SCHOOLS are safe as just 1.2 per cent of pupils test positive for Covid, with the use of face masks driving cases down, an expert has said.
Calum Semple, professor of outbreak medicine and child health at the University of Liverpool, said that kids will adapt to taking regular coronavirus tests.
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He told BBC Breakfast: "Perhaps we're generating a new group of scientists in the process."
He said a package of measures – increased ventilation, masks and tests – mean schools "can be safe".
He added: "The good news is we're finding quite low rates of active infection within the schools.
"We're using the lateral flow antigen tests that identify those children that are most likely to be infectious – and about 1.2 per cent of school pupils are testing positive and about 1.6 per cent of staff are testing positive.
"It is really low in most occasions – sometimes in some areas it's down to 0.4 per cent.
"So, as a game-changer, it is giving confidence that schools are safe."
However, Geoff Barton, from the Association of School and College Leaders, said that testing could mean that secondary school openings are "staggered".
He told the BBC: "I think for secondaries you've got the issue of the testing, which means there is inevitably going to be a bit of a staggered start because those young people won't be able to go into their classroom until the first of those tests has been done.
"Over the first two weeks they need three of those tests and then the responsibility moves back to the home."
Mr Barton said that the "majority" of schools would not return on March 8 – despite the Prime Minister insisting they well.
Mr Barton said: "Part of this comes down to what is their school site like?
"How much space they have got, [you have heard of] drama studios and sports halls being taken out of action in order to be used for testing, some schools will be more constrained than others in terms of that."
Mr Barton added: "If we see next week for secondary and further education as a transitional week of starting to bring them back into school, starting to teach them how the testing works, the week after that, starting the 15th, is going to look as normal as it might do."
BACK TO SCHOOL
As students return to school they will receive three initial tests at school or college before transitioning to twice weekly home testing.
The Government has confirmed twice-weekly testing for all families and households with primary, secondary school and college-aged children and young people.
Primary school children will not be regularly tested.
Boris Johnson is desperate to get children back into schools on March 8 after months of lost education caused by the pandemic, stressing last month that it was his "number one priority".
A mass testing blitz launched yesterday with 32 million kits being posted to families with school-age kids in a bid to get students back in classrooms from March 8.
Ministers have pledged £1.7bn to help kids catch up on the year they have spent outside of the classroom during Covid.
The PM declared last week: "When schools re-open on 8 March, I want to make sure no child is left behind as a result of the learning they have lost over the past year."
Under new plans to catch up on lost time, teachers will be asked to cut short holidays to help secondary kids with face-to-face lessons before the new school year starts in September.
Meanwhile, new data has revealed that teaching in a school is no more risky for catching Covid than the average job.
Unions and teachers have raised safety fears over going back into classrooms.
But teachers were found to have similar antibody levels to other workers in their local area, research published by the Office for National Statistics revealed.
Dr Shamez Ladhani, Consultant Paediatrician at PHE and the study’s chief investigator, said in a message to any worried teachers: “I think we are in a much better place than we have ever been before.
“Where we are now is really an amazing place for reopening schools in the right way. The country is still in lockdown, rates of infection are falling rapidly.
“If you are going to work then going to school is not necessarily riskier than any other profession out there."
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