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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said “caution is absolutely vital” as he prepares to address the nation on Monday to announce whether the final stage of releasing coronavirus restrictions can go ahead.

The prime minister is expected to confirm that England can move to step four of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, but to also warn “the global pandemic is not over yet” and that cases of the virus will rise as rules are relaxed.

Mr Johnson will host a news briefing on Monday afternoon to inform the public of whether the easing of restrictions will go ahead as planned on 19 July.

Two people wearing masks in front of a social distancing sign in Regent Street, London, following the easing of lockdown restrictions in England. Covid-19 case rates are rising in more local areas of the UK than at any point since early January. Picture date: Monday June 7, 2021.
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Earlier this month, Boris Johnson said social distancing would come to an end as the government moves to step four of its roadmap out of lockdown for England

And newly appointed Health Secretary Sajid Javid will announce the plans in parliament.

Ahead of the announcement, the prime minister said: “We are tantalisingly close to the final milestone in our road map out of lockdown, but the plan to restore our freedoms must come with a warning.

“While the phenomenal vaccine rollout has offered every adult some protection against the virus, and the crucial link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths is weakened, the global pandemic is not over yet.

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“Cases will rise as we unlock, so as we confirm our plans today, our message will be clear.

“Caution is absolutely vital, and we must all take responsibility so we don’t undo our progress, ensuring we continue to protect our NHS.”

The government has said whether or not the unlocking takes place would depend on four key tests: The success of the vaccination rollout; a reduction in hospitalisations and deaths as a result of the vaccine; that infection rates do not risk a surge in hospital admissions; and that no new variants of concern hamper progress that has been made.

Close up of face masks on the production line of the Detmold PPE production facility in Brompton, Adelaide, Monday, June 22, 2020. The new Adelaide plant is making medical-grade face masks and has already produced more than one million. (AAP Image/David Mariuz) NO ARCHIVING ** STRICTLY EDITORIAL USE ONLY *
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Labour has called for masks to remain mandatory on public transport

Last month, Mr Johnson announced a delay to the final step of the government’s final stage of lockdown easing to ensure all adults had been offered a vaccine and that more individuals had received two doses.

Data released on Friday showed that 45.7 million (86.9%) adults have received their first jab while 34.5 million (65.6%) have received both doses.

Earlier this month, the prime minister confirmed almost all restrictions would be lifted at step four – including social distancing, the mandatory requirement to wear a mask in certain places and the work from home guidance.

However, Mr Johnson has faced backlash over his decision to remove the mask wearing rule for public transport as cases continue to surge, with both Labour, some doctors and unions criticising the move.

And on Sunday, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News the government will issue guidance stating that people will still be “expected to wear masks in indoor, enclosed places” after the final step of releasing lockdown restrictions.

Mr Zahawi said he was “confident” that the prime minister would be able to announce on Monday that COVID restrictions will be lifted on 19 July as planned, but that Mr Johnson will inform the public they should continue to wear face coverings in crowded places – despite the legal requirement to do so ending.

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Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said people will still be ‘expected’ to wear masks in indoors and enclosed spaces

Last week, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told MPs he is “very relaxed” about airlines, train firms and bus operators imposing their own COVID-related rules, including on wearing face masks, beyond 19 July.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green told Sky News the changing positions from government ministers is a “recipe for confusion” and said Labour believes “mandatory mask-wearing should continue in public places”.

Wales has already deviated from the UK Government’s position on mask wearing, announcing that face masks will remain mandatory there in some public places until COVID-19 is no longer a public health threat.

Masks must still be worn in taxis, on trains and buses, as well as health and social care settings when coronavirus restrictions are eased, the Welsh government said.

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World Cup: England cruise past Senegal to set up quarter-final clash with holders France

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World Cup: England cruise past Senegal to set up quarter-final clash with holders France

England cruised past Senegal 3-0 in their first World Cup knockout match, with a mouth-watering clash against holders France awaiting them in the last eight.

Two quick-fire goals – the first from Jordan Henderson, the second from Harry Kane – put Gareth Southgate’s side in control going into the half-time break, after what had been a nervy start at the Al Bayt Stadium in Qatar.

Senegal, the African Cup of Nations champions, had chances to open the scoring and forced a fine save from goalkeeper Jordan Pickford before his namesake Henderson struck in the 38th minute.

But the second half was far more comfortable for the Three Lions, and Arsenal’s young star Bukayo Saka scored his third goal of the tournament in the 57th minute to rubber-stamp the victory.

Kane’s goal in first-half added time means he has now scored 11 goals at major tournaments, seven in the World Cup and four in the Euros, overtaking Gary Lineker as England’s all-time top scorer in major tournaments.

England face the toughest test they could ask for in the next round, after record-setting goals from French strikers Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappe helped the 2018 winners see off Poland in the earlier Sunday game.

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RMT rejects offer from train operators aimed at preventing further strikes

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RMT rejects offer from train operators aimed at preventing further strikes

The RMT has rejected an offer from train operators aimed at preventing strikes over the Christmas period, the union has announced.

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said its proposed framework would have supported pay increases of up to 8%, covering 2022 and 2023 pay awards, while delivering much-needed reforms.

But the RMT, led by secretary general Mick Lynch, has turned it down.

