Expert warns schools ‘could be forced to close again’

Professor Linda Bauld says children returning to school may see an increase in Covid cases.

Expert warns schools ‘could be forced to close again’ Vladimir Vladimirov via IStock
Schools: Concerns over potential Covid spike as pupils return to classroom.

A public health expert warned schools could be forced to close again amid a sharp rise in cases as kids go back to class.

Professor Linda Bauld is concerned a spike in cases as children return to school may push Covid cases up in the coming weeks, and lead to pressure for schools to close.

The fifth highest ever daily total of Covid cases was recorded on Friday, at 3613, up from 3367 the day before.

Prof Bauld, from the University of Edinburgh, said she believed the current case increases are likely linked to the easing of restrictions on August 9.

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She said: “I’m concerned there will be pressure again to close schools, and everybody wants to completely avoid that.

“But if we do have really, really large numbers in schools, then I think that’s really tricky for the government.

“This is not a good situation, and to be going into September in this situation is concerning.

“The vaccines are still working, you can see that the cases are heavily concentrated in young people.

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“They’ve been rising for a little while and there are big numbers over the last few days, but we’re not really seeing a breakthrough into the older groups in substantial numbers yet.

“That might change.

“Hospital numbers are still low, but I would expect them to go up. “

Booster Covid vaccines are likely to be advised by the JCVI for the most vulnerable in Scotland, Prof Bauld said, although they may not be rolled out further than that.

She said:“I think it’s pretty likely they [the JCVI] will give it to the most vulnerable, people in care homes, people over the age of 70, etc.

“To what extent they extend down to people in their 50s…I think there’s some reluctance to do that.”

At least two preprint studies have shown vaccine efficacy begin to wane in older people in Israel five or six months after their second dose, she said.

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Prof Bauld said: “You can see from their studies, which are largely observational, that there is some evidence of waning immunity.

“That’s why they’ve been rolling out their booster campaign, and early evidence suggests that the boosters are about 86% effective, so they’re bringing the level of protection back up to that for the over-60s.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have taken a cautious, measured and responsible public health approach to the easing of restrictions, guided always by the latest science and medical advice.

“As we have done throughout the pandemic, we will continue to assess all available data about the spread of the virus.”