Boris Johnson is under pressure from senior cabinet ministers to delay next week’s planned school reopenings as the UK recorded more than 40,000 new Covid cases yesterday – a new record.
Health secretary Matt Hancock and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove are pushing Johnson to cancel the planned reopening of schools next week for students in primary school, year 11 and 13, according to The Times.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has also warned the Prime Minister that he will not be able to stop the current wave of Covid infections unless all secondary schools are closed.
The group is reportedly urging the government to implement a third national lockdown.
The government has said that the plans are now under review, however Johnson and education secretary Gavin Williamson are reportedly not keen on keeping all students at home next week.
Williamson and Johnson want schools to remain open so that disadvantaged pupils are not left behind, however there has been suggestions at cabinet that the term could be extended into the summer if it begins later.
It comes as another 357 people in the UK died of Covid yesterday, which brings the seven-day total to 3,493 – an 8.6 per cent rise from the previous week.
The total death toll is now 71,109.
The number of hospital beds now taken up by coronavirus patients in England has also exceeded the number during the country’s first peak.
Speaking to the BBC today, University College London professor of infectious diseases Andrew Hayward said: “I think we are entering a very dangerous new phase of the pandemic and we’re going to need decisive, early, national action to prevent a catastrophe in January and February.
“A 50 per cent increase in transmissibility means that the previous levels of restrictions that worked before won’t work now, and so Tier 4 restrictions are likely to be necessary or even higher than that.”
London, the east of England and the entire South East are currently in lockdown.
A swathe of other locations – including Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester and Newcastle – are in Tier 3, putting them in a semi-lockdown.
Only a small part of the country is in Tier 2 and just the Isles of Scilly remain in Tier 1.