Parents can safely send their children back to school next month knowing they are at an "exceptionally low risk" from coronavirus, the UK Chief Medical Officers unanimously decided.
The highly unusual "consensus declaration" by the country's top experts removes the final hurdle to resuming full-time education in September – to the relief of parents who have been forced to home-school the majority of children since March.
All 12 chief and deputy chief medical officers agree that "very few, if any, teenagers will suffer long-term harm from Covid-19 just from attending school". And they say that a low risk needs to be balanced against "the certainty of long-term harm for many children out of school".
The experts also conclude that "teachers are not at an increased risk of dying from Covid-19 compared to other workers," saying that the evidence from other countries is that in some cases the reopening of schools is not involved associated with an increase.
Students sit apart during a socially distant language class at Longdendale High School on July 16, 2020 in Hyde, England
Her reassuring statement comes after Boris Johnson posted a rally in The Mail two weeks ago on Sunday telling union leaders trying to block schools from reopening that the country has a "moral duty" to teach to resume.
And last week, union leader Sir Keir Starmer argued – also in this newspaper – that Mr Johnson had a "moral responsibility" to keep his promise.
The intervention of the medical experts came as follows:
- Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, the minister responsible for reopening schools, has been criticized again for handling the A-level results fiasco when it was revealed that he was taking a vacation days before the crisis hit.
- The government said 41,423 people in the UK had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of yesterday, an increase from 18 the day before;
- Northwest town hall chiefs claimed they would be "punished" with draconian new lockdowns on good testing;
- According to sources, senior government officials have been instructed to prepare for a second lockdown in the UK in November in the "worst-case scenario" if infection rates continue to rise.
- Former scientific advisor Professor Sir Mark Walport warned that the coronavirus will be "forever" rather than being eradicated like smallpox, and that people will likely need regular vaccinations against it, as it does with the flu.
- The US government's leading health research agency has raised grave concerns about a secret Chinese laboratory believed to be the cause of the pandemic and called for responses to the "apparent disappearance" of a scientist believed to be "patient zero."
- The British were scrambling to return from Croatia, Austria, Trinidad and Tobago before new quarantine restrictions went into effect, while others ran to book holiday vacations in Portugal after it was placed on the green list as safe.
In their statement, doctors set aside the unions' safety concerns by stating that there is "an exceptionally low risk of elementary or secondary school age children dying from Covid-19".
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson (pictured), the minister in charge of reopening schools, has been criticized again for handling the A-level results fiasco when it was revealed that he was on vacation just days before the crisis hit
They said the death rate for infected children ages five to 15 is only 14 in a million, "lower than most seasonal flu infections," and while every child death is a tragedy, "almost all deaths (from Covid) are in children with significant pre-existing health conditions ”.
The experts report that only one in a thousand children under nine who show symptoms of Covid would need hospital treatment, a number that climbs to three in thousand for ten to 19 year olds.
That's still an order of magnitude lower than the four percent rate for the general population, and the experts add, "Most of these children recover quickly."
Given this tiny risk, scientists say, "We are confident that multiple sources of evidence show that a lack of schooling increases inequalities, decreases children's life chances, and can exacerbate physical and mental health problems."
Students arrive at Kelso High School on the Scottish Borders on August 11th as schools reopened in Scotland amid concerns about the safety of returning to the classroom during the coronavirus pandemic
Although officials accept that there will be "transmission of Covid-19 to school staff", they believe it is largely "staff to staff" which can be limited by "social distancing and good infection control." .
They tried to reassure the staff by saying that the data suggested teaching was a "lower risk profession".
The experts acknowledge that the connections between households made by returning schools, such as contact at school gates or more people using public transport, "will put some upward pressure on transmission," but said that "others Work and social environments … probably are "more important".
We are confident that multiple sources of evidence show that a lack of schooling increases inequalities, decreases children's life chances, and can exacerbate physical and mental health problems
However, their comments came when coronavirus cases were reported in at least 41 schools in Berlin two weeks after the city's 825 schools reopened.
UK Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said last night that the "incredibly small" health risks should be weighed against the overwhelming evidence that schooling is long-term harmful to children and that this includes their long-term opportunities.
It increases the risk of disparities, it anchors deeply rooted problems, and it increases the risk of them becoming mentally and physically ill in the long run. & # 39;
He added that transmission rates across the UK have been largely unchanged, saying, “The evidence from other parts of the world is that the opening of schools has not resulted in a sudden surge in transmission that looks like this to be the case Schools lies opening.
Mr Whitty, who signed the declaration with his colleagues from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and their eight MEPs after considering a wide range of experts and research, also noted that there may be "other restrictions" on local ones Bans must exist in order to keep schools open.
He said, “We really have to make pretty tough decisions. There are no easy ways to deal with coronavirus. & # 39;
Dr. Patrick Roach of the NASUWT Teachers Union said, “The statement by the Chief Medical Officers has reinforced the critical importance of risk control measures.
"Governments across the UK need to take steps to ensure that effective systems are in place to monitor school practices and that safety is maintained after schools reopen."
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