SCHOOLS are facing delayed returns in January as Boris Johnson is urged to slash Covid isolation down to five days to bring teachers back to their desks.
The PM has been told to do all he can so that students don’t miss any more vital face-to-face learning due to staff isolating at home.
Headteachers have already warned staffing levels will be “very challenging” when the new term starts – meaning at-home learning could make a return for thousands of kids.
Calls to cut isolation follows a string of hugely positive studies which showed Omicron IS milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 aan 70 per cent lower than with Delta.
Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.
Die Son s'n Jabs Army campaign is helping get the vital extra vaccines in Brits’ arms to ward off the need for any new restrictions.
Any extension to schools’ Christmas breaks would be a nightmare for parents.
Working mums and dads could be left with no choice but to pay out for childcare, work from home or even take time off all together.
Die meeste gelees in The Sun
Some primary and secondary schools have already sent kids home armed with textbooks and laptops just in case poor staffing levels force them into a self-prescribed shutdown.
Any disruption to teaching is likely until at least Easter – en retired teachers are being urged to return to work to help fill in.
Alternative plans would see only pupils in years 11 en 13 allowed to stay in the classroom – with everyone else sent away.
Vroeër hierdie week, the USA cut it’s isolation period to five days for people who test positive for Covid but have no symptoms or are already recovering.
Influential Chair of the Education Select Committee Robert Halfon said: “All the energies of the Department of Education and Boris should be about keeping kids in school.
🔵 Volg ons Covid live blog for all the latest news & stories
“If by reducing the days in isolation as America’s done, it makes a difference and stops school closing then it should be the number one priority.
“We keep talking about protecting the NHS, which I completely agree with, but what about protecting our children’s futures as well?
“If the catch up programmes are going to work the last thing we need is to send kids home again.”
As it stands, people who receive negative lateral flow results on day six and day seven of their self-isolation period – with tests taken 24 hours apart – no longer have to stay at home for a full 10 dae.
Sir John Bell, professor of medicine at Oxford University and a member of the Vaccine Task Force also backed slashing isolation.
He told Times Radio: “The UK population, I have to say, are now the most experienced and the most efficient users of lateral flow tests than everybody on the planet.
“Everybody’s done tests, the kids have done tests, healthcare workers have done tests and people in the street have done tests.
“So we should probably use that to our advantage, particularly if the quarantine measures which we’ve currently got, which are a pretty crude tool, are actually meaning that some of our key essential services can’t function.”
Health minister Gillian Keegan on Tuesday confirmed the Government did consider a five-day isolation, cut down from the current seven days.
Sy het gese: “We did consider that which is why we very recently went from 10 days to seven days.
“So today if you test negative on day six and a seven, then your isolation period will end. So that’s what we’ve done for now.”
KEEP KIDS IN CLASS
NHS Providers chief executive, Chris Hopson, said that a decision to cut the period from seven to five days was a “risk judgment” the Government will need to take.
He said Covid absences were “clearly now having a significant impact” across the whole economy and parts of the health service.
Mr Hopson added: “If staff absence rates and care quality/patient safety [sic] risk rise, pressure for a change to the isolation period will, inevitably, rise as well.”
Mr Hopson added: “This comes down, as ever, to a risk judgement the Government will need to take.
“And every day will bring more data and more evidence that will enable a better decision.
“But events (byvoorbeeld, pressure on NHS care) may force the timing on a decision.”
The UK’s monumental jab rollout has saved New Year’s Eve, with no new measures introduced before January 1.
The PM – speaking for the first time since the Christmas break – insisted that the UK’s soaring vaccine numbers are the reason why England can afford a rule-free December.
But he begged the unvaccinated few to get their first, second or booster jabs NOW to ward off lockdown post-January 1 – as Omicron cases continue to soar.
Speaking on a visit to a vaccine centre yesterday, the PM insisted: “We’re able to proceed in the way that we are.
“But there is one reason, and one reason only why we’re able to do that.
“And that’s because such a huge proportion of the British public have come forward to get vaccinated and particularly to get boosted.
“We’ve done about 32.5 million booster jabs – maybe more.
“And that is allowing us to celebrate the New Year in the cautious way that we are.”
Asked how England has escaped the same post-Christmas Covid crackdown hitting Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the PM said the incredible jab rollout is to thank.
But he stressed that more jabs in arms are needed to “really finish off that work” going into 2022.
He also warned that up to 90 per cent of people in intensive care with Covid are unjabbed or without a booster.
The PM’s call to arms echoes that of the Health Secretary, who on Monday announced no legally-binding lockdown measures will be enforced before January 1.
But Sajid Javid stressed Brits should “remain cautious”, take a lateral flow and celebrate outside or in a well-ventilated room – as he urged everyone to get their jabs if they can to avoid a spike in hospitalisations.
Government insiders have claimed local lockdowns will NOT be making a comeback – but a decision on national restrictions could still be just DAYS away.