Both Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer are insisting children go back to school while ignoring the health risks.
Parents have a right to be worried after both Party leaders have made compelling cases and guarantees about the safety of the nation’s children returning to school during this coronavirus outbreak but then we learn children and teachers in Scotland have tested positive in less than two weeks after schools reopening proving there is a clear health issue.
The public are told how dangerous this virus is, how contagious and life threatening but on the other hand we are given conflicting information that just doesn’t seem to old water when we review the facts.
If only for a minimum standard of safety the first thing we must demand is that the promised ‘track and trace system’ is up and running before children return to school.
Boris Johnson says it is ‘vitally important’ children return to class
He said “it is far more damaging for a child’s development and their health… to be away from school any longer”.
Mr Johnson’s words echoed those of the UK’s four chief medical officers.
They have all signed a joint statement alongside deputy chief medical officers to reassure parents schools could mitigate risks during the pandemic.
While Sir Keir Starmer made his position unequivocally clear saying “My message to the Prime Minister: I don’t just want all children back at school next month, I expect them back at school. No ifs, no buts, no equivocation.”
Both party leaders make a compelling argument as to why the nation's children should be in class. Both Johnson and Starmer make similar statements about education being a great leveller giving young people the tools in life to succeed both stating that "Nothing will have a greater effect on the life chances of our children than returning to school". Sir Keir Starmer goes even further writing in the 'Daily Mail' he says "The Prime Minister wrote in this paper last weekend that we have a moral duty to reopen schools. I agree. What he does not seem to understand is that he has a moral responsibility to make sure it happens."
My message to the Prime Minister: I don’t just want all children back at school next month, I expect them back at school.— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) August 16, 2020
No ifs, no buts, no equivocation. https://t.co/Q00nsGFH8u
Starmer continues by saying "Children, young people and families must be a national priority with the leadership to match. Every day children are missing out on their education is a tragedy. It has a devastating impact on their wellbeing and life chances, as well as putting a huge strain on families who are forced to juggle childcare and work commitments."
"So, let me send a very clear message to the Prime Minister: I don’t just want all children back at school next month, I expect them back at school. No ifs, no buts, no equivocation. Let me be equally clear: it is the Prime Minister’s responsibility to guarantee children get the education they need and the benefit of being back with their teachers and classmates."
Boris Johnson citing comments from England's chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty at the weekend, said the risk of catching coronavirus in school was "very small and it is far more damaging for a child's development and their health and wellbeing to be away from school any longer".
"This is why it's vitally important that we get our children back into the classroom to learn and to be with their friends," he added.
"Nothing will have a greater effect on the life chances of our children than returning to school."
Prof Whitty said on Sunday that children were more likely to be harmed by not returning to school next month than if they caught coronavirus.
He cited evidence of children "much less commonly" needing hospital treatment or becoming severely ill with coronavirus than adults.
On the face of things, both leaders make a compelling case for children to be back in school, an argument that no right-minded parent would disagree with, however...
The fact is neither Boris Johnson, the government and defiantly not Sir Keir Starmer can guarantee our children's safety.
According to the Office for National Statistics' latest data on ages, there were 10 deaths recorded as "due to Covid-19" among those aged 19 and under in England and Wales between March and June - and 46,725 deaths among those aged 20 and over.
And of the more than one million children who attended pre-school and primary schools in England in June, 70 children and 128 staff were infected in outbreaks of the virus, according to a Public Health England study published on Sunday.
Coronavirus: Staff and pupils test positive in Dundee school outbreak
All staff and students have been told to self-isolate, while contact tracing has identified further cases.
Today there is a huge outbreak at a Dundee school, 17 staff and multiple pupils have tested positive for Covid-19. this comes less than two weeks after schools in Scotland have reopened. The school which has now been shut until at least next week to undergo a deep clean.
All staff and children at Kingspark School in Dundee, which reopened along with other schools in Scotland on August 12, have been told to self-isolate for two weeks.
NHS Tayside confirmed positive cases among three 'community contacts' linked to the cluster at the school, which has about 185 pupils aged between five and 18.
No matter how statistics are played with the evidence is clear children's health cannot be guaranteed if they return to school.
Health officials confirmed a single positive case has also been linked to the primary 2A class at St Peter and Paul's School in Dundee.
A positive case has also been linked to Happy Times out-of-school club at Downfield Primary School in the same city.
The NHS also confirmed that a child attending the nursery at Newburgh Primary School was now isolating at home with other household members.
One concerned mother said news about a case at one of the nurseries in Dundee was 'every parent's worst nightmare'.
She added: 'It's a very worrying development and there's a great level of concern as you'd expect from parents with children at the nursery.
'I have been advised that my child is to isolate for 14 days from the first day they came into contact with the confirmed case, however older siblings will still be required to attend the primary school.
'There's a lot of confusion and anxiety among parents I've spoken to about the situation but we'll follow the advice we've been given.'
