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COVID-19: F1 season rearranged due to coronavirus travel restrictions | UK News

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Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes in action in Abu Dhabi in December

Australia’s grand prix is being postponed for months and China’s may not happen at all, after Formula One rescheduled its 2021 season to accommodate coronavirus restrictions.

The traditional curtain-raiser in Melbourne has been put back eight months – from 21 March to 21 November – while the race in China has not been assigned a date.

The event in Shanghai had been due to take place on 11 April but COVID-19 travel restrictions – as in Australia – mean that is no longer possible.

A race will now only be held in China if another one drops off the schedule.

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Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in action in Abu Dhabi in December

Last year, both the Australian and Chinese events were cancelled after coronavirus ripped through the sporting calendar, with the season reduced to 17 races in Europe and the Middle East.

Tickets for the 2021 Melbourne event are yet to go on sale, but organisers have backed the lengthy delay.

“As the third-last race of the season, this provides the opportunity to safely host what could be the championship-decider in Melbourne in the lead-in to summer,” said Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman Paul Little.

Britain’s Lewis Hamilton will now kick off his championship defence in Bahrain on 28 March, before a race at Imola in Italy on 18 April – a circuit which has been added to the schedule.

The third slot on 2 May is still to be confirmed, but is expected to be filled by the Algarve circuit in Portugal, which made its debut last year.

Despite two of the opening three rounds falling off the roster, the sport said it remained confident of staging a record-breaking 23-round campaign.

There will be three series of three races on successive weekends.

Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy (Monza) are being held from 29 Aug to 12 Sept; Russia, Singapore and Japan will be from 26 Sept to 10 Oct; and the United States, Mexico and Brazil will be between 24 October and 7 November.

The final two races are a night event in Jeddah on 5 December, and Abu Dhabi a week later.

“We are pleased to confirm that the number of races planned for the season remains unchanged,” said F1’s new boss, Stefano Domenicali.

“The global pandemic has not yet allowed life to return to normal, but we showed in 2020 that we can race safely as the first international sport to return and we have the experience and plans in place to deliver on our season.”

The new calendar is subject to approval by governing body the FIA.

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COVID-19: Schools to get two weeks’ notice before reopening – says Education Secretary Gavin Williamson | Politics News

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COVID-19: Schools to get two weeks' notice before reopening - says Education Secretary Gavin Williamson | Politics News

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has signalled pupils could be told in a week’s time if they will be returning to classrooms after the February half-term.

Appearing on Sky News, Mr Williamson said his Department for Education would “want to give all schools a clear two weeks’ notice period” ahead of their full reopening.

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“What we will be wanting to do is to give schools as much notice as possible so teachers can get ready, children can prepare, and parents know in order to manage their lives,” he said.

“We would want to give all schools a clear two weeks’ notice period in order to be able to ready themselves.”

Asked if that meant schools would be informed of the government’s plans in a week’s time – ahead of February half-term beginning for most pupils on 15 February – Mr Williamson said: “We’ll be wanting to give people as much notice as possible in order to prepare, in order to get ready, in order to welcome children back.”

However, he added that “one of the key criteria” as to whether schools reopen to all pupils will be whether the pressure on the NHS has started to lift.

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“That’s why we had to take the national decision, very much in the national interest, one that I personally never would have wanted to take – to see schools closed again,” he added.

“We had to make that decision because the pressure on the NHS and needing to reduce movement in society and in communities.

“But schools were the last to close and schools will very much be the first to open.”

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When he announced England’s third national lockdown at the beginning of this month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out his hope that schools might begin to reopen after the February half-term.

Earlier this week, England’s deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries suggested schools might not all reopen at the same time across England as lockdown restrictions are eased.

She raised the prospect of schools reopening earlier in some parts of the country than others, depending on infection rates.

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Joe Biden’s climate goals already have activists breathing a sign of relief | Climate News

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Joe Biden's climate goals already have activists breathing a sign of relief | Climate News

Environmentalists and those on the front line of climate change have told Sky News of their relief at seeing Joe Biden sworn in as America’s new president.

The inauguration of a new world leader who describes climate change as an “existential threat” is a lifeline for countries whose people and land are being devastated by global warming.

Analysis: Biden wastes no time in undoing Trump’s work

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COVID, climate and race top Biden’s agenda

Tina Stege is climate envoy for the Marshall Islands, a group of atolls lying just two metres above sea level in the northwestern Pacific Ocean.

She said: “For a country like mine which is really on the front lines of climate change, we now have optimism. It’s got to be cautious optimism when the challenges are this big.

