REOPENING schools is "absolutely" safe as children are only half as likely to get or trasmit Covid, a Sage health expert believes.
Classrooms reopen fully today for the first time since January, with new measures in place to protect children and staff.
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Professor Calum Semple, a member of Sage, insisted today it is safe for schools to go back.
Secondary school pupils and teachers are now asked to wear face coverings in classrooms and areas where it is not possible to socially distance.
Students in England will be tested for Covid-19 three times in the first two weeks of school then be given two tests each week to use at home.
It comes after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told The Sun on Sunday that the risk of children catching Covidat school "is incredibly low".
Prof Semple, from the University of Liverpool, told BBC Breakfast: "The subtle question about transmission and teachers, and bringing it home – the school infection survey is showing that primary school children are half as likely to have had it and probably half as likely to transmit it.
"Secondary school children (are) slightly less protected because as they become adolescents they effectively have the biology of an adult, but even there, they're half to a quarter as likely to have had it and transmit it.
"So the main driver is not the pupil-teacher relationship.
"When we talk about schools, it is the fact that the school brings adults together, whether that's teaching staff, the domestic staff, the catering staff, and it's an opportunity for mixing."
He admitted it was "inevitable that we will see a rise in cases" as schools go bac.
But the R rate rising slightly was not as pressing as "the absolute number of cases going to hospital and needing intensive care", he added.
Teachers should be "wearing face masks, being really careful in the common room – their colleagues are more of a risk to them than the children", Prof Semple added.
And he warned said society must learn to live with Covid, with social distancing, face mask-wearing and good ventilation until late summer when the majority of people are vaccinated.
It comes after a health chief said schools should remain open even if the R rate rises – because the Covid vaccine is cutting the link between surging cases and deaths.
Public Health England's Dr Susan Hopkins, a leading Government adviser, acknowledged cases could spike – but said schools shouldn't close again.
"We will watch and wait and look carefully," she told the BBC's Andrew Marr.
"That's why we're doing so much testing.It's to try and find those cases that may have asymptomatic infections, and so reduce the risk of transmissions in and around the school environment and keep the R rate at the lowest rate possible."
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