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A HEALTH chief says schools should remain open even if the R rate rises - because the Covid vaccine is cutting the link between surging cases and deaths.

Public Health England's Dr Susan Hopkins, a leading Government adviser, was quizzed this morning on whether kids heading back to class tomorrow will cause R to rise.

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4Schools shouldn't close again - even if the R rate rises, a health chief confirmed todayCredit: PA:Press Association

And she acknowledged cases could spike - but said schools shouldn't close again.

"We will watch and wait and look carefully," she told the BBC's Andrew Marr.

"That's why we're doing so much testing.

"It's to try and find those cases that may have asymptomatic infections, and so reduce the risk of transmissions in and around the school environment and keep the R rate at the lowest rate possible."

Mr Marr asked: "If it does go above one, at that point do you think we should pause children going back to school?"

But Dr Hopkins replied: "I don't think we should pause.

"There are three weeks before the Easter holiday.

"I think we will have time to look at the data carefully over that period, and then the data in the Easter holidays, to see how things are responding."

It comes as:

  • Summer holidays may be cut and and the school day extended, Gavin Williamson says
  • An Ofsted chief says she hopes children will only have to wear masks in class until Easter
  • The EU has begged the US to send AstraZeneca jabs as it plays catch-up with the UK
  • A loophole means pubs without a beer garden can still open to punters on April 12
  • Almost a million people have arrived in the UK since the discovery of a mutant strain of Covid

This week, it was revealed the R has crept back up again - and may even be as high as 1 in some areas.

The figure is between 0.7 and 0.9 across the UK, Sage scientists say.

When the number is below 1, it means transmission is low enough for the epidemic to shrink - but greater than 1, it suggests the outbreak is growing.

The values are shown as a range, which means the true rate most likely lies somewhere between the upper and lower estimates.

But this morning, Dr Hopkins suggested the R rate may soon stop dominating decisions on schools closures and lockdowns - as the vaccines roll-out cuts the number of people admitted to hospital or dying of Covid.

"One of the tests the Government is using is the relationship between hospitalisations and deaths, and that's going to change in the next phase," she said.

"Traditionally, we knew the amount of cases in the community is directly related to hospitalisations and deaths that we would see in future weeks.

"However, with the impact of vaccination, that has changed."

Mr Marr asked if Brits are "tiptoeing into a new world where we cease to obsess endlessly about the R rate" - because when it doesn't reflect a surge in cases that will lead directly to deaths, it'll be "less important".

Dr Susan Hopkins spoke days after Sage scientists confirmed the R rate has risen 4But she said it's hoped that soon the R rate won't matter - as the vaccination roll-out cuts the risk of hospitalisations and deathsCredit: Getty Images - Getty

"That's clearly what we hope," Dr Hopkins said.

"We would like R to stay under one, because that'll mean we have the least amount of impact on our population, but we also know the vaccination is the way out."

Elsewhere, the medic was asked about masks in schools after Government officials confirmed they're advising all secondary school pupils, teachers and support staff to wear face coverings throughout the day.

No requirement is in place for primary schools, although teachers have been advised to wear masks "where possible".

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson this morning backed the measure, and said teachers will be handed "clear guidance" on how to approach the issue.

He argued measures already in place are successful - with just 0.2 per cent of pupils testing positive for Covid between September and Christmas.

And Amanda Spielman, the chief executive of Ofsted, said Brit youngsters are "adaptable and flexible" - but admits she hopes masks and testing will be gone from schools soon.

"I really hope paraphernalia of masks and testing is only for short time," she told Sky's Sophy Ridge,

"We've been told the face mask guidance will be reviewed at Easter.

"I love the idea of children being able to come back in the summer term able to see everybody fully."

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Mr Marr asked Dr Hopkins whether the masks are necessary when evidence shows teachers are no more likely to fall seriously ill or die "than anyone else is".

She said: "In late November and early December, there were rapid rises particularly in secondary school age children that were associated with the variant that emerged in Kent."

However said masks will be "kept under review".

4Dr Hopkins said virus cases spiked when children returned last year - after Gavin Williamson claimed just 0.2 per cent of pupils had a positive test between September and ChristmasCredit: AFP Summer holidays could be cut with five-term year and longer school day in biggest reform since WW2, Education Sec says

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Tags: coronavirus nhs schools reopening schools shouldn’t schools shouldn’t ’t close again between september says schools says schools masks and testing health chief says secondary school gavin williamson the vaccination summer holidays sage scientists a health chief to wear masks covid vaccine confirmed open even if this morning the risk

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Maxine Waters urges Minnesota anti-police crowd to ‘stay on the street’ if Chauvin acquitted in Floyd case

U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., showed up at an anti-police protest in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on Saturday evening, saying demonstrators needed to "stay on the street," demanding justice until police reform becomes a reality.

"I’m going to fight with all of the people who stand for justice," Waters told reporters shortly before an 11 p.m. curfew. "We’ve got to get justice in this country and we cannot allow these killings to continue."

Asked about the Derek Chauvin murder trial in Minneapolis, Waters told reporters if the former police officer isn't found guilty of murdering George Floyd, "We've got to stay on the street and we've got to get more active, we've got to get more confrontational. We've got to make sure that they know that we mean business."

"We've got to get more confrontational. We've got to make sure that they know that we mean business."

— U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.


Waters said she was "hopeful" Chauvin would be convicted of murder, but if he isn't, "we cannot go away."

"We’ve got to fight for justice," she added, saying she is pressing for a police reform bill to be passed in Congress but said Republicans would likely stand in the way. 

She reportedly said she plans to stay in Minnesota until Monday when closing arguments are expected in the Chauvin trial, according to New York Times reporter Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs. 

"This is a very difficult time in the history of this country," Waters, 82, a member of Congress since 1991, told The Associated Press. "We have to let people know that we are not going to be satisifed unless we get justice in these cases."

As reporters gathered around her, Waters said the protesters ultimately needed to show up at the polls for candidates who align with their views.

"The way to get in control is not to allow them to win," Waters said of political opponents, in comments that aired on FOX 9 in Minneapolis. "You've got to register and you've got to vote and you've got to take the power."

"The way to get in control is not to allow them to win. ... You've got to take the power."

— U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.

Chauvin is accused of killing Floyd on May 25, 2020, by kneeling on Floyd's neck for several minutes. Defense witnesses have spoken of Floyd's health issues and drug use as other possible causes.

Others appearing in Brooklyn Center on Saturday included the Rev. Jesse Jackson. The crowd was demonstrating for the seventh straight night against the fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright, 20, during a traffic stop last Sunday.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson greets demonstrators during a protest April 17, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (Associated Press)


The clashes have included demonstrators throwing objects at police. Police arrested more than 100 people Friday but it was unlcear if any arrests were made Saturday. 

The officer who allegedly killed Wright, identified as Kim Potter, resigned last week, as did the Brooklyn Center police chief. Potter claimed she accidentally grabbed her gun instead of a stun gun and shot Wright with the firearm. She faces manslaughter charges.

Waters reportedly left the protest shortly before the curfew took effect. A small crowd remained defiant after the curfew began. 

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