. What follows is an answer which does not answer the Q and is so confusing I am going to have to rewind it in an attempt to understand.
Boris Johnson just fumbled over what the rules are in the North East… checking exactly what he said. Not 100% it was right, but TBC – checking.
Andy Bell from Channel 5 just asked Boris Johnson to clarify whether different households can meet in pub gardens in the North-east and it appeared – from the ensuing waffle – that the PM doesn’t know either
Erk. Boris Johnson also appears totally confused by question about whether people in the North East can meet outside in beer gardens. Talks about Rule of Six *elsewhere* and says locals should follow the guidance. “As I understand it not six outside”. What?
Q: In the north east can people meet people from outside their household in a pub garden? People find these rules confusing.
Johnson says the rule of six means you can only meet six people, inside or outside.
He repeats the point about how people need to look at the guidance in areas where local lockdown rules apply.
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News – UK coronavirus news: PM unable to clarify details of how new lockdown rules work in north-east England