01/08/2020 11:59 BST | Updated 01/08/2020 12:21 BST

Pubs Could Shut For Schools To Reopen In September, Scientific Adviser Warns

Sage member Professor Graham Medley said ministers might have to consider closing pubs in England next month.

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Pubs in England could have to be closed in order for schools to reopen next month, a scientist advising the government has warned.

Professor Graham Medley, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said a “trade off” might need to be made to ensure full-time education could resume.

Concerns have turned to a rise in infections among young people after the number of Covid-19 cases increased. 

Speaking on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme on Saturday, he said it was “quite possible” pubs could have to shut for schools to reopen.

“I think we’re in a situation whereby most people think that opening schools is a priority for the health and wellbeing of children and that when we do that we are going to reconnect lots of households.

“And so actually, closing some of the other networks, some of the other activities may well be required to enable us to open schools.

“It might come down to a question of which do you trade off against each other and then that’s a matter of prioritising, do we think pubs are more important than schools?”

He added the increase in Covid-19 cases was mainly among young people,  but warned there was a danger it could “spill” over into other sections of the population.

“The age distribution of infections has changed, it has moved down into younger age groups and so it is likely we won’t see that increase in hospital admissions related to infection in the same way we did in March,” he told the BBC.

“But the big fear is the virus just gets out of control and we end up in a situation where there is so much virus that it inevitably spills out into all sections of the population.”

Prof Medley’s comments came as Boris Johnson scrapped some of his plans to further ease lockdown restrictions in England from August 1 “in order to keep the virus under control”.

Speaking at a press conference in Downing Street on Friday, the prime minister said lifting these restrictions would be delayed until August 15 at the earliest.

It followed a warning by Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer,  that the country had “probably reached the limits of what we can do in terms of opening up as a society”.

The growth rate and R value of coronavirus transmission in the UK have changed slightly in the last week, according to figures published by the government.

Data released on Friday revealed the growth rate is now between minus 4% to minus 1%, compared with a rate of minus 5% to minus 1% per day, last week.

The R value for the UK is between 0.8 to 0.9, a slight change from 0.7 to 0.9.

Johnson has previously promised both primary and secondary schools will return in September “with full attendance”.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said it should be a “national priority to get our children back into school”.