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Pupils to stagger back to school in January as new tiers announced

By Tim Le Couilliard
17 December 2020
Public Affairs

By Tim Le Couilliard

More and more of our newsletter subscribers will be reading this from a tier-three area today as vast swathes of the East and South-East of England have had increased restrictions imposed. Speaking to the House of Commons at lunchtime today, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed that as of Saturday 00:01, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Peterborough, Hertfordshire, Surrey, Hastings and Rother, Portsmouth, Gosport and Havering will all enter the top tier of English restrictions.

Just two regions were able to move down a tier because of falling infection rates with Bristol and North Somerset becoming tier two, whilst Herefordshire moving to tier one.

London, of course, saw heightened measures come into effect on Wednesday morning since being moved to tier three. Some in the surrounding regions had hoped that it would be left at that (myself included from my home in Hertfordshire) but alas a 46% rise in cases over the past two weeks in the South-East, and a 66% rise in the East requires more restrictive measures.

The government has committed, however, to maintaining its Christmas guidance with rules in all tiers set to be relaxed between the 23rd and 27th December with up to three households able to meet. Looking beyond Christmas, the government has also announced today that the return of pupils to secondary schools in January will be staggered, allowing for schools to set up a new Covid-19 testing scheme for schools. More is set to be announced by Gavin Williamson on this in the coming days.

Another date for your diary announced today is that the Budget is set to be delivered on the 3rd March 2021. Rishi Sunak today confirmed that Covid loans to be extended until March, with the furlough scheme also being extended by a month to April. Next year’s Budget is set to be a bumper edition, as the government continues to respond to the Covid-19 economic consequences, as well as looking ahead at the recovery. Perhaps the date can be used as a mark as to when the government expects the vaccine deployment to have begun to reap results.

Today marks the final day of Parliament sitting this year, with the Houses rising until the 5th January. MPs may well be recalled should they need to vote on matters relating to Brexit, so they can’t begin their Christmas holidays quite yet – whatever those ‘holidays’ may look like. Speaking in Parliament today, Michael Gove stated that he believes the chances of a trade deal being done by Sunday are “less than 50 percent as things stand”, so MPs would be wise to not get too settled quite yet.