Saturday, May 16, 2020

Coronavirus 28

Saturday May the 16th 2020, just two weeks to go and then the UK Government, at least in England, intends to reopen schools. The British Medical Association said yesterday "...until we have got the case numbers much lower, we should not consider reopening schools." Also yesterday we learnt that the R value is likely to have increased, an assessment based on data from before the Government morphed the 'Stay at Home Message' to 'Alert'. New cases are recorded daily in their thousands.

The Government's plan is to open schools partially, with smaller than normal class sizes, 'social distancing' and other precautions. The precautions give the impression that the government is, well, cautious. Good, one thinks. But what it actually shows is that the Government knows that there is a risk that some children and teachers may be carrying the disease. 

The keep two metres apart rule may make some sense when doing the necessary tasks of shopping for food where encounters with potentially infected people will be brief. The same rule is less useful when asking children to sit in the same room as an infected person for five hours per day, five days per week.

The Government knows that reopening schools, even on a limited basis, will increase the R value, prolong the pandemic and increase the eventual total of deaths.

The time to reopen schools is when the prevalence of the virus is so low that it is very unlikely that a child meets an infected person. That's what the doctors are saying. We will know that time has arrived when 'social distancing' and other precautions are not needed.

Parents will be more confident of the safety of their children after they see 650 MPs crowded into the House of Commons. And they will know it is safe when the bars on the right of this graph dwindle to next to nothing.

From the Independent SAGE Report:
"11. The government should take steps to ensure all children, irrespective of their backgrounds, have access to technology and internet at home, and where required additional learning support which does not rely on parents at home. The government should also ensure that resources are available for schools to conduct remote learning"

Update 17th May 2020
Here's some recently published research that might be relevant for people talking to each other in rooms, as they do in schools.

The airborne lifetime of small speech droplets and their potential importance in SARS-CoV-2 transmission

Speech droplets generated by asymptomatic carriers of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) are increasingly considered to be a likely mode of disease transmission.

Valentyn Stadnytskyi, Christina E. Bax, Adriaan Bax, and Philip Anfinrud
PNAS first published May 13, 2020


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