Matt Hancock insists ‘it is safe’ to send children to school after Leicester shutdown

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Matt Hancock on Monday confirmed Leicester would see the lockdown extended by a further two weeks after an unexpected resurgence of coronavirus cases. The Health Secretary announced schools will also be shut down again from Thursday after a number of under-18 students tested positive for COVID-19. BBC Breakfast host Dan Walker noted parents across England may now be concerned about sending their own children back to school after the latest developments in Leicester.

But Mr Hancock insisted “it is safe” for pupils to head back to class and the measures adopted in Leicester were the result of an “unusually high” incidence of COVID-19.

The Health Secretary insisted the decision to shut down schools again was a precaution to avoid a spike in community transmission as youngsters can pass on the virus more easily.

He said: “Our recommendation for people right across the country is that if your child is in reception, Year 1 or Year 6, then you really should send them to school.

“Right across the country, including in Leicester, it is safe for your child to go to school. 

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“And in the rest of the country, where the number is so much lower, then it’s safe for the community. That’s why we’ve taken the decision with schools, to protect the community from the transmission.”

Mr Hancock continued: “The good news is this virus hardly impacts on children. They are very, very low risk.

“It’s very unusual that a child gets ill with coronavirus, and that’s one of the saving graces of this virus.

“However, we sent a lot of expert testing into Leicester in the past ten days or so and one thing we’ve found is under-18s who have tested positive and therefore, because children can transmit the disease while unlikely to get ill with the disease, we think the safest thing to do is close the schools.”

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Asked about the three-day delay to school closures, which will shut down from Thursday, Mr Hancock said the Government wanted to give parents the time to make the necessary arrangements to keep their children home.

He added: “That’s for practical reasons because people need to arrange childcare.

“Making that decision and announcing it at 9PM last night while shutting schools this morning, we would have had more people not knowing, gathering around school gates trying to work out what’s happened.

“So we’ve put in place a two-day time period so that people can essentially get the logistics organised.”

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Sir Peter Soulsby, the mayor of Leicester, said the Government has recommended lockdown restrictions remain in place for two more weeks.

Leicester has recorded 2,987 positive cases since the pandemic began, with 29 percent of these reported in the two weeks to June 23.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said a local “whack-a-mole” strategy used to deal with outbreaks in Weston-super-Mare and around GP surgeries in London would be “brought to bear in Leicester as well”.

He said: ”We are concerned about Leicester, we are concerned about any local outbreak.

“I want to stress to people that we are not out of the woods yet.”

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