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Leading GP says schools should not reopen until Covid numbers ‘much lower’



BMA Council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a GP in North London, has backed teachers who say it is ‘too soon’ to start re-opening schools in England from 1 June.

In a letter to the National Education Union, Dr Nagpaul said that the BMA’s Public Health Medicine Committee (PHMC) ‘has considered the evidence available on the reopening of schools and has found it to be thus far conflicting’.

The Government plans for a staggered re-opening of schools from 1 June, with the intention of all primary school children to have returned by the end of the month.

But the National Education Union (NEU) has said that before that should happen England needs, among other things, much lower numbers of Covid-19 cases, and comprehensive access to regular testing for children and staff.

Dr Nagpaul’s letter in solidarity highlighted the ‘relatively small amount of research available’ on how the disease affects children ‘and the uncharted territory we find ourselves in’.

The letter said that the BMA has ‘noted the launch’ of the NEU’s campaign, and said: ‘[W]e stand in full support of you.’

And he added that 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 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 the virus, particularly as we see sustained rates of infection across the UK,’ Dr Nagpaul said.

Dr Nagpaul previously said in response to the Government’s announcement earlier this week on easing lockdown restrictions that it was ‘too fast, too confusing and too risky’.

It comes as intensive care units in England have noted an extremely rare new inflammatory illness in children which they believe to be linked to Covid-19, however this remains subject to further investigation.

The Government’s advice remains that Covid-19 is likely to only pose moderate, if any, symptoms in children.

Speaking in this evening’s Government coronavirus briefing, NHS England primary care medical director Dr Nikki Kanani said ‘risk is relative’ and ‘we have to think about the wider risks to children and families as well’.

She said: ‘We wouldn’t send children back if it wasn’t safe to do so, but we’re doing that in a careful, phased way, and monitoring the whole time to make sure that children and families are well.

‘But actually, some of our children who are more vulnerable, who need more support, need to be back in school to get the benefit of both the social environment, but also the physical space as well. So it’s really important that we carefully get our children back to school, because actually that is what is going to be good for them in the long run.’

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