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Boris Johnson announces national lockdown

Issy Kenney-Herbert outlines the new government guidelines and how they affect schools and universities.

Boris Johnson has just announced another national lockdown, justifying the changes in government policy due to the transmission rate of the new strand.

“Our scientists have confirmed that this new variant is between 50-70% more transmissible”, Boris said in his announcement. He further went on to state that hospitals have fallen under more pressure in the last week than since the start of the pandemic, with England alone seeing almost 27,000 hospital admissions – 40% higher than the first peak in April.

“Stay at Home” is once again the primary message from the government, and the new rules are expected to become law from Wednesday morning, although the public has been urged to follow them immediately. Those who shielded in the first lockdown have been instructed to do so again.

Leaving home is acceptable in the following cases:

  • To shop for essentials
  • Work (if you cannot work from home)
  • To seek medical assistance
  • To avoid injury, illness or risk of harm

There is further detail in a government document accessible here.

The government have announced primary, secondary schools and colleges must move to online teaching with exceptions for students of healthcare workers and vulnerable children. Boris Johnson acknowledged in light of this news, GCSE and A-Level exams will not be able to continue as normal. Information will follow from the Education Secretary regarding alternative arrangements.

Boris Johnson did not specifically mention universities in his announcement; however, the guidelines published on the government website state that students who are undertaking the following courses should return to face to face learning as planned:

  • Medicine and dentistry
  • Subjects allied to medicine/health
  • Veterinary science
  • Education (initial teacher training)
  • Social work
  • Courses which require Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) assessments that cannot be rescheduled

Students who do not study these courses should expect their teaching to be online until at least mid-February.

Colleges are responding with confusion to the announcement, with many urging students not to return until the University has created a more coherent policy. St Hilda’s told its students that “the government made it clear that tougher restrictions will be announced soon” with expectations of more guidance from the University this week and that “teaching will remain online for much of this term”.

Image Credit:  Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street. Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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