Government comes under fire for teaching unions to delay reopening of all schools in England as fears about the spread of the new strain of Covid-19 continue to grow.
The National Education Union (NEW) said all elementary and secondary schools should be closed for two weeks after the Christmas break while NASUWT wrote to the education minister calling for an “immediate nationwide transition to distance learning” for all students.
The NEU has also informed the primary school staff that it is unsafe to return to the classrooms on Monday 4th January.
Gavin Williamson confirmed that all London elementary schools will be closed next week – excluding the rest of England.
However, the unions say that extending it to all schools in the country is “the only sensible and credible option”.
The Secretary General of the NEU, Dr. Mary Bousted told BBC Breakfast: “The danger is that by opening schools, when the infection level rises so high and the students are already so high, we will not break this chain and ours.” The NHS will be overwhelmed so we said all schools should be closed for the first two weeks.
“Unfortunately, we have to say that, we don’t want to have to say that the schools are going to close, but we fear that if we don’t do something now, they will have to be closed for a much longer period later this month.”
The school series comes after the numbers showed a record 57,725 laboratory-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, with another 445 deaths within 28 days of testing positive.
This was the fifth day in a row that the daily cases exceeded 50,000. The previous high of 55,892 cases was reported on New Year’s Eve – the highest since mass testing began in late May.
NASUWT General Secretary Patrick Roach said it was “now completely clear” that the pandemic was affecting schools’ ability to operate normally.
“There is real concern that schools and colleges are not currently able to fully and safely reopen,” he said.
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) urged the government to move all schools to home study for a “short and determined period of time for most children”, adding that during the GMB union, the new variety would be a ” created an intolerable risk “for the schools, who represent the school support staff, said a more consistent approach was required, rather than” a zip code lottery “.
NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said the union had taken preparatory steps in legal proceedings against the Department of Education and asked them to share their scientific data on security and transmission rates.
Mr Williamson previously said the decision to close all London elementary schools was a “last resort”.
From January 4th, London Elementary Schools will have to offer two weeks of distance learning to all children, with the exception of vulnerable children and those of key workers who are still allowed to attend.
Under the government’s original plan, secondary schools and colleges should be closed to most students for the first two weeks of January, while elementary schools in 50 local authorities in London and the south of England were asked to keep their doors closed until January 18.
Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health, previously said schools should “be the last places of closure” and called for an “ambitious, national and appropriately funded recovery plan” for children and adolescents, which he described as “particularly important” if the schools are partially or completely closed at the beginning of the year.
Dr. Mike Tildesley, member of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage), told the BBC on Saturday that the evidence was “that despite this new variant we are not getting a significant increase in cases in an elementary school”.
Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said current case numbers are “pretty mild” compared to expectations for a week and health workers are “really concerned” about the coming months as infection rates weigh on hospitals under increasing pressure.
He told the BBC: “All hospitals that haven’t had the pressure they had in the South East, including London and South Wales, should expect to succeed.”
“This new variant is definitely more contagious and is spreading across the country. It is very likely that we will see more and more cases wherever people work in the UK and we need to be prepared for that.”
One nurse described the situation in hospitals as “unbearable”.
The nurse, who works at Whittington Hospital in north London, described how patients were left in corridors, some spent up to three hours in ambulances due to lack of beds, and one left without oxygen when the cylinder was empty.
In the meantime, the UK is preparing to ship the new Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine. As of Monday, 530,000 cans will be available for introduction.
The Times reported that a member of the Oxford / AstraZeneca team had announced that two million doses of the Oxford vaccine would be given every week through mid-January.
The launch of the Pfizer / BioNTech jab began almost a month ago, but the second dose of either vaccine will now be delivered within 12 weeks instead of the 21 days originally planned.
The Vice-Chair of the Joint Vaccination and Immunization Committee (JCVI), Professor Anthony Harnden, defended the plans.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Saturday that patients he had dealt with accepted the move, stating, “When they were told that the vaccine was 90% protection for a dose and that priority was it to vaccinate as many people as possible. ” They understood the elderly and vulnerable community.
“I think the country is all together.
“And I think we really, really want to work together to come up with the best strategy possible.”