This is contained in a new modeling study, published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health.“To prevent a second COVID-19 wave, relaxation of physical distancing, including reopening of schools, in the UK must be accompanied by large-scale, population-wide testing of symptomatic individuals and effective tracing of their contacts, followed by isolation of diagnosed individuals,” the study said.
The research conducted by scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University College London stated that to keep the virus under control, at least 75 per cent of people with symptoms must be found and 68 per cent of their contacts traced.
Another effective way of preventing a second wave would be if both 87 per cent of people with symptoms were found and 40 per cent of their contacts traced, assuming that around 70 per cent of people will return to workplaces once schools are fully reopened in September.
“Without these levels of testing and contact tracing, reopening of schools together with gradual relaxing of the lockdown measures are likely to induce a second wave that would peak in December, 2020, if schools open full-time in September, and in February, 2021, if a part-time rota system were adopted,” the paper added.
According to the experts, in either case, the reproduction number, which refers to the average number of secondary infections produced by a single infected person, will rise above one, resulting in a second peak of infections 2.0 – 2.3 times the size of the original COVID-19 wave.
Although the study says it is currently unclear when the UK test–trace–isolate strategy will achieve sufficient coverage, local government minister Simon Clarke told Sky News that the reopening of schools in September is not debatable.
“One thing is clear, schools are going to reopen in full in the autumn. That is not up for debate,” Clarke said.
The government official admitted that there is “always more to do” to improve the NHS test and trace system, but noted that 184,000 people had so far been contacted, with more than 80 per cent of those testing positive for coronavirus reached by the programme, as well as 75 per cent of their close contacts.
UK Public Health authorities on Monday announced that new 90-minute tests that can detect coronavirus and flu will be rolled out in hospitals and care homes beginning next week, with officials saying the programme could be extended to schools in September. (Sputnik/NAN)