BORIS Johnson tonight dashed parents’ hopes of opening schools earlier than March 8 as he warned the level of infection is still “forbiddingly high”.
The PM slapped down calls from Tory MPs to go faster at getting kids back in the classroom after Scotland said yesterday their kids would go back within weeks.
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He was speaking ahead of his clap for Captain Sir Tom Moore and NHS staff tonight.
The PM said he “understands people want to go further” and insisted: “I share that urgency.”
But he vowed not to open schools too soon or there was a huge risk the nation could be “forced into reverse”.
The PM added: “This is the cautious approach, its much better to stick to that.”
The levels of infections were still “alarmingly high”, he insisted, and Professor Whitty said the numbers were not likely to come down significantly for weeks to come.
Boris said March 8 would be the “earliest” the Government think any lockdown rules can be relaxed.
He added: “I am very hopeful we will be able to do that” and promised the Government would make judgments about the effectiveness of the vaccines in bringing down the death rates next week.
Professor Whitty said tonight that many of his medical colleagues “think we are passed the peak” now and cases and deaths will only now come down.
The also hailed the news that more than 10 million vaccines have been given out so far.
And he praised the “promising” news Oxford University have revealed Britain’s jabs rollout could have already begun to stop the virus spreading.
They found there was a 67 per cent drop in positive swabs among those already vaccinated.
It means those given the jab are not only less likely to get severe disease or die, but also have some protection against catching the virus and passing it on to others.
The PM also paid tribute to Captain Sir Tom Moore, who died aged 100 last night after suffering with pneumonia and then catching covid.
The legendary fundraiser raked in millions of pounds for charity last year during the pandemic by doing laps of his garden in his zimmer frame – and became a symbol of hope for people across the world.
The PM today called on the nation to clap for Captain Sir Tom tonight at 6pm to honour him.
And he added in a message of hope to the nation: “Because if we stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives, then in the words of Captain Tom -tomorrow will be a good day.”
It comes as:
- A single dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine has been found to slash Covid transmission
- The experts also revealed just one jab gives 76 per cent protection for three months – supporting the one jab policy of the Government
- All adults in UK are on track to have both Covid vaccine jabs by end of August, it was claimed
- HOAR revealed earlier this week that more adults being allowed to meet outdoors could be on the cards when restrictions begin to lift
ROADMAP TO FREEDOM
Boris Johnson is due to reveal its “phased” route out of lockdown in the week beginning February 22 with schools set to start reopening on March 8.
A Whitehall source told The Telegraph: “These findings are exactly what we need.
“It’s looking good for schools returning in March, shops reopening in April.”
Another senior Government source said: “We hope it will be safe to commence the reopening of schools from March 8, with other economic and social restrictions being removed thereafter as and when the data permit.”
Matt Hancock this morning hailed the results of the Oxford studies into the vaccine – but said it was still too early to lift any lockdown rules yet as there are still 30,000 people in hospital with the virus.
He said it was right that schools continue to stay shut – even as Scotland said they would start to open theirs up in the next few weeks, with staggered starts for pupils.
He also still couldn’t say when the proposed hotel quarantine plan would start in the UK – amid reports it might not be for another fortnight.
Mr Hancock said he was in favour of strengthening the current border controls to make sure that new variants of the virus don’t get in and spread in the community.