LANCASHIRE County Council has warned its primary schools and nurseries against opening to more pupils on Monday over fears of the safety of children and teachers.

Its public health director Dr Sakthi Karunathini said they should stay closed to all but vulnerable youngsters and those of key workers to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

It brings the authority - which runs schools and nurseries in Hyndburn, Ribble Valley, Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale - into line with Blackburn with Darwen.

The government has recommended primaries reopen to all children in reception, Year 1 and Year 6 from Monday.

While Blackburn with Darwen Council has urged its schools to stay closed until at least June 8, the county council had previously left the decision on a wider reopening to headteachers and governors.

Now Dr Karunathini has changed his advice after deciding the government's five tests to the easing of lockdown restrictions had not been met in Lancashire.

His concerns echo those of his Blackburn with Darwen counterpart Professor Dominic Harrison who had persuaded that authority to advise against any further reopening of primary schools and nurseries next week.

Dr Karunathini said: "The safety and wellbeing of Lancashire's children, families and school staff are of paramount importance to us.

"We have carefully assessed the five tests the government has set for the easing of the lockdown measures and, at this stage, we cannot say with confidence that all of them are being met in Lancashire.

"Therefore we are advising schools that they should not reopen to more pupils from June 1.

"We will keep this advice under constant review and, as soon as we believe it is safe for schools to open, we will inform schools and the public."

He said that while the decision on whether to open an individual school lies with the head teacher and chair of governors, the county council was now actively encouraging schools to delay any wider reopening of classes.

Earlier this month Prof Harrison said: “I do not support a return on June 1 as the evidence is not yet clear.”

Dr Karunathini said the government had set five tests for easing the restrictions on primary school and nurseries,

They are: protecting the NHS’s ability to cope; a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates from Covid-19 demonstrating the infection's peak had passed; evidence that coronavirus is decreasing to manageable levels across the board; confidence that challenges, including testing capacity and PPE, were being met with supply able to meet future demand; and confidence any changes would not risk a second peak of infections overwhelming the NHS.

Dr Karunathini said: "Locally, we are currently able to meet the requirements of the first three tests; however, we do not meet the requirements for the final two tests.

"The test and trace programme is not at a state of readiness to respond to Covid-19 community setting outbreaks in a timely manner, which poses a risk to school environments.

"Furthermore, we are not confident that adjustments to the current measures of the lockdown policy will not risk a second peak of infections locally.

"The safety and wellbeing of children, their families, and school staff outweigh the benefits of opening schools on June 1.

"There has been no evidence of education outcomes worsening due to the effects of government lockdown policy.

"It is not going to be possible to implement social distancing in early years school settings.

"There is a significant risk that should outbreaks occur in school settings, the current system will not allow for tests to be conducted in a timely manner and therefore, the virus will continue to spread."