Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Saturday. We’ll have another update for you on Sunday.
1. Call for all schools to stay shut amid U-turn ‘chaos’
Schools have been dominating headlines again, ahead of the start of term next week. Yesterday, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson made a last-minute change to his plan. Instead of keeping just some of London’s primary schools shut, all of the capital’s primaries will now stay closed to tackle high coronavirus infection levels. Labour said the timing of the announcement has caused “huge stress”, while the National Education Union said all schools nationwide should shut. The government said closures were a last resort – but it will keep the list of areas where schools must shut under review.
2. New variant ‘raises R number by up to 0.7’
The new variant of coronavirus is “hugely” more transmissible than the previous version, a study has found. According to a team at Imperial College London, the new variant increases the R number (the average number of people an infected person infects) by between 0.4 and 0.7. But perhaps the most chilling finding from the study, our science correspondent Pallab Ghosh points out, is that the November lockdown in England – hard though it was for many people – would not have stopped the variant form of the virus spreading.
3. More than 2,500 attend illegal New Year rave in France
At least three police officers have been injured after trying to shut down a huge party in France. More than 2,500 people are at the rave – which is still ongoing – in a warehouse near Rennes in Brittany, and police said a number of ravers are from the UK and Spain. Attendees have clashed with police, setting fire to a car and throwing objects at officers attempting to shut the event down. Meanwhile, hundreds of fines were handed out to rule-breakers in the UK. In London, officers from the Met Police broke up more than 50 unlicensed events and parties, while police in Nottingham handed out an £10,000 fine to someone who’d organised a party of more than 100 people. Meanwhile, in Essex a 500-year-old church was damaged during an illegal rave.
4. Stranded circus ‘grateful’ for food banks in lockdown
When the lockdown hit, circus troupe Big Kid Circus had just arrived in Morecambe in Lancashire. Unable to put on performances, the performers had to rely on food banks to survive. Circus ring mistress Olympia Posirca tells the BBC what they have been doing since then to try and keep their show on the road. After fearing the troupe may not be able to recover, she says how grateful she is to the people of Morecambe for donations.
5. Metal detecting ‘an escape from pandemic stress’
We’ve written before about the new hobbies that people had taken up during lockdown, and now we have a rookie metal detectorist to add to the list. Owen Thomas started the hobby after bumping into his long-time friend – an avid detectorist – during lockdown. “I’d say in terms of my mental health, it’s been the real saviour of this year,” says Owen, from Cardiff.
And don’t forget…
Find more information, advice and guides on our coronavirus page.
The pandemic has been awful for so many people, with millions dealing with grief, stress, financial difficulties, job losses and isolation. Read our guide to staying positive in the new year.
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