Andy Burnham calls for schools to close now and regular circuit-breaker lockdowns throughout next year

ANDY Burnham called for schools to close today – on top of regular circuit-breaker lockdowns throughout next year.

The Manchester mayor declared in a press conference this afternoon coronavirus cases won't be curbed unless schools shut their doors.

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He said a period of closure, with online teaching, is needed to avoid the region going back into Tier 3 when the second national lockdown ends.

The mayor, who fought a fierce battle against Greater Manchester being moved into Tier 3 last month, said cases in the region's schools are the highest in the country.

He insisted this afternoon the only way to lower the transmission is with total shutdown for a number of weeks, the Manchester Evening News reports.

Recently dubbed "King of the North" by fans, he accepted others won't agree with him, but pulling kids in and out of class with suspected cases causes more harm, he argued.

He told reporters in 2021 Tier 2 should be the toughest level of restrictions, with circuit-breakers around the school holidays.

It comes after teaching unions demanded a four-week school shutdown in line with the lockdown, but Boris Johnson vowed to keep classes open.

The PM told the nation in a live TV address last night: "School is the best place for children to be.

"We cannot let the virus damage our children futures more than it already has."

'SHUT THE GATES'

Mr Johnson last night announced a package of strict Covid-19 restrictions which will last until December 2.

The measures, due to come into force on Thursday, will mean all pubs and restaurants close in a huge U-turn – four months after the first UK-wide shutdown.

Demanding classrooms are shut, NEU Joint General Secretary Kevin Courtney insisted ONS data showed schools "are an engine for virus transmission".

Mr Courtney said: "It would be self-defeating for the Government to impose a national lockdown, whilst ignoring the role of schools as a major contributor to the spread of the virus. 

"The Government should include all schools in proposals for an immediate national lockdown."

Failing to close schools would lead to "even longer lockdowns in future", Mr Courtney claimed.

The union argued schools should remain open only to children of key workers and vulnerable children.

Under the imminent new lockdown, non essential retail will close, though supermarkets will not have to seal off non-essential goods as was seen in Wales during their short-term lockdown.

Working from home will also be encouraged.

Outbound international travel will be banned except for work purposes and travel within the UK will be discouraged, except for work.

But, unlike the first lockdown, schools and universities will remain open.

It comes as Britain passed one million Covid cases after 21,915 more people positive for the bug.

Another 326 deaths have been recorded, meaning 46,555 have now died of coronavirus in the UK.

The Government has vowed to keep schools open and schools are a current exemption on the three-tiered local lockdown system that regions in England have been under.

The PM said that kids' "life chances" were under threat if they spent more time out of class.

Closing schools has been seen by some officials as a mistake and it would be an absolute last resort for ministers to do it again.

Mr Johnson has insisted that schools and colleges should only ever be shut again as a "very, very last resort", even if the country goes into full or circuit breaker lockdown.

The decision to impose tougher restrictions comes as experts warned the Prime Minister that enforcing full restrictions from next week will be the only way to rescue the festive period.

The virus is thought to be spreading faster than the initial "worst-case scenario" predicted.

Grim models shown to the PM forecast 4,000 daily deaths before the end of the year if more severe restrictions aren't brought in, the BBC reports.

The clampdown is an attempt to curb the grim figure that 85,000 people could die from a second wave of Covid-19, a paper from the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies warned.

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