Retired teachers will be called up to help keep schools open amid Covid staffing crisis

RETIRED teachers are being called up to help keep classes open – amid fears surging Omicron cases will force kids back to home schooling.

Boris Johnson has tonight used his address to the nation to urge former teachers to return to the fray.

But he vowed to keep schools open if every Brit "plays their part".

"We've asked qualified teachers who have left the profession to come back and help fill temporary absences," he said.

"I want to thank them and all teachers, parents and pupils for taking the precaution to test yourselves and to wear a mask in the classroom, enabling vital face to face education to continue."

Children across the nation are returning to school this week – but heads have warned of disruption as teachers are forced to self-isolate.

And Mr Johnson warned this evening: "Anyone who thinks the battle with Covid is over, I'm afraid, is profoundly wrong."

However, there was cheering news too – with Professor Chris Whitty confirming booster doses provide 88 per cent of "overall protection against being hospitalised".


The PM yesterday said Omicron is "plainly milder" than previous variants following studies showing it is up to 70 per cent less severe.

A third jab also significantly slashes the risk of falling seriously ill – and The Sun's Jab's Army campaign is helping get vital boosters in people's arms.

Speaking tonight, Mr Johnson said: "This is a moment for the utmost caution, but our position today differs from previous waves.

"We know now Omicron is milder than previous variants, and while hospital admissions are rising quickly, with over 15,000 patients in hospitals in England alone, this is not yet thankfully translating into same number needing intensive care."

He said there's a chance we can "ride out this Omicron wave without shutting down our country once again".

"We can keep schools and businesses open and find a way to live with this virus, but the weeks ahead are going to be challenging here in the UK and across the world," he said.

"There is no escaping the fact that some services are going to be disrupted by staff absences.


"We have been working through Christmas to prepare for this.

"If we all play our part, disruptions can be far less severe than a national lockdown with all the devastation that would bring for livelihoods and the life chances our children."

All students and staff are expected to be tested for the virus on day one of the spring term after the Education Secretary secured millions of kits.

Pressure is also ramping up on the Prime Minister to slash self-isolation period from seven to five days.

A senior World Health Organisation official claimed it was “advisable” not to adapt coronavirus-fighting strategies based on “early” Omicron data.

But Boris is facing mounting stress to reduce the time period to allow schools and other workforces to get back to normal.

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Meanwhile, more than 100,000 critical workers will be fast-tracked for lateral flow tests to stop essential services grinding to a halt, he announced tonight.

It comes as the number of people testing positive for Covid in the UK tips past 200,000 for the first time in the UK.

Experts say cases should begin to drop next week.

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