Dr Ellie Hothersall, consultant in public health medicine with NHS Tayside, said: 'Since the identification of positive cases at Kingspark, a detailed contact tracing programme has been under way and these linked cases are being identified because of those concerted efforts of Test and Protect.
'We must do everything we can to protect all of our communities against Covid-19 and that is why we have issued the guidance to self-isolate.
'By taking this action we are containing any further spread of infection.we know this may cause anxiety to some parents and children but we must do everything we can to ensure we keep people safe.'
Elsewhere, a member of staff and two pupils at High Blantyre Primary School in South Lanarkshire have tested positive for Covid-19.
NHS Lanarkshire said adults and children connected to primary three or primary four had been asked not to attend class.
They will be offered testing on Wednesday and asked to self-isolate until they receive confirmation of a negative result.
Dr Josephine Pravinkumar, consultant in public health medicine, said: 'We are aware that there will be concern among both children and their parents at this time.
'We would like to reassure the local community that appropriate measures are being implemented.
'Individuals should stay off school or work and get tested if they or their close contacts experience any Covid-19 symptoms, such as a cough, fever or loss of taste or smell, even if they are mild.'
Shelagh Mclean, Fife Council's head of education and children's services, said: 'We are following public health advice and talking with our colleagues in NHS Fife about actions required regarding Covid-19.
'With their direction, we are taking all appropriate actions, including that relating to Test and Protect and contact with any confirmed case linked to one of our schools.
'A joint letter, from us and the NHS, was issued to all parents and carers in Fife at the end of last week to keep them informed.
'We've also issued a comprehensive list of questions and answers to help with any questions that they may have, and reminded them of their responsibilities around quarantining at www.fife.gov. uk/schoolcovidfaqs'
Meanwhile restrictions have been placed on care homes across Tayside as authorities try to stem the spread of a coronavirus outbreak.
Indoor visits to the premises are due to restart across Scotland today, if deemed safe to do so.
Teachers are far more likely to spread Covid than children, says leading scientist as figures show just 1 in 10,000 schools have been hit by outbreaks
Teachers are far more likely to spread Covid-19 than children, according to a leading scientist.
Shamez Ladhani, a paediatric infectious diseases specialist at Public Health England (PHE), said that school staff will maintain social distancing rules during work but are more likely to break them outside the classroom.
It comes as data shows just one in 10,000 schools have been hit by a virus outbreak since they reopened in June. Separate analysis revealed only one in 23,000 children were infected.
A PHE analysis found 70 children out of 1.6million who had returned to school in June tested positive for Covid-19. Another 128 members of staff tested positive. And only 30 outbreaks were confirmed at 23,400 reopened schools.
The analysis, published yesterday, said the majority of cases linked to outbreaks were in staff and warned that school staff needed to be 'more vigilant for exposure outside the school setting to protect themselves, their families and the educational setting'.
Dr Shamez Ladhani, paediatric infectious diseases specialist at PHE, who headed the monitoring of England's schools, told The Times: 'We need to educate the educators.
'There's a clear need for a duty of care outside the school setting so staff need to protect themselves, and in turn other staff and pupils.'
He added: 'Staff are very good at social distancing and infection control in the classroom, but upon leaving the school environment these measures are more likely to be broken, potentially putting themselves and their colleagues at risk.'
The public are told how dangerous this virus is, how contagious and life threatening but on the other hand we are given conflicting information that just doesn't seem to old water when we review the facts.
If only for a minimum standard of safety the first thing we must demand is that the promised track and trace system is in place before children return to school.
Some children face higher risks
While a child’s immune system might seem biologically primed to ward off COVID-19, not all children are equally affected.
“The vast majority of children with severe COVID tend to have other risk factors,” says Philip Zachariah, a paediatric infectious disease specialist at Columbia University and epidemiologist at New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital.
In a study he published in early June, Zachariah reviewed the cases of 50 children who were admitted for COVID-19. All but one child recovered. Obesity in children over two was associated with more severe manifestations of the disease, though Zachariah emphasizes that this may simply reflect the neighbourhoods served by New York-Presbyterian.
“I think the data is generally consistent with the fact that lower-income kids and racial minorities are infected more,” he says.
Overall, he says, even young kids who do get sick seem more likely to recover than sick adults. And the same ways adults stay safe—social distancing, wearing masks, and hand washing—will ultimately help kids contain the virus.
Back in April children were promised computers
The Government announced that “disadvantaged children” (e.g. those who receive support from a social worker and care leavers) across England are to be given a free tablet or laptop computer and 4G based mobile broadband service, which is intended to help with their education during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis.
There was no specified number of laptops available, or set budget, and it will be up to schools or local authorities to decide who needs help with access to a computer.
They will also be available to children with a social worker or those leaving care - with schools keeping the computers when regular classes open again.
There is also the offer of some 4G routers to help families connect to the internet.
The promises over technology reflect worries that pupils from poorer families could be disproportionately losing out during the weeks out of school.
This scheme needs to be extended, in the mean time all efforts should be made to get the 'track and trace system working. LINK
Read more: Why children are not immune to Covid-19