Boris Johnson today declared that schools will not reopen until at least March 8 as he extended lockdown by another three weeks, but tried to quell rising Tory anger by pledging a ‘road map’ out of the coronavirus crisis.
The PM delivered the grim news – which means the worst-hit school years in some areas will have had only 73 days of lessons since the pandemic began last March – to millions of children and struggling parents in a statement to the House of Commons this afternoon, saying he knew how ‘frustrated’ they will be.
He made clear there is no hope of any lockdown easing until well after the mid-February review date – finally ruling out the idea that some more pupils could return to classrooms after half-term. Currently only the offspring of key workers are in schools, with everyone else remote learning.
Mr Johnson said fast progress was being made on vaccinations with doses given to more than 6.8million people – 13 per cent of the adult population – and the NHS is on track to hit the goal of covering the four most vulnerable groups by February 15. The jabs should give them full protection three weeks after that, he insisted.
‘We hope it will therefore be safe to begin the reopening of schools from Monday 8 March,’ the premier said – while warning that even that is contingent on pressure on the health service easing.
However, fronting a Downing Street press conference later this afternoon, Mr Johnson warned parents March 8 was the ‘earliest’ date that was ‘sensible’ and safe for children to go back, adding: ‘It depends on lots of things going right.’
Mr Johnson has earlier rejected calls from Sir Keir Starmer to allow teachers to jump the vaccine queue as he told the Labour leader to ‘explain which vaccines he would take from which vulnerable groups to make sense of his policy’.
Meanwhile, teaching unions warned that coming out of the third national lockdown ‘too early’ could ultimately lead to a fourth national squeeze.
The PM’s announcement means…
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