Adolescents between the ages of 11 and 16 are now the age group with the highest levels of infection in England, and one in ten is said to be absent from school either because of a confirmed or suspected coronavirus or because that he has been in contact with a potentially contagious person.
While many teens show no symptoms of Covid-19, the Independent Sage group has warned that they risk bringing the virus home to parents and grandparents, who are more vulnerable to developing serious health problems.
And the group’s chairman, former chief science adviser Professor Sir David King, has warned the risk will be heightened as generations of families come together to celebrate Christmas under the government’s relaxed restrictions.
“You have to be extremely careful in a multigenerational situation, indoors at home, celebrating with a glass of champagne or whatever it is, as appealing as all of that,” Professor King said. “Unless people have isolated themselves for 10 to 12 days before they find each other, this is a very dangerous situation. There will be a price to pay for Christmas. We all need to realize that we are putting our own family members at risk in this process.
In a report released today, the group called for more teaching via video link in high-risk areas, increased use of face masks in the classroom, and funds to provide warm clothing for children. children from disadvantaged backgrounds, so that windows can be left wide open to improve ventilation. even in cold weather in winter.
Independent Sage has also called for the cancellation of elementary tests and the replacement of A-level and GCSE exams with teacher assessments next year.
The report cited new figures from the Bureau of National Statistics showing infection rates among 11-16 year olds of 0.04% as of September 1, before schools reopened for the fall term.
As of November 21, the latest date for which figures are available, the proportion of this age group considered positive was 2.16%, 54 times higher over a 12-week period. Positivity peaked at 2.28% on November 16 and 17.
The same figures show a higher proportion of positive cases among 11 to 16 year olds than in any other age group, followed by 18 to 24 year olds – including sixth grade and college students – at 1.92%, while those aged 50 to 69 were at 0.83% and those over 70 at 0.54%.
In some areas, infections in adolescents equals one for each class of 30, independent experts from Sage said.
Official statistics show that around 20% of high school students are out of school, of which around half are believed to be absent for reasons related to Covid. About 1 percent of England’s secondary states are closed.
“It is now clear that high school students can be infected and infect each other and adults, and this is finally recognized by official government advisers at Sage,” the report said.
“Children and young people in school tend to have a large transmission circle which can endanger parents and grandparents. While wishing to minimize disruption in child rearing, stricter guidelines are urgently needed to reduce the risk of infection. “
The report, drawn up after consultation with principals, teachers and parents, claimed that schools were denied essential information and resources and were offering “inconsistent” advice from the government. He said bans on schools reshuffling vacations or switching to blended learning – partly online and partly in the classroom – had compounded the problems.
“The current situation in many of the most affected schools and communities is characterized by confusion, secrecy, mistrust, fear, demoralization and exhaustion,” the report said. “The situation is clearly not sustainable.”
Professor Stephen Reicher of the University of St Andrews, Independent Sage, said: “Over the summer the government effectively abandoned schools, forcing them to be safe, but without providing the support or resources. to make this possible.
“As a result, far too many of our children are left in overcrowded and poorly ventilated classrooms; infections have increased 50-fold since September; one in five students is out of school; and all of this now puts the whole community at risk.
“The government must recognize its mistake and change direction. We need to act urgently to make schools safe. “
The report, prepared with the education research group Eagle, called for broader use of blended learning, for tips to encourage high school students to wear face masks in class, to smaller class sizes. in the primaries and better ventilation.
Self-isolation should be practiced by all children in a school “bubble” and not just by those who sit closest to an infected child, Independent Sage said. And he said staff who are clinically vulnerable should be allowed to work from home if possible.