New Covid variant may infect pupils 'more effectively’

Top scientist and government adviser warns that data suggests that this new variant of the virus may infect pupils more
21st December 2020, 11:44am
Dave Speck

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New Covid variant may infect pupils 'more effectively’

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/new-covid-variant-may-infect-pupils-more-effectively
Coronavirus: The New Variant Of Covid-19 Could Infect Pupils 'more Effectively', Warns Scientist Neil Ferguson

The new fast-spreading variant of Covid-19 that has led to more restrictions for people in London and the South East may infect school pupils more than previous variants of the virus, a leading scientist has warned.

Professor Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist from Imperial College London, said it was too early to say whether schools should remain closed after the Christmas holidays, but that data being put together over the break would inform policy measures in January.

Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme, Professor Ferguson, a member of the government advisory group Nervtag (New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group), said the school holiday closures would probably lead to a decline in all the variants in circulation at the moment.


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He was asked: "Some say we've run out of what you and others have referred to in the past as a kind of 'R budget' - in other words, the amount of things we can do before we run out of capacity because this virus is spreading exponentially. And they say if this variant is spreading so fast we're going to have to close schools because simply there isn't enough left in the R budget. Do you have a view of that?"

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Professor Ferguson replied: "Undoubtedly, increased transmissibility limits our options for manoeuvre even more and there is a hint from the data that this variant may infect children slightly more effectively than the previous variants, so it's very difficult to prove causality.

"I think what we'll see in the next two weeks, though, while schools are closed, is probably all the variants of the virus in circulation at the moment declining, but we'll be tracking very carefully whether we can see differences in that rate of decline.

"And really it's the data which is being put together now and unfortunately over the Christmas break which is going to inform policy measures in January.

"It's just too early to tell. It is going to be difficult, no doubt about that. I think the secretary of state [for health] Matt Hancock said as much to the prime minister, but it's too early to say precisely what additional measures might be needed."

Prime minister Boris Johnson has said that keeping schools open is a priority. 

 

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