Covid-19: PM to announce lockdown exit plan, and Scottish and Welsh schools start to reopen

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Here are five things you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic this Monday morning. We'll have another update for you this evening.

1. PM to announce lockdown exit plan

The prime minister will announce later how England's third national lockdown will end - but those hoping for a quick return to the pub may be disappointed. All schools in England are set to reopen on 8 March, with a few days' flexibility built in. At the same time, two people will be allowed to meet outside in public - for example, for a picnic in a park. Currently, two people can only meet for exercise. By 29 March up to six people, or two households, will be allowed to meet outdoors, including in gardens, it is understood. Grassroots sport will also restart. However, Boris Johnson has said the reopening will be "cautious" and will depend on four conditions - including the vaccination programme and any new variants. You can read more about the routes out of lockdown here. And here's a reminder of how Mr Johnson announced the latest lockdown, back on 4 January.

media captionBoris Johnson announces the third national lockdown

2. Scottish and Welsh schools reopen for younger pupils

Younger pupils in Scotland and Wales will begin returning to the classroom today. Scotland's Education Secretary John Swinney has insisted it is safe for the reopening to begin - watch his comments below.

media captionCovid in Scotland: Safety assurance ahead of pupils' return to schools

3. Vaccine booed at Australian Open

Australia's government has criticised fans at the Australian Open for booing the mention of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout. The booing happened during the awards ceremony at the men's final. Australia is just beginning its national inoculation programme and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack called the crowd's behaviour "disgusting". While the vaccine has broad support in Australia, it has also sparked protests. On Saturday, small crowds of anti-vaccination demonstrators marched in cities including Melbourne and Sydney - see footage below.

media captionPolice clash with anti-vaccine protesters in Melbourne

4. A UK hiring spree on its way?

More than half of UK employers intend to recruit in the next three months, according to new research, as the economy slowly reopens. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and recruiter Adecco say about 56% of the 2,000 firms surveyed plan to hire in the first quarter of 2021 - the highest figure in a year. The sectors with the strongest hiring intentions include healthcare, finance and insurance, education and ICT. "These are the first signs of positive employment prospects that we've seen in a year," said the CIPD's Gerwyn Davies.

image captionThis chart shows how unemployment has increased during the pandemic

5. A history of face masks

Once limited to bank robbers, eccentric pop stars and health-conscious (and conscientious) Japanese tourists, the wearing of face masks in public is now common enough to be dubbed "the new normal". Normal it might be - but it's not new. Read about London's five centuries of face coverings here.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionIn the 1930s, as now, not everyone believed in the benefits of covering both the mouth and nose

And don't forget...

You can find more information, advice and guides on our coronavirus page. Read about the UK's falling case and death rates here - and see the graphic below.

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