Reopening schools while social distancing children will be ‘painstaking’, admits medical chief – The Sun

SENDING young kids back to school after lockdown will be "extremely painstaking", the government's medical advisor warned.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said kids will "find it difficult" to follow social distancing guidelines once back in the classroom.

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The advisor made the comments in response to a member of the public asking the No10 daily briefing how the government plans to enforce the 2m rule.

Prof Van-Tam said he understands children "find it difficult to keep rules, any kind of touching or distancing rules".

He added: "We've all encountered young children and we completely understand that. What I can say is that whatever the Prime Minister announces that we will do next, it is going to be extremely cautious and extremely careful and extremely painstaking.

"And it has to take into account the kind of factors that have been mentioned in the question, and indeed that advice and that policy will do that.

"But it's caution all the way really."

It comes ahead of Boris Johnson addressing the nation tomorrow night on the next step in Britain's battle with coronavirus.

The PM is expected to tell cooped-up Brits they can take unlimited exercise under the relaxed rules.

But the issue surrounding when schools should re-open has been debated by ministers.

There are plans in place to allow children to return to schools as early as June 1 – with Boris saying "one of the things we want to do as fast as we can is get primary schools back".

He added: "It’s not going to be easy, but that’s where we want to go. It’s about working out a way to do it."

Under Whitehall plans, Year 10 and 12 pupils will go back to secondary schools soon after as part of a staggered recall from June 1.

Younger kids are seen as a priority to minimise the threat to development and help parents go back to work.

Year 6 pupils are thought to be at the most crucial stage given it is their final term before starting at secondaries in September.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has previously said schools are likely to return in a “phased way”.

Whitehall sources say the decision is one of the most difficult – with ministers realising some parents will be reluctant to let kids go back after ten weeks.

There are plans to reopen workplaces a week before — from May 26 – in the hope it will alleviate fears of kids’ safety.

But teachers unions have called for a "test and trace" scheme before children are allowed to return to school.

The statement, submitted to the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, was backed by the main teaching unions, as well as Unite, GMB and Unison, which represent key school staff such as cleaners, administrators and caterers.

It read: "The wider reopening of our schools will depend greatly on ensuring that families and carers are fully confident that allowing their children to return to school is safe.

"We do not believe that sufficient levels of confidence exist at this time."


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