Coronavirus: Should children go back to school? Virologist explains to LBC

20 April 2020, 18:09

By Fiona Jones

Should children go back to school? Virologist explains the latest thinking to LBC's Shelagh Fogarty.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries said in Sunday's press conference that closing schools had a "low impact" and there will come a time soon where children will return.

Dr Derek Gatherer, virologist at the University of Lancaster, told Shelagh that children are much less likely to be seriously affected by coronavirus and the death rates in children are far lower than in adults.

"One of the rationales for allowing children to go back to school is that they're less likely to become seriously ill with the virus.

"There's also fewer young children that have tested positive but that doesn't necessarily mean they're less likely to be infected because testing in this country is usually for symptomatic patients. Given that children are less likely to have symptoms it might just be that's the reason they're less likely to turn up in the statistics.

"Possibly children are equally likely to be infected and are equally likely to be infectious but they're much less likely to suffer as consequences."

Shelagh asked the virologist what he thought of Dr Jenny Harries' statement that "we judge the closure of schools earlier on to be of little value."

Dr Gatherer said it depends the environment in which the children are coming back to; if they are coming back to a home with shielded or vulnerable people this presents much more risk of illness and virus transmission.

"It's quite important for the schools to find out if there's anybody in the home that would fall into that category," he said, adding if children are in this category alternative educational arrangements might have to be made.

Equally, he said, there must be the same reassurance that teachers are not in vulnerable households.