Healthcare advisers in the UK say that missing school is a greater risk for children than COVID

LONDON (Reuters) – The UK’s chief medical officer has said children after school should go to school after the summer holidays to warn that missing their education poses much greater risks to them than catching COVID-19.

PHILO PHOTO: A child sends to a classroom at Watlington Primary School during the last school day, amid the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), in Watlington, UK, July 17, 2020. REUTERS / Eddie Keogh

The rare joint statement by the top health advisers to the governments of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland represents an impetus for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who has said bringing children back to school is a national priority.

Confidence in the government’s approach to education during the coronavirus pandemic took a hit last week when Education Minister Gavin Williamson was forced into a embarrassing U-turn over research findings.

“Very few, if any, children or teenagers will suffer long-term damage from COVID-19 due to just going to school,” they said. “This must be set against a certainty of long-term harm to many children and young people from not going to school,” the CMOs said in a joint statement released late Saturday.

Evidence showed that a shortage of schooling increased inequality, reduced opportunities and could increase physical and mental health problems, the statement said.

In contrast, there was clear evidence of a very low rate of severe disease in children, even if they caught COVID-19, and an exceptionally low risk of dying.

“The percentage of symptomatic cases requiring hospitalization is estimated to be 0.1% for children aged 0-9 years and 0.3% among those aged 10-19 years, compared to a hospital admission of more than 4% in the United Kingdom for the general population, “the statement said.

Johnson said reopening schools in September is a social, economic and moral imperative, and insists they can operate safely despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Separately, the chief medical officer of England was quoted as saying that it would be foolish to count on a coronavirus vaccine ready for use this year.

“I think if we look a year ahead, I think the chances are much greater than if we look at six months and we need to keep that kind of time scales in mind,” Chris Whitty told Sky News.

“So planning next winter, it would be crazy to plan based on a fax.”

Written by William Schomberg; Edited by Raissa Kasolowsky

Our standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.