Gove tells LBC 'none of us can predict the future' over March 8 reopening of schools

28 January 2021, 08:20 | Updated: 28 January 2021, 08:25

By Asher McShane

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove today signalled a note of caution over the reopening of schools from March the 8th onwards, telling Nick Ferrari "none of us can predict the future."

Hinting that the date could be pushed back even further, Mr Gove said March 8: "Is the earliest possible date on which we can see schools return.

“We’re doing everything possible to ensure that we meet that date and I’m confident that we will," he said.

Nick said: “I can clearly read into that that it might not be March the eighth.”

“Well none of us can predict the future with absolute accuracy, “ Mr Gove replied.

“We’re planning on that basis and that is what we want to achieve. Given the progress we are making so far with vaccination, that should be achievable.

“We all want the earliest possible return of schools.”

The Prime Minister confirmed yesterday that hopes of all pupils returning to class after the February half-term have been abandoned as the battle with coronavirus remained "perilous".

Government figures showed a further 1,725 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Wednesday, bringing the UK total to 101,887, while there were a further 25,308 lab-confirmed cases.

The March reopening target is based on progress in vaccinating the most vulnerable groups in society by mid-February and then giving the jab time to take effect.

So far 7,164,387 people have received a first dose of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines - a rise of 311,060 on the previous day's figures - although Mr Johnson acknowledged a "sense of frustration" about the patchy nature of the rollout.

Based on the latest figures, an average of 412,401 first doses of vaccine would be needed each day in order to meet the Government's target of 15 million first doses by February 15.

The Government will publish a strategy for the "gradual and phased" easing of lockdown in the week beginning February 22, with schools expected to be the first to reopen.

England's schools are currently closed to all but vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers.

The Prime Minister told MPs: "The first sign of normality beginning to return should be pupils going back to their classrooms."

At a Downing Street press conference Mr Johnson said: "When we look at the toll of this pandemic it must be measured not only in the tragic loss of life that we've endured, with over 100,000 deaths.

"But I'm afraid we must also remember not just the damage to the economy but the lost weeks and month of education and the real risk of damage to the prospects of our young people."

Schools will only reopen if the Government can be confident it will not result in a "huge surge" in cases.