SCHOOLS in Gibraltar will not open on February 1 as originally planned but three weeks later instead.

The new planned opening date is February 22 to try to get all elderly and vulnerable people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before that date.

The government announcement comes as active coronavirus cases dropped to 403 in Gibraltar, 45 of them in the elderly nursing homes.

There are now 29 people in the COVID-19 ward with eight in Critical Care and no deaths reported in the last 24 hours.

Despite this, the slow drop in cases has been one of the factors taken into consideration in keeping schools closed.

Health experts believe that children mixing in such numbers could help elevate numbers of cases that puts others at risk.

Department of Education officials discussed this latest move with teachers and their union.

The fact that 136 children have so far tested positive in January alone, indicates that this could quickly turn into a fourth wave of the pandemic.

With none of the schoolchildren yet having been vaccinated, the government fears this might quickly lead to another lockdown.

“This has been the most difficult of decisions,” said Minister for Education John Cortes. I really want our children back at school.

“They are missing the engagement, the contact with friends, and all their activities.

“I am of course aware of the pressures that having the children at home, working on their online learning for many hours, brings to our households.”

“But the Health professionals tell us clearly that it would be best to wait these three more weeks, and we must to listen to them.

“This decision is about the safety of the elderly and the vulnerable in our community and how we ensure they have the maximum possible level of protection by the time we reopen the schools”.

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