Schools shut, exams cancelled and lockdown 'likely' to be in place until March
- Credit: Andrew Milligan/ PA Media
Schools must close and people must stay at home as a new lockdown has come into place across England.
The tough new coronavirus restrictions may have to remain in place until March, senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove warned this morning (January 5).
In a televised address on Monday, Boris Johnson announced stringent new controls - including closing schools to most pupils - in an attempt to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed by a surge in new infections.
At the same time, the Prime Minister raised the prospect that the vaccination programme being rolled out across the country could enable restrictions to be progressively eased from mid-February.
But, in a round of interviews on Tuesday morning, Mr Gove said relaxation of the rules may have to wait until the following month - and that even then some measures may have to remain in place.
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Mr Gove confirmed that GCSE and A-Level exams in England were being cancelled this year, while education secretary Gavin Williamson will make a statement in the House of Commons on Wednesday on “how to make sure children are fairly assessed”.
Uncertainty about children returning to school across the county reached its peak on Monday, when unions warned of “imminent danger” of teachers returning to classrooms.
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Despite safety fears from parents, Cambridgeshire County Council said it was compulsory for primary age pupils to return to school this week.
Unison Eastern Region, one of the UK’s largest trade unions covering thousands of workers in the county, said that they “didn’t believe it to be safe for staff to be in the workplace”.
Unison head of education Jon Richards, said: “The union is clear that members who work in schools have a right to a safe working environment. They shouldn’t have to work where they face serious and imminent danger.”
In a county council statement issued on Sunday, officials said that a blanket closure of schools “would not be the correct response”.
Across Huntingdonshire it was clear that parents were unsure how to tackle the mixed messages.
On The Hunts Post Facebook page, Joe Furnell said: “It’s absolutely ludicrous to allow schools to re-open.
“Don’t get me wrong, education is important but how on earth are you expected to keep the virus contained letting 20/30 kids sat coughing and spluttering over each other?
“It takes one child in that room to have it and the whole class gets it.”
Sarah Smith said: “This is a very mild disease in children and usually harmless for any teacher under 50 without underlying conditions.”
Matthew Dawson added: “I don’t feel right having my children at school if they could bring Covid home to any of our vulnerable family members.”
On Sunday Boris Johnson said there was “no doubt in my mind that schools are safe” and urged parents to send their children to primary schools if they were open.
But when he announced the latest lockdown on Monday the prime minister said “schools may nonetheless act as vectors for transmission, causing the virus to spread between households”.
Mr Gove said the “clear advice” to move to the highest level of Covid alert - level five - came only on Monday, after some primary schools had already returned from the Christmas break.