this is bbc news — these are the latest headlines in the uk and around the world. secondary school pupils are to be required to wear facemasks in class in england, as coronavirus cases continue to surge across europe. fears a quarter of uk public sector workers could be off due to covid, as firms are warned to make contingency plans. france will cut the coronavirus self—isolation period from ten to seven days, in a bid to ease staff pressures. dozens of fire crews are tackling a blaze at the houses of parliament in south africa. president ramaphosa has just visited the scene. a us judge throws out prince andrew's attempt to halt proceedings in a civil lawsuit against him. and different ways of seeing in the new year, in different parts of the world.
hello and welcome if you're watching in the uk or around the world. face masks are to be worn in secondary school classrooms in england, to reduce the spread of the omicron variant. until now, england was the only one of the four uk nations where face masks were not recommended for pupils in class. six teaching unions have demanded urgent action to limit the spread of the virus. the government has also announced that 7,000 air cleaning units are to be made available to early years setting, schools and colleges to improve ventilation in classrooms. there's concern that rising cases will continue to impact staffing across vital services.
public sector leaders have been asked to prepare for "worst case scenarios" of up to 25% staff absence rates. in europe, france has cut its self—isolation period. fully vaccinated people who test positive will only have to isolate for seven days regardless of the coronavirus variant they are infected with, and can leave quarantine after five days if they show a negative pcr test. across europe, police have broken up small anti—lockdown protests as well as illegal gatherings. in stuttgart in germany, about 100 activists attempted to stage an unauthorised protest against covid vaccines and restrictions. james reynolds reports now on the measures to prevent the virus spreading in england's schools. since march 2020, getting an education has become an obstacle course of home learning, missed exams and regular covid tests. 0lder pupils have now got used to wearing masks in communal areas in schools. now the government's recommending that pupils in years seven
and above keep their masks on when they are in class as well. the move will be reviewed in late january. if it's a choice between pupils wearing masks to go to school or pupils not being at school at all because they are either knocked out by the virus themselves or staff in schools are knocked out in sufficient numbers that it is hard to manage classes, well, keeping children learning has got to be the priority because we know they have lost so much education during the pandemic. and then there is the air. taking a deep breath is the kind of thing you need to do before an exam but it is hard to do safely in a poorly ventilated classroom. in order to clear the air, then, the government is rolling out a further 7,000 purifiers. we are really pleased that government is talking to us and trying to work out how to get some support into schools now. we are rather disappointed that we are having the conversation this side of christmas when we could have been making these arrangements earlier on. the government says it wants to minimise disruption
and keep pupils in class, but unions warn that if large numbers of teachers get sick or have to quarantine, some classes may have to be sent home for short periods of time. james reynolds, bbc news. "robust contingency plans" are being developed by government ministers, amid warnings that a quarter of public sector workers could soon be off work because of covid. rising case numbers have led to large numbers of employees self—isolating, with absences particularly affecting the nhs and the transport industry. our business correspondent katie prescott has more details. cancelled trains, delayed deliveries, closed restaurants and shut—up shops. staff shortages because of the spread of 0micron are a real worry in the new year as people go back to work after the christmas break. i think it makes sense to try to plan for such events. we know we have a very contagious variant in the uk and we know that lots of people are catching
the virus and naturally there will be absences throughout all businesses, really. from a retail perspective, the biggest concern will be on the supply chain to make sure that that is still running at the efficiency we are used to. empty workplaces where key staff are needed is the nightmare for government. ministers are looking atjust how bad things could get and drawing up contingency plans to try and protect against any disruption from rising infection. to try and keep school gates open as well as hospitals and other vital services, in the public sector leaders have been asked to look at the worst—case scenarios of having ten, 20 or even 25% of their staff off at any one time. labour says that this announcement shows the government is leaving contingency planning to the very last moment. the most recent restrictions in england, set out in the government's plan b earlier in december, are expected to be reviewed this week.
