A leading social scientist said the new strain of Covid-19 has “changed the game” of getting children back to school.

Dr Zubaida Haque, former deputy director of race equality think tank the Runnymeade Trust, told Good Morning Britain: “Children need to be in school but they need to be in a safe school.

“We have a new variant now and, just as we’ve got a vaccine coming around the corner, this variant has changed the game; not only is it 70% more transmissible but, with children, it explains why infection rates were so high just before Christmas.”

“With children, we think (the new strain) makes them more infectious. Now, that’s a huge problem because schools are little children mixing factories – there are lots of children in small buildings, in small classes.”

Dr Haque also accused the Government of failing to make schools safe despite the worsening coronavirus situation.

“The key question is are schools safe enough right now? Has the Government made schools safer and, in making it safer, can we then keep schools open?”

“Right now we have a critical situation – yesterday we had the highest number of daily Covid cases, over 41,000 cases of coronavirus in this country.”

“By Christmas Day we had more people in hospitals than at the peak in April this year, so we are in a crisis situation now. The Government has delayed opening Parliament because we are in a crisis situation but yesterday we had Michael Gove saying ‘No, it’s fine, we’re going to have schools open next week and we’ll have a staggered return’ and, frankly, that’s not acceptable, and that’s not safe.”

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