Sage expert warns of choice between pubs and schools as virus cases grow

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Professor Medley warned there appears to be a rise in virus cases among youngsters. Photo: Getty

Pubs in England may have to shut to control the spread of coronavirus infections and to enable schools to reopen, one of the government’s top scientific advisers has warned.

Professor Graham Medley, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said: “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?”

Medley, who is also an academic at The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that it was “quite possible” that pubs could be shut for schools to reopen.

Previously, Boris Johnson pledged that both primary and secondary schools will return in September “with full attendance.”

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The academic said that there appears to be a rise in COVID-19 cases among younger people, but warned of the danger of infections “spilling” over into other parts of the population.

“The age distribution of infections has changed, it has moved down into younger age groups and so it is likely we won’t see that increase in hospital admissions related to infection in the same way we did in March,” Medley told the BBC.

Medley said that re-opening schools was a “priority for the wellbeing of children” and that other “activities” and “networks” might have to stop to curb infections.

The warning came after local lockdown measures were announced this week for parts of the north-west of England and areas of west Yorkshire, banning people from different households meeting indoors or in gardens following a spike in virus cases.

On Friday, the PM announced a slow down of the lockdown easing, with planned relaxations for the leisure and beauty sectors due to start on Saturday, delayed after a rise in Covid-19 cases was recorded.

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