United Kingdom

'11-16-year-olds should be removed from school BEFORE term end'

Parents should consider pulling their children out of classes before the end of term because of the high coronavirus rate in secondary schools, a top scientist warned today. 

Robert West, Professor of Health Psychology at University College London, spoke as new figures showed that children aged 11 - 16 in England had the highest infection rate of any age group.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) numbers suggest the incidence rate is now at its lowest since the end of September.

But secondary schools were open throughout the second lockdown and they now have a higher incidence rate than any adult groups and younger children.

Speaking to Times Radio Prof West, who sits on the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (SPIG-B), which advises SAGE, said: One of the things, I think, that some of us have been suggesting is to allow parents to take their children away from schools before the official end of term.   

Robert West, Professor of Health Psychology at University College London, spoke as new figures showed that children aged 11 - 16 in England had the highest infection rate of any age group

'Not to require it, because it won't be practicable for some people but where they can do that then what you can potentially get is a situation where you've got a number of days before the holiday period starts - before the Christmas period starts - where they can be, if not self-isolated at least at low risk of getting infected and therefore at lower risk of transmitting that to vulnerable people...

'I think it's something that needs to be really carefully considered.'

When modelling the level of infection among different age groups in England, the ONS said rates remain highest among secondary school-aged children (school years 7 to 11) and young adults (school year 12 to age 24).

Britain's Covid R rate has fallen for the fourth week in a row and could now be as low as 0.8, SAGE claimed today as the second wave continues to retreat.

And Office for National Statistics data showed the number of daily coronavirus infections in England plummeted by almost half last month, from 47,700 per day to 25,700 in the week ending November 28, in more proof that the disease has began to fade away. 

The report estimated that a total of 521,300 people were carrying the virus in England on November 28, down from 665,000 just two weeks earlier.

SAGE said its R rate calculation - which shows how many people each coronavirus-infected person gives the virus to - proved cases were now declining in every region. The panel said: 'It is the first time since early September that all English regions have had a lower limit of R estimates below one.'

Separate infection estimates produced by the Covid Symptom Study say there are just 15,845 people developing symptoms of coronavirus each day in England, down from a peak of 44,000 at the end of October. Although the numbers are different to those made by the ONS, they illustrate the same downward trend.

Professor Tim Spector, the King's College epidemiologist running that study, which is based on data from a public mobile app, said the signs were 'encouraging', adding: 'We're now [at] less than half the peak of the second wave we saw in October.'

And separate Public Health England figures revealed every local authority in the North saw their Covid-19 infection rate fall last week, adding to mounting questions over whether millions of people have been unnecessarily forced to live under the harshest Tier Three curbs.

The promising figures come as the UK gets set to become the first country in the world to start vaccinating people against Covid-19 next week, after drug regulators gave the green light for a jab developed by pharmaceutical firms Pfizer and BioNTech.

The first doses were delivered on British soil yesterday via a convoy of unmarked lorries from Belgium and NHS Providers chief Dr Chris Hopson says the country is planning to start vaccinating on Tuesday, December 8, with care home residents and staff and elderly hospital patients at the front of the queue.

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