News, Policy & Media

06Aug

Scientists call for effective contact tracing before schools restart

Scientific researchers have advised that ramping up Test and Trace programme efforts will be key to schools reopening. They recognised the importance of getting pupils back to the classroom but stressed the work that needs to be done in terms of contact tracing before this is allowed to happen. Simon Clarke, minister for Regional Growth, told BBC Breakfast that the Test and Trace programme is ‘maturing all the time’, and that getting children back to school is a ‘top priority’ of the Government, one it would ‘not be willing to trade’. Worldwide, it is estimated 1.6 billion children have been kept out of the classroom due to the pandemic.

 

The WHO has stressed the importance of tracing outbreaks and cases as quickly as possible. The virus is capable of rebounding very quickly if left untraced. In terms of this, he said, Britain "will do really well" because there is "really good attention to where the virus is locally" and a lot of "public engagement in getting on top of it". A UCL and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine study which assumed children are less likely to catch the virus found that a second wave would occur in December 2020 if Test and Trace efforts were not effective enough. This potential wave would be 2.3 times larger than the first and would be avoided if both 75% of people with COVID symptoms were found and 68% of their contacts traced.

 

Estimates have shown that only 50% of positive cases are being contacted through the NHS Test and Trace programme at present. "It is not achieving the levels we have modelled. It doesn't look good enough to me," said Prof Chris Bonell, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Additional precautions have now been considered due to rising cases such as closing pubs to customers. Schools are due to restart for all children in Scotland on 11 August and across the UK in early September.

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