An upsurge in infections with figures showing that one in every fifty people have the coronavirus suggests schools could be closed for months.
After witnessing people receiving the Oxford vaccine jabs during a hospital visit, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, he had no doubt in his mind that “schools were safe”. However, the “bleak” data has prompted the prime minister to withdraw plans to reopen, announcing that schools will have to close as part of England`s third lockdown.
Boris Johnson said that there were “lots of caveats, lots of ifs” to come out of the newly-imposed national lockdown in mid-February and there is “fundamental hope” that schools would open in summer.
“Provided we don’t learn anything new about the virus that we don’t yet understand, there’s not some new mutation that we haven’t currently bargained for; provided the vaccine rollout goes according to plan; provided the vaccine is as efficacious as we think it is; but above all, provided that everybody follows the guidance now,” he said. “I wouldn’t put it any stronger than that.”
A scientific adviser to the government said the latest shutdown was “inevitable” following the emergence of the new variant of the variant and the relaxation of rules on mixing over the festive season.
Last year in December, SAGE told the government that it was “highly unlikely” reopening schools would keep the R number below one hence the number of cases would grow.
Despite the scientific advice, Boris Johnson defended plans to reopen a day before closing them again saying: “The tier 4 measures were something that we wanted to evaluate and over the course of the days leading up to Sunday … we were hoping that we would start to see some impact and that we would be able to keep schools open because keeping schools open is an absolute priority for this country. It was clear that we’ve got to a situation where tier 4 on its own couldn’t be relied upon to get the virus under control.”
The reopening of schools will only depend on the effectiveness of the vaccines and other measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.