Coronavirus: Little evidence of Covid transmission in schools, says Williamson


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There is little evidence of transmission of the coronavirus in schools, said Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

Mr Williamson said the government was being guided by the best science as it accelerated plans to reopen schools to all students in England next month.

Government advisers have warned that the nation may have reached the limit of what can be safely reopened in society.

But Mr Williamson suggested that an upcoming study would support the government’s position on reopening schools.

His comments came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said reopening schools, after months without in-person education, was the government’s “national priority”.

The Prime Minister, who is expected to visit a school later, is said to have made it clear that schools should close as a last resort in future local lockdowns, after businesses, including shops and pubs.

‘Growing confidence’

The Association of School and College Leaders said there were no clear guidelines from the government and schools were making their own contingency plans.

But the education secretary argued that “parents are increasingly confident that their children will return” to class.

In a statement released on Sunday evening, he said: “This is due to the hard work of school staff across the country putting in place a series of protective measures to prepare to welcome all students again at the start of the term. ”

Mr Williamson also referred to 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”, saying it “clearly shows that there is little evidence that the virus is being transmitted. at school “.

It is believed he is referring to a forthcoming report to be released by Public Health England.

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Gavin Williamson said parents have grown more confident in their children’s return to school

The Children’s Commissioner for England Anne Longfield has called for regular coronavirus testing in schools.

And National Education Union Deputy Secretary General Avis Gilmore said: “There is a need for robust monitoring, traceability and testing alongside health and safety checks in schools and colleges. ”

However, Schools Minister Nick Gibb rejected the idea, telling Times Radio on Sunday that he did not support routine testing for teachers and students who were not showing symptoms.

Schools across the UK closed on March 20, except for children of key workers or vulnerable children. On June 1, they began a limited reopening for early childhood, reception, year 1 and year 6 students.

The current plan is for most of the country’s children to return to school next month.

Advice on reopening has been published for England. There are also separate plans for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, where schools are due to return from Tuesday.

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Media captionCan children catch and spread coronavirus?

‘Improve test and trace’

Some government science advisers are calling for improvements to the testing and traceability system before schools reopen.

First, Professor Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, said that a “brief window” before schools reopen must be “put to good use”. In the Observer, he said: “We urgently need to step up testing.”

Meanwhile, Labor is calling for a “rapid reform” of the testing and traceability system, suggesting that local health protection teams are more effective than national call centers.

Figures released last week by the Department of Health and Social Affairs showed that local teams continued to do better than call center workers when it came to close contact with people who tested positive for the coronavirus.

In a letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth and Shadow Cabinet Minister Rachel Reeves expressed concerns that the current model “does not fit.”

The UK reported on Sunday that eight more people had died after testing positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total to 46,574. Another 1,062 people tested positive for Covid-19.

In another development, gymnasiums, swimming pools, recreation centers and children’s play centers are allowed to reopen in Wales on Monday, in a further easing of lockdown restrictions.

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