A SEVEN-year-old child with underlying health problems has died of coronavirus in hospital after Boris Johnson warned it is still too early to reopen schools.
The Prime Minister last night dashed parents’ hopes of opening schools earlier than March 8 as he warned the level of infection is still “forbiddingly high”.
Test and Trace staff begin Covid testing at a drive in centre in SouthportCredit: Getty Images – Getty
It came after former education secretary Alan Johnson urged him to reopen schools for 4 and 5 year-olds because they are “more likely to die from a lightning strike than Covid”.
But this afternoon NHS England confirmed a seven-year-old child had died from the killer bug in hospital.
The child is thought to be among the youngest to have died with the virus.
While the risk from the virus to children is low, people with underlying conditions are known to be at higher risk of serious disease.
A further 630 coronavirus fatalities were recorded in English hospitals in the latest figures, bringing the total number of Covid deaths in England to 74,249.
The patients, who died between January 4 and February 7, included the seven-year-old child with underlying health issues – as well as 30 people with no health problems at all.
The oldest patient to die in the latest figures was 102 years old.
It comes as…
Last year the parents of 10-year-old Fehzan Jamil, from Bradford, spoke of their “indescribable” pain following his death.
The young boy, who had a number of underlying health issues, including epilepsy, died in hospital after contracting the disease and was laid to rest in November.
Speaking to Channel 4 News, his parents, Tayyaba and Mohammed Jamil, described their son as a “really brave fighter” and “soldier”, who was a cheerful boy despite his health problems.
Other young victims include Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab, who died in March aged just 13, with no known underlying conditions.
A 13-day-old baby, thought to have no underlying health conditions, was also reported to have died with Covid-19 by NHS England in June.
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has previously said the chances of children dying from Covid are “incredibly small” and they are less likely to get severe illness and end up in hospital due to the virus.
‘PAST THE PEAK’
Prof Whitty said last night that many of his medical colleagues “think we are passed the peak” and cases and deaths will only go down.
But he warned that the pressure on the NHS would not be significantly reduced until all Brits aged over 50 had been vaccinated – dashing hopes of lockdown ending any time soon.
“So the first wave which is the aim is to complete on the 15th of February we would expect a situation where we can stop a very high proportion of the deaths but rather a smaller proportion of the pressure on the NHS – those very large numbers in hospital.
“As you go onto the next wave, down to those over 50 we have further in roads into reducing deaths and also significantly reduce the pressure on the NHS.”
Boris Johnson last night dashed hopes of an early return for schools
It comes as vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi today hinted lockdown restrictions won’t be fully lifted until all over 50s have had a Covid jab.
Mr Zahawi said the rollback of pandemic restrictions will be slow so we “never have to go back into another severe lockdown”.
He said schools are still set to reopen on March 8, but suggested many other sectors may have to remain shut well into the Spring or early summer.
Meanwhile a key scientist advising the PM today insisted life could be “more or less back to normal by summer” if jabs targets are hit.
Mr Zahawi insisted Britain is on target to jab the most vulnerable groups, including all those over 70, within the next 11 days.
But he warned even though that group accounts for 88% of deaths, ministers still won’t be able to significantly ease restrictions.
He said: “We want to reopen schools, reopen our economy, get our lives back, but never have to go back into another severe lockdown like the one we’re all experiencing and suffering from at the moment.
“You’ve got to make sure that your vaccination programme has protected the top nine categories in phase one – that is 99% of mortality.”
Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of the Sage group that advises the Government, also said jabbing over-50s will prove the key benchmark.
He said: “Once the most vulnerable people, particularly those over 50 and those with chronic illnesses, are vaccinated then yes I think we can see a significant return to normality.
“We will see a phased opening up and more or less back to normal by summer.”
The Government hasn’t yet set a target date for vaccination of all over-50s, but ministers hope to achieve that milestone later in the Spring.
There are around 32 million people covered by the top nine categories.
Mr Zahawi said it then takes around three weeks for high protection against the virus to kick in, at which point restrictions could be lifted.