katie prescott, bbc news. let's talk to our political correspondent, nick eardley. we will talk more about contingency planning in a moment, but first of all, masks in the schools, what is the government saying? the calculation — the government saying? the calculation is _ the government saying? the calculation is that _ the government saying? tue: calculation is that by the government saying? tte: calculation is that by introducing face coverings in secondary schools for a few weeks in england there is more chance of keeping them open when the school holidays end. there has been some criticism on this. the labour party has said it is to last minute and the government has not given enough notice. there are a number of tory mps who are concerned about the measure. we heard from the chair of the education select committee, robert elstone this morning, saying he thinks it will impact on the mental health of young people at secondary school. but the hope the government has is that this
maximises the chances of keeping schools open despite the growing numbers of omicron cases. have a listen to cabinet office minister stephen barclay explained the rationale this behind the decision. we are working with the teaching profession, on a temporary measure in terms _ profession, on a temporary measure in terms of— profession, on a temporary measure in terms of facemasks, which we will review_ in terms of facemasks, which we will review on_ in terms of facemasks, which we will review on the 26th january. as an additional— review on the 26th january. as an additional measure we are recognising the fact that whilst two thirds _ recognising the fact that whilst two thirds of— recognising the fact that whilst two thirds of adults have been boosted, obviously— thirds of adults have been boosted, obviously children have not so that's — obviously children have not so that's why we brought in some additional measures within schools. we have _ additional measures within schools. we have made available things like ventilators and ventilation units for those — ventilators and ventilation units for those classrooms where it is difficult — for those classrooms where it is difficult to — for those classrooms where it is difficult to ventilate so we are working — difficult to ventilate so we are working closely with teachers, teaching — working closely with teachers, teaching unions and head teachers to make _ teaching unions and head teachers to make sure _ teaching unions and head teachers to make sure we can ensure schools are prioritised _ make sure we can ensure schools are prioritised in — make sure we can ensure schools are prioritised in terms of reopening at the start— prioritised in terms of reopening at the start of— prioritised in terms of reopening at the start of term. what about wider concerns about worker shortages because of absence
over covid, what's the latest on contingency planning? t over covid, what's the latest on contingency planning?- over covid, what's the latest on contingency planning? i think the reall can contingency planning? i think the really can significant _ contingency planning? i think the really can significant concern - contingency planning? i think the really can significant concern in i really can significant concern in the business community about the number of people off with coronavirus at the moment, and that concern is increasingly being relayed and felt in whitehall. the prime minister has told ministers to go away and come up with contingency plans for some pretty significant absence levels over the next few weeks, as much as 25% is what the government wants a plan for. the criticism as they are drawing up a plan now rather than already having significant plans in place to deal with it. all you need to do is look at things like transport and the health service to see that absences through covid are already having a pretty significant impact. the government would say it has already done things in england like shortening the amount of time people
have to self—isolate to seven days. it is slightly different in scotland, still ten days. it is still ten days in scotland for close household contacts of people who test positive. i think we will hear a lot about this in the next few days and a lot of pressure on particular sectors. the government has a review this week on wednesday of the plan b measures in place in england. we have heard some optimistic noises from another minister, the health minister this morning, who was on the radio saying that there is nothing in the data he sees just now that suggests more restrictions will be needed in england but there are a lot of people who will be studying those figures over the next few days. we have seen record numbers, there are hundreds of thousands of people with the virus across the uk at the moment and it will raise those questions over the resilience of key industries and the wider question of whether potentially more
restrictions at some point might be needed. the government's view at the moment seems to be that is still not neededin moment seems to be that is still not needed in england.— needed in england. thank you, nick eardle . dozens of firefighters are still battling a large blaze in south africa's houses of parliament in cape town. video footage showed a plume of black smoke filling the sky, the fire is still burning in the national assembly chamber, but has been contained in other parts of the historic building. the blaze is thought to have started in third floor offices in the parliament precinct, close to the cathedral where the anti—apartheid icon archbishop desmond tutu has just been interred. president cyril rampahosa has visited the scene. this is a national key asset and, of course, we are still going to go into what caused the fire, and the fire having started in the old assembly, how it then moved to the national assembly is something that will still be investigated. i believe somebody is
being held right now and they are being questioned, but we need to go a lot deeper, a lot deeper into how this type of event can take place and what measures we will need to take going forward. but for now i think we should be grateful that the national assembly parliament has not been razed to ashes and to the floor. just before cyril ramaphosa spoke, a member of the cape town safety and security committee, jp smith, gave an update on the severity of the damage. the entire parliamentary complex is severely damaged, waterlogged and smoke damaged. there will be damage extensively. the roof above the old assembly chamber, the old assembly hall, is completely gone as per the photographs we also posted. the offices adjacent to it and the gym are destroyed.
