NURSERIES will remain open as England is plunged into another lockdown, Boris Johnson announced this evening.
Schools for special needs students will also remain open, but from tomorrow all primary and secondary schools will stay closed until February half term.
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The Prime Minister bowed to significant pressure to order primary schools, secondaries and colleges to move to remote teaching for the majority of students from Tuesday.
Millions of parents today had faced chaos and confusion as primary schools across the country stayed shut in defiance of Government orders.
Britain's biggest teaching union, theNational Education Union (NEU), had told teachers in 6,000 primary schools that it was unsafe to go to work today.
Council leaders in Wolverhampton, Norfolk, Slough, Manchester, County Durham, Lancashire, Birmingham and Gateshead had said they would support head teachers who did not think it is safe for the school to open.
Parents had initially expected primary schools to return on January 4 and secondary schools to return on January 11 and 18th.
The new announcement means children will be returning to the dining room tables and kitchen counters to do school work in virtual classrooms as they did earlier last year.
Pinning his hopes on the rapid rollout of vaccines to ease restrictions, Mr Johnson acknowledged "how frustrated you are" and that "you have had more than enough of Government guidance" – but stressed "now, more than ever, we must pull together".
Labour leader Keir Starmer previously demanded all schools shut under a new national shutdown with the virus raging "out of control".
He said: "The more we delay, the worse it will get. The longer we delay, the longer schools will be closed for.
"I’m afraid the closure of schools is now inevitable and therefore that needs to be part of… the national plan for further restrictions."
Schools have triggered three times more Covid outbreaks than hospitals since October, according to official figures.
Reports revealed that 26 per cent of investigated Covid cases were linked to nursery schools, primaries, secondaries and universities over the 12 weeks to the end of December, according to Public Health England.
Schools, which remained open during England's November lockdown, could be behind the rapidly increasing infection rate.
New YouGov polling suggests a whopping 79 per cent of Brits support another national lockdown.
Parliament will also be recalled today to sit on Wednesday – meaning there will likely be a vote on the measures, and they are expected to be national rather than regional like the Tier changes.
This afternoon it was revealed that the Covid threat level is expected to be raised to five – the top level of warnings and the first time it's been this number.
This means there is a risk the NHS will become overwhelmed – and people should stick to extreme social distancing.
The news came after Health Secretary said nothing – including a national lockdown – was off the table as the Government mull new measures to try and crack down on the case numbers.
58,000 were recorded today – as they topped 50,000 for the last seven days in a row.
It came as:
- Boris Johnson announced a national lockdown tonight
- All primary and secondary schools are set to stay shut for at least a month
- The UK Covid alert has moved to the highest level for the first time ever with fears the NHS will be overwhelmed
- MP Margaret Ferrier has been charged after travelling from London to Scotland
- The UK has recorded its highest ever daily case today with infections passing the 50,000 mark for the seventh day in a row
Speaking during a visit to Chase Farm Hospital in north London to meet some of the first people to receive the Oxford vaccine on Monday Mr Johnson said there were "tough tough" weeks to come.
In his first national interview wearing a mask, he added: "If you look at the numbers there's no question we will have to take tougher measures and we will be announcing those in due course."
He admitted that people have become "impatient" and "frustrated" with the rules – but he begged them to obey them until the vaccine can be rolled out further.
This morning the PM said: "We will be producing everything we think is necessary to keep people from spreading the virus.
"We already have a lot of the country in Tier 4.
"We have been waiting to see the impact of the tier 4 restrictions on the virus.
"If you look at the numbers, there's no question we are going to have to take tougher measures… in due course."
Ex-Health Sec Jeremy Hunt said today the country is facing a "national emergency" over the new variant of coronavirus.
He added: "I think we have got to recognise we have a very, very virulent new strain and it is a national emergency and we are going to need to go a lot further and a lot faster and the sooner we take these tough measures the better," he said.
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