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Chief Medical Officer: “If you keep children out of school, every single one of the children you keep out of school is disadvantaged”

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The country’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, has said that it is “absolutely universally accepted that there are huge advantages for children to be in school”.

Speaking to the nation during yesterday’s live press conference from Downing Street, during which the Prime Minister set out that young people will return to primary schools, secondary schools, colleges, specialist settings and universities from 8 March, Prof. Whitty made clear that the benefits from pupils going back to school vastly outweigh the “incredibly low” risks they face from Covid.

.@CMO_England Professor Chris Whitty highlighted the importance of children being back in schools + colleges and why the risk to them from COVID is low

He set out the additional safety measures in place for both students + staff in order for all pupils to return to the classroom pic.twitter.com/juUeTXekdT

— Department for Education (@educationgovuk) February 23, 2021

Prof. Whitty said: “It is absolutely universally accepted that there are huge advantages for children to be in school from a health point of view, as well as educational and from a life course point of view.

“If you keep children out of school, every single one of the children you keep out of school is disadvantaged. The risk to children is incredibly low from going to school and from catching Covid. So everything is strongly in favour of children going to school.”

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He also spoke about the changes to the guidance for schools when they reopen as well as the increased testing measures being put in place to break chains of transmission by catching asymptomatic cases. Adults and students in year 7 and above will wear face coverings in all indoor settings, including classrooms as an extra temporary precaution. These measures are in place despite the very low risk of children catching Covid from school.

England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, explains why 8 March is the right time for primary and secondary schools to be opened to all pupils@CMO_Englandpic.twitter.com/AvJLGww4gL

— Department for Education (@educationgovuk) February 23, 2021

He said: “There are several things we will be doing this time round on schools, which will take the risk even further down than it has been before, including greater use of testing, wider use of masks, and a whole variety of other things, which have been incredibly supported by many in the teaching professions.”

Prof. Whitty also made clear that reports in weekend newspapers suggesting he was opposed to schools returning on 8 March are false. He said: “I was surprised to read what I read in a newspaper and then reported in others, since I categorically denied it to the journalist involved, but they still printed it.”

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