London Schools Could Re-Open First After Lockdown, Official Says

London Schools Could Re-Open First After Lockdown, Official Says

January 22, 2021

Schools in London and southeast England could re-open ahead of the rest of the country after lockdown because the capital and surrounding areas were the first to be affected by the new strain of coronavirus, according to Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries.

It’s a “reasonable assumption” some schools could re-open after the half-term break in mid-February as promised by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Harries told a meeting of Parliament’s education committee on Tuesday. But a regional approach will probably be needed due to varying infection rates, she said.

“It’s likely that as we’re hopefully starting to see some glimmers of hope that London has been affected earlier by the new variant, that may move across the country,” Harries said. Asked by lawmakers whether there could be a regional or phased system for reopening schools, she replied: “It’s likely that we will have some sort of regional separation of interventions.”

Johnson’s government has made the full re-opening of schools a key priority as it plots a course out of England’s third national lockdown. Much is riding on the prime minister’s pledge to vaccinate the most vulnerable people by the middle of next month, which ministers hope will allow the gradual relaxation of social-distancing rules and enable the economy to re-open.

But just as infection rates differ across the country, so differences are emerging in the pace of vaccination program. Even one of Johnson’s Cabinet ministers, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey, questioned the uneven way in which the shots are being administered.

Asked about vaccination rates in different parts of the country, Johnson’s spokesman, Jamie Davies, told reporters supplies are being directed to any areas that may be falling behind. He also reiterated the government’s priority to re-open schools as soon as possible.

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