British Prime Minister Boris Johnson appealed on Monday to parents to send their children to school when they reopen next week.
“I have previously spoken about the moral duty to reopen schools to all pupils safely, and I would like to thank the school staff who have spent the summer months making classrooms Covid-secure in preparation for a full return in September,” he said in a statement.
“As the Chief Medical Officer has said, the risk of contracting Covid-19 in school is very small and it is far more damaging for a child’s development and their health and well-being to be away from school any longer,” he added.
“This is why it’s vitally important that we get our children back into the classroom to learn and to be with their friends. Nothing will have a greater effect on the life chances of our children than returning to school.”
The chief and deputy chief medical officers of all four constituent nations of the UK made a statement in support.
They said they were confident that extensive evidence showed there was an “exceptionally small” risk of children of primary or secondary school age dying from COVID-19, with the infection fatality rate lower than for most seasonal flu infections.
They were also confident that there was clear evidence of a very low rate of severe disease in children of primary and secondary school ages compared to adults, even if they catch COVID-19, and that the great majority of children and teenagers who catch COVID-19 have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.
Measures that schools could take to further minimize risk included hand and surface hygiene, reducing the number of daily contacts and face-to-face contact, they said.
A new study by Public Health England (PHE) further bolstered the prime minister’s position. It found that outbreaks and infections in schools were rare.
Using data from June, the PHE said that only 0.01% of open schools had an outbreak, and that out of more than 1 million children attending pre-school and primary school in June, just 70 children were affected.
The health body added that infections in the wider community were likely driving cases in schools and that children were more likely to acquire the COVID-19 infection at home than in school.