KIDS have a “near zero” risk of catching coronavirus at school, a top expert has warned – as a fresh study will show just 11 children have died from the virus in the UK.
Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatricians, told the Sunday Times there was an “incredibly low” risk of kids getting the virus when they return to the classroom.
He said: “Children are at incredibly low risk from Covid-19. The risk to a healthy child of catching the virus from attending school is almost zero.”
Meanwhile, the paper reported that a study to be published this week will show that 11 children have died in the UK from Covid-19 since the start of the crisis, Viner said.
He warned that nearly as many had died from not receiving hospital equipment as quickly as they needed.
“There have been 11 deaths in children and young people from Covid-19 (and most had significant underlying health conditions) but we also think there have been nine deaths of children due to delayed presentations to hospital due to lockdown,” he said.
And he warned that kids being off schools for months at a time risk developing serious mental health issues.
Most children haven’t been at school since mid-March, and nervous parents have continued to teach them at home.
Reception, years one and six are the only ones who have gone back in England.
“Self harm and depression are rising among children locked down during the pandemic,” Professor Viner said.
“There is no doubt that the risk-balance equation points to children being better off in school.”
And Dr Gavin Morgan, who sits on the government’s Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group, told The Observer: “There is going to be a hell of a lot of work to be done from teachers and educational psychologists.
“We are going to have to pick up a lot of broken pieces and put things back together.”
MPs have warned of the hugely damaging effects of keeping kids of school for any longer – both for their education and for kids’ health.
Ministers last week revealed a plan to spend billions of pounds on summer schools and catch-up classes to help those who have been left behind.
The news came as former education ministers say special measures are essential to get all children back in for the autumn term.
Boris Johnson wants to get every child back in school by September.
Gavin Williamson said he expects for class sizes – currently capped at 15 – may have to increase to 30 in order to get them all back in the classroom.
The 2metre rule means that it’s difficult to get schools back up to full capacity.
But it’s expected to be cut in the coming weeks to help.
Meanwhile, the PM is reportedly considering booting out Mr Williamson, the Education Secretary, over the bungle on schools reopening.
A Downing Street source told The Times that Mr Williamson’s soft approach with the unions had damaged his reputation.
The insider told the paper: “Gavin played nicely with the unions in the hope that they would sign up, and they didn’t.
“People in there [Downing Street] know how you take on the teaching unions and beat them.”
Schools are expected to retrun from the end of the month in Wales.
And they will begin to reopen to more pupils in Scotland and Northern Ireland in August.
Northern Ireland will slash the 2m rule down to one to make that happen, in a huge hint it will happen in England too.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are working to get all pupils back in the classroom by September because we know being in school is vital for their education and wellbeing. The welfare of children and staff at the heart of all our decisions.”