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Tue 16th Feb 2021 - Boris Johnson – rapid tests could re-open nightclubs
Boris Johnson – rapid tests could re-open nightclubs: Quick coronavirus testing could enable nightclubs and theatres to reopen, Boris Johnson has suggested. The PM said ‘rapid’ lateral flow tests could be used by “those parts of the economy we couldn’t get open last year”. “That, in combination with vaccination, will probably be the route forward,” he told a Downing Street press conference. But he stressed it was “still early days” with “lots of discussions still to be had”. A government source said: “There is a long way to go before we can get people back at big events safely.” Johnson said people must be “optimistic but patient” about an end to coronavirus restrictions in England. He said steps taken to ease lockdown should be “cautious but irreversible” ahead of next week’s release of a roadmap for lifting curbs. Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told LBC the government would rely on rapid testing and “making people access their own personal vaccination records” on the NHS app, rather than issuing vaccine passports. Asked about measures to make it possible to attend cinemas and hospitality venues, he said vaccine passports were not best suited as “we don’t know if an individual vaccinated can still transmit the virus” and said it was “much better to look at rapid testing”. Michael Kill, of the Night Time Industries Association, said administering rapid tests will not be straightforward, even if it is the way venues like nightclubs are allowed to reopen. He told the BBC that professionals would be required to administer swab tests outside the venue, where clubbers would need to wait for at least 15 minutes to get a negative result before being allowed in. That would force venues to stagger admissions and have procedures in place to deal with positive cases and those who they come into contact with. Kill said allowing revellers to perform tests the day before or under the supervision of a professional over a video call could make the process less onerous. Nevertheless, he welcomed Mr Johnson’s announcement. “Finally we have some acknowledgement from the prime minister and government on the existence of late night economy businesses, including nightclubs, theatres, casinos and late bars, particularly as they are some of the hardest hit since the start of the pandemic,” he said.

Sky – Government scientists want to keep one metre rule: Government scientists want to keep social distancing measures in place for the foreseeable future, Sky News has reported. The news channel added: “It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson made clear he would not allow the coronavirus to let rip through younger generations, suggesting he has embraced the idea of restrictions for some time to come, because ‘no vaccination programme is 100% effective’. Whitehall has been braced for a ‘killer argument’ in the coming days over how long to keep the ‘one metre plus’ rule, with government scientists keen to maintain existing distancing requirements. But some ministers are resisting as this issue is existential for many businesses; and they fear that additional ongoing restrictions on a near permanent basis could push some firms to bankruptcy. The ‘one metre plus’ approach, introduced last June, means members of the public can be one metre away from each other as long as other measures are put in place to limit the transmission of the virus. If these are not possible then members of the public should be two metres away. Possible mitigations include wearing a face covering, installing screens, making sure people face away from each other and providing extra handwashing facilities. However, these restrictions make some businesses – particularly restaurants, bars and the leisure sector – harder to keep going since it means they can serve fewer customers.” A government source said: “This is the killer argument and no decision has been made. A lot rests on it for some businesses – the difference between being viable and not.” A second senior Whitehall source confirmed no decision had been made on the ‘one metre plus’ rule. Ministers are coming under huge pressure from Conservative MPs to scrap all legally-binding restrictions at the end of April.

US fast-food workers to hold Black History Month strikes to demand $15 an hour: Fast-food workers in 15 US cities will hold a Black History Month strike today (Tuesday 16 February) to demand restaurants such as McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s pay their staff $15 an hour. The action comes as Congress prepares to debate a federal rise in the minimum wage to $15 from its current rate of $7.25, the first federal raise since 2009. Workers in cities including Atlanta, Charleston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston and St Louis will be joined by home care and nursing home workers in support of a $15 minimum wage and the right to join a union, reports The Guardian. President Joe Biden pledged to increase the minimum wage during his election campaign but has recently suggested the increase may not make it into the $1.9tn coronavirus relief package he is trying to push through Congress. Biden has said the increase is central to his pledge to narrow racial economic inequality. Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, has confirmed the wage rise will be part of the House bill but it faces a tougher fight in the Senate where Democrats have only a slight majority. Democrats hope to pass the bill through a process known as “budget reconciliation”, which would require only a simple majority in the Senate. The eight-year Fight for $15 movement has made significant progress in recent years with states including California, Florida and New York voting to increase their minimum wages to $15 an hour. A Congressional Budget Office report published last week calculated 27 million Americans would benefit from a raise and 900,000 people would be lifted out of poverty. But the report also cautioned the raise would cost 1.4 million jobs and add significantly to the nation’s debt.

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