Teachers ‘at occupational risk’ of Covid, says minister

Home secretary Priti Patel acknowledges risk to teachers and says government is working to ensure they get vaccinated

John Roberts

Coronavirus: Home secretary Priti Patel has said that teachers are at 'occupational risk' of coming into contact with Covid-19

Teachers are "naturally" at occupational risk of coming into contact with Covid-19, a government minister said today.

Home secretary Priti Patel listed teachers among frontline workers who can come into contact with the coronavirus through their job and who the government wants to ensure can get vaccinated.

Her comments follow repeated statements from government ministers that teachers are at no greater risk from Covid-19 than those working in other jobs.


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Ms Patel, speaking at the latest government coronavirus briefing tonight, was asked why frontline workers such as teachers were not being prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccine. 

She said that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) had identified the most vulnerable group, which made up 88 per cent of Covid fatalities, for first priority for the vaccine.

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But she added: "We are looking at those on the front line, people such as police officers, teachers and others who are naturally at occupational risk of coming into contact with the virus.     

"We are absolutely working to make sure we can get the vaccine to them but that means working with the JCVI as well."

Ms Patel's comments come after a concerted effort from government to reassure teachers and parents that schools are safe.

Prime minister Boris Johnson repeatedly said schools were safe, before the start of the new term.

A day before the start of term, he reiterated this and urged parents to send their children to school – just a day before the national lockdown was announced.

Yesterday Nadhim Zahawi, the government’s minister for Covid vaccine deployment, said teachers and school staff were at no greater risk of mortality from the coronavirus than others. 

Health secretary Matt Hancock also said that schools are safe for teachers as pupils returned last week for a single day before the lockdown.

Mr Hancock said there was no evidence of a higher rate of coronavirus infection among teachers than any other profession.

The health secretary has also said that ministers will consider whether key workers such as police, teachers and essential shop staff should be prioritised once the most vulnerable have received the coronavirus vaccine.

Unicef has called for teachers to be prioritised to receive a Covid vaccine after frontline health personnel and high-risk populations, in order to keep schools open.

Giving teachers priority in receiving a vaccine would protect them from the virus and allow them to teach in person, Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore said.

 

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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