The Sun : Schools CANNOT open safely by June 1, rival Sage group of scientists warns

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SCHOOLS can't reopen safely by June 1, an independent group of scientific experts has warned.

Former Chief Scientific Adviser and chair of 'the Independent SAGE' group, Sir David King, has urged the Government to push back the date to reopen the nation's schools.

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Schools are due to return at the earliest on June 1

Sir David King is the lead of the Independent Sage

Boris Johnson has been adamant schools should reopen by June 1 for primary school pupils in reception, year one and year six to give them a month of learning before the summer holidays.

The group of top experts, who will meet at midday today, said the risk to children will be HALVED if they return just two weeks later.

If children stay out of schools until September – the risk from coronavirus will be the same level as the chances of being in a road traffic accident.

Sir David King said: "It is clear from the evidence we have collected that June 1st is simply too early to go back.

"By going ahead with this dangerous decision, the government is further risking the health of our communities and the likelihood of a second spike."

"However we also recognise that the decision of when to re-open our schools is a careful balance and that it is vital for our young people to get back into the classroom as soon as it is safe to do so.

"The current climate is likely to disproportionately affect the most disadvantaged in society; therefore it is vital that the government also considers innovative ways to help those who need it most."

The Independent group has said that will allow more time for the Government to set up a robust test, trace and isolate programme.

The PM said on Wednesday the new contact tracing system would be rolled out throughout the nation by June 1 – but school union bosses have said this still isn't enough to keep teachers safe.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said last night: "The Prime Minister has said we have high confidence the system will be in place by June 1 and then will grow stronger and stronger."

Their report also suggested that schools could use local sports clubs, playing fields and football stadiums to give all children educational opportunities – not just a handful of pupils in particular year groups.

The committee will be joined by parents, teachers and trade union representatives to discuss the best steps schools should take in the coming weeks.

Despite ministers' best efforts to convince teachers and parents it is safe for kids to return to classrooms, attempts to get schools ready to be reopened have faced repeated opposition from councils, parents and unions.

Analysis by The Sun estimates that more than 2,000 primary schools will stay closed passed the June 1 date as 28 local authorities prepare to defy Government advice.

The Independent Sage group has slammed the Government for failing to bring in contact tracing faster – saying it could have curbed new infections in just three weeks.

Professor of Virology at UCL Deenan Pillay said at the group's last meeting: "The countries that have done (contact tracing) at speed have shown that they could suppress the virus within about 3 weeks and get the deaths right down."

"You must always find the virus, every case, test for them if you can but if you can't, trace (and) isolate."

The warning comes after Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced yesterday that schools in Scotland would not be reopening until August.

And even then kids will only go back part-time, she said.

Michael Tildesley, an associate professor at Warwick University who sits on the Government's scientific advisory group for emergencies, said: "Cautiously, I think we're in a position where we can start to think about opening schools in the next few weeks.

"But these relaxations need to be done gradually, you need to be monitoring it and if necessary prepare to reinstate lockdown measures, including schools closures if we do start to see cases rising."

The British Medical Association, which represents doctors, dropped its hardline opposition to reopening.

In a massive softening of its position, the BMA said schools can reopen on June 1 "as long as it is safe to do so".

It comes as scientists warned teachers are safe back in class and no more at risk than other key workers.

The Sun understands the Sage documents will find teachers will be at no greater risk of catching the virus than any other key workers.

They will show scientists looked at various models for a return to schools, including different year groups and pupil numbers.

And ministers adopted a cautious approach by proposing to only open primaries gradually, beginning with reception, Year 1 and Year 6.

Nicola Sturgeon today laid out plans to ease Scotland's lockdown
PA:Press Association

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