Coronavirus: Recovery (Britain)

PM Johnson urges parents to send kids to school

LONDON • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged parents to send their children back to schools when they reopen next week, amid growing concern among some teachers and union officials that it is not safe to do so.

"Now is the time to get pupils back into school, give them the chances they need to build the necessary bedrock for their academic futures," Mr Johnson said in a video released yesterday on Twitter.

"The risk of contracting Covid-19 in school is very small and it is far more damaging for a child's development and their health and well-being to be away from school any longer," Mr Johnson said.

Students were sent home in the coronavirus chaos of mid-March, and most have not been back since.

Getting students back to school would give parents a chance to return to their workplaces, which the government is encouraging to help the economy recover from its record 20 per cent contraction in the second quarter. And with Mr Johnson's government reeling from a succession of blunders in dealing with the pandemic, the stakes are high to get school reopening right.

The country's chief medical officers said on Sunday that the Covid-19 fatality rate among those aged five to 14 is lower than most seasonal flu infections.

There is an "exceptionally small risk" of primary or secondary school-age children dying from coronavirus if it is contracted, they said.

But the government cannot afford any missteps, with public trust running low over its handling of the exam grading fiasco in recent weeks.

A spike in infections that forces schools to close would likely further hurt Mr Johnson's Conservatives at the polls.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2020, with the headline 'PM Johnson urges parents to send kids to school'. Subscribe