Schools reopening: Edward Argar addresses government’s plans
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With Covid case numbers dropping rapidly across the country, Mr Johnson is being pressured by many MPs to set out measures for when the lockdown will end. The Prime Minister will announce his strategy later this month but some researchers have indicated schools may be allowed to reopen if other measures remain. Indeed, Mr Johnson stated last month that schools would be the first to reopen when the lockdown is lifted.
Amid rapid vaccination numbers in the country, Express.co.uk is asking in today’s exclusive online poll: “Should Boris reopen schools on March 8?”
The Prime Minister has stated he hoped to reopen schools next month depending on other factors, including the rate of vaccinations among the priority groups.
However, despite the vaccine rollout, Mr Johnson refused to guarantee reopening schools before April 2.
Experts believe coronavirus cases could be kept in check while allowing for pupils to have face-to-face lessons in classrooms if other restrictions remain in place.
In a study conducted by University College London, Oxford University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, experts warned against opening up other parts of society at the same time.
Dr Jasmina Panovska-Griffiths, from UCL, said: “Our findings suggest that reopening schools on March 8, while keeping the rest of society locked down, is a plausible alternative to continued full national lockdown and is likely to prevent the epidemic from growing again.
“Opening secondary schools appears to result in higher infection levels than opening primaries so additional strategies may be needed to mitigate this.
“These could include staggered re-openings as well as expansion of mass-testing at schools, and vaccination of teachers.”
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Despite the report’s findings, Professor John Edmunds of Imperial College London warned schools should be reopened in stages.
Speaking on ITV’s Peston, prof Edmunds stated secondary and primary schools should be opened separately or the R-rate will be pushed above one.
Due to the lockdown, the UK’s R-rate has fallen to between 0.7-1 while cases over the last seven days have dropped by 28.6 percent in comparison to the week ending February 4.
Asked on whether the R-rate may rise when schools reopen, prof Edmunds said: “We’re not absolutely certain – it looks as if it would be touch and go.
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“If we opened up schools I think that the reproduction number would get close to one and possibly exceed one.
“If we opened them up completely – if we opened secondary schools and primary schools both at the same time – I suspect we’d be lucky to keep the reproduction number below one.
“I think we have to do everything very gradually and see how it goes.”
In a boost for Mr Johnson’s plans, 13,509,108 people have now been vaccinated with a first dose of the jab.
When schools return, there are also plans to cut the summer holiday in order for children to catch up.
Mr Johnson has also pledged a further £300million to schools as part of a catch-up programme over the coming year.
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