Boris Johnson insists reopening schools in September still a 'national priority' as he pauses August lockdown easing plan
Boris Johnson has said reopening schools is a "national priority"
Boris Johnson has insisted reopening schools in September is still a “national priority” as he announced a pause on imminent lockdown easing measures.
The Prime Minister said ensuring pupils could return to the classroom in September was the "right thing" to do despite fears of a resurgence in coronavirus cases.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Friday, Mr Johnson said a string of impending changes to lockdown, including the reopening of casinos, bowling alleys and skating rinks, had been put on pause after new data suggested the rate of infection was beginning to rise once again.
The measures come after teachers in England were told to prepare for a September return, while First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave the go-ahead on Thursday for Scottish schools to reopen on 11 August.
Pressed on whether the latest announcements could lead to delay in the plans, the PM said: "I do believe that getting our children back into school on the first of September, and then from August they're going back in Scotland, I think that's a good thing.
"That should be a national priority that should be something that we aim to deliver.
"It's the right thing for children, and they can be educated in a safe and secure way, and we should be getting them back into school."
Instead, Mr Johnson said ministers would continue to impose local lockdowns in a bid to stop the effort "getting out of control".
He added: "That's why we're taking the measures that we are.
"And the best thing we can all do to stop the spread of the virus is to... wash your hands, cover your face where necessary to keep your distance: hands, face, space. Hands, face, space.
"Plus, get a test if you if you have symptoms."
But chief medical officer Chris Whitty struck a note of caution as he suggested pushing ahead with the reopening of schools could force "choices" to be made about other aspects of the lockdown.
He said: "The idea that we can open up everything and keep the virus under control is clearly wrong and what we are seeing is that we are at the outer edge of what we can do and therefore choices will need to be made.
"But people are very clear, for example, that schools are an absolute priority for the welfare of children."
Responding to the remarks, Lib Dem education spokesperson Layla Moran said parents deserved "clarity" on what trade-offs could be expected.
"The Government must be up front with the public about the difficult choices that lie ahead," she said.
"Getting children back into school in September must be the priority. Parents and teachers deserve clarity on what may have to close so that schools can reopen.
"We cannot allow children from disadvantaged backgrounds to fall any further behind."