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Schools, Colleges Reopen in First Step of UK's Covid Lockdown Easing

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson. (File photo/Reuters)

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson. (File photo/Reuters)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the national effort that has gone into fighting against coronavirus as schools and colleges opened on Monday to mark the step one in the UK's phased roadmap to lift strict lockdown restrictions in place for months to control the spread of COVID19. Secondary schools and colleges will be inviting students for their first rapid lateral flow test, with schools and colleges having discretion on how to stagger the return of their students over this week to facilitate testing and a safe return to the classroom.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the national effort that has gone into fighting against coronavirus as schools and colleges opened on Monday to mark the step one in the UK's phased roadmap to lift strict lockdown restrictions in place for months to control the spread of COVID-19. Secondary schools and colleges will be inviting students for their first rapid lateral flow test, with schools and colleges having discretion on how to stagger the return of their students over this week to facilitate testing and a safe return to the classroom.

After three initial tests onsite, students will be provided with two rapid tests to use each week at home. The reopening of schools marks a truly national effort to beat this virus. 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, said Johnson.

We are being cautious in our approach so that we do not undo the progress we have made so far and I urge you all not to give up on your efforts to keep your families and others safe. Get the vaccine, get tested, and remember that we are all in this together, he said. The government has confirmed twice-weekly testing using lateral flow tests will be given for free to all adults in households with primary, secondary school and college-aged children and young people, including childcare and support bubbles, to help break chains of transmission.

Downing Street said that as one in three people who have coronavirus have no symptoms and could be spreading it without realising it, rapid regular testing offers a reliable and effective additional tool to help keep people safe. Twice-weekly testing will also be offered to adults working in the wider school community, including bus drivers and after-school club leaders.

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I do not underestimate how challenging the last few months have been with some children in class and most at home, but I do know how important it is for all children to be back in school, not only for their education but for their mental health and wellbeing, said UK Education Secretary Gavin Williamson. Schools reopening for all students is important for children's wellbeing and mental health as well as their learning, said Dr Susan Hopkins, COVID-19 Strategic Response Director to Public Health England (PHE) and Chief Medical Adviser to NHS Test and Trace.

Scientific studies show that rates of COVID-19 infection in schools reflect rates in the community and schools have reduced the risk of transmission. With extra precautionary measures and twice-weekly testing in place and the lowest rate of infection since September 2020 it's better that students are now back in the classroom, she added. Besides regular testing, other safety measures will also remain in place, including maintaining distance between staff and students where possible, good ventilation and regular hand washing.

Downing Street said the return to face-to-face education has been supported with a 1.7 billion pounds package, focusing on an expansion of one-to-one and small group tutoring programmes across all age groups, summer break provision for those pupils who need it the most, and flexible additional one-off funding for schools to use for most disadvantaged pupils. The National Tutoring Programme that was set up to reach the most disadvantaged young people with one-to-one or small-group tutoring has already reached over 125,000 young people this academic year, and will continue to expand thanks to the extended funding package.

This targeted intervention is proven to boost progress by up to three to five months from just a single block of tutoring. As well as the resumption of classes, other aspects of this first phase of lockdown easing means people can meet one other person from a different household outdoors for recreation and socialising, and not just for exercise as was allowed until now.

Also, every care home resident in England can nominate a single named visitor who can regularly visit. It comes as the National Health Service (NHS) expanded its vaccination programme further to all those aged 56 and over, from the cohort of over-60s until last week.

The government has said that the NHS vaccination programme remains in "full swing", with more than 21 million of the most at-risk people having received their first dose and that the July 31 target to vaccinate all adults remains on track.?.

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first published:March 08, 2021, 19:16 IST