SAGE advisor declares plans to re-open schools a political - not scientific - decision

PUBLISHED: 13:27 19 May 2020 | UPDATED: 13:39 19 May 2020

Prof John Edmunds told a Lords committee that the decision to reopen school was political; Getty Images/iStockphoto

Prof John Edmunds told a Lords committee that the decision to reopen school was political; Getty Images/iStockphoto

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A Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) advisor has said that the government’s decision to re-open schools on June 1 was a political one.

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Professor John Edmunds, who advises SAGE members on infectious disease modelling, told a Lords science committee that it was up to politicians to re-open classrooms, not scientists.

“Clearly the decision to open primary schools or not is a political one. It is not a scientific decision. Scientists can offer some advice,” he told peers.

“It looks like the risk to children is low and that the vast majority don’t have significant symptoms ... It may be that they are less likely to transmit to others as well, and so the risk to others may be relatively low.”

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He added: “But, overall, you have to weigh up those risks with other things, risks to the community, problems with children - clearly, we can’t keep children off school forever.

“Weighing all of those things needs to be done by politicians.”

Prof Edmunds’ comments come after ministers hit the airwaves on Tuesday claiming the decision to get teachers and pupils back into schools was based on scientific advice.

Unions representing teachers and the British Medical Association have claimed that reopening schools is unsafe and that government social distancing guidelines would be impossible to follow in classrooms.

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