those might be the offices of good. the second point of fire is the national assembly chamber behind me, which you can see, which is gutted. the structural ceiling has collapsed. fire staff had to be momentarily withdrawn. the old chamber, i have walked around it inside with the provincial commissioner. it is not possible to see if it is damaged. we hope it is not because it has so many historical artefacts in, but you can't gain access without breaking down the doors and we don't want to do that. the doors and windows being closed smothers the fire and reduces the amount of damage, so it is a positive that that is the case. jermaine carelse from cape town fire and rescue told us about the emergency response. we received the calljust after five this morning, of a building alight in parliament avenue. and when the officer arrived, he confirmed that it was the parliamentary building that was alight.
we currently have about eight firefighting appliances on scene with approximately over 40 firefighters currently. and obviously this is quite a fluid situation, with the fire inside the building creating intense heat. we are getting reports from the aerial appliances that are fighting the fire from the roof side that the bitumen on top of the roof is currently melting. and there are reports of cracks in the walls inside the building itself. there have been no reports of the fire spreading to other buildings and we have the aerial appliances to deal with exposure protection. ajudge in the united states has thrown out prince andrew's attempt to halt proceedings in a civil lawsuit against him. the duke of york's lawyers had argued that virginia giuffre — who has accused him of sexually assaulting her when she was a teenager — lives in australia, so is not a us resident. prince andrew has consistently denied the allegations. aruna iyengar has this report.
seen here at the age of 17, virginia roberts, now giuffre, with prince andrew on the left and ghislaine maxwell in the background. ms giuffre has accused prince andrew of sexually assaulting her when she was a teenager at the homes ofjeffrey epstein, the convicted child sex offender, and ghislaine maxwell. prince andrew has consistently denied the allegations. the civil lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. two efforts to stall the case were blocked on saturday. us federaljudge lewis a kaplan told the prince's lawyers they must hand over key legal documents before a crucial court hearing in new york on tuesday. he also rejected arguments by the prince's lawyer, andrew brettler, that the lawsuit should be dismissed because ms giuffre, a us citizen, no longer lives in the us. this comes after ghislaine maxwell was convicted this week of recruiting and trafficking young girls to be sexually abused by her boyfriend,
the late american financier jeffrey epstein, between 1994 and 200a. on tuesday, judge kaplan will hear oral arguments to decide whether virginia giuffre's lawsuit against prince andrew will proceed. aruna iyengar, bbc news. the latest headlines on bbc news... secondary school pupils are to be required to wear facemasks in class in england, as coronavirus cases continue to surge across europe. fears a quarter of uk public sector workers could be off due to coronavirus, as firms are warned to make contingency plans. france will cut the covid self—isolation period from ten to seven days, in a bid to ease staff pressures. the south korean military says it has carried out a search operation after a south korean man
crossed the border into north korea. the circumstances of the apparent defection are unclear, but a military source said the unnamed man crossed from the demilitarised zone into the north on saturday evening. the office of south korea'sjoint chiefs of staff said it could not confirm whether the person was still alive. laura bicker in seoul is following the story. there have been a number of breaches of the border in the last few years, but this, just to explain to your viewers, is one of the most heavily fortified areas in the entire world. it is a four kilometre wide area full of landmines, surveillance equipment. it is surrounded by electric fences. normally there are guards in watchtowers who are there, armed, ready to react every 2a hours. this happened on new year's day. it has happened in the same area in the last year, so there have been questions about the security and surveillance of the border area in this east coast part of south korea. what appears to have happened is an alert was raised about 6:1i0am on new year's day and then a search was made for about
three orfour hours. they did not find the individual and that individual has then made it into north korea. one of the things we do know, and certainly one of my sources is telling me, is it is a civilian but we don't know if it is a south korean citizen or whether or not it was a north korean defector who was here in the south, who may have wanted to try and go back north. in the uk, 20 conservative mps and peers have called on the prime minister to tackle the spiralling cost of living. five former ministers are among the signatories of a letter to the sunday telegraph, which follows huge increases in wholesale gas prices. 0ur political correspondent chris mason reports. wholesale gas and electricity prices are rising steeply. the boss of one energy firm is predicting an enormous crisis this year as a consequence. now 20 tory parliamentarians are expressing their concerns, too. their letter has been organised
