Reopening schools in September ‘risks second coronavirus wave twice as big as first’, study claims

4 August 2020, 09:33 | Updated: 4 August 2020, 09:36

Schools returning could risk a second peak of coronavirus
Schools returning could risk a second peak of coronavirus. Picture: Getty Images

A new study has warned the UK could be headed for another lockdown in December.

With children set to return to school in September, scientists have now warned this could risk a second wave of coronavirus infecting twice as many as the first.

The experts have urged the government to improve the current test and trace system in a bid to avoid the country being forced back into lockdown in December.

The study - which was carried out by University College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) - simulated how Covid-19 may spread when schools reopen their doors.

It also included other factors which could also lead to the virus spreading, such as parents returning to work.

Schools will be returning in September
Schools will be returning in September. Picture: PA Images

According to the results published in The Lancet Child And Adolescent Health, a second lockdown could be avoided if testing is increased and the track and trace system is improved.

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However, in a worst-case scenario, a second wave could be 2.3 times higher than the first.

The study simulated what would happen in an ‘optimistic’ scenario assuming 68% of contacts of people who tested positive could be traced, while in the more pessimistic scenario the system had 40% coverage.

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One of the authors, Chris Bonell, professor of public health sociology at LSHTM, said: “Our findings suggest that it might be possible [to avoid] a secondary epidemic wave in the UK, if enough people with symptomatic infection can be diagnosed and their contacts traced and effectively isolated.

“Reopening schools fully in September, alongside reopening workplaces in society, without an effective test, trace, isolating (TTI) strategy could result in a second wave of infections between two and 2.3 times the size of the original wave."

However, he added: “This is a scenario with model, not a prediction of what is going to happen. It all depends on the other measures and the level of TTI coverage."

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The results concluded that without adequate levels of testing and tracing, reopening of schools and relaxing lockdown measures is “likely to induce a second wave that would peak in December 2020 if schools open full-time in September”.

This comes after Australian research found there were 'low levels' of Covid-19 transmission in schools and nurseries.

The research, also published in the same journal, examined data from the first wave of coronavirus in New South Wales.

Russell Viner, professor of adolescent health at UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, added: “This is model data but the real data is showing very little transmission in schools.”

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