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Risk of flu or road accident higher than COVID-19 for schoolchildren, says deputy CMO

Dr Harries says a well-controlled school environment “should be a safe one” – as some parents remain worried about the new term.

The risks of catching flu or being involved in a road accident are “higher” than contracting coronavirus for schoolchildren, England’s deputy chief medical officer has said.

Dr Jenny Harries told Sky News she understands why parents are wary, but said a well-controlled school environment “should be a safe one” considering the information now available about COVID-19.

“The long term harms of children not attending school significantly, we think, outweigh those potential risks,” she said.

Public Health study supports schools return

“No environment is completely risk-free.

“Every time a parent sends their child off to school pre-COVID they may have been involved in a road traffic accident, there are all sorts of things.

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“In fact that risk, or the risk from seasonal flu, we think is probably higher than the current risk of COVID.”

She added: “Obviously, parents’ worst nightmare would be the death of a child, and we know that is an exceptionally rare event.

“We also know that children very rarely get serious disease and get hospitalised, and when children do get infection it is usually very mild and sometimes asymptomatic.

“So overall, the risk to the child themselves is very, very small.”

She said Public Health England would continue to “actively monitor” children at school.

But she stressed all studies so far suggest that infection rates and transmission rates in primary schools are low.

Older children in secondary schools are likely to have higher transmission and infection rates, but these could still be…

Sunita Patel-Carstairs

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