James O'Brien told children should return to school by epidemiologist

18 May 2020, 15:15 | Updated: 18 May 2020, 15:55

By Seán Hickey

The risk of children being infected by coronavirus is tiny and so it is perfectly safe for them to return to school.

Professor Tim Spector was speaking to James O'Brien about new official advice indicating that a loss of sense of taste and smell are symptoms of coronavirus. James prodded the epidemiologist on the big story of the weekend which was the tense situation between the government and teacher's unions and whether it was safe for staff and students to return to school.

"If you had a child of the relevant age, would you send them back to school on June 1st" James asked. He put to Professor Spector that listeners would be keen to hear the view of a professional on the matter rather than politicians continue to assure the public that it is safe.

The head of genetic epidemiology at Kings College, London jokingly began by telling James that he would be sick of seeing his children at this point, but went on to confirm that he would send his children to school.

"The risk to kids is minute" he said. "Their education should take priority over a tiny risk of them getting infected." Professor Spector made the argument that there will never be 0% risk and assured parents that the dangers are low enough that it is safe for children to return to school.

The epidemiologist insisted the risk of sending children is small enough for there not to be a concern
The epidemiologist insisted the risk of sending children is small enough for there not to be a concern. Picture: PA

James wanted to know if the epidemiologist could provide any foresight for the public in what to expect from the government as we learn more about coronavirus.

Professor Spector told James that a major change that he's predicting in the coming months is that there will be catered symptom checkers for different demographics.

"Symptoms vary between different age groups" he said and insisted that "there isn't one size fits all" approach when it comes to treating patients with coronavirus as a person's age or circumstance may affect how they experience the virus.

"There may be series of recommendations for kids and for frail people in care homes who have very different symptoms."

Professor Spector added that there may be a greater source of information for schools to operate during the pandemic. "Teachers and children need to know the truth of what the symptoms are so they can be sensible" he told James and argued that "everyone wants to act responsibly but they need the information", and so he predicts more information to be circulated.

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