WITH more than 80,000 deaths and 3 million cases across the UK, a further tightening of rules might be on the cards.
And as primary and secondary schools all closed last week, many wonder if nurseries will too. Here’s what you need to know.
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Will nurseries close?
The government took a major U-turn last week, closing primary and secondary schools in England until February to stop rising infection rates.
They warn nurseries and places of worship must close, are also asking for face masks to be made compulsory in public.
Independent Sage member Anthony Costello, a professor of global health at UCL and a former WHO director, told The Mirror: “We are in a national crisis with a pandemic out of control.
“We should have no nurseries open, no synagogues, no churches, no mosques. We should have compulsory masks, two-metre distancing.
“We have to take this really seriously – that’s what Asian states did.
“The longer we allow it to go on transmitting, the quicker we are going to get a resistant virus to a vaccine, then we are in real doo-doo.”
Christina Pagel, professor of operational research at University College, echoed his views.
She said: “Schools are 50 per cent full, nurseries are open, places of worship? You have support bubbles, so there is a lot more mixing than in March.
“We have to start thinking about mandatory isolation, like in China and Vietnam. We have lots of empty hotels. We could use that space.”
Prior to the closure of schools, a growing criticism in the scientific and medical communities of the government’s plan seemed to change the minds of ministers.
There is the possibility that this could happen again with nurseries.
Especially as official figures show that schools have triggered three times more Covid outbreaks than hospitals since October.
Why are nurseries open this time?
Last week, while getting asked questions from the public, the Prime Minister defended the decision, saying there were “very, very important reasons” to keep nursery schools open.
He said: “‘We believe that schools are safe, and indeed all places of education are safe, including early years provision.
“It’s just that we have to look at the overall budget of risk – the overall spread that schools can be involved in – but there are other very, very important reasons for wanting to keep early years provision going to help key workers and vital services continue during the pandemic. I hope you appreciate the distinction.”
However, reports revealed that 26 per cent of investigated Covid cases were linked to nursery schools, primaries, secondaries and universities over the 12 weeks to the end of December, according to Public Health England.
What are the current restrictions for nurseries?
Currently, risk assessments are being carried out for school activities, while contact between adults and children is being minimised in nurseries.
Infants will also be separated into smaller groups.
Government advice states: “It is likely that for younger children the emphasis will be on separating groups, and for older children, it will be on distancing.”
Nursery workers will not have to wear PPE or face coverings while at work because “the measures nurseries are putting in place already reduce the health risks”, according to the latest advice.
PPE is only necessary if a child develops Covid symptoms while at the nursery and only if a two metre distance cannot be maintained.
It is not mandatory for nursery workers, visitors or pupils to wear face coverings.
However, it is up to each individual nursery as to whether they ask all adults to wear face coverings in areas where social distancing is not possible, for example in corridors and communal areas.
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In Scotland, nurseries are closed until February with the country entering its own national lockdown.
However they will stay open for the children of key workers and vulnerable children.
Nurseries in Northern Ireland have remained open while in Wales schools and colleges will not reopen until January 18 – but no other changes have been announced.
Labour leader Keir Starmer has also urged the government to shut nurseries.