British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday called the reopening of schools in the nation “a crucial first step” in a “roadmap to freedom” from the coronavirus pandemic but added a warning against complacency.
Johnson held a news briefing from his office on the day millions of children in Britain went back to school. He told reporters he fully expects the return to the classroom to have an impact on the spread of the virus. He said the next steps the government takes regarding reopening “will be driven by the data.”
He noted the number of hospitalizations is about eight times higher than the lowest figures reached during the middle of last year. He pointed to that figure as a caution against complacency and the ability of the infection to bounce back.
Johnson said the success of Britain’s vaccination program has allowed them to cautiously lift restrictions, such as reopening schools. But he said, again, the roadmap is intended to be “cautious but irreversible,” meaning they do not want to close things down once they are reopened.
“I think that people would really rather trade some urgency and some haste in favor of some security and certainty about those dates that we've set out," he said.
The next major easing of restrictions is set for March 29, when outdoor gatherings will be allowed for up to six people or two households, and outdoor sports such as tennis, basketball and golf can resume.
The number of new cases recorded in Britain fell Monday to its lowest total since late September, government data showed.
The daily data showed 4,712 people tested positive for COVID-19, the smallest total since September 28. The figures also showed 65 new deaths within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test, the lowest number since around the middle of October. The coronavirus causes the COVID-19 disease.