Support for closing schools to curb coronavirus outbreak plummets in the UK

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Group of cheerful children going home from school after covid-19 quarantine and lockdown, running.
The debate about reopening schools in England continues to rage. (Getty)

The British public’s support for the government’s measure to temporarily close schools during coronavirus has plummeted.

Figures show that the percentage of Britons who back Boris Johnson’s closure of schools has dropped to its lowest level.

A YouGov tracking poll found that just one in five people (21%) support the government’s temporary closure of schools.

The prime minister insisted getting all children back to school across in England in September is the “right thing for everybody”.

It was reported at the weekend that Johnson would close pubs and shops ahead of schools as local flare-ups arise.

On Monday, education secretary Gavin Williamson said there is “little evidence” that coronavirus is transmitted in schools.

The YouGov poll showed that support for the closure of schools had evaporated.

Support for closing schools has fallen (YouGov)
Support for closing schools has fallen. (YouGov)

On 27 March, at the height of the UK’s lockdown, 81% of those polled supported closing schools.

By the beginning of May, this had dropped to 70%, spiralling to 50% at the end of that month.

By the end of June, the level of support for the measure was at 32%, before a slight bump upwards took it to 37% on 3 July. It has since fallen to 21%.

Chris Curtis, research manager at YouGov, told Yahoo News UK: “Polling has consistently shown the public were in favour of the government implementing drastic lockdown measures to contain the virus, and that included the closing of schools.

“However, while there is still broad support for the government's lockdown measures, both nationally and at a local level, the public also said at the start of lockdown that reopening schools should be the top priority once the easing of restrictions started.

“Almost six in 10 Brits say that schools should fully reopen after the summer holidays, while almost eight in 10 said that if it was a choice between schools reopening or pubs staying open, it's getting kids back to school that should be the priority.”

A woman walks past a rainbow banner on a school fence as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of coronavirus.
Support for school closures was much more sustained at the height of lockdown. (PA)

Last week, the government insisted the planned reopening of schools in September was “not up for debate”.

This was despite a warning from scientists that reopening schools could trigger a second COVID-19 peak unless the NHS Test and Trace system was improved.

Teachers, scientists, opposition politicians and the children's commissioner for England Anne Longfield have all called for improvements to testing before pupils return in September.

On Monday, Johnson reiterated his pledge to reopen schools during a visit to one in east London.

“The way we are trying to manage the COVID pandemic is to have local measures in place and local test and trace to introduce restrictions where that's necessary,” he said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson takes part in archery during a visit to the Premier Education Summer Camp at Sacred Heart of Mary Girl's School, Upminster in Essex.
Boris Johnson takes part in an archery lesson at Sacred Heart of Mary Girl's School, Upminster, on Monday. (PA)

“The last thing we want to do is to close schools. We think that education is the priority for the country and that is simple social justice."

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said headteachers supported the full reopening of schools in September and the pledge to make it a national priority.

But he added: "We are concerned about the lack of a national plan B if there is a second wave of coronavirus and there is a second national shutdown.”

Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and a member of the government's Sage scientific advisory group, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Monday that "reopening schools is one of the least risky things we can do".

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