Mutant coronavirus could keep Tier 4 schools closed until February half term

Schoolkids in Tier 4 may have to go back to home learning until February half term as the UK races against time to stop the spread of the mutant coronavirus strain.

Advisers on the Independent SAGE Committee have warned classrooms in the worst hit areas may have to close to prevent the virus spreading further.

The calls come amid reports hospitals in London and the south east are overwhelmed as the deadly virus has seen thousands of patients admitted to intensive care.

Senior ministers told The Telegraph schools may stay shut on January 18 when the government reviews its restrictions.

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A source said: “The closure of schools until mid-February is an entirely possible scenario.

"We don’t have the data for Christmas yet but we will by January 18 and it’s difficult to see that being an improvement.”

Another senior source added: “We have been careful not to say they will definitely reopen on January 18 because we don’t know that.”

Hospital bosses have already warned that the after-effects of allowing some households to mix on Christmas Day could be catastrophic as the highly-transmissible mutant strain takes hold across the UK.

Under current rules, primary and secondary schools in more than 50 tier 4 areas, including across London, Essex and Kent, will all remain closed until at least January 18.

For lower-tier areas, secondary schools will remain closed until January 18, but primary schools are expected to open on Monday. Nurseries will stay open across all tiers.

But education secretary Gavin Williamson has been slammed by parents and teachers for his bungled messaging and rules – with some schools on the same street operating under different rules.

Terrified teacher Lauren called into LBC radio station with concerns about going back to work at school when infection rates in her area were high.

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    The advice will be reviewed by the government on January 18, when a decision will be made on whether to keep schools closed.

    More than 53,000 people tested positive for the virus on the first day of the new year, with 613 deaths recorded.

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