Eddie Mair 4pm - 7pm
Nick Ferrari challenges Hancock on the 'wisdom' of Sturgeon reopening schools this month
3 February 2021, 09:46
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced a phased return to schools later this month - Nick Ferrari asks the Health Secretary whether this is a wise decision.
Scotland's youngest pupils are likely to return to the classroom full time from 22 February as schools start a phased reopening.
The move will include all pupils in primary years one to three as well as pre-school children.
There will also be a part-time return, but on a very limited basis, for senior secondary pupils to allow them to complete work for national qualifications.
Matt Hancock told Nick that there are still 30,000 people in hospital, "more than the first peak", so his priority is to lower transmission rates and "be cautious."
"Is Ms Sturgeon not being cautious then?" Nick asked.
Mr Hancock responded: "I'm not going to criticise Nicola Sturgeon over this because these are difficult judgements, but what I would say is it is so important we get the number of cases right down."
Nick questioned why a child "just north of the border" in Scotland can go to school in February, while a child in Gateshead cannot.
The Health Secretary pointed out education is a devolved matter to which Nick pointed out that coronavirus is not a devolved matter: "How safe is this in your view, Secretary of State?"
"My view is we have taken the correct decision in England to keep the schools shut even though I know as a father the impact that has. I think it is important because children can transmit this virus," Mr Hancock said.
The Prime Minister has said that schools in England will not be able to reopen to all pupils after the February half-term, but could do so from 8 March - however it "depends on lots of things going right".