In a twist of events, after it was announced yesterday that all schools in Wales would reopen on the 29th June the Chief Medical Officer for Wales has made his feelings clear that he would have been happier to wait until August
In today’s (Thursday 4th June 2020) daily coronavirus daily update from the Welsh Government he made some comments that may make some parents and carers think twice about sending their child back to school when they plan to open at the end of this month.
Dr Frank Atherton, Chief Medical Officer for Wales did not hold back in making it very important that the Welsh Communities must remember that whilst the virus has declined in Wales to what it was during the peak in April, it has not gone away saying very firmly “The virus is still with us”
He went on to explain that “Anything which leads to social mingling, social mixing will necessarily lead to increase in the transmission of the virus”
So as lockdown measures ease in Wales everyone is aware that people will still contract the virus and become poorly with it, its just the ambition of the Welsh Government that the R rate does not go above 1.
When asked the question about what the Scientific Advice tells us about if it is Safe to reopen schools in Wales and if he thought it would increase the transmission rates, he replied with;
The timing of school opening is one issue and one he was discussing with the Kirsty Williams the Welsh Education Minister telling her “My preferred option would have been to reopen the schools perhaps towards the end of summer in August to give us a little more time.”
He added “I understand that was not attractive to the unions and so we are going to open the schools towards the end of June for a short period of time”
He called the reopening of schools in June “The Second Best Option”
It was only on a few days ago that the Test, Track and Protect programme was launched in Wales, which will ask people to disclose their whereabouts for 48 hours before they experienced symptoms so potentially infected people could be contacted.
No figures have yet been release about how this programme is performing and Kirsty Williams the Education Minister has said she would rather see this be in place and tested to be working before schools reopen.
Dr Atherton when asked about the safety of reopening schools did say “ I think we can do that safely, we do need to monitor it and track it” adding “It will be for a limited period of time that will give us the summer to understand what has happened to levels in infections and it will basically give us more information which is what we need to manage this pandemic”
Dr Atherton has also expressed his worry about the coming winter months and how this could affect the virus rates saying “My anxiety is that we face resurgence of viral transmission. I said before that the virus doesn’t like sunshine”
Dr Atherton confirmed today that he would be writing to all the people in the shielding group which are classed as the extremely vulnerable and they will be advised that they should continue to shield themselves until 16th August. This means these people should not attend work, supermarkets or schools when they reopen.
However, Dr Atherton made a point of discussing other vulnerable people, those that are classed as the clinically vulnerable on the NHS website. He said “I’ve talked about the shielded group the most vulnerable but there are also of course a group of more vulnerable in terms of their age or their co-morbidities as we call it you know their co-existing diseases because we know that they can also have higher rates of infection and higher rates of complications”
These clinically vulnerable people are identified on the NHS website as people who:
Teachers or Parents of Pupils that are within this group may still choose to attend or send their child into schools when they reopen, however Dr Atherton emphasised that they must be “particularly cautious around their social distancing measures”
Adding that it is the responsibly of all schools to “ Make sure people are able to properly social distance in the environment as we start to reopen the schools”
Read More from Kirsty Williams announcement yesterday about all the Dates Schools and Colleges in Wales will Reopen after Coronavirus Lockdown