21 Sep Coronavirus: Grandparents exempt from local lockdown rules for childcare reasons | Politics News
Grandparents and others who provide informal childcare will be exempt from coronavirus rules in local lockdown areas in England, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, Mr Hancock acknowledged the “concerns” about the impact of local lockdowns on families’ childcare arrangements.
A series of new restrictions are due to come into force across many parts of England from Tuesday – including in the North West, Midlands and West Yorkshire.
Local restrictions were last week imposed in the North East, meaning millions of people in England are already – or soon will be – living under local measures.
In most of these areas, people are being told they must not socialise with others outside of their own households, or support bubble, in private homes and gardens.
But there will now be an exemption for caring purposes, Mr Hancock told MPs.
“I’ve heard the concerns about the impact of local action on childcare arrangements,” he said.
“For many, informal childcare arrangements are a lifeline without which they couldn’t do their jobs.
“Today I’m able to announce a new exemption for looking after children under the age of 14, or vulnerable adults, where that is necessary for caring purposes.
“This covers both formal and informal arrangements.
“It does not allow for play dates or parties, but it does mean that a consistent childcare relationship that is vital for somebody to get to work is allowed.”
Mr Hancock added he hoped the change would provide “clarity and comfort to many people who are living with these local restrictions”.
The health secretary also used his statement to MPs to confirm how coronavirus tests would be prioritised, after the government’s testing programme came in for heavy criticism amid widespread reports of a shortages in many areas.
He said tests would first be prioritised for acute clinical care, second for care homes, third for NHS staff including GPs and pharmacists, fourth for targeted testing to track new outbreaks, fifth for teachers with COVID-19 symptoms, and then the general public with symptoms, while prioritising those in areas where there are more infections.
Earlier on Monday, the government’s chief scientific adviser warned that the UK could see around 50,000 COVID-19 cases per day by the middle of October if current infection rates continue.
Sir Patrick Vallance, speaking at a televised address from Downing Street, said that such a situation could subsequently lead to 200 or more deaths per day by mid-November.
Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, told the public that the country should be braced for a tough winter, with colder weather expected to worsen the impact of coronavirus.
“We should see this as a six-month problem that we have to deal with collectively, it’s not indefinite,” he said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was on Monday afternoon due to hold calls with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster, and Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill.
He will then chair a meeting of the government’s emergency COBRA committee on Tuesday, as well as a meeting of his Cabinet, and make a statement to MPs in the House of Commons.
The prime minister spent the weekend with senior ministers and advisers discussing what steps should be taken next in the UK’s response to coronavirus.
On Friday, Mr Johnson admitted there was “a second wave coming in” and – asked about the prospect of further national restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19 – said that the government may need to “intensify things to help bring the rate of infections down”.