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Labour leader Keir Starmer warned of a “flood” of school closures unless pupils were able to get the tests they needed. His call came amid reports that 350 schools in England and Wales were forced to close completely or to send children home last week following positive COVID-19 tests. But presenter Sophy Ridge labelled his plan to solve the issue “unrealistic”.
Ms Ridge asked: “Why aren’t you calling for it to happen at the end of October?
“Why are you calling for it to happen now when there is a huge demand on the system already?
“People who have symptoms, people who are working in the NHS or care homes, residents in care homes, all need to be prioritised.
“Why are you calling for children to be prioritised now?
“Everyone would like a test when they can but it feels to me that it’s a little bit unrealistic.”
Sir Keir replied: “Those with symptoms need tests, those on the frontline need tests.
“This has been promised for months.”
Ms Ridge interjected: “But it’s a question of priority.
“I understand that you want the system to have the capacity for everyone but we live in the world of reality.
“Already you’ve had Liz Kendall calling for care home residents to be prioritised, Jon Ashworth says it should be NHS staff, you say it should be children.
“The whole point of a priority is that you have to choose.”
Sir Keir continued: “Those with symptoms, those in the NHS, those in care homes and children.
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“Let’s look at the alternative. Children have been back at school for two to three weeks and parents have experienced their child or children in the school being sent back home again for a few days or two weeks.
“Often classes going back, whole year groups. This isn’t suddenly going to end that is what schooling with be for the next six months.
“We’ve lost six months of schooling because of lockdown that’s massively widened the attainment gap.
“If we carry on like this, we are not going to have any meaningful return to school.”
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