ES News email

Boris Johnson could be forced to close pubs in order to reopen schools next month as ministers face “trade-offs” to control the spread of coronavirus, a Government scientific advisor warned.

Professor Graham Medley, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said that a recent rise in infections, primarily among younger age groups, could “spill over” into other parts of the population.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine academic, said: “I think we’re in a situation whereby most people think that opening schools is a priority for the health and wellbeing of children and that when we do that we are going to reconnect lots of households.

“And so actually, closing some of the other networks, some of the other activities may well be required to enable us to open schools.

“It might come down to a question of which do you trade off against each other and then that’s a matter of prioritising, do we think pubs are more important than schools?”

The comments came after England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty’s predicted that the country was “near the limits” of opening up society, following reimposed lockdown restrictions in the north west.

At a Downing Street coronavirus briefing on Friday, the Prime Minister said that getting pupils back into the classroom as a national priority, while other freedoms were “conditional”.

Speaking at the briefing, Prof Whitty warned: “If we wish to do more things in the future we may have to do less of some other things.

Prof Whitty speaking at Friday’s coronavirus briefing (PA)

“The idea that we can open up everything, and keep the virus under control, is clearly wrong.”

Prof Medley said the increased measures in the north west, which banned different households from meeting each other at home, were “highly unlikely” to be the “last intervention that has to be done regionally”.

“I fully expect that there will have to be other interventions at other times but what the interventions are really depends on what happens,” he added.