Public health experts have said there is a "strong case" for primary schools to reopen after the half-term if Covid-19 case numbers keep falling.
During the autumn term, coronavirus cases were recorded in 3 per cent of primary schools, Public Health England found, with most cases among teachers, not pupils.
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“Everything we have learned from the summer half-term and the recent autumn term indicates that they are safe to remain open,” Shamez Ladhani, PHE's chief schools investigator, told The Times.
Coronavirus: 'Strong case' for reopening primary schools
“There’s a strong case for primary schools to reopen once infection rates start falling and are sufficiently low to allow easing of national lockdown measures,” Dr Ladhani said. “The evidence is building to show that primaries are a safe environment.”
Dr Ladhani added that “by early February we’ll have a better indication of the trend in disease rates and if they continue to fall. After that, there’s a realistic option to open primaries at least.”
However, secondary schools were five times as likely as primary schools to record outbreaks and to closely reflect wider infection patterns.
Yesterday prime minister Boris Johnson promised to give a further indication on when schools could reopen more widely “as soon as we can”.
And Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, told BBC One's Breakfast: “The prime minister has made it a priority that schools are the first thing to come back. The infection rates are much lower among primary school children than secondary – I think it is five times higher in secondary schools.
“Once we get to a place where schools can be safely reopened, it will be the first thing we do," he said, adding that primary school infection rates had been "encouraging".