Boris Johnson warned ‘don’t close schools’ over Omicron

Children ‘took a huge hit’ over the Covid lockdowns, the Children’s Commissioner has said (Picture: Getty)

Boris Johnson was warned ‘not to close schools’ by the Children’s Commissioner in response to the emergence of the Omicron variant.

Dame Rachel de Souza said children ‘took a huge hit for us’ in previous lockdowns, adding she would advise to avoid closures ‘if there is any other option’.

It comes as Omicron cases in the UK hit a total of 160 yesterday after 26 positive tests yesterday.

Those who test positive with Omicron are being asked to self-isolate for 10 days, with targeted testing underway in areas where there have been outbreaks.

Cases have now been identified in East Midlands, East of England, London, North East, North West, South East, South West and West Midlands, as well as parts of Scotland and Wales.

Rules on face masks and PCR tests for travellers have been re-introduced, but Dame Rachel has sounded caution over measures that could impact children.

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, she said: ‘[Lockdown] was a terrible time for the whole nation, it’s also why I think we must not close schools again, we must not.’

She added: ‘I would urge him (Prime Minister) not to close schools… They (children) want things back to normal, they took a huge hit for us.

‘We must not close schools again, and my headteacher colleagues across the country are incredibly good at managing this situation.

‘I watched them rush in to support the most vulnerable and I would definitely advise not to do this, if there is any other option.’

When asked why 208,000 children were not at school, Dame Rachel said: ‘Normally around this sort of time you’d have 94% of children in school in a normal year, we’re now about at high 80s, so most children are in school, most children want to be in school… some of it is Covid, some of it are other reasons.’

The figure of 208,000 was recorded on November 25 and amounts to 2.6% of all pupils in England. It was a dramatic increase on the 130,000 pupils (1.6%) who were not at school on 11 November.

On the question of vaccinating five to 11-year-olds, Dame Rachel said: ‘I’m looking forward to seeing what JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) say.

‘What I would say, two things: One is children have told me anecdotally as I went around the country that they would like the vaccine because they want to support their older relatives.

‘This an altruistic nation, young generation, we need to be very grateful to them, but also a number of countries have gone ahead of us and we can see the scientific outcomes of that.’

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