Professor Chris Whitty, the UK’s chief medical adviser, has said that children were more likely to be harmed by not returning to school next month than being infected with the novel coronavirus, it was reported on Sunday.
Millions of pupils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are due to return to schools in September, while Scotland has already resumed in-person classes.
Speaking to the BBC, Whitty, who is also England’s chief medical officer, said “the chances of children dying from Covid-19 are incredibly small” – but missing lessons “damages children in the long run”.
“Many more (children) were likely to be harmed by not going than harmed by going.
“There’s also very clear evidence from the UK and around the world that children much less commonly get a severe illness and end up having to be hospitalised if they get symptomatic Covid-19,” he said, adding that the vast majority of children who died with the virus had “very serious” pre-existing health conditions.
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.
Whitty further told the BBC that it looked as if “there is much less transmission from children to adults than adults to adults”.
He said reopening schools would connect households in other ways – for example by parents meeting at school gates, or mixing with others as a result of being able to return to work.
“The fact of schools being open will probably lead to some increase in transmission but much of that is indirect,” he added.