UK PM says higher risk of virus transmission "inevitable" as schools reopen in England

2021-03-08 17:35:37 GMT2021-03-09 01:35:37(Beijing Time) Xinhua English
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to the House of Commons in London, Britain, on March 3, 2021. (Xinhua/Han Yan)  British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to the House of Commons in London, Britain, on March 3, 2021. (Xinhua/Han Yan)

LONDON, March 8 (Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday that the increased risk of coronavirus transmission is "inevitable" as schools reopened and millions of children returned to classrooms across England.

"We do accept, of course, there will be increased risk of transmission, that's inevitable," Johnson said at a press briefing at Downing Street.

However, the prime minister said "the greater risk is keeping children out of school longer".

On Feb. 22, Johnson announced his long-anticipated "roadmap" exiting the lockdown. The reopening of schools in England on Monday is the first part of the four-step plan, which Johnson said was designed to be "cautious but irreversible".

Under the guidance, two people are allowed for recreation in an outdoor public spaces such as a park, which means they would be allowed to sit down for a coffee, drink or picnic. England is expected to see all legal social restrictions being removed from June 21.

Johnson said the British government can take the first step of easing lockdown with "confidence" because a third of the entire British population has now been vaccinated.

"At all times, we will be driven by the data," he added.

Joining Johnson at the press briefing, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Jenny Harries acknowledged the impact of opening schools on the virus transmission.

"We do expect there to be an impact on R, but education is of critical public health importance," she said, referring to the coronavirus reproduction number.

More than 22.3 million people in Britain have been given the first jab of the coronavirus vaccine, according to latest official figures.

Still, Johnson urged continued vigilance with the public as infections remain high.

"With number of patients being admitted to hospital with COVID still eight times higher than the lows of last summer, it's more vital than ever to follow the rules."

Another 4,712 people in Britain have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 4,223,232, according to official figures released Monday.

The country also reported another 65 coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 124,566. These figures only include the deaths of people who died within 28 days of their first positive test.

To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States have been racing against time to roll out coronavirus vaccines.