Schools might not be able to reopen until September, the Health Secretary has said, suggesting coronavirus infection rates must go down further before education can resume.

On Wednesday, Matt Hancock said it was too early to consider the move and would make “no promises” that children will return to school before autumn.

His comments appear to contradict moves from a number of European governments which indicate that they do not consider children to pose a significant risk of spreading coronavirus. Children in both Switzerland and Denmark have been encouraged to hug their grandparents in recent days.

UK officials are more cautious, however, with Public Health England (PHE) saying it is still working to understand the extent to which children drive community transmission.

Answering questions from the public on Sky News, Mr Hancock was unequivocal that opening schools would pose a risk.

“Although children don’t suffer the consequences of coronavirus nearly as much as adults – by and large, children are not affected by the disease – they still spread it,” he said. “Colleges and schools are a place where lots of people from different households can mix. That proved to be a real spreader.”

Mr Hancock acknowledged the difficulty faced by parents who are home-schooling their children, admitting that he is “terrible” at helping his own, aged six, 12 and 13.

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