A SECOND coronavirus peak could hit the UK in December unless the test and trace program is ramped by September, a new study has warned.
Researchers from UCL and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has said if close contacts of coronavirus cases keep falling through the gaps, kids returning to school could cause a second wave.
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The study looked at an “optimistic” scenario of 68 per cent of contacts of new coronavirus cases being traced and told to self isolate.
But one of the authors Chris Bonnell, a professor of public health and LSHTM said the Government current system only had “about 50 per cent coverage”.
He said: “Our findings suggests that it might be possible (to avoid) a secondary epidemic wave in the UK, if enough people with symptomatic infection can be diagnosed and their contacts traced and effectively isolated.
“Reopening schools fully in September, alongside reopening workplaces in society, without an effective test, trace, isolating (TTI) strategy could result in a second wave.”
A second wave could be between 2.3 times worse than the first spike in infections – and could hit the UK by December, the study said.
Based