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Covid risk very, very, very small, says UK’s Johnson, urges parents to send children to school

UK PM Boris Johnson said now is the time to build the bedrock for the academic futures of their children, and added the risk of them suffering badly if infected, was very small too.

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London: U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged parents to send their children back to school when they reopen in England next week, amid growing concern among some teachers and union officials that it’s not safe to do so.

“Now is the time to get pupils back into school, give them the chances they need to build the necessary bedrock for their academic futures,” Johnson said in a video released Monday on Twitter. “The risks are very, very, very small that they’ll even get it, but then the risks that they’ll suffer form it badly are very, very, very, very, very small indeed.”

Pupils were sent home in the coronavirus chaos of mid-March, and most haven’t been back since. Without parents back at work, there’s scant hope of emerging from the continent’s deepest economic slump. And with Johnson’s government reeling from a succession of blunders in dealing with the pandemic, the stakes are high to get school reopenings right.

The country’s chief medical officers said Sunday that the Covid-19 fatality rate among those ages 5 to 14 is lower than most seasonal flu infections. There’s an “exceptionally small risk” of primary or secondary school age children dying from coronavirus if it’s contracted, they said.

Also read:Why Boris Johnson’s future depends on UK kids returning to school

‘Lasting negative impact’

On the other hand, “the risks of not attending school are significant,” Jenny Harries, England’s deputy chief medical officer, told the BBC on Monday. “We know that if children miss out on their education, particularly those in more deprived areas, that will have a lasting negative impact on their health and their life chances.”

International studies show that teachers are more at risk of contracting the virus from other staff than from pupils, the medical officers said. They also noted that a lack of schooling increases inequalities, reduces the life chances of children, and can exacerbate physical and mental health issues.

But the government can’t afford any missteps, with public trust running low over its handling of the exam grading fiasco in recent weeks. A spike in infections that forces schools to close would likely further hurt Johnson’s Conservatives in the polls.

Less contact

The Department for Education says it has set out clear guidelines on staggered starts to the school day, minimizing contact between pupils, and social distancing for teachers. Scotland, whose academic year started already, implemented its own similar measures.

Johnson’s spokesman, Jamie Davies, told reporters on Monday that parents would only be fined for keeping their kids from returning to school as a “last resort.” He also said there were no plans to require the use of face coverings in schools, because they “could obstruct communication between teachers and pupils.”

Schools Minister Nick Gibb, sent out on Monday to reinforce Johnson’s message in the media, said parents can be “assured that schools are doing everything to ensure that the schools are clean and that the risk of transmission is at an absolute minimum.”

“It is a moral imperative to get young people back into school,” he said.- Bloomberg

Also read:Europe’s summer fun unravels as travel chaos, eased measures result in Covid spike


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