By Gareth Jones, Newgate Public Affairs
Today saw the return of the Downing Street press conference, with Education Secretary Gavin Williamson setting out detailed plans for schools and colleges in England to reopen, in full, in September.
Williamson said that school attendance would be mandatory and stressed that getting children back to school is a “vital part” of national recovery. Referring to government guidance published earlier in the day, Williamson noted that while current restrictions on group sizes will be lifted, Covid-19 secure measures will remain in place. Schools will be asked to keep children in class or year group sized ‘bubbles’ and encourage older children to keep their distance from each other and staff, where possible. Schools will also have testing kits to give to parents if children develop coronavirus symptoms in school.
Where there is a positive case in a school or college, the Public Health England local health protection team will advise on the appropriate action, which could include small groups of young people and staff being asked to self-isolate for up to 14 days.
A number of questions at the conference focused on the practicalities of implementing the social distancing measures in schools, although Williamson and deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries emphasised that schools are controlled environments and we should be more worried about what school children and teenagers are getting up to, in terms of social mixing, outside of school.
Elsewhere today, it has been widely reported – but not yet confirmed – that a large number of countries will be exempt from a travel quarantine from Monday. In the coming days, the government is expected to announce a revised policy of a targeted quarantine regime which only impacts people arriving into the UK from high risk ‘red’ countries.