‘Got this wrong!’ Professor issues urgent plea on Covid as under 18s facing greater risks

Covid-19: talkRADIO hosts blast masks in schools regulation

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Schools often see the fast spread of coronavirus, and saw high transmission rates for the Delta variant last year. Earlier this week, pupils returned to schools after the Christmas break to new testing requirements and facemasks on secondary school premises. Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said the Government’s priority with schools was to ensure they have “as many tools to be able to make sure that education is open”.

He added that it was “more challenging, of course, to deliver education with masks on in the classroom”.

He continued that this was a necessary measure to reduce risks of transmission: “This is an aerosol-transmitted virus and if you’re wearing a mask, if you’re asymptomatic, then you’re less likely to infect other people.”

But Dr Stephen Griffin, associate professor at the University of Leeds and guest member of the independent SAGE group, told Express.co.uk that the impact of the spread of coronavirus within the school systems is something the Government is underestimating.

He explained how the lower rates of vaccination in the under-18 population, compared with the adult population, leaves children susceptible to a disease that can still make them seriously ill.

He said: “Delta was primarily driven by school-aged children.

“It took a long, long time for the vaccines for under-eighteens to be approved, it’s taking even longer for them under 12 to be approved for, for some unfathomable reason.

“For that reason, this provides the virus a susceptible pool to replicate in.

He added that because the adult population is receiving a third jab, which offers increased protection against the new Omicron variant, younger people are in the firing line without the additional projection of the booster jab.

He said: “That means that Omicron will find the under eighteens more favorable.

“And, of course, they’re all being locked in poorly ventilated classrooms – primary school children aren’t wearing masks.”

The Department of Education advised schools to merge class groups in order to circumvent the staff shortages caused by Omicron.

Dr Griffin commented: “It’s almost certain that the problems we’re seeing with staff shortages are going to be exacerbated by spread within schools. It’s really bad.

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“And the idea of putting older staff back in there as a sort of patching things up, combining class sizes – all of these things go against pretty standard public health measures.”

Dr Griffin railed against any notion that this is a “benign virus in children”, saying that “it causes far more serious illness compared to the other respiratory viruses in kids”.

He added: “What really annoys me is this idea that has been broached by certain parties, saying that you should just allow children to become infected.

“That’s dangerous for them, and the fallacy of that has been shown by the immune evasiveness of Omicron. So, you know, the vaccines will give you good protection if you give the right levels of vaccination.

“All of these notions of natural immunity – it’s exposure, it’s dangerous. It’s an infection.

“You should never be allowing children to be exposed to that sort of thing.

“And the long Covid cases in children are becoming astronomic.

“So I really do think we’ve got this very badly wrong.”

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