LONDON (Reuters) - The reopening of England’s schools to all pupils on Monday will mark the first step back towards normality and is only possible because of the efforts of the public to bring COVID-19 infection rates down, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
Johnson has announced a roadmap for lifting lockdown measures that sees schools open first, followed in later stages by the gradual easing of restrictions on mixing with other people and the reopening of non-essential shops and other venues.
In the final stage, which will take place no earlier than June 21, the government hopes to remove all remaining legal limits on contact with others.
“The reopening of schools marks a truly national effort to beat this virus,” Johnson said.
“It is because of the determination of every person in this country that we can start moving closer to a sense of normality – and it is right that getting our young people back into the classroom is the first step.”
On Sunday education minister Gavin Williamson also hailed the reopening of schools as “the first step towards this process of recovery and getting everyone back to the lives that we had just over a year ago”.
He also told Sky News the government was looking at a whole range of proposals to help pupils to catch up on missed education, such as a five-term year and a longer school day.
Each step on the roadmap will depend on the level of COVID-19 cases, the government has said. It hopes the pandemic can be contained by a vaccine programme that has already delivered a dose to nearly 22 million people, as well as regular testing.
Many secondary schools and colleges had already started inviting students for their first “lateral flow” COVID-19 tests, which give rapid results, with nearly 1 million conducted last week, the government said.
After three initial tests on site, students will be provided with two tests to use each week at home, it said, adding that nearly 57 million tests had been delivered to schools and colleges across the country.
Reporting by Paul Sandle and Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Pravin Char and David Goodman
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