Today, thousands of people across the UK will begin receiving the second vaccine approved by regulators, and developed in the UK by Oxford University / AstraZeneca, as we accelerate the rollout of life-saving vaccines that will enable us to defeat coronavirus and save lives.
We have reached a pivotal moment in our fight against this awful virus, but we hope the availability of a second vaccine provides renewed hope to everybody that the end of the pandemic is in sight.
From today, the NHS will begin administering the first 530,000 doses of the AstraZeneca / Oxford University vaccine – with 100 million doses secured in total – alongside the Pfizer vaccine as part of a national effort that has already seen more people inoculated in the UK than the rest of Europe put together.
Our plan to roll out vaccinations as quickly as possible is well underway, with 1,000 vaccination sites up and running by the end of the week. But although the end is in sight, we must all continue to do our part to drive down the virus by following the guidance and the restrictions to protect the NHS and save lives.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, the Education Secretary set out the steps we are taking to keep schools safe to ensure no child misses out on education during the second wave of the pandemic – delivering on our duty to provide a future for our children that is full of hope and opportunity.
We know that keeping children out of the classroom is damaging for their education and wellbeing, which is why throughout the coronavirus pandemic keeping schools open has been a national priority.
We are now grappling with a new variant of the disease, which spreads more quickly, and have introduced additional safety measures in schools in response. This includes rapid testing in schools and a staggered start date for secondary schools, as well as contingency plans for areas with very high incidences of the virus – all with one sole aim in mind: to ensure no child misses out on their education.
But as we have said, we will move to remote education as a last resort in areas where infection and pressures on the NHS are highest. We will keep the situation under constant review – driven by the public health advice not political considerations.
Our fantastic teachers have already worked tirelessly to make schools Covid-secure, and it remains our advice that for the vast majority of the country the local context does not require closure of schools. Schools remain safe for children to attend, and we must continue to ensure children’s education is a priority.
We will continue to be driven by a need to protect the NHS and save lives – meanwhile Sir Keir Starmer and the Labour Party are choosing to play party politics.
Sir Keir Starmer has shown already that he intends to spend 2021 the same way he spent last year: sniping from the side-lines and attempting to undermine the Government’s efforts to keep people safe at every turn.
Having begun yesterday saying ‘closing schools would cause chaos’, Sir Keir then called for another damaging national lockdown but refused to say for how long, whether he would shut all schools or what he would do to protect jobs and our children’s education.
It’s clear that Sir Keir Starmer is back to his old tricks – claiming to be constructive while doing everything he can to sow confusion. He should get behind our plan to reopen schools safely, the mass testing of staff and pupils and stop playing politics with our children’s future.