Johnson Pleads With British Parents to Return Children to School

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U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked parents directly to send their children back to the classroom when schools in England reopen next week, asconcern grows among some teachers and union officials that it’s not safe to do so.

“The risk of contracting Covid-19 in school is very small and it is far more damaging for a child’s development and their health and well-being to be away from school any longer,” Johnson said in a statement on Sunday. “It’s vitally important that we get our children back into the classroom to learn and to be with their friends.”

Pupils were sent home in the coronavirus chaos of mid-March, and most haven’t been back since.Without parents back at work, there’s scant hope of emerging from the continent’s deepest economic slump. And with Johnson’s government reeling from one blunder to another in dealing with the pandemic, the stakes are high to get school reopenings right.

The country’s chief medical officers said Sunday that the Covid-19 fatality rate among those ages 5 to 14 is lower than most seasonal flu infections. There’s an “exceptionally small risk” of primary or secondary school age children dying from coronavirus if it’s contracted, they said.

International studies show that teachers are more at risk of contracting the virus from other staff than from pupils, the medical officers said. Theyalso noted that a lack of schooling increases inequalities, reduces the life chances of children, and can exacerbate physical and mental health issues.

The Department for Education says it has set out clear guidelines on staggered starts to the school day, minimizing contact between pupils, and social distancing for teachers. Scotland, whose academic year started already, implemented its own similar measures.

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