UK risks coronavirus wave twice as big as first if schools reopen without better testing: research

UK risks coronavirus wave twice as big as first if schools reopen without better testing: research
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The United Kingdom risks a second coronavirus wave twice as big as the first if schools reopen without a better testing and tracing system, according to a study published on Monday.

Researchers from University College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine modeled how reopening schools would affect the country’s public health during the pandemic in different situations.

Their study, published in Lancet Child and Adolescent Health journal, determined that if schools opened full-time in the fall, the government would need to diagnose and isolate 75 percent of people with COVID-19 symptoms and trace 68 percent of their contacts. 

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The study’s lead author, Jasmina Panovska-Griffiths, said the current test-and-trace system in England reaches about 50 percent of the contacts of those testing positive, according to Reuters

If the testing levels do not reach this point and social distancing measures continue to be relaxed, a second wave would be expected to hit in December at about two to 2.3 times the size of what the U.K. experienced before. 

Chris Bonell, one of the study’s authors, said the study is not meant to prove schools should stay shut, but instead provide a “loud call to action” to advance the testing and tracing system, according to Reuters. 

Simon Clarke, the minister for regional growth, told BBC that the testing and tracing program is “undoubtedly still maturing.”

Schools in the U.K. originally shut down in March, just like in the U.S. In June, they reopened for a small number of students. But several government officials, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, have called getting children back to school a top priority. 

The U.K. currently has confirmed 307,256 cases of COVID-19 and 46,295 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University