Politics

Coronavirus: Boris Johnson insists he has ‘no doubt’ schools can fully reopen safely

The prime minister has said he has “no doubt” that schools can fully reopen safely next month, despite reported warnings from scientists that secondary school pupils transmit coronavirus like adults.

Boris Johnson said schools were doing a “huge amount” to make sure the planned return of all pupils to the classroom is done safely amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The PM added he was “very, very impressed” with the work schools have done to adapt to COVID-19.

“Obviously we need to make sure that we don’t have a second wave, that we do everything we can to avoid a second wave,” he continued.

“I’m afraid you are going to see outbreaks, we have seen them across the country in the last few weeks and months and we have also seen the immense efforts that local authorities have gone to, local communities have gone to, to get that outbreak under control.

“The most important thing for people to remember is that you have got to get schools back, we will get schools back, but also we have got to stick to our discipline – so in schools they have some very well thought through plans for how to manage it.”

Mr Johnson was speaking after it was reported that Public Health England (PHE) scientists have warned that secondary school pupils transmit coronavirus like adults.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said the study shows there is little risk of spreading the virus by reopening schools.

The full findings are set to be published later this year.

According to The Times, the study found there was little risk from primary schools.

But the newspaper says that researchers who worked on study are unhappy with the way their findings, which have not yet been fully analysed, have been used by the government.

It is likely to heighten concerns among teaching unions that a full return of pupils to school is not safe.

Schools closed in March as the government took action to try and halt the spread of COVID-19, with only vulnerable children and those whose parents are key workers able to attend.

A phased reopening of primary schools began at the start of June, with pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 returning to the classroom.

Some secondary pupils in Years 10 and 12 also returned that month.

But ministers abandoned plans to get all primary pupils back before the end of the summer term.

In Scotland, children have begun returning to school full-time.

Schools in the Scottish Borders are the first to open today, while other areas will gradually open ahead of all pupils returning by 18 August, the Scottish government said.

Most will start to return on 12 August.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon hailed it as a “major milestone” in the fight against coronavirus in Scotland.

She said: “Today’s return has been made possible by the progress all of us have made in suppressing the virus, but we know from all sorts of evidence here at home and elsewhere across the UK and across Europe that progress remains fragile and we all really need to continue to be vigilant and cautious,” she said.

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