SAGE expert Professor Calum Semple said today schools are likely to be “a bigger part of the problem” than they were before as the coronavirus spreads.
He told BBC Breakfast, “I think schools will be a bigger part of the problem than before. Because if you want a school that is as normal as possible with full classes and you can’t do social distancing as effectively as in workplaces where adults work from home and are vaccinated, schools are becoming a bigger part of the problem than before. “
But he said he believes schools should stay open “almost at all costs” because the damage caused by “a lack of social interaction and education” lasts for life.
He added that better buildings with better ventilation are needed.
He said, “It’s difficult. Many schools today are built to be more heat efficient than well ventilated, and that is a problem. So I think that a lot of emphasis must be placed on improving the quality of the building stock. “
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he would “move heaven and earth” to avoid schools from closing again.
When asked if he could rule out closings again, he told LBC radio: “I will move heaven and earth to make sure we are not able to close schools.”
Professor Semple described the decision of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) whether children aged 12 and over should receive the vaccine as “a really difficult judgment”.
He told BBC Breakfast: “We have a really fine balancing act between a rare side effect – which is very, very rare, namely myocarditis – and the low risk (of Covid) for children themselves.
“However, if you include the risks of transmission to society and school interruption in the round, that is, if you look at the benefits of vaccination more broadly, this could postpone the decision about vaccinating 12 to 15 year olds. but that is a really difficult judgment. “
Professor Semple said he would only opt for a vaccine dose for 12-15 year olds if it was up to him.
The professor of child health and outbreak medicine at Liverpool University said he was “glad” that he is not in the JCVI as “they are having a hard time”.
He told BBC Breakfast, “I would probably take a single dose of the vaccine for 12-15 year olds – to help public health in general break chains of transmission in society. The rare side effect of myocarditis appears to be more strongly associated with the second dose than the first dose.
“So I would probably go the route of just giving a single dose and then waiting until the kids are much older before we go for the double dose.”
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson put pressure on the Joint Vaccination and Immunization Committee (JCVI) to make a “very, very soon” decision on vaccinating 12-15 year olds.
He told BBC Breakfast: “I think parents would find it deeply comforting to have the choice of whether or not to give their children a vaccine.
“We are of course waiting for JCVI’s decision. Many of us are likely to hear this very much and sincerely hope that we will be able to introduce vaccinations for children under 16 years of age.
“I would certainly hope it’s a decision that will be made very, very soon.”
He said he could not provide a timetable for when the decision is expected as the JCVI is a “fully independent committee,” adding, “You are not there to take instructions from the government.”
“You will make a decision, I was told and I will understand very, very soon,” he said.
Public Health England (PHE) medical director Yvonne Doyle said authorities expected Covid-19 outbreaks as schools reopen.
“Outbreaks are normal practice,” she told BBC Breakfast.
“There is a proven way of addressing them. We will try all the time to minimize disruption to both school and home life.
“Of course it’s the balance between security and disruption, and that’s normal business and we’ll look into that.”
Public Health England’s medical director added that any “hidden late summer virus” would be discovered with rigorous testing.
“So we ask children (and) adolescents to take two tests personally on site in the first week and two tests every week until the end of September. That will catch any hidden late summer viruses, ”she said.
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