Covid-19: UK investigates India variant and job centre staff ‘feel unsafe’on April 19, 2021 at 7:16 am

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Five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Monday morning.

Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Monday morning. We’ll have another update for you this evening.

Health officials are looking at whether a Covid variant originally identified in India spreads more easily and evades vaccines. There is not yet enough data to classify it as a “variant of concern”, a leading scientist has said. But Dr Susan Hopkins of Public Health England said some cases had been found in the UK that were not linked to travel, with their origin now being investigated. More than 70 cases have been identified in England and Scotland. India has been battling a deadly second wave and is in now in the grips of a public health emergency, BBC India correspondent Soutik Biswas says. It is also too soon to decide if India should be put on the government’s travel “red list”, Dr Hopkins adds.

Roadside testing in Delhi

image copyrightEPA

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Many job centre workers currently do not feel safe about returning to the office due to continued concerns about the coronavirus, a union claims. The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union surveyed 1,299 members and found that three in five workers feel unsafe about going back. It says “a majority” of in-person interviews to discuss benefits claims should be done remotely over the phone. The issue could result in industrial action, the union has warned. A DWP spokesman said job centres had remained open during pandemic and “our return to full opening hours will enable us to provide even more help and support to those who need us”.

A job centre worker explaining paperwork to a claims applicant

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The majority of pupils at Scotland’s secondary schools are returning to class after the Easter break – for most pupils in the country this will be the first full week in classrooms since before Christmas. Strict social distancing rules between pupils have been relaxed but they must wear face coverings. Twice weekly lateral flow testing is also being offered to all staff and senior secondary pupils. Primary schools had already resumed full-time teaching before the Easter holidays, but a part-time blended learning system remained in place in secondary schools. In England most school pupils returned on 8 March and in Northern Ireland and Wales all pupils returned on 12 April.

Rosshall Academy before Easter break

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While some countries are scrambling to get their hands on vaccines, others are left wondering what to do with jabs they’ve ordered but can no longer use, following concerns over safety. Several countries have restricted use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca (AZ) and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines for younger age groups because of a very small risk of rare blood clots. Denmark has stopped giving out AZ altogether, triggering a wave of interest in its unused doses. In a bold move, the Czech Republic offered to buy “all AstraZeneca vaccines from Denmark”. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania also expressed interest.

AstraZeneca's vaccine dose against Covid-19

image copyrightGetty Images

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Millions of children across England are being asked to contribute to a survey about their hopes for the future. Children’s Commissioner for England Dame Rachel de Souza says the results will inform a review aimed at tackling “generational problems that have held back too many children for decades”. The Big Ask is aiming to be the largest consultation with children undertaken in England. It will be introduced with an online assembly by footballer Marcus Rashford.

Two school children walking hand-in-hand

image copyrightPA Media


Find more information, advice and guides on our coronavirus page.

With university students in England being told they’ll be allowed to return to face-to-face teaching, we’ve had a look at what’s happening with universities as lockdown eases?

Government statistics show 127,270 people have now died, up 10 in the latest 24-hour period. In total 4,387,820 people have tested positive, 1,882 up on the previous day. There are 2,186 people in hospital. In total 32,849,223 people have received their first vaccination, up 139,445 in the latest 24-hour period. Updated 18 April.
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