Health Secretary 'hopes' schools will reopen by Easter

24 January 2021, 10:01 | Updated: 24 January 2021, 14:39

Schools could stay closed until Easter
Schools could stay closed until Easter. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

The Health Secretary has warned that children might not return to schools until Easter or later, saying that lifting the coronavirus lockdown in England is a "long, long, long way" off.

Matt Hancock said that case numbers were still "incredibly high" and the NHS remained under intense pressure.

"There is early evidence that the lockdown is starting to bring cases down but we are a long, long, long way from being low enough because the case rate was incredibly high," he said.

"You can see the pressure on the NHS - you can see it every day."

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Mr Hancock said that while he hoped schools in England could reopen by Easter, it would depend on the levels of infection in the community at that time.

"We have got to look at the data, we have got to look at the impact of the vaccination programme," he said.

"The Education Secretary (Gavin Williamson) has said that we will ensure schools get two weeks' notice of return. I don't know whether it will be then or before then. We have got to watch the data."

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is expected to rule out the full reopening of schools after the February half-term break within days.

The Health Secretary said lifting lockdown is a long, long, long way off
The Health Secretary said lifting lockdown is a long, long, long way off. Picture: PA

Kevin Courtney, co-general secretary of the National Education Union, said any reopening before Easter seemed "optimistic", adding: "It could be as late as May."

Yesterday it emerged a further 1,348 people died in the UK within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, taking the total to 97,329.

A further 33,552 cases were confirmed, down by 7,794 compared to last Saturday - a drop of 18%.

The number of people who have received at least one vaccination dose is also on the rise, with 5.86 million people now having had at least the first jab.

The latest figures come after Boris Johnson warned the new variant of Covid-19 first identified in south-east England may be associated with "a higher degree of mortality".