LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says parents should send their children to school if they are open, going against the warnings of U.K. government scientists.
Speaking to BBC’s Andrew Marr, the Prime Minister says he believes the schools are now safe.
“Yes, absolutely they should in areas where schools are open,” he said. “There is no doubt in my mind that schools are safe”.
The statement comes as Mr. Johnson is facing increased pressure from both sides on whether children in England should return to school in person following the Christmas holidays despite Covid-19 cases rising.
Mr. Johnson’s statement clashes with U.K. government scientists, who told him to keep secondary schools closed in January.
The Prime Minister also warned of possible tougher restrictions ahead amid the rising Covid-19 cases across the country after being pressed by Marr if restrictions in the worst-hit areas of England were doing enough.
“It may be that we need to do things in the next few weeks that may be tougher,” he said. “I’m fully reconciled to that. I think the whole country is fully reconciled to that.”
“There are obviously a range of tougher measures that we would have to consider,” he added. “I don’t want to speculate, I’m not going to speculate now about what they would be. Clearly, school closures that we had to do in March is one of those things.”
Mr. Johnson has faced backlash from many in the country over the government’s mixed messages regarding schools reopening. Currently, most of England falls under the strict that includes a stay-at-home message.
The news comes amid Covid-19 cases are at a record level and the more transmissible variant is speaking quickly. Most primary schools in England are scheduled to open on Monday.
On Saturday, the U.K. recorded 57,725 new coronavirus cases and 445 deaths, the highest daily rise in Covid-19 infections since the beginning of the pandemic. The country has a total of 2.6 million infections in total and almost 75,000 deaths, making the country among the hardest hit in Europe.
U.K. government scientists have warned Mr. Johnson against reopening schools in January as the more infectious variant of the virus spreads across London, southeast England and parts of Wales.
Hospitals in London are currently two-thirds full with Covid-19 patients, according to a statement from President of the Royal College of Physicians Andrew Goddard on Saturday.
Story updated with additional information.