EXPERTS have claimed that schools should be the last thing to close if another lockdown hits the country.
Professor Russell Viner, who is part of SAGE, has warned against prolonged school closures to save the health of children.
The former president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health believes that schools should be given the resources to remain open if Covid cases rise again.
Half of the schools in England have already turned to supply teachers to get the cover they need because of staff absences.
The claims come after a string of hugely positive studies show Omicron IS milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.
Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.
The Sun's Jabs Army campaign is helping get the vital extra vaccines in Brits' arms to ward off the need for any new restrictions.
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Prof Viner, from University College London, is an expert in child and adolescent health and claims that school closures bring “high risks” to children.
Writing for the British Medical Journal Prof Viner said: “There is now clear evidence that pandemic related school closures harm children.
“Prolonged school closures bring high risk of poor mental health, obesity, and child abuse, as well as loss of learning.
“The National Mental Health of Children and Young People study showed that likely mental health disorders in English children and young people increased from 1 in 9 to 1 in 6 during the pandemic.
“The National Child Measurement Programme found that childhood obesity in England increased by 4.5% from 2019 to 2020.
“School closures reduce the visibility of children at risk, with medical referrals for child protection falling 36%-39% during the pandemic.
“Due to sensitive periods of brain and cognitive development, this generation of children’s loss of learning during the pandemic cannot simply be compensated for by catch-up work at a later date and will contribute to poorer health and lower life expectancy in the long term.”
They also argued that the evidence for closing schools to reduce transmission was “weak”, and secondary school infections are lower than in household settings.
The report also backed the government’s decision to get secondary school pupils to wear masks, as they allow schools to remain open.
Some older pupils are also reportedly refusing to wear masks and take lateral flows after returning to school this week.
Secondary school pupils now have to wear facemasks in the classroom again with ministers desperately trying to avoid another home-schooling fiasco.
The government says schools "can decide how best to encourage" pupils to take tests and wear masks.
The Department for Education stressed that pupils should not be "denied education" on the basis of whether or not they wear a mask.
Experts also believe that the roll out of jabs for kids aged five to 11 may be key to stop disrupting education because of staff shortages.
Prof Viner added: “It is likely that schools have become significant sites of infections recently because of the relaxation of preventive measures and the low level of vaccination of children and teenagers compared to adults.
“Both of these factors need to be addressed. Schools urgently need support and resources, including measures to offset staff absences due to Covid-19 and the substantial pressure and increased workload that school staff have endured throughout the pandemic.
“We should contemplate school closures only as a last resort. We contend that the evidence supports the policy that ‘schools should be last to close and first to open’.
"We urge governments to provide schools with the resources and support to put the appropriate mitigations in place to enable this.
“Not doing so would reflect a failure of policy that will cause harm to this generation of children and young people.”
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