In Brief

School children at more risk from ‘flu or road accident’ than coronavirus, says deputy CMO

Dr Jenny Harries addresses parents’ fears as Boris Johnson says odds of pupils contracting the virus are ‘very small’

School children are at greater risk from “seasonal flu” or a “road traffic accident” than from coronavirus, England’s deputy chief medical officer has insisted. 

Dr Jenny Harries told Sky News this morning that she “can understand entirely” why parents are wary about sending their children back to classrooms when the new academic year begins next week. But “a well-controlled school environment, with the information and knowledge that we have about Covid now, should be a safe one”, she said.

“No environment is not completely risk-free,” Harries continued. “Every time a parent sent their child off to school pre-Covid, they may have been involved in a road traffic accident, there are all sort of things. 

“And, in fact, that risk, or the risk from seasonal flu, we think is probably higher than the current risks of Covid.”

Harries’ intervention comes as Boris Johnson “moves to seize control of the schools agenda” after being criticised for heading off for a holiday in Scotland amid the “exams chaos”, says The Guardian

After returning to Downing Street, prime minister has insisted in a statement today that the risk of contracting coronavirus in school is low and that “it is far more damaging for a child’s development and their health and well-being to be away from school any longer”.

“We have always been guided by our scientific and medical experts, and we now know far more about coronavirus than we did earlier this year,” Johnson said.

“As the chief medical officer has said, the risk of contracting Covid-19 in school is very small.”

The PM’s “plea to parents” comes amid fears that parental concerns are “the final stumbling block in ministers’ efforts to return youngsters to full-time education”, says The Telegraph.

“Johnson’s message has been given the added backing of new Public Health England figures showing the reopening of schools in June did not lead to a single child being hospitalised with coronavirus,” the paper adds.

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