by what is called the net zero scrutiny group of conservatives, which keeps an eye on the consequences of the government's environmental commitments. the government is meeting energy firms and the regulator 0fgem regularly to work out how to help consumers. this will be, without question, one of the government's most pressing problems in the early weeks and months of the new year. chris mason, bbc news. coronavirus is continuing to cause major disruption for travellers worldwide. airlines cancelled more than 4,400 flights on saturday, due to surging covid cases among airline crews and ground personnel, as well as storms
in parts of the us. stephanie prentice reports. from last—minute cancellations to hours of delays in airports. the past week has been called the perfect storm of travel chaos in the united states as the demand of a new year's rush, staffing in 0micron world, and bad weather collide. many on social media say their trip was cancelled either as they arrived at the airport or once they were through security. some say they are now stuck until tuesday at the earliest. and this man described an extensive re—route involving sleeping on the floor at dallas airport. more than 4,400 flights were cancelled worldwide over saturday and into sunday. 2,500 of those were going to or from us airports. and as if covid wasn't enough, the weather caused havoc at chicago's airport. a snowstorm stopped 1,000 on saturday. in a statement, united airlines —
one of those impacted — said... but with many people now returning home from christmas holidays, sunday is expected to see further chaos, particularly with forecasts of snow and heavy wind. a bleak picture but one that travellers are starting to become familiar with. and experts warn that the storm of travel chaos will get worse before it passes. stephanie prentice, bbc news. snow is hindering relief efforts after a wildfire hit the american state of colorado. the blaze destroyed almost a thousand homes and at least three people are missing. russell trott has more. freezing conditions and a blanket of snow had helped to quell the flames. the eerie charred remains
are all that's left in this part of boulder county. the snow, up to ten inches in places, was initially welcome, but is now hampering relief operations. three people are still unaccounted for but rescue has now turns for but rescue has now turned to recovery in the search to find those still missing. we are calling in cadaver dogs and search teams to help us with the effort tomorrow. the structures where these folks would be are completely destroyed. they are covered with about eight inches of snow right now. the wildfire had moved quickly, fanned by high winds. it took just seconds to rip through an area the size of a football pitch, leaving a trail of destruction. entire neighbourhoods engulfed in flames, at least 1000 homes and businesses destroyed. tens of thousands of residents had no option but to flee for their lives. president biden approved
a disaster declaration, freeing up federal resources. weather experts spoke of their disbelief that such a large fire could have taken hold in the depths of a cold winter. all of colorado's 20 biggest wildfires have happened in the last 20 years, and it all points to a changing climate, and the unpredictability that goes with it. russell trott, bbc news. 21 people have been rescued after becoming trapped overnight in mountain tram cars, in albuquerque, new mexico. the tramway was stopped because ice was affecting the emergency cable. the cars were lowered using a rope system and the passengers evacuated via helicopter. after almost three decades, football fans will be allowed to stand at a top flight english football game later today — as clubs trial a new "safe—standing" policy. all—seater stadiums became the law following the 1989 hillsborough disaster, which killed 97 liverpool supporters. in the last few years
campaigners have been calling for a change to that policy. speaking to the bbc earlier, chief constable mark roberts, national police chiefs' council's lead for football policing, highlighted some of the safety concerns. i think it's a significant moment forfootball. as you trailed, these were part of the measures brought in after the hillsborough tragedy and the taylor report. those measures have served to keep football safe for 30 years. anything we do to alter those measures is really significant. i think we are saying it is the start of the pilot today. this is a misnomer. it has been in since the start of the season. clubs have had to put in engineering work. we have seen some positive experience and challenging experiences. from our perspective in policing we think there is an opportunity to implement this but do it in a way that's really safe, meets the needs of fans but equally keeps everyone safe. unfortunately some of the recommendations we have made have not been implemented yet as part of the pilot. some of the concerns we have got, particularly if crowds are stood up,
it's easy to throw missiles, engage in hate chanting and racism. sneak in alcohol and take cocaine, which is a growing issue and problem. and in many modern stadiums, the bowls, you can migrate all around the stadium so the concern is you get overloaded and have crushing issues and it becomes quite an exclusionary crowd. all around the world, people have been welcoming in the new year in different ways. large numbers decided to see in 2022 — by getting rather wet... as tim allman reports. what is it with new year's day and people doing things like this? cheering. here at cavour bridge in rome, for more than half a century, every year, to celebrate the new year, they threw themselves into the tiber. normally, the water is icy cold, although milder weather meant it was perhaps a little less bracing this time around. in the netherlands, a group of hardy souls went for a dip in the north sea.
