By June 21, the British government hopes to lift all restrictions on social contact. And the first step in that plan starts on Monday with the return to classrooms of schoolchildren in England.
Schools in the UK were forced to close their doors in early January as coronavirus infections spiralled out of control.
Children aged between five and 11 are the first to be reunited with their teachers, with secondary schools following in a phased return later.
Teachers and pupils will have to take two COVID-19 tests a week for the foreseeable future.
“The reopening of schools marks a truly national effort to beat this virus. It is because of the determination of every person in this country that we can start moving closer to a sense of normality – and it is right that getting our young people back into the classroom is the first step,” Downing Street reported Prime Minister Boris Johnson as saying.
Dame Alice Hudson, Executive head teacher at Twyford High School in London, told Euronews that Monday was a “good day” as there was “no substitute to being back at school together”:
“We are really keen to have the children back. We have been working hard on remote learning,” she said. “We have been practising (for this return) since the beginning of the year… We are as confident as we can be with the measures.”
However a survey by the charity Parentkind, representing parents’ views, suggested that more than two-thirds (69%) were not confident that the reopening of schools will be safe for their family. More than half (53%) said they were “not at all confident”.
The survey was carried out from February 9 to 23 and brought a response from 565 parents.
Since the start of the year, children have had only one day in school. The return after the Christmas holidays was abruptly halted as the appearance of a new coronavirus variant in Kent forced a third lockdown.
Since then a massive vaccination campaign has enabled 22 million first doses to be administered. As restrictions are eased, the government says groups of up to six people will be able to meet outside from March 29. Pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops should be able to reopen from April 12.
Watch Euronews’s full report in the player above.