SCHOOLS will not reopen after Easter and will only do so when other lockdown measures are lifted, government sources said tonight.
Downing Street moved to kill-off a growing rebellion against the closures today after one minister suggested reopening schools after Easter could “kick-start the economy”.
Boris Johnson, who is currently in intensive care battling the killer virus, plunged the UK into full lockdown on March 23.
At the time, he said the decision would be “reviewed” in three weeks – on Easter Monday.
But the number of deaths across the UK has been steadily rising, with Sadiq Khan today warning the peak is still “around 10 days away”.
The Government is unlikely to lift the lockdown while deaths are so high and with the NHS still under significant pressure.
The unnamed minister was quoted calling for kids to be allowed back to school after the Easter holidays in a fortnight.
But government insiders said there was still no date for reopening schools and said it was far too early to even speculate.
They said schools are in “exactly the same position as everyone else in the country” in terms of waiting for the science to guide when to lift restrictions on social interaction, workplaces and all all other parts of society that have been forced to shut down.
They suggested that schools will remain closed long into the summer term.
Responding to claims that reopening schools would help the nation “get back to normal, one government source said: “If it’s saving lives then I think that’s the end of the argument.”
The department insisted it will issue very clear guidance to schools and parents when the decision has been made.
Attempting to kill-off speculation of schools reopening anytime soon, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “It’s still too early to say when the peak is going to be. Our focus is on stopping transmission while building NHS capacity, as that is what will save lives.”
Government insiders also distanced themselves from a University College London study earlier this week that claimed the school closures had a tiny impact on the spread of the virus.
Researchers claimed closures along could reduce UK deaths during the Covid-19 outbreak by as little as 2 per cent, while warning that the costs to children’s health and education were “high”.
Currently only the children of key workers are allowed to send their kids in.
But a DfE spokesperson said this afternoon: “Schools will remain closed until further notice, except for children of critical workers and the children who are most vulnerable.
“We will re-open schools when the scientific advice indicates it is safe to do so.”
No10 insisted today that there would be a review of the three-week lockdown at some point next week – but they did not say when.
The PM’s spokesperson said: “We said we would set out an announcement in three weeks, there is no change to that.”
They stressed that the country’s focus needs to be on stopping transmission and building up capacity in the NHS.
“While this is difficult, they need to stick with it,” they said.
This lunchtime former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he thought the lockdown would likely be extended for another month.
The Government has refused to be drawn on when the lockdown will be extended and how long for.
But with the peak still “10 days away” – and with a record number of deaths yesterday – it is likely it will last until the end of the month at least.
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and his deputy, Jenny Harries, have repeatedly said it depends on the success of the lockdown measures so far.
Yesterday the UK coronavirus death toll hit a new high after 786 deaths were recorded – bringing the total past 6,000 on the deadliest day so far.
Denmark’s government has already announced plans to reopen schools for children aged 11 and under.