PUBS and restaurants will not have to shut to allow schools to reopen in September, the Housing Secretary insisted.
Robert Jenrick assured Brits that the venues will not have to close amid fears they could be sacrificed in order to reopen schools next month.
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Government scientists had hinted that pubs and restaurants may have to shut for schools to reopen fully in September.
Asked on Times Radio whether the Government would look to close pubs in such an event, Mr Jenrick said: "We don't have any plans to do that."
He also said schools would definitely return to full capacity in September and confirmed it would be the priority should there be a second spike of coronavirus infections.
Mr Jenrick said: "I think you're right to say that reopening schools and getting our children back into the classroom with that direct face-to-face contact with their teachers will be a priority for the Government when we have to make those tough choices."
Professor Chris Whitty had previously said getting children back into the classroom is pivotal for the “wellbeing of our country” – and hinted that Brits will have to sacrifice other freedoms as cases rise.
The chief medical officer warned that relaxing rules further will "absolutely, inevitably" lead to a resurgence of the virus.
And he said said the country had “probably reached near the limits” of what can be reopened.
Mr Jenrick did not rule out the prospect of imposing lockdown restrictions on the over-50s in order to prevent a second national lockdown.
Radical measures drawn up in a government "war-game" included a programme of "enhanced" shielding – with vulnerable people asked to stay at home.
The proposals also included measures to ban Londoners from going beyond the M25 under a city-wide lockdown if there is a flare-up of the virus in the capital.
Mr Jenrick said any fresh restrictions were unlikely to apply wholesale, adding: "We don't want to do anything that is a blanket approach across the country.
"Our strategy is to manage this in a localised way with targeted action as we've done in Leicester, as we're doing now in the north-west.
"We will follow the data and look at options if we have to but that approach is the way we restrict in certain areas – it is difficult for those who live there but it provides greater freedom for the rest of the country, for businesses to reopen and for people to get on with their daily lives, and that has to be the way forward if we can."
The Government's scientific advisory group for emergencies – or Sage – have warned there needs to be "sufficient headroom" in the rate of Covid-19 infections in order for schools to reopen safely.
And it even said the hospitality sector may have to take the hit to reduce the risk of transmission in society.
Telling ministers that pubs and restaurants may have to close at the end of the summer, the scientists said: "It is important to ensure that there will be enough 'room' in terms of the epidemic to open schools in September… there is a strong case for prioritising opening schools over other establishments."
But the minutes said the evidence still pointed to there being a low risk of transmission in schools.
The documents said: "Regarding reopening of schools, Sage reiterated its advice that there is a low risk to children’s health from Covid-19 and significant harms from schools being closed.
"Reopening requires sufficient headroom in terms of overall infection rates and numbers, and clear communication with parents and teachers.
"There may be a need to change measures at the end of the summer in order to be able to keep R below 1 whilst proceeding with the planned reopening of schools.
"Planning for safe full reopening should take place now and should take account of the health benefits of reopening schools as well as the educational benefits."
It comes after virus cases in the UK more than doubled in just two weeks.
Speaking on Friday Prof Whitty warned that measures will have to be taken to stop infections spiraling further.
He said: "We either say, 'Actually, we've probably taken this to the limit, we've got to stop now and we may have to pull back a bit to keep this under control', or we do not.
"If we do pull back, then we should be able to hold the line, and if we do not pull back and we start having further interactions, then we can expect to see an increase in cases with all the consequences that go with that."
And Sir Jeremy Farrar, Chair of the Wellcome Trust, said reopening schools was about “choices and trade-offs” that would include workplaces, public transport, pubs and “many others”.
It comes as Boris Johnson declared that reopening schools was a “national priority” – and vowed to do all it takes to meet the Government’s promise of getting all kids back to school in September.
Standing by his pledge to get kids back in the classroom, Boris said: “That is a good thing, and should be a national priority, and something we aim to deliver.
“It’s the right thing for children, they can be educated in a safe Covid-secure way.
"We should be getting them back to school.”
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