The union said: “The RDG is offering 4% in 2022 and 2023 which is conditional on RMT members accepting vast changes to working practices, huge job losses, Driver Only Operated (DOO) trains on all companies and the closure of all ticket offices.”

Mr Lynch added: “We have rejected this offer as it does not meet any of our criteria for securing a settlement on long term job security, a decent pay rise and protecting working conditions.

“The RDG and Department for Transport (DfT), who sets their mandate, both knew this offer would not be acceptable to RMT members.

“If this plan was implemented, it would not only mean the loss of thousands of jobs but the use of unsafe practices such as DOO and would leave our railways chronically understaffed.”

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RMT has demanded an urgent meeting with RDG on Monday morning in the hope of trying to resolve the dispute, the union posted on Twitter.

In a statement posted on the RMT website, Mr Lynch said the talks would aim to secure “a negotiated settlement on job security, working conditions and pay.”

It means rail strikes planned during December and early January are still scheduled to go ahead, with commuters facing severe disruption on 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17 December, and 3, 4, 6 and 7 January.

Mr Lynch previously insisted “I’m not the Grinch” as he defended the industrial action.

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All the lines affected by train strikes over Christmas and January

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How will strikes affect businesses?

The RDG said it was proposing a “fair and affordable offer in challenging times, providing a significant uplift in salary for staff” which would deliver “vital and long overdue” changes to working arrangements.

The draft framework agreement gives RMT the chance to call off its planned action and put the offer to its membership, a statement said.

“If approved by the RMT, implementation could be fast-tracked to ensure staff go into Christmas secure in the knowledge they will receive this enhanced pay award early in the New Year, alongside a guarantee of job security until April 2024,” an RDG spokesperson said.

“With revenue stuck at 20% below pre-pandemic levels and many working practices unchanged in decades, taxpayers who have contributed £1,800 per household to keep the railway running in recent years will balk at continuing to pump billions of pounds a year into an industry that desperately needs to move forward with long-overdue reforms and that alienates potential customers with sustained industrial action.”

The company called on the union to “move forward with us” so we can “give our people a pay rise and deliver an improved railway with a sustainable, long-term future for those who work on it.”

A bleak winter of strikes

Motorists have also been warned to brace for Christmas chaos after road workers revealed they will down tools for 12 days to coincide with rail walkouts.

National Highways workers, who operate and maintain roads in England, will take part in a series of staggered strikes from 16 December to 7 January, the PCS union said.

A growing list of unions are threatening to grind the country to a halt, putting pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

He is attempting a more constructive, less combative approach with the unions as the government treads a careful line between “being tough but also being human – and treating people with respect”, a government source told Sky News.

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Military could ‘drive ambulances’ during strikes

Some 10,000 paramedics voted to strike in England and Wales, the GMB union announced this week.

They join up to 100,000 nurses set to walk out in the biggest-ever strike by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland on 15 and 20 December.

On Sunday morning, Conservative Party Chairman Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News’ Sophie Ridge on Sunday the army could be deployed to help ease possible strike disruption over Christmas.

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Kate Winslet says hearing mother’s £17k energy bill struggles ‘absolutely destroyed’ her – and she had to help

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Kate Winslet says hearing mother's £17k energy bill struggles 'absolutely destroyed' her - and she had to help

Kate Winslet has said it “absolutely destroyed” her to hear about a woman who was facing a £17,000 energy bill just to keep her daughter alive, and felt she had no other option but to help.

Carolynne Hunter’s 12-year-old daughter Freya has severe complex health problems and disabilities, is non-verbal and blind and requires full-time oxygen and at-home nursing care.

Ms Hunter, 49, from Tillicoultry, Scotland, launched an appeal on GoFundMe last month to help pay for the rising costs of the equipment that keeps Freya alive, such as a machine monitoring her oxygen and heart rate.

Days into the campaign, which had a £20,000 goal, a donation of £17,000 marked “Kate Winslet and family” was paid to the fundraiser, which has been confirmed to have come from the actress.

The Titanic star, 47, has now said she felt she had to do something when she heard Ms Hunter was “going to have to put her child into care because she could not afford her electricity bills” and it “absolutely destroyed her”.

“I thought, on what planet is anyone going to let that happen? This is completely, completely wrong,” she told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg.

“It was just wrong to me that this woman was going to suffer and that she should have been in any way as a mother forced to make such a heartbreaking decision because she simply didn’t have the support and couldn’t pay the bills.

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“I just couldn’t let that happen.”

Freya has severe complex health problems and disabilities, is non-verbal and blind and requires full-time oxygen and at-home nursing care. Pic: GoFundMe
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Freya has severe complex health problems and disabilities, is non-verbal and blind and requires full-time oxygen and at-home nursing care. Pic: GoFundMe

On her GoFundMe page, Ms Hunter disclosed she had “no way of reducing” the energy in her home due to her daughter’s needs, and faced a predicted annual fuel bill of £17,000 in January 2023 – up from just over £9,000 in October this year.

In August, Ms Hunter said she was in fear of the winter months.

“Our families are going to suffer, there’s going to be a mass crisis for the NHS and social care and children will die if their families are not able to pay for it,” she told PA news agency.

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