Schools in Northern Ireland to cut 2m rule down to 1 so all kids can return

SCHOOLS in Northern Ireland will halve the 2 metre social distancing rule so all kids can return to classrooms.

The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed a 1 metre rule is "safe and appropriate" for children and young people at school.

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Northern Ireland Education Minister Peter Weir sent out a letter to school principals with guidance on how they will operate once classes do start up again, according to the BBC.

The move is a hint a similar relaxation of the rule could happen UK-wide.

Mr Weir said in order to give schools more time to prepare, reopening for pupils has been pushed to August 24.

Teachers will head back to schools for the original target date – August 17 – to get classrooms ready for students.

The guidance has a "day one focus" that concentrates on "social distancing and hygiene considerations within school settings", Mr Weir wrote.

The letter said: "The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed that the current social distancing guidance of 2m must continue to be followed between all adults within the education sector, but that a distance of 1m is safe and appropriate between children and young people.

"Using 'protective bubbles' has been supported by the Department of Health and PHA, and flexing their use to 1m will allow full classes to attend.

"The 1m guidance between children is to be followed as far as possible within the confines of the physical capacity of each classroom and the 2m rule for staff adhered to fully."

"To facilitate these arrangements, schools will be opening in week commencing 17 August for preparation purposes," he said.

Mr Weir cautioned that the guidance "will be subject to ongoing review" depending on scientific advice.

Northern Ireland has now dropped guidance for people who were shielding because the threat of becoming severely ill from the virus was so high.

Health Minister Robin Swann said people should still be cautious when out and about and follow strict social distancing.

The news comes as:

  • More than 1,500 of the UK’s leading paediatricians signed a letter to the Prime Minister demanding immediate action.
  • The PM assured parents it was safe to send kids back to school
  • Sir Keir Starmer refused to come out and say schools were safe three times
  • Experts have warned Britain's poorest kids could fall years behind because of school closures

Boris Johnson announced a full review into the 2metre rule in England earlier this week, as hospitality industry leaders piled pressure on the PM to relax the rule.

Downing Street's Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has said the 2 metre rule can be relaxed in some circumstances.

He said earlier this week: "There are times in which this can be changed and that evidence of course can then be the basis of a policy decision on what the right distance is that should be mandated or put forward as the rule to follow."



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