Coronavirus update: University cases, crime, tier battles and free school meals

HERE’S a round-up of today’s latest news on the coronavirus pandemic from around the UK.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock addresses developments on Covid-19 in the House of Commons.

DURHAM University has said that 964 of their staff and students have tested positive for coronavirus in the seven days prior to Wednesday 14 October. 

This comes when Northumbria and Newcastle University confirmed over 1600 cases between them last week. 

The University of Sunderland confirmed that they have received 13 positive cases over the last week.

Durham University released a statement confirming their numbers, and they said: “Over the last seven days, the number of reported positive coronavirus cases in students and staff has been steady, with approximately 100-150 new reported cases each day.

“We are proactively and regularly monitoring and managing the situation with local and national public health experts and taking appropriate action where required.”

Durham University has seen a huge rise in Covid cases

Half the population of England will now be in either Tier 2 or 3 of the Government’s Covid-19 alert system, following Matt Hancock’s announcement in the House of Commons.

Liverpool City Region, comprising 1.6 million people, remains the only area currently in Tier 3.

A further 26.7 million people will now be covered by the Tier 2 restrictions.

 

The closure of pubs could “drive” people to break the law, Northumbria’s police and crime commissioner has suggested.

Kim McGuinness told the Today Programme the number of fines handed out to people for holding house parties has gone up “substantially”.

“Tier 3 means pubs or non-food pubs closing so the concern is that that would drive any people who are seeking to break the law underground and makes it more challenging for police, Ms McGuinness said.

“The police prior to this phase, the initial phases of lockdown, saw a real reduction in crime and burglary and so on.

“And now those levels are back and there’s the expectation that police will enforce Covid regulations as well, which is really difficult and puts pressure on them.”

 

Council leaders in England’s North East have met and agreed they will oppose the Government’s plans to place the region in Tier 3 restrictions, Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon has said.

The Government may be basing its decision on whether to escalate the danger level from Tier 2 to 3 on the infection rate among over-60s, he said, although officials were not told this was the case.

The leaders of Northumberland, Newcastle, South and North Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham held a meeting at 10am and agreed their opposition, stating that the current set of measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus were working and needed more time, Mr Gannon said.

He added: “There’s a bit of confusion about what the Government is looking at, we think it is based on the number of cases in over-60s.

“It would be helpful if they would clarify that.

“If we are forced into Tier 3, we would like to know the criteria so we would know the criteria to remove us (later).”

Councils in the North East will strongly oppose tier three restrictions.

Downing Street indicated ministers would not provide free school meals to children during the Easter and Christmas breaks.

A No 10 spokesman said: “We took that decision to extend free school meals during the pandemic when schools were partially closed during lockdown. We’re in a different position now with schools back open to all pupils.

“It’s not for schools to regularly provide food to pupils during the school holidays. We believe the best way to support families outside of term time is through Universal Credit rather than Government subsidising meals.”

 

Downing Street said the Government wanted to create the “maximum possible local consensus” in areas where more restrictive measures are required.

Talks are ongoing with local leaders over restrictions in the North West, North East and Yorkshire and Humber.

Asked if the Government would ever take unilateral action, a Number 10 spokesman said: “As we’ve said before, the Government does have the ability to impose measures.

“I would point you strongly back to what the PM said this week: that we want to create the maximum possible local consensus in the areas where more restrictive measures are required.”

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