The government have released new guidance for schools reopening in September.
Dr Sarah Lewis, Senior Lecturer in Genetic Epidemiology, University of Bristol, said:
“One could argue that the risk to children and teachers has been low because schools were closed for much of the pandemic, and children have largely been confined to mixing with their own households, so that when schools open fully risk will increase.
“However, infection rates in the community are now much lower than they were at their peak, when schools were fully open to all pupils without social distancing. Studies which have used contract tracing to determine whether infected children have transmitted the disease to others have consistently shown that they have not, although the number of cases included has been small, and asymptomatic children are often not tested.
“Modelling studies estimate that even if schools fully reopen without social distancing, this is likely to have only modest effects on virus transmission in the community. If infection levels can be controlled – for example by testing and contact tracing efforts – and cases can be quickly isolated, then we believe that schools pose a minimal risk in terms of the transmission of COVID, and to the health of teachers and children. Furthermore, the risk is likely to be more than offset by the harms caused by ongoing disruption to children’s educational opportunities.”
Prof Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said:
“This guidance is timely and we hope it will help schools, teachers and parents to plan for the extremely important goal of getting children back to school. Over 2,500 of our members signed an open letter to the Prime Minister because of their concerns about the risk to children’s health and well-being if they are not in school.
“Children are around half as susceptible to COVID-19 as adults and very rarely get symptoms and almost never get severely ill. The evidence from many countries around the world is that transmission in schools is very low. Most children catch COVID-19 from adults in their household. Individual children can pass the virus on and we will inevitably see occasional outbreaks in schools, especially if there is a rise in infection rates in the general population.
“Reactive school closures have a place in stamping out local spikes in this pandemic, but this must be evidence-based. The risks to children of keeping schools closed are high, and schools should be reopened again as soon as possible.
“We would like to see more detail on how the NHS Test and Trace system works with schools. If we have a second wave, close liaison with Test and Trace will be key.”
‘Guidance for full opening – schools’ can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak/guidance-for-full-opening-schools
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