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Government says it has no date yet for school return

PUBLISHED: 17:11 19 April 2020 | UPDATED: 17:11 19 April 2020

Education secretary Gavin Williamson, previously pictured at RAF Marham when he was defence secretary. Picture: Chris Bishop

Education secretary Gavin Williamson, previously pictured at RAF Marham when he was defence secretary. Picture: Chris Bishop

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The education secretary said he recognises the challenges families will be facing during the coronavirus lockdown, but insisted he could not give parents a date when children would be going back to school.

GP in Norfolk and Waveney who is the local clinical lead for digital technology said: GP in Norfolk and Waveney who is the local clinical lead for digital technology said: "Most patients understand the challenges we are facing during this coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and are happy to give this new technology a try." Photo: Peter Steffen/dpa via AP

Speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference on Sunday (April 19), Gavin Williamson said he recognised these were “challenging times for all of us and each of us has a role to play in fighting this virus”

Mr Williamson praised staff and volunteers working in the health sector for doing an “amazing job” and also thanked those in the education sector for keeping schools and nurseries open following the virus outbreak.

He said: “I’m profoundly grateful for the vital roles they are playing in our communities.”

But in terms of when there might be a return to children going to school, he said: “People are anxious to know when we’re going to relax restrictions, when schools are likely to be fully back and open again.

“Of course, I want nothing more than to see schools back, get them back to normal, make sure the children are sat around, learning, and experiencing the joy of being at school.

“But I can’t give you a date. Because before we do, we need to meet five tests.”

Speaking about the five tests that need to be met before schools can re-open, Mr Williamson, who also praised parents for dealing with home-schooling during the lockdown, said: “First we must protect the NHS’s ability to cope, and be sure that it can continue to provide critical care and specialist treatment right across the whole of the United Kingdom.

“Second, we need to see daily death rates from coronavirus coming down.

“Third, we need to have reliable data that shows the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels.

“Four, we need to be confident that testing capacity and PPE is being managed, with supply able to meet, not just today’s demand, but future demand.

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“And fifth, and perhaps most crucially, we need to be confident that any changes we do make will not risk a second peak of infections.

“When we can be sure that we have met these five essential points, we can think about getting children into schools again, learning, mastering new ideas and being with their friends once more.”

The Government must also ensure sufficient testing capacity and PPE supplies, and be confident any change in the measures will not risk a second peak of infections, Mr Williamson said.

He said: “When we can be sure that we have met these five essential points, we can think about getting children into schools again, learning, mastering new ideas and being with their friends once more.”

The number of deaths in hospitals in the UK has now topped 16,000, with thousands more expected in care homes.

The Department of Health said a total of 16,060 had died in hospitals as of 5pm on Saturday, up by 596 from the day before.

Meanwhile, 11 more people have died from coronavirus in hospitals across Norfolk.

The total number of people who have died after testing positive for Covid-19 now stands at 175.

At the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital three people have died from the virus with one death recorded on April 17 and two recorded yesterday (Saturday April, 18).

Throughout the pandemic, the hospital has confirmed a total of 64 deaths. Four people have died at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, which recorded no new deaths yesterday.

Two people have died after receiving treatment for Covid-19 at the hospital on April 16 and two people died on April 17.

James Paget University Hospital recorded four new deaths from the virus, bringing the total number of deaths at the Gorleston hospital to 55.

Three people died on April 17 and one person died on April 18 after testing positive for coronavirus.


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