Boris Johnson urged to delay school reopening to stop Covid surge OVERWHELMING hospitals

Michael Gove says secondary schools will have 'later return'

The new strain may be up to 70 percent more transmissible, researchers have said, and this has led to warnings from teaching unions about inviting children back into the classroom. On Monday, the UK recorded more than 40,000 coronavirus cases in a single day for the first time.

The figure of 41,385 positive tests was recorded alongside 357 deaths within 28 days of a positive test. The total number of deaths in the UK is 71,109.

Health secretary Matt Hancock and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove have suggested delaying the reopening of schools during a Downing Street meeting, according to The Times.

Mr Gove has publicly said primary schools, Years 11 and 13, and children of key workers will return on January 4. Other pupils will return a week later.

He told Sky News: “We always keep things under review but teachers and head teachers have been working incredibly hard over the Christmas period since schools broke up in order to prepare for a new testing regime — community testing — in order to make sure that children and all of us are safer.

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“We do keep things under review but that is the plan.”

Greater strain is reportedly being placed on hospitals in England caring for more patients than during the first coronavirus wave.

It follows a report by Politico which claimed the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), which advises the Government on coronavirus matters, has suggested keeping secondary schools closed in January.

SAGE told the Prime Minister only a stricter style of national lockdown would be enough to suppress spread of the virus.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced the deployment of 1,500 military personnel to support implementing testing systems to allow pupils to return.

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT, wrote to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson on Monday urging schools to opt for remote learning for all pupils in Tier 4 areas – except those deemed to be vulnerable or the children of key workers.

The NASUWT has called for school staff to be prioritised in the vaccination programme.

The letter said: “Delaying the return of pupils to schools and colleges at the start of the spring term will also enable all school and college employers to undertake and consult as required on new risk assessments and ensure that they can be compliant with any new measures or requirements contained in any forthcoming national guidance.”

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Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint general secretaries of the National Education Union (NEU), have also written to Mr Williamson and Mr Johnson.

“You certainly cannot expect education staff to show good will towards your plans for education if you do not at least share all the information you have about this dreadful disease with them,” they wrote.

Military personnel will form local response teams, providing support and phone advice to institutions needing guidance on the testing process and set-up of the testing facilities.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The UK armed forces are stepping up once again this holiday.

“They’ll share considerable experience of testing across the country and the successful school pilots conducted this autumn.

“We are grateful for the professionalism and commitment they and our colleagues in teaching are showing to get students back into the classroom and on with their education.”

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