The UK's leading body of doctors has backed the NEU teaching union in raising concerns over schools reopening, arguing that a "second spike" of coronavirus cannot be risked.
We’ve written to @NEUnion to offer our support to teachers and education professionals who are urging caution over plans to reopen schools before there is clear evidence to support the safety of such a move. pic.twitter.com/AXbrtfH0z3— The BMA (@TheBMA) May 15, 2020
In a letter to Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the chief executive of the British Medical Association said the NEU was "absolutely right to urge caution" over schools reopening.
The letter said that the BMA's Public Health Medical Committee had considered the scientific evidence "available on the reopening of schools and has found it to be thus far conflicting, which is perhaps unsurprising given the relatively small amount of research available and the unchartered territory we find ourselves in".
It noted that one paper from New South Wales suggested children were less susceptible to serious illness from Covid-19 but more likely to develop asymptomatic infections, but that a recent paper from Berlin had shown children were just as likely to be infected as adults and may be just as infectious.
"In light of these studies...the view of the members of the PHMC is completely aligned with the NEU that, until we have got case numbers much lower, we should not consider reopening schools," the letter said.
"The NEU is absolutely right to urge caution, to prioritise testing and to protect the vulnerable. We cannot risk a second spike or take actions which would increase the spread of this virus, particularly as we see sustained rates of infection across the UK."
Dr Nagpaul added that the BMA fully supported the NEU's five tests of school safety to be met before pupils return.
"In response to the government's announcement this week on easing lockdown restrictions, I said that I believed their plan was too fast, too confusing and too risky. They would do well to heed your five tests before taking any further premature actions," Dr Nagpaul said.