Boris Johnson hails the 'truly national effort to beat this virus' ahead of lockdown easing

The Prime Minister has hailed the "truly national effort to beat" coronavirus with the country on the cusp of marking the first phase of lockdown easing.

Sunday, 7th March 2021, 7:00 am
Boris Johnson hails the 'truly national effort to beat' coronavirus ahead of lockdown easing. (Photo by Leon Neal - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson hails the 'truly national effort to beat' coronavirus ahead of lockdown easing. (Photo by Leon Neal - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Pupils across England are due to return to classrooms on Monday as the Government follows through with stage one of Boris Johnson s road map for lifting restrictions.

The Prime Minister said: "The reopening of schools marks a truly national effort to beat this virus.

"It is because of the determination of every person in this country that we can start moving closer to a sense of normality - and it is right that getting our young people back into the classroom is the first step."

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Mr Johnson urged the public to stick to the rules as the Government contemplates keeping to its "cautious" plans for removing measures.

According to the Prime Minister's road map, the second part of stage one, which will allow outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households, is due on March 29.

Shops could open by April 12 and all restrictions could possibly be lifted by June 21.

"We are being cautious in our approach so that we do not undo the progress we have made so far and I urge you all not to give up on your efforts to keep your families and others safe," Mr Johnson added.

"Get the vaccine, get tested, and remember that we are all in this together."

The Conservative Party leader's urge for people to continue to obey the rules comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock shared data on Friday showing that the average daily number of Covid cases, hospital admissions and deaths are the lowest they have been since the autumn.

Mr Hancock said the decrease in cases meant the Government could continue with its plan of replacing the lockdown with the "protection that comes from vaccines and regular testing".

As part of reopening schools, ministers are asking pupils to take two quick-result tests per week in order to weed out asymptomatic carriers of Covid-19.

Downing Street said nearly 57 million lateral flow test kits, which can produce results in less than 30 minutes, have already been delivered to schools and colleges as part of the rollout.

After three initial tests on site students will be provided with two rapid tests to use each week at home.

Professor Sheila Bird, a member of the Royal Statistical Society, said the recommendation to ask school pupils to produce tests twice a week should be reviewed to ensure consent continues.

She told BBC Radio 4's Today: "The Royal Statistical Society warns that pupils and families' willingness to take part is likely to decrease over time.

"There is initial interest and curiosity, but twice a week is a big ask of children and families, and the additional benefit from doing this twice a week versus once a week is modest and it has to be offset against the implications for the consent rate and the willingness to continue to do it."

Secondary school and college students are also being asked to wear face coverings in classrooms where social distancing cannot be maintained as an additional safety measure through to Easter.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "Tomorrow will mark a moment of joy for millions of people across the country - from the students going back to class to the teachers who can't wait to get them back - as young people walk through their school and college gates and are reunited with their friends.

"I do not underestimate how challenging the last few months have been with some children in class and most at home, but I do know how important it is for all children to be back in school, not only for their education but for their mental health and wellbeing."

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: "Children and young people will be returning to schools and colleges in very different frames of mind.

"Some will be looking forward to seeing their friends. Others will be very anxious and nervous - particularly those who have not been able to engage fully in remote learning.

"Education recovery plans must address these differences and be understood to be a long-term response to the pandemic. Education recovery funding will be needed for years to come."

You can subscribe to this website and enjoy unlimited access to local news, information and puzzles online. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Simply click ‘Subscribe’ in the menu.