Covid: School return ‘highly likely’ to cause surge in cases next month

Pupils will be back next month for the first time since Freedom Day (Picture: PA)

Experts fear it is ‘highly likely’ Covid cases will surge when schools in England go back next month.

All precautions including face masks and bubbles have been scrapped for the start of the new term, while the vast majority of under-16s have not yet been offered a vaccine.

Scotland has seen record numbers of cases since its pupils went back, with infections doubling in a week.

Experts advising the UK Government as part of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling have told ministers to prepare for something similar to happen south of the border.

In a newly published document, the scientists said the vaccine rollout will have made ‘almost no difference’ to many pupils.

There is increasing concern that the country will enter the autumn with the prevalence of the virus still high with official figures showing around 30,000 new cases are being recorded every day.

In light of the warning, the leader of the largest teaching union in the UK has called on the Education Secretary to support schools to ‘consider face coverings from day one of term’ alongside social distancing where possible.

Meanwhile, the school leaders’ union has called the document ‘extremely worrying’, adding that the situation is ‘on a knife edge’ as term approaches.

Requirements to wear face coverings have been scrapped (Picture: Getty Images)

The paper, dated August 11, states: ‘Schools will represent a high proportion of remaining susceptible individuals and it is highly likely that exponential increases will be seen in school-attending age groups after schools open.

‘Vaccination will also have made almost no difference in these population groups over the summer holidays.

‘When schools reopen, the mitigations in place to limit transmission within schools will be much reduced compared to the spring and summer terms.

‘Additionally, the prevalence of infection in the community and school-age groups will be higher than in May 2021.’

A surge in cases in Scotland is being partly attributed to schools returning (Picture: Getty Images Europe)

Pupils began returning to school in Leicestershire this week, with most pupils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland set to head back to class over the next fortnight.

The document adds: ‘It is highly likely that high prevalence will be seen within schools by the end of September 2021.

‘This may reflect either community or within-school transmission, and the role of schools in driving wider transmission remains uncertain.

‘Regardless of this, it would be sensible for government to plan for this eventuality.’

All eyes will be watching closely as schools return, in what’s being seen as a crucial period during the pandemic.

Discussions are ongoing about who should be offered a vaccine (Picture: PA)

The warning is likely to fuel the debate about whether more 12 to 16 year olds should be offered the vaccine.

Currently only those who are particularly vulnerable to the virus or live with someone who is are being told to get the jab.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is set to issue advice about whether the roll-out should be extended but this isn’t due until next week.

While most restrictions in schools have been scrapped, pupils will still be told to get tested which could lead to an increase in asymptomatic infections being detected.

Pupils will no longer have to automatically self-isolate if a classmate gets sick but may be told to do so if they are identified as a close contact.

Unions have called for more action to ensure schools are kept as safe as possible and education is not disrupted further.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said current safety requirements are ‘not sufficient’ to prevent a rise in cases.

He said: ‘Next to nothing has been done to prepare for the possibility of large numbers of cases which will lead to lots of education disruption as children and staff have to isolate because they are positive – or stay off because their Covid symptoms go on longer.

‘It is only right to recognise that a large percentage of the school community is unvaccinated, and that this will remain the case for a while yet.

‘We cannot just assume a return to normal from the start of term. The bringing together of a school community of several million will inevitably lead to a rise in case counts.’

A Department for Education (DfE) spokeswoman said: ‘Education remains a national priority, and the plans for autumn will make sure schools and colleges deliver high-quality, face-to-face education to all pupils with minimal disruption. We know that being out of education causes significant harm to educational attainment, life chances, mental and physical health.

‘Thanks to the success of the vaccine programme, we are able to return closer to a normal education experience for the autumn term.

‘The measures in place strike the right balance between making schools safe with enhanced ventilation, Covid testing and vaccinations of older students and staff, and reducing disruption by removing bubbles and face coverings.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at

For more stories like this, check our news page.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *