Schools could shut again in January in fight against Omicron as Javid says 'there are no guarantees'

SCHOOLS could close once again after Christmas if Omicron spirals out of control, Sajid Javid suggested this morning.

Grilled on the fate of kids, the Health Secretary warned: "When it comes to our fight against this pandemic, there are no guarantees."


His remarks left parents and pupils fretting after Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi also refused to rule out lessons going back online.

Boris Johnson has previously said keeping kids in classes is a "national priority" and it's widely expected schools would be the last to close in any new lockdown.

But the PM yesterday braced Brits for a "tidal wave" of Omicron as he put rockets under the booster programme.

Asked on LBC this morning if he could rule out schools shutting, Mr Javid said: "Well, I don't want to see that or any of these kinds of measures. I'm just going to focus on everything else we need to be doing, especially the booster programme."

He added: "I'd say this… if you are asking me for guarantees, I will just say – as the Health Secretary, of course, I'm not the Education Secretary – as the Health Secretary, that there are, when it comes to our fight against this pandemic, there are no guarantees.

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"But what we do know that works is, in this case, a booster shot of the vaccine."

It came after Mr Zahawi vowed to pull out all the stops to prevent schools shutting once more.

Asked by the BBC's Andrew Marr if he could make the promise that schools won't close, he said: "We are absolutely working to make sure that all schools are open, that they're protected.

"I will do everything in my power. We are still learning about this variant.We know that a booster works.

"Get boosted, protect yourself, protect your community and let's get through this and transition this from pandemic to endemic."

The news will likely cause alarm for parents after last year's back-to-school debacle, where schools were shut just one day after reopening following the Christmas break.

In brighter news, data shows boosters offer up to 75 per cent protection from mild infection from Omicron, with The Sun relaunching our hugely successful Jabs Army campaign.

SCHOOLS COULD SHUT

However, Brits are now in hospital suffering with the variant.

It's not known if they are seriously ill.

No deaths have yet been reported.

Mr Zahawi said he fears an explosion of cases that could see millions affected within weeks, with the variant doubling every two to three days.

Speaking to Trevor Phillips on Sky, he said: "What we know, hence the concern, is that a third of infections in London are Omicron.

"Reported tests are indicating about 1,600 cases, but the number of infections in the community will be multiple that – up to 10 times.

"It's highly infectious, with a doubling rate of between two and three days.

🔵 Read our Omicron live blog for the latest updates

"Very quickly Omicron will be the dominant variant in the UK and probably the rest of the world.

"We've seen this movie before with the Kent and Delta variants.

"There are cases in hospital with Omicron."

Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UK Health Security Agency, told MrMarr she has not yet heard reports of any deaths.

"It's really important to remember that it's just over two weeks since we first detected cases here," she said.

"Hospitalisations start to be seen after two weeks, and deaths at three to four weeks, so it's too early to make assumptions."

But she told the presenter: "It's a big wave and it's coming straight at us.

It's highly infectious, with a doubling rate of between two and three days

"If we see even half the severity we saw with Delta, then we're facing a very large number of hospitalisations and deaths."

The first case of Omicron at a primary school in England was detected on Friday.

Public health chiefs have urged all parents to get their kids at the school tested before returning to classes.

The case was found at Manor Community Primary School in Swanscombe, Kent.

All year five students, aged nine or ten, have been advised to stay home and get tested, the Mirror reports.

A year four class at the school has also been strongly encouraged to get tested in case the new variant has spread.

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Currently, officials say there are no plans to go harder than the plan B restrictions announced on Wednesday, which include mandatory masks, working from home and vaccine passports.

And it is hoped huge take-up of jabs will spare Brits from further lockdown misery.

However, scientists estimate the R rate of the variant is 3.7 — meaning every positive person infects another three to four people.

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