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Covid-19: Vaccine plans as unemployment rises again

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  • Coronavirus pandemic

Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Tuesday morning. We'll have another update for you at 18:00 GMT.

1. NHS ready for a vaccine

The NHS is ready to start providing the new coronavirus vaccine "as fast as safely possible", Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said. He was responding to the news that a new vaccine could prevent 90% of people getting Covid-19. Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast that, if approved, the vaccine developed by Pfizer would be administered in GP surgeries and go-to vaccination centres. He said the the government would provide £150m to assist GPs in rolling out the vaccine and that NHS staff would go into care homes to provide the vaccine to people most vulnerable to Covid-19. Meanwhile, the British Medical Association says plans are being drawn up for clinics to run 12 hours a day, seven days a week to roll out a vaccine as soon as it's available. The prime minister and his senior scientific advisers are urging caution, imploring the public to continue adhering to social distancing and other rules. If and when it is rolled out, prioritising those most in need will be crucial - we look at that issue and others in our Q&A.

media captionHealth Correspondent Laura Foster explains what the latest Covid-19 vaccine news means

2. Unemployment up again

The number of people out of work in the UK continues to rise. Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show the unemployment rate in the three months to September was 4.8%, up 0.3%. Redundancies rose by a record 181,000 in the quarter to reach a record high of 314,000. Estimates for July to September also show 247,000 fewer people in employment than a year earlier. Head of statistics at the ONS Jonathan Athow said vacancy numbers continued to recover - although those more positive figures "predate the reintroduction of restrictions in many parts of the UK".

3. Learning and social skills suffer

Education watchdog Ofsted says the pandemic has seen most children in England slipping back with reading and writing, and some have also regressed significantly with life skills such as using a knife and fork. Inspectors visited 900 schools, colleges, nurseries and social care settings, and found some older children showing signs of greater mental distress. Children with special needs had lost out on speech and language therapy. There were also youngsters who found lockdown a positive experience, but the Department for Education said the report was proof of just how important it was to keep schools open.

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4. Exams decision for Wales

The Welsh government will decide today whether GCSE and A-level exams will go ahead next summer. There've been strong hints that GCSE will be replaced by grades based on coursework and assessments - similar to the plans in Scotland. Exams are still scheduled in England and Northern Ireland, but have been pushed back. Meanwhile, Scotland's local Covid-19 restrictions are due to be reviewed for the first time. And ministers at Stormont will meet again to decide whether to extend or change Covid-19 restrictions for the hospitality sector.

5. Word of the year

Perhaps not a surprise, but "lockdown" has been declared the word of the year for 2020 by Collins Dictionary. It "encapsulates the shared experience of billions of people", Collins said. Other pandemic-linked terms in the top 10 are "furlough", "key worker", "self-isolate" and "social distancing", as well as "coronavirus". The abbreviation "BLM", for the Black Lives Matter movement, also features.

image copyrightPA Media

And don't forget...

Find more information, advice and guides on our coronavirus page.

Plus, in the latest instalment of our diary from the NHS front line, four nurses describe the strain they're under, dealing with the UK's second wave.

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