A top scientist who led the team behind the Oxford jab has warned that kids returning to school will mean more Covid cases, it has been reported.

Sarah Gilbert, Professor of vaccinology at Oxford University, reportedly warned of the dangers of being “too optimistic” ahead of the mass re-opening.

She said that while the return of children back to schools from Monday was necessary it could lead to an increase in infections.

She told the i : "I just have slight concern we don’t take our foot off the brake too early. That we don’t say this is great, we can all just forget about all the restrictions. There are still a lot more people left to vaccinate.

“We’ve got kids going back schools, and that’s absolutely necessary. But there may well be a slight increase in transmissions as a result of it. But if we can get the transmission rate down really low, then we can cope with a small increase.

School children in a classroom scene
School kids will return to class from Monday

“What we don’t want to see is the vaccination programme slowing down because people think ‘it’s fine. I’m a healthy 40-year-old, I don’t really need to go and get the vaccine’. That’s the wrong attitude to have.”

It comes as flocks of school children prepare to go back to the class room from Monday as Boris Johnson's 'roadmap out of lockdown' kicks off.

Schools in England will re-open from March 8, with primary schools expected to open all at once.

The Mirror's newsletter brings you the latest news, exciting showbiz and TV stories, sport updates and essential political information.

The newsletter is emailed out first thing every morning, at 12noon and every evening.

Never miss a moment by signing up to our newsletter here.

Secondary school re-openings will be staggered across the week as pupils must first take a rapid test at school before they can start in-person lessons.

Secondary pupils - who will also be asked to wear masks in class - will be given ‘lateral flow’ test kits to test themselves from Covid at home twice per week.

School sports can resume as long as they are for education or part of wraparound care, like after-school clubs.

University of Oxford of Professor Sarah Gilbert
University of Oxford of Professor Sarah Gilbert led the team behind the Oxford jab
School pupils being taught in a class room
The re-opening of schools is part of a gradual unlocking of restrictions

Unions have called for a phased re-opening of schools, and there are concerns that rapid tests could miss many positive cases - as well as wrongly declaring many people positive when overall case rates are low.

But Boris Johnson said: "The reopening of schools marks a truly national effort to beat this virus. It is because of the determination of every person in this country that we can start moving closer to a sense of normality."

Meanwhile, Gavin Williamson on Sunday confirmed that plans were on the table for longer school days, shorter holidays and five-term years.

It forms part of an 18-month catch up plan for school kids whose school routines have been upended by months of lockdowns.

But Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said similar ideas had not been a “long-standing success in the past” and “I don’t think many of those have persisted.”