“But with a partner like the US and with all the resources that the US can bring to bear, with this president we are at the start of a process that provides some hope.”

Immediately after taking office, Mr Biden signed executive orders to rejoin the landmark Paris climate agreement (which Donald Trump pulled out of), when countries came together in 2015 to pledge to reduce devastating levels of global emissions.

Mr Biden has also rolled back a host of executive orders put in place by Mr Trump which weakened efforts to tackle climate change.

They include revoking the presidential permit granted to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline delivering hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil each day from Canada to be refined in the US.

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November 2020: Joe Biden appoints first-ever US climate envoy

Joye Braun has been fighting the pipeline for a decade and was – as she calls it – “boots on the ground” from day one “until we were evicted”.

A member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and Indigenous Environmental Network, she said: “To have Keystone Pipeline XL go through is a climate changer – we’ve always said that. It’s an absolute necessity that the Keystone XL pipeline be stopped.

“Watching the inauguration, I felt a huge sigh of relief. For 10 years I’ve been working on this. We’ve gone cold, we’ve gone hungry. Thank you President Biden.”

Joye Braun (L) has been fighting the pipeline for a decade
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Joye Braun (L) has been fighting the pipeline for a decade

Throughout his campaign Mr Biden had promised rejoin the Paris agreement on “day one” of his presidency.

America will be back in the club in 30 days after notifying the United Nations.

Remy Rioux, the head of the French development agency, was a lead negotiator for the Paris agreement.

He said: “I remember in 2015 it was an executive order by President Obama which had the US joining the Paris agreement so there’s no need for Congress approval to join or to come back within the agreement. President Trump withdrew by a single executive order as well so it can be very fast.”

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While Mr Biden wants to be a global leader on the climate, his credibility rests on transforming decarbonising the US.

He’s promised a $2tn plan to create millions of jobs in clean energy and energy retrofits.

His climate strategy is underpinned by the belief that the climate is inextricably linked to America’s health, wealth and national security.

He subscribes to a global recovery from coronavirus being green and will likely announce net zero goals.

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COVID-19: New mums take government to court over financial support scheme | UK News

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COVID-19: New mums take government to court over financial support scheme | UK News

The government is being taken to court over claims its COVID financial support scheme discriminates against women who have had babies recently.

The Pregnant Then Screwed charity say that around 75,000 self-employed women who have taken maternity leave in the last few years are getting less help than those who have not.

The COVID Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) was introduced in March last year alongside the furlough scheme.

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July 2020: Mums call for maternity pay extension

Payments are calculated on average profits made between 2016 and 2019, meaning tens of thousands of women are estimated to have lost out on a proportion of the money.

Campaigners say that maternity leave should not be treated as “time off” or as a “holiday”, but as work “integral” to a “well-functioning” society.

A judicial review is being brought against the government on Thursday for indirect sexual discrimination.

Joeli Brearley, founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, wants periods of maternity leave to be exempt from calculations and for women affected to be given a rebate.

“In (the government’s) legal letter they correlated maternity leave to being the same as a sabbatical or sick leave,” she said.

“What is particularly disappointing to these women is that they feel the role that they have played for perhaps a year of raising a new human, and all the work that that entails, is not valued at all by the government and by society.”

“This court case is about defending women’s rights and showing the government that they cannot ride roughshod over the Equality Act,” she added.

Particular concern is also being raised for single self-employed mothers who are struggling “to put food on the table” and “keep a roof over their head”.

Cara Bowen went on maternity leave between 2018 and 2019, which brought her three-year average income down “significantly”.

While “glad” to be receiving any grant, her male counterparts “in a similar position” have qualified for higher payments.

“I have undoubtedly been penalised for having a child,” she told Sky News. “Maternity leave is not a holiday or sick leave, it is totally accounted for and the government know exactly why my income was lower for one year.

“They should easily be able to take this into account. I’ve constantly been made to feel like a second class citizen, both as a self-employed person and as a woman trying to make ends meet, and it’s simply not fair to be penalised for something that only mothers have to go through.

“Perhaps I would feel differently if men were able to claim Paternity Allowance as self-employed but they can’t (and that’s a problem in itself), so therefore it is clear that this pure discrimination against working mothers.”

The Treasury has in the past described SEISS as one of the “most generous” schemes of its kind in the world.

When asked to comment on the campaign, an HM Treasury spokesperson said: “We have submitted our arguments to the court this week on the Motherhood Judicial Review, ahead of the hearing on 21 January.

“We cannot comment further on ongoing litigation.”

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