Boris Johnson has urged parents to send their children to school tomorrow, insisting that schools are safe.
In an appearance on The Andrew Marr Show today, the prime minister said the closures in London and the South East are ‘exceptional cases’ in areas where cases of the fast-spreading variant of the virus are high.
‘Schools are safe. It’s very, very important to stress that. The risk to children is very, very low,’ he said, adding that the benefit of education ‘is so huge’.
‘For public health reasons, in large parts of the country, it is sensible to keep primary schools open,’ the prime minister said.
Yesterday, the National Education Union urged for school closures to be extended across England, stating, ‘What is right for London is right for the rest of the country.’
When asked whether councils could face legal action if they chose to close schools, he said local authorities should be guided by public health advice.
‘In areas where we are not being driven by new variant to close schools, obviously we want to work with councils, but we also need to be humble in face of impact of new variant,’ he said.
Additionally, he said the government could not guarantee that secondary schools will reopen on January 18 as planned.
‘We will continue to assess impact of the measures to control the virus,’ he added.
Recent scientific advice has warned that the new variant cannot be controlled while schools are open, but Johnson said the evidence for this is not clear.
In order to curb the spread in schools, he told Marr that lateral flow tests may prove useful in secondary schools. These are rapid tests that do not require a lab to determine the results.
Johnson said ‘the priority has got to be children’s education’, adding that testing could have a ‘huge’ impact on keeping schools open.
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