Coronavirus: Government scientists publish advice on going back to school

Elias Hubbard
May 23, 2020

It is not yet safe for children to return to school according to a new report by an independent group of United Kingdom scientists.

The committee of independent scientists, SAGE, chaired by Sir David King, the former Chief Scientific Advisor, has released a "draft consultation report" which says that schools should not re-open until local "test, track, and isolate" systems for COVID-19 infections are in place.

The group also said that there is not a higher risk to teachers compared to other adults going back to work.

A group of top scientists led by a former United Kingdom government chief scientific adviser has warned against reopening English schools on June 1, saying it is too soon for kids to return to classrooms safely amid the threat of Covid-19.

However, evidence is still unclear on whether kids who do catch coronavirus are more, or less, likely to pass it on to someone they come into contact with.

This means it's hard for scientists to know if going back to school is going to increase the numbers of people - adults and children - who have the disease again.

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SAGE also discussed the impact of potentially reopening schools in June.

Now schools are only open to small numbers of vulnerable children, as well as the children of key workers since they closed in March.

The research showed that opening nurseries and reception classes would have a smaller effect on the spread of the virus than primary schools.

New modelling shows that the risk to pupils would be halved if United Kingdom ministers delayed their proposed school opening date by two weeks, allowing more time for an effective "test, trace and isolate" program to be established, according to the science committee.

A teacher explains mathematics during a lesson with pupils (sixth graders), who are sitting at desks socially-distanced, on the second day of classes since March at an elementary school in the district Kreuzberg during the novel coronavirus crisis on May 5, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.

"However, we also recognise that the decision of when to re-open our schools is a careful balance and that it is vital for our young people to get back into the classroom as soon as it is safe to do so".

A different group of scientists called Independent Sage have said schools should not re-open until there is the ability to track the spread of the virus.

The R number needs to be below 1, before Prime Minister Boris Johnson will start further easing lockdown in England.

A report published by the "Independent Sage" committee, chaired by Sir David King, says that "well-functioning local test, trace, and isolate protocols" - key conditions for the United Kingdom government to relax lockdown restrictions - will not be in place by the start of June.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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