Piers Morgan grills Gavin Williamson over schools reopening
Schools up and down the country remain closed in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has refused to put a timetable on when schools can reopen.
But now, ITV’s political editor has argued a decision to vaccinate all teachers before other members of the public and reopen schools could be “riskier”.
He wrote on Twitter: “Why vaccinating all teachers and other key workers next would make it riskier to reopen schools early”.
Mr Peston explained while infections and hospital admissions in the UK are falling thanks to the lockdown, they both “remain very high”.
He said: “So reopening schools now would mean that R would almost automatically rise above 1 again and infections would start to increase again, from a dangerously high base.”
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Mr Peston added how the Government is likely to hit its target of vaccinating 15 million people by mid-February.
But warned it does not necessarily mean it would be safe for schools to reopen in March.
He said: “This does not mean it would obviously be safe to reopen schools in or around 8 March, or three weeks after that 15 February target for completing the first phase of the vaccine rollout.
“The biggest reason why it may not be safe is that – as I have been banging on about – 54 percent of people in struggling intensive care wards are aged between 50 and 69.”
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He added how there is no evidence to suggest whether vaccinating people “significantly reduces their ability to spread the virus.”
ITV’s political editor continued: “So if the top aim of the lockdown and vaccination is to prevent the NHS falling over, if the primary concern is to make sure the health service can continue to treat everyone who is sick, then it would be dangerous and even perhaps reckless to ease lockdown in any substantial way until the vaccination of those over 50 is well under way.
“One implication is that it would actually be less safe and less wise to reopen schools if all teachers were vaccinated now or soon as a priority, rather than all people over 60 and over 50.”
Despite warning about vaccinating all teachers, Mr Peston said there is a “powerful case for making sure” teachers over 50 are vaccinated as soon as possible.
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He continued: “If opening schools is the aim, then it would be bonkers to vaccinate them before vaccinating people from all walks of life aged 50 to 70.
“Maybe a sensible Government policy would be to say that when it comes to vaccinating those aged 50 to 70, key workers among those should be at the front of the queue.”
He ended by claiming it could be safe to reopen schools after the Easter holidays.
Mr Peston wrote: “Based on those assumptions, it should be safe to reopen schools in mid-April, after the Easter holidays.
Schools to closed to curb coronavirus
“If the vaccination programme can be accelerated, it could well be possible to reopen some schools from mid-March onwards – but that requires the vaccine to be targeted ruthlessly at those most vulnerable to hospitalisation rather than those on the front line providing vital public services.”
Mr Peston’s comments come after the priority list for the coronavirus vaccine overlooked teachers and other frontline workers.
Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi argued a teaching union had found “three to four” times higher rates of the virus among teachers.
During the pandemic, Boris Johnson and his Government have been widely criticised for their handling of schooling.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson
The Prime Minister urged schools to reopen last September but was met with anger from teaching unions.
At the start of this year, Mr Johnson opened schools for a day before quickly shutting them and placing the country under a new lockdown.
Millions of schoolchildren have been without proper education for nearly a year.