Five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Friday evening.
Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Friday evening. We’ll have another update for you tomorrow morning.
A mystery person infected with the Covid variant of concern first found in Brazil has now been traced. Six cases of the apparently more contagious P.1 variant had been located in the UK – but the identity of one patient remained unknown. Health Secretary Matt Hancock told a Downing Street briefing the person concerned has been staying at home – and there was no sign of further transmission. But extra testing is being put in place in Croydon, where they live. Read more about the Brazil variant here. – and watch Mr Hancock’s comments below.
The number of people infected with coronavirus in the UK has continued to decrease. The weekly survey carried out by the Office for National Statistics indicates about one in 230 people had the virus in the seven days ending on 27 February, compared with one in 155 the previous week. The health secretary called the figures “encouraging news” ahead of the opening up of schools to all pupils in England on Monday. Matt Hancock added an extra £79m would be spent on mental health support for pupils – saying the return to school was a “long-awaited day for many… but for some it’s also a moment of unease and anxiety”.
At the same briefing, the health secretary defended a proposed 1% pay increase for NHS staff in England this year, amid a backlash from unions. Mr Hancock said the proposal was “what we think is affordable” given financial pressures caused by the pandemic. But the union the Royal College of Nursing has set up a fund to prepare for possible strike action over the proposals, which it calls derisory. Our health editor says the unions see the proposal as scant reward for the huge efforts of staff during the pandemic.
Anyone travelling overseas from England from Monday will have to prove they are allowed to travel, or risk being turned away from the airport and fined. A “Declaration to Travel” document – available on a government website – sets out that the trip is permitted under current restrictions, such as for education or work. Individuals could face a £200 penalty if they fail to produce a completed form.
During the pandemic, the government has awarded thousands of contracts to private companies, spending billions of pounds of public money in the process. But the way these contracts have been awarded – and the huge sums of money involved – have led to accusations of a lack of transparency. So what are the rules on government contracts, and has anything changed during the pandemic? Our explainer has all the details.
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