The u-turns which expose government chaos during the coronavirus pandemic

Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

The government has made its latest U-turn following controversy over the downgrading of thousands of pupils' A-level results.

It has been confirmed that students in England will be given grades estimated by their teachers rather than by an algorithm.

It comes days after education secretary Gavin Williamson vowed there would be 'no U-turn, no change'.


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The reversal is the latest in a string of government reversals made during the coronavirus pandemic. Here are just some of them.

– Government's coronavirus contact-tracing app plans ditched

A new NHSX app for contact tracing was announced by Mr Hancock on April 12, pledging that it would be 'crucial' for preventing the transmission of coronavirus.

The app was trialled on the Isle of Wight with a view to it being rolled out more widely across the country in May.

However, on June 18, the Government abandoned plans for its own app, instead allowing Apple and Google to take over the project.

On August 13, a trial of the new app was announced, again involving the Isle of Wight as well as NHS volunteer respondents in the UK.

However, as yet no date has been confirmed for a national rollout.

– Primary school children to return

In early May, Mr Williamson set out the Government's ambition that all primary-age children in England would have at least four weeks in school before the summer.

But on June 9, he said there was 'no choice' but to scrap those plans amid concerns that the two-metre social distancing rule would make a full return impossible.

In August, the Government said that its plans would be for all pupils, in all year groups, to return to school full-time from the beginning of the autumn term.

Schools will be required to have measures including enhanced cleaning procedures, more frequent hand-washing, and keeping pupils and family members with Covid-19 symptoms away, in place as they return.

– Coronavirus testing target

On April 2, Health Secretary Matt Hancock set a goal of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of the month.

At the Government's daily briefing on May 1, Mr Hancock said testing figures had hit 122,347 on April 30.

However, the figures included the number of home tests (27,497) that had been sent out as well as the number of tests sent out to satellite sites (12,872).

It suggested that the number of tests actually processed was closer to around 81,978 – short of the Government's target.

– Bereavement scheme to NHS support staff extended

After criticism that care workers, cleaners and porters were being excluded from a Home Office scheme granting families of health workers indefinite leave to remain in the UK if they die of Covid-19, the Government announced an extension of the scheme on May 20.

The scheme had been introduced in April to help support families affected by the pandemic.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the extension would be 'effective immediately and retrospectively'.

– NHS surcharge for overseas health and care staff

A day later, on May 21, the Prime Minister stood by the fee that overseas health workers were being charged to use the NHS.

However, just hours later, following mounting pressure from senior Tories, it was announced that foreign health and care workers would be exempted from the scheme.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called the U-turn a 'victory for common decency'.

– School meals voucher scheme

England footballer Marcus Rashford was credited as playing a key part in forcing the Government to U-turn on its decision not to extend the children's food voucher scheme into the summer holidays.

On June 16, Cabinet minister Grant Shapps said that free school meals are not normally extended to cover the summer period.

Yet a few hours later, No 10 backtracked on its stance, confirming that it would in fact extend the programme.

Speaking on Sky News the next day, Health Secretary Matt Hancock mistakenly praised 'Daniel Rashford' for his campaigning efforts.

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