No end date for lockdown but schools will open first

Boris Johnson has said schools will be the ‘very first’ thing to reopen after the latest coronavirus lockdown – but could not guarantee when that would be.

The prime minister admitted in the Commons this morning that schools may not open even after the February half term.

‘All the evidence shows that school is the best place for our children and indeed all the evidence shows that schools are safe and that the risk posed to children by coronavirus is vanishingly small,’ he told MPs.

‘[For] most children the most dangerous part of going to school, even in the midst of a global pandemic, remains I’m afraid crossing the road in order to get there.

‘Our efforts to contain the spread of this new variant would not be sufficient if schools continued to act as a vector or a potential vector for spreading the virus between households.’

He said to prevent further spikes in cases of Covid-19 ministers would have to be ‘very cautious’ about when schools can open their doors again.

‘That moment may come after the February half term – although we should remain extremely cautious about the timetable ahead,’ he explained.

‘As was the case last spring, our emergence from the lockdown cocoon will not be a big bang but a gradual unwrapping.

‘We’ve been doing everything in our power to keep [schools] open because children’s education is too vital and their futures too precious to be disrupted until every other course of action has been taken.’

The prime minister added education secretary Gavin Williamson will be giving a statement this afternoon about how exams will work this year.

‘We recognise it will not be possible or fair for all exams to go ahead this summer as normal,’ Mr Johnson said.

This is a breaking story. More to follow.

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