an official event had been cancelled due to covid restrictions, but some just couldn't stop themselves. it feels like a refreshment, you know? now, i feel like all my troubles are gone and i actually feel really energised. not that far away in portugal, their destination was the choppy seas of the north atlantic. the sun was shining, the water was cold. the mood, surprisingly positive. "it's a portuguese tradition on this beach," said this man. "what's nice is the conviviality, socialising with people, hoping to be able to recover our strength for a much better year, and hoping to get out of this pandemic." bagpipes skirl. 0n the other side of the pond, they have some traditions of their own. in boston, one of america's oldest cold water swimming groups solemnly marched to a nearby beach before they all made a mad dash for it. cheering.
some called it "crazy," some called it "fun" — it's certainly one way to see in the new year. tim allman, bbc news. lebanon is ending the year in a state of paralysis. its cabinet hasn't met for two months, the currency continues to lose value and the investigation into 2020's port blast in beirut has stalled, amid deep political divisions. elections are due this year but arguments over the date have led to fears they won't happen at all. 0ur middle east correspondent anna foster reports. for lebanon, the last year has been a fight for survival. a battle for a dwindling supply of medicines, for electricity, as the country descended into darkness, and even for the most basic goods like food and fuel.
in october, seven people died in violent clashes that took a generation back to the civil war. the hours of fighting here that day were sparked by rows about the investigation into 2020's devastating beirut port explosion. influential political figures have fought hard against giving evidence and that means the investigation has been suspended again and again. for survivors and bereaved families, there is still no closure. this woman's son was one of more than 200 people who died.
lebanon spent more than a year without a government. the one it finally got back in september has achieved little. the currency has lost more than 90% of its value and thousands of families are living in poverty. in the next few months, there should be elections but political parties can't agree on the date and there are fears they won't happen at all. what we feel and what we sense is that the political class is a big opponent of these elections because this might change the ruling
parties and this might bring in a new blood to the parliament which mightjeopardise the power of these political parties. the international community has made it clear that it won't help lebanon until the country helps itself. based on the last year, the prospects for the next one look bleak. anna foster, bbc news, beirut. louise lear has the weather. hello there. the mild weather story is set to continue for today at least. it was a beautiful start for some of us, with early morning sunshine, as you can see by this weather watcher picture sent in from rotherham. but there were also sharp showers around, one batch eased off into the north sea, a rash of showers to the north—west of the great glen, but as we go through the morning and into the early afternoon, some showers merge together for a heavy burst of rain to push through south—west england and wales, gradually drifting east. sunny spells and scattered showers for much of scotland and northern ireland as well, blustery for all, particularly
on exposed west—facing coasts, gusts in excess of 40 mph not out of the question. but in terms of the feel of the weather, once again temperatures above where they should be for the time of year, not quite as mild as the last couple of days, but nevertheless 9—13 celsius the high. through the night tonight, we continue with a south—westerly flow, so mild across england and wales, but a northerly wind will start to kick in, and that is going to drag in some colder air for the far north of scotland. this is a cold front, so that cold air is going to continue to push its way steadily south as the front sinks slowly south during bank holiday monday. we will also see more cloud and rain just brushing the southern fringes, and sandwiched in between the two, relatively mild and still with sunshine continuing. we will have sunshine further north, but look at the difference with the feel of the weather. ten to 11 to the south of that cold front, and behind it, a noticeable difference, particularly across eastern scotland where temperatures really struggling