Boris Johnson last night hailed the return of children to classrooms as it was revealed an astonishing 57 million Covid test packs have been sent to schools ahead of the reopening.
The Prime Minister said the full resumption of teaching from tomorrow marked the first stage of his ‘irreversible’ roadmap out of lockdown and was testament to ‘a truly national effort to beat this virus’. In an upbeat message, he declared: ‘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.
‘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.
PM Boris Johnson, pictured, said the full resumption of teaching from tomorrow marked the first stage of his ‘irreversible’ roadmap out of lockdown and was testament to ‘a truly national effort to beat this virus’
Vaccinations are now being administered at more than 1,600 sites across the country, with 98 per cent of people living within ten miles of at least one venue
‘Get the vaccine, get tested, and remember that we are all in this together’.
Parents are overwhelmingly behind the return to the classroom. A poll by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found nine out of ten parents would send their children back to school even it was optional.
The Prime Minister’s words came amid a welter of positive news on the pandemic. Letters were this weekend starting to go out to
1.7 million people aged 56 to 59 inviting them to have the vaccination. Mr Johnson, who is 56, could receive his offer of a jab within days.
Sources also indicated that the 17 million doses of the Moderna vaccine ordered by the Government could start arriving as soon as early April. Meanwhile Ministers are planning to introduce a new text message alert system to direct people to surplus stocks of vaccine in their area.
In other developments:
- Daily deaths from Covid-19 fell to 158, a drop of 45 per cent on the figure recorded last Saturday, and a fall in the seven-day rolling total of 34 per cent, while the number of positive tests plunged by 19 per cent to 6,040. All but six of those who died had known underlying health conditions;
- A total of 21,796,278 people have now received a first vaccine dose and 1,090,840 people had also had a second jab by the end of Friday;
- The Queen is expected to praise the fortitude of the Commonwealth in battling the global pandemic in an address broadcast today, but Britain was accused of ‘forgetting’ Her Majesty’s subjects overseas by the Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis;
- As the Government extended free rapid tests for all businesses, analysis revealed 992,812 tests were reported on Thursday, with an average of more than 600,000 across the week;
- Business Minister Paul Scully warned working from home should not become ‘living at work’ as it risked damaging younger staff’s careers and hollowing out the centres of British cities;
- Pubs ramped up preparations for so-called ‘Alfresco April’ as Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said pavement licences would be extended for another 12 months to make it ‘easier and cheaper to make alfresco dining a reality’;
- The EU was reduced to begging the US to allow the export of millions of doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to Europe as Brussels continued to struggle with the slow rollout of its jabs;
- Portugal and the Spanish islands followed Cyprus in saying they hoped to welcome back British holidaymakers from mid-May, amid calls for the Government to adopt traffic light system to allow travel to and from low-risk countries;
- The row over the 1 per cent pay rise for NHS staff continued with the Government defending the move and the Royal College of Nursing warning it could lead to large numbers of staff leaving.
Amid the success of the vaccination scheme, attention is now turning to testing in schools and in the workplace.
Twice-weekly tests will be available for free to all adults in households with primary, secondary school and college-aged children in a drive to break the chains of transmission.
Some schools have staggered the return over a few days as they start their testing regime.
Meanwhile, in a victory for The Mail on Sunday’s Tests at Work campaign, businesses with fewer than 50 employees will now be included in the workplace testing scheme run by the Department of Health.
Twice-weekly tests will be available for free to all adults in households with primary, secondary school and college-aged children in a drive to break the chains of transmission
More than 3,500 businesses of all sizes have already signed up, with another 14,000 registering their interest.
Around 850,000 people aged 55 to 59 were yesterday due to receive a letter inviting them to take up the offer of a jab, with a further 850,000 due to arrive tomorrow.
More than 80 per cent of people aged 65 to 69 have taken up the offer of a jab, with more than a third of the adult population in England now vaccinated.
Vaccinations are now being administered at more than 1,600 sites across the country, with 98 per cent of people living within ten miles of at least one venue.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘The NHS vaccination programme is in full swing and more than 21 million of the most at-risk people have already received their first dose.
‘This includes more than 90 per cent of those aged 65 and over and almost nine in 10 people who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
‘It’s an extraordinary feat and we remain on track to offer a first vaccine to all adults by July 31.’