Children may be stuck learning from home until the Easter break, a Kent education chief has warned.
Though cases are dropping, government ministers have warned the situation may not be safe enough for children to return more than a year after restrictions began.
Steve Chalke, head of the Oasis academy chain with a school on the Isle of Sheppey, believes schools will stay closed post-Easter and children will miss the second half term.
The academy chief has launched a campaign calling for teachers to be made a priority on vaccination lists to mitigate the harmful impact of lockdown on education.
Mr Chalke said: “If schools did shut completely key workers’ children couldn’t go to school and half the NHS couldn’t go to work. It would mean the collapse of the NHS and the economy.”
One retired school head told KentOnline children will be 'blighted' by their time away from school as they miss out on key 'building blocks' of learning, socialisation and structure in a classroom.
Further doubt has been cast on an earlier ease of restrictions by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who declined to comment yesterday on whether pupils could return as lockdown eases.
The minister reiterated the government's four considerations for lifting lockdown; that the number of deaths must drop, pressure on the NHS must reduce, the vaccination programme must be successful and there must be no new variants of the virus.
Julian Spinks, medical director at Medway Practices Alliance, said: "I think until a lot of people are vaccinated, we can’t count on vaccination as being the main reason for actually coming out of lockdown.
"I think the things other people do to allow the numbers to drop, which they’re starting to do already, is the thing that’s going to predict whether we can come out.
"But, I can’t see it happening for a month or two I’m afraid because although the numbers are dropping they’re still incredibly high compared with what we had in the summer between the two waves.
"The hospitals in Kent are under an enormous amount of pressure. The intensive care units are beyond their normal capacity and the so-called surge capacity is very close to being overwhelmed as well."
Almost 2,000 children a week are still catching Covid in Kent and Medway, according to the latest figures.
In the week up to January 13, 1,920 youngsters up to the age of 19 tested positive for coronavirus.
This is a 39% drop on the week ending December 22, when 3,146 children had Covid.
Despite this, four times as many pupils area being sent into school during this lockdown compared to the one last year as 20,000 pupils have attended compared to just 5,000 last Spring.