Coronavirus: Why isn't the Government closing schools?

13 March 2020, 08:41

The UK's chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance says it's important to build up an immunity among the population
The UK's chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance says it's important to build up an immunity among the population. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The UK's Chief Scientific Adviser has told LBC closing schools now would mean educational establishments could be shut down for "many months".

With the increasing spread of coronavirus, the Prime Minister announced a series of measures to tackle Covid-19 after chairing an emergency Cobra meeting on Thursday.

The PM introduced a series of measures to "minimise suffering" from the escalation of the outbreak, but while many countries are closing schools, the PM said the UK is not at that stage yet and schools would remain open and large scale events would go ahead.

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The UK's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance told LBC's Nick Ferrari the closure of schools now would see educational establishments shut down for "many months".

He said it is not yet clear if any children have transmitted the illness and that most experience only mild Covid-19 symptoms.

"Because of the nature of this disease and the way it spreads and its duration, we would have to close schools for many months, not just a few weeks," he told LBC.

"Schools would need to be shut for a very prolonged period.

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"Children, of course, aren't going to separate for long periods, they are going to go and do other things together.

"And they may go and stay with grandma, one of those in the most vulnerable group."

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Sir Patrick explained the Government's approach is about flattening the "broader peak" of the epidemic and developing an immunity among the population.

He told the BBC: "What we don't want is everybody to end up getting it in a short period of time so we swamp and overwhelm NHS services - that's the flattening of the peak," he said.

"You can't stop it, so you should end up with a broader peak during which time you'd anticipate that more people would get immunity to this. That in itself becomes a protective part of this process.

"This is quite likely, I think, to become an annual virus, an annual seasonal infection."

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