Coronavirus: Boris Johnson insists schools are safe hours after children’s commissioner called for more testing

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Boris Johnson insisted schools could safely reopen next month just hours after the children’s commissioner called for routine coronavirus testing for students and teachers.

The Prime Minister praised the work that had been done to prepare the schools for September.

Over the weekend, he said the country has a moral duty to get children back to school.

But Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, has called for more testing in schools, unlike ministers who say the precautions already taken are sufficient.

When asked if all teachers and older children should be tested weekly, she told Times Radio, “I wouldn’t want to say weekly, but I would say it regularly, and it can be weekly.

“There’s a lot less worry about kids who are younger than high school… High schools, where you have a bigger environment and older kids, it makes sense that testing and tracking is one of them. . ”

Mr Johnson said: “I think it’s very important that everyone works together to keep schools safe – and they are. They are protected by Covid and I have been very impressed with the work the teachers have done, working with the unions, to ensure that all schools can safely return to September ”.

He admitted schools could be forced to close as a result of local action, but said he hoped that did not happen.

The Prime Minister, who was visiting a school in east London, said: ‘I really hope this doesn’t happen to any student but make it clear what we are doing – the way we are trying to deal with the Covid pandemic – is to have local measurements in place and local testing and tracing to introduce restrictions when necessary.

“But, like we’ve all said, the last thing we want to do is close the schools.

“We believe that education is the country’s priority and that it is simple social justice. ”

On Sunday, Gavin Williamson claimed there was “little evidence” to suggest the coronavirus is transmitted at school.

In a statement, the education secretary said the government was doing “everything in our power” to ensure the children could return home safely in September, adding: “We have always been and will be guided by the best. scientific and medical advice. The latest research from Public Health England, which is expected to be published later this year – one of the largest studies on the coronavirus in schools around the world – clearly shows that there is little evidence that the virus is transmitted to the ‘school

“Parents also have growing confidence in their children’s return. This is due to the hard work of school staff across the country putting in place a series of protective measures to prepare to welcome all students again at the start of the term.

His comments were echoed by a leading professor and expert in child health, Russell Viner, who said that a study by Public Health England (PHE), which has yet to be published, would conclude that “children play a minor role. in the transmission of the virus and schools play a minor role in the transmission of the virus ”.

The president of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health and a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) also told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that reopening schools “is one of the things the least risky that we can do ”.

Speaking on the BBC breakfast on Monday, Care Minister Helen Whatley also said the government’s priority was to get children “fully” back to English schools by September, when the new year school usually begins.

“Schools are safe and there are additional steps schools are urged by Public Health England to take; for example, have staggered start and end times, staggered breaks, to teach children in bubbles, and teachers can impose, encourage hand washing, hand sanitization, so all the steps that will make even safer schools for our children.

Pressed on whether schools should remain open in the event of a local lockdown imposed by government and local authorities in response to a Covid-19 outbreak, she added: “Yes, that’s the approach, so, for example , in places like Leicester and Greater Manchester, and areas where we have local restrictions, schools should definitely go back. It is essential that children return to school this fall term. ”

Last week, ministers announced additional funding for school buses to help students return home safely.

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