Coronavirus: Boris Johnson says it is ‘vitally important’ children return to class
It is “vitally important” children go back to school, with the life chances of a generation at stake, Boris Johnson has said in a message to parents.
As the autumn term begins in Northern Ireland, the prime minister said the risk of contracting coronavirus at schools across the UK was “very small”.
He said “it is far more damaging for a child’s development and their health… to be away from school any longer”.
Mr Johnson’s words echoed those of the UK’s four chief medical officers.
They have all signed a joint statement alongside deputy chief medical officers to reassure parents schools could mitigate risks during the pandemic.
In Scotland, schools have already reopened. Some pupils in Northern Ireland are returning to school on Monday, while term starts in England and Wales in September.
Mr Johnson thanked school staff for spending the summer “making classrooms Covid-secure”, in a statement released on Sunday evening.
“I have previously spoken about the moral duty to reopen schools to all pupils safely,” he said.
“We have always been guided by our scientific and medical experts, and we now know far more about coronavirus than we did earlier this year.”
Citing comments from England’s chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty at the weekend, Mr Johnson said that “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 wellbeing to be away from school any longer”.
“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.”
Prof Whitty said on Sunday that children were more likely to be harmed by not returning to school next month than if they caught coronavirus.
He cited evidence of children “much less commonly” needing hospital treatment or becoming severely ill with coronavirus than adults.
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.
And of the more than one million children who attended pre-school and primary schools in England in June, 70 children and 128 staff were infected in outbreaks of the virus, according to a Public Health England study published on Sunday.
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