Europe

School closures: Zahawi’s strategy torn apart as ‘not enough’ done to stop Omicron spread

Covid-19: talkRADIO hosts blast masks in schools regulation

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Professor Christina Pagel has delivered a damning verdict of Nadhim Zahawi’s safety steps in schools, warning that COVID-19 Omicron infections among children will get out of hand on current low vaccination rates. Prof Pagel, who is an Independent SAGE member, hit out at the Education Secretary for not investing enough time and energies into finding a way of stopping the spread of Omicron in schools, urging him to look at the remarkable job the Americans have done. She begrudges the US their exemplary vaccination campaign with over eight million children jabbed, highlighting how the figures in the UK pale in comparison, with only 50 percent of children aged between 12 and 15 jabbed while five to 11-year-olds are not included in vaccination efforts.

Even though it’s proven that “milder” Omicron drives up infections and no deaths, the virus is currently running rampant across the UK and Prof Pagel firmly believes that, as much as masks drastically lower the risk of catching the disease, they can’t do it all on their own and something has got to give.

She spoke of her fears that Omicron will leave its mark in schools as parents are not even “offered the option”, blaming members of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation for not stepping up their efforts.

Speaking to Times Radio, she said: “Definitely we will see big increases in children.

“We saw it last year with Delta, quite a big school surge through September and October and then again in November in primary schools.

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“And we’re in a worse situation now, because we’re going into schools, into the start of term with a much higher infection rate than we did in September.

“And most children haven’t had Omicron, they’ve had Delta.”

She continued: “And we know that unfortunately, that doesn’t protect you against getting Omicron as well.

“We haven’t done enough to kind of mitigate transmission in schools.

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“I mean masks will help but they certainly can’t do it all on their own.

“[The figure of jabbed pupils] is not that high though I think.

“Three months after we offered it to them, I think there’s been so much hesitancy from JCVI about advocating for the vaccine, that I think it has put many people off.”

She also can’t see why some parents or children may still be hesitant and view vaccine as a risk, given that it’s “very” safe and offers the best way of protection against COVID-19.

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To minimise the risk of school closures and class disruption the “numbers have to go up”, she insisted.

And if that were not the case, British schools should brace themselves for yet more hospitalisations.

She said: “It’s been given to tens of millions of teenagers around the world very safely.

“And it did does protect you against severe disease so I think we really want to get those numbers up.

“I think what is likely is that one dose of vaccine is not going to protect you from getting infected with Omicron although it will hopefully protect children from the severe consequences of it.”

Prof Pagel added: “But you know, five to 11-year-olds haven’t got a vaccine. So the rest of Europe and North America are vaccinating. America’s now vaccinated 8 million children very safely.

“We’re not even offering parents the option, I think it would help reduce transmission a bit and I think any reduction is good.

“Also what it would do is it would reduce the number of children that need hospital because hospitalisation of children with COVID currently is at a record high for the whole pandemic.

“There’s been 2,500 children hospitalised since September for instance.”

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