Children’s nurseries in Manchester will be fully reopened on March 8th, the government has announced. They will join schools in the city and across the country in the first step in the gradual unlocking of the country as it moves away from lockdown.
The process depends on a continued successful vaccine roll-out and ongoing falls in case numbers, hospitalisations and deaths, but could see all restrictions ended as soon as late June.
While children are unlikely to come to serious harm from the virus, they have been identified as potential spreaders, which prompted the shut-down of schools and nurseries except for key workers.
However, the government has prioritised education on the basis that it is vital to get children into learning settings to improve their life chances in the longer run. For this reason, it has put returning to class above other steps such as reopening shops or pubs.
Responding to the announcement in the House of Commons, leader of the opposition Kier Starmer said the Labour Party supports the view that getting children back in school should be a priority.
However, teaching unions have expressed concern over the measures, warning that teachers could be vulnerable to infection.
Among those unions unhappy with the government’s approach is the NASUWT, which has questioned the reopening and has also joined with the Labour Party in calling for teachers to be among the next priority groups to be vaccinated.
While many parents will be delighted by the decision, some may be concerned about the health implications for their children, not least any with serious illnesses that make them vulnerable to Covid.
Children of school and nursery age are mostly not being recommended for the vaccines yet because trials have not yet taken place. However, deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam recently told ITV news trials are happening and youngsters may be vaccinated by the end of the year.
Volunteers include 12-year-old Bertie Wood from Oxfordshire, who told the Daily Telegraph he had begged his parents to let him take part and “do my bit for science”.