Is it safe to go back to school in England? The scientific advice so far

May 18, 2020 by

Michael Gove says it is safe for children to return to school – so what is the scientific guidance?

The Department for Education recently released an overview of advice it received from Public Health England, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and its subgroup the Children’s Task and Finish Working Group – although specific evidence from these latter groups has yet to be published.

The new report points out that in general children with Covid-19 have a far milder form of the disease than adults and that, at least for children up to the age of 13, they are far less likely to show symptoms. It also notes there is some, albeit very limited evidence, that such children are less likely to become infected than adults, but it is unclear whether they transmit the virus less than adults

The report also acknowledges other countries: many in Europe have begun reopening schools with few problems, at least so far. Indeed the secretary of state for education, Gavin Williamson, has previously highlighted the lack of negative impacts in Denmark, where schools reopened in mid-April.

However, experts found the “R” number – the effective reproduction number – did nudge upwards towards 1 in the first two weeks of reopening in Denmark before falling once again, while some have said that comparisons with Denmark are problematic, with Denmark having had far fewer deaths (under 550 at the time of writing).

Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, said that another consideration is that there have been few recorded cases of adults catching the disease from children, while there have been no outbreaks in schools around the world – although that could be down to children showing few symptoms. But, he said, teachers may be at risk from other teachers – as is the case between workers in other jobs.

What measures will schools introduce?

The new report notes it is very difficult for young children to stay 2 metres apart, but says measures such as hand washing and emphasising the need to use and bin tissues are important.

Source: Is it safe to go back to school in England? The scientific advice so far | Education | The Guardian

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