Covid-19: UK alert level drops and PM defends grading plan

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

1. UK's Covid alert level lowered

The coronavirus alert level has been lowered from level five to four across all four UK nations. The four UK chief medical officers and NHS England's national medical director agreed the change following advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre. It means that the risk the NHS could be overwhelmed is deemed to have "receded". The alert level has been at level five since early January, when Scotland and England began their latest lockdowns. You can read about how the Covid alert system works here.

image copyrightGetty Images

2. Johnson defends 'fair and durable' grading plan

Plans for teachers to grade GCSE and A-level pupils in England this summer are a "good compromise", Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said. Schools will determine grades using a combination of mock exams, coursework and essays, exam regulator Ofqual confirmed on Thursday. The prime minister said the process would be "fair" and "durable" amid concern it will result in grade inflation. You can read our piece here on what students and teachers think about the plans and analysis from our education correspondent Sean Coughlan.

media captionBoris Johnson says the plan for teachers to grade results in England is the "right way forward"

3. All change! Old rail travel patterns may not return

The old pattern of peak commuting from Monday to Friday may never return after the pandemic eases, according to the chair of Network Rail. Sir Peter Hendy told the National Rail Recovery conference that commuter traffic could return to 80% of pre-pandemic levels. But he predicted that leisure travel might boost weekend traffic, especially if limits on international travel continue.

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4. Rough sleeper numbers down a third in year

The number of rough sleepers in England fell by a third over a year, official figures suggest. Government statistics show 2,688 people on the streets on one night in autumn 2020, down from 4,266 in 2019. The fall follows the "Everyone In" scheme, which has housed about 37,000 people since the pandemic hit last March.

image copyrightGetty Images

5. More hope for festivalgoers

Camp Bestival has become the latest UK festival to express confidence in going ahead as planned this summer. The four-day festival is due to take place at Lulworth Castle in Dorset from 29 July to 1 August. Its curator Rob da Bank said he was "counting down" the minutes, hours and days to the event. The government has said Covid restrictions in England could be lifted by 21 June - if strict conditions are met. On Wednesday, Reading and Leeds Festival organisers said they were "very confident" of running their events.

image copyright@CampBestival
image captionFatboy Slim, Groove Armada, Friendly Fires and Sophie Ellis-Bextor are among the acts set to appear this year

And don't forget...

You can find more information, advice and guides on our coronavirus page.

Remind yourself when lockdown restrictions are being eased in your area.

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