Today (Tuesday), a coalition of nearly 20 scientists joined with educational unions, including NEU, UNITE, UNISON, GMB, NASUWT, and 400 parents, and students and have written to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to express concern at reported Government plans to stop requiring children to wear face coverings in secondary school classrooms in England from 17th May.
The letter to Government warns:
- 153,000 children and school staff in the UK could already be suffering with Long Covid.
- This includes 43,000 children and 114,000 teaching and education staff and real figures could be higher as current data does not account for full range of Long Covid symptoms.
- Reported Government plans to lift mask use from 17th May risks accelerating outbreaks of variants of concern, which could spark a new wave requiring more prolonged lockdowns.
“Would have consequences for health of our children and parents”
The letter signed by 20 leading scientists and public health experts from some of the top British scientific institutions, the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Exeter, UCL, Queen Mary University of London warn:
“To strip these necessary protections, when there are already too few mitigation measures in schools, and when rates of Covid-19 are still significant would have consequences for the health of our children and their parents as well as their communities.”
Shreeve: Marked rise in infections over March among children
Commenting on the letter, Peter Shreeve, Assistant District Secretary of the National Education Union, said,
“The letter points to an overwhelming amount of data, which clearly suggests caution. Science is still working hard to better understand the figures.
“Recent ONS data confirms a marked rise in infections over March among children after schools opened for just a few weeks before the Easter Break. It points out that according to the latest data, between 10-13% of children who are infected with Covid-19 develop persistent symptoms after infection lasting five weeks or more, an indication of ‘Long Covid’.
“As SAGE announced on Friday a rising R rate of up to 1.1 in some areas, the removal of masks for secondary school pupils, however desirable, should not be attempted. If guidance is to change, then it is not unreasonable to expect to see overwhelming scientific evidence for doing so, before any back-tracking on mask wearing in schools, which is overwhelmingly supported. Despite impressive progress, current UK vaccination rates are still insufficient to fully mitigate the impact of transmission among children on infection rates in the community.”
Do not want a repeat of past mistakes
Co-signatory epidemiologist Dr Deepti Gurdasani of the Queen Mary University of London sums up the situation,
“Scientists, school staff, parents and students are alarmed. We do not want a repeat of past mistakes that previously led to new waves, higher deaths, and prolonged lockdowns.
“That’s why we’ve come together to urge the Government to consider the global and national evidence on current infection rates in schools. Face coverings should be continued in schools after the 17th May, with review prior to the next stage of the roadmap on the 21st June, to avoid the risk of new outbreaks.”
News shared by Peter Shreeve, Assistant District Secretary of the National Education Union. In his words. Ed