Risk to children’s health from coronavirus ‘minuscule’, says government adviser

Impact of missing school ‘100 per cent worse’ than disease, says Dr Gavin Morgan

Peter Stubley
Sunday 07 June 2020 12:03 BST
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Coronavirus poses a “minuscule” risk to children’s health, according to a government adviser who supports the reopening of schools.

Dr Gavin Morgan, an expert in educational psychology at University College London, said the impact of spending a prolonged period out of education was “100 per cent” worse than Covid-19.

“We know how important play is for children’s development,” he told the Sunday Telegraph. “If they can’t play with their friends, their mental health is going to suffer.

“Children may well have developed secure attachment with their teachers and they have been denied access to these figures.”

He also said that parents’s anxiety about sending their children back to school was “misplaced”.

“We know children have a less challenging disease if they do pick it up,” added Dr Morgan, who sits on the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (SPI-B), which feeds in to Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies).

“The impact on children is minuscule in terms of their health.”

Thousands of schools across the UK decided to stay closed after the government announced pupils in reception, year one and year six could return to the classroom from 1 June.

Several councils in the northwest of England have also postponed reopening after new data suggested the spread of coronavirus was accelerating in the region.

The government had hoped that every primary school pupil would be back in the classroom for at least a month before the summer holidays.

However while school leaders have warned about the effects of spending up to six months out of school, particularly the most vulnerable pupils, unions and scientists claimed the decision to reopen at the start of the month could contribute to a “new surge” of cases.

England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty admitted this week it was a “very complicated balancing act for society in terms of the possibility of increasing the transmission on the one hand and depriving children of their education on the other”.

Sage warned ministers that children could suffer lifelong damage to their physical and mental health, education and development because of lockdown.

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