A leading expert has said that children are “very minor players” in the transmission of coronavirus in schools, which will add “little” to R rate.
Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and a member of the Government’s Sage scientific advisory group, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, that “reopening schools is one of the least risky things we can do.”
Education Secretary Gavin Williams said the government are being guided by the “best scientific and medical advice,” and echoed Professor Viner comments.
Williamson added, “The education and care of our children is a national priority.
“We have always been and will continue to be guided by the best scientific and medical advice.
“The latest research which is expected to be published later this year – one of the largest studies on the coronavirus in schools in the world – makes it clear there is little evidence that the virus is transmitted at school.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that it is a “national priority” to bring children back to school by September.
However, the children’s commissioner for England Anne Longfield OBE has called on the government to test all pupils prior to them returning back to the classroom.
In order to try and keep the transmission rates down in schools, Longfield has suggested that weekly testing could be needed, even if there are no signs of symptoms.
Professor Viner said that whilst children do transmit the virus they are however “very minor players in the transmission overall.”
He added, “We cannot be in a risk-free society and this is about the risk balance.
“What is the risk balance equation and I think that’s separate for children and young people themselves.
“It’s very clear for them the benefits and risks, the balance is for them to be back at school.
“For broader society, look, I think it’s also clear that reopening schools is one of the least risky things we can do.
“Anything we do that reopens society will add a small or a larger amount to the overall population reproductive number and for schools we believe that it’s a relatively minor player, it would add little to the overall population R.”
But the former government scientific advisor Sir David King has warned that the UK is “heading back into lockdown” within weeks, unless test and trace is sorted.
Sir David has warned that unless Johnson acts now with the programme then the UK will be heading for a second lockdown.
Sir David told the Mirror, “We need a proper test and trace system by September. Otherwise full school opening will put us right back.”
He warned that we are “nowhere near” the safety levels required to reopen schools in September and that Johnson must “get it right” in August, or we will be heading into a second wave as the current track and trace is “disastrous.”
Once Schools reopen at the end of this month, it is expected that the R transmission rate is expected to rise by around 0.5.
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