Minister insists schools will reopen in autumn despite warnings
Minister for regional growth and local government, Simon Clarke, has said that schools will “reopen in full” in the autumn, despite a recent study warning that it could bring about a more severe second wave of Covid-19 cases.
The study, carried out by University College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, deemed that there was a significant risk that reopening schools could bring about a second wave over twice the size of the first, should the government fail to improve its Test and Trace system.
The study considers that children are less likely to catch and spread the virus and that some parents will still be working from home by the time that schools reopen.
However, it estimates that the effect of reopening schools would still be enough to spark a second spike in cases which would likely occur in December and be twice the size of the initial peak if the government did not take action such as reimposing lockdown.
Yet, Clarke told Sky News on Tuesday: "One thing is clear - schools are going to reopen in full in autumn. That is not up for debate.
"There is nothing gung-ho about getting schools back. There is little doubt about the major damage it does to children's education not to be [in the classroom]. It’s disrupted every child’s education."
Clarke was also defensive of the existing Test and Trace system, saying it was both working and improving, while stressing that the public had a “massive role” to play in its success.
When quizzed over an estimate that only 50 per cent of contacts were being traced under the system during an interview with the BBC, Clarke said that government figures showed that more contacts of positive cases were successfully being traced and reached.
He added that the Test and Trace system is "maturing all the time" and that the government will not "be willing to trade" on getting children back into school in the autumn.
Clarke said: "[With Test and Trace] you're building an entirely new infrastructure which there's no precedent for.
"But we're confident it is working, we're confident that it will continue to improve, and we're confident that it will allow schools to open safely in the autumn."
The government has said that having children return to full-time education is a major priority and is considering closing pubs to allow schools to reopen more safely. It also says that local authorities will be given capacity to “determine the best action to take to help curb the spread of the virus should there be a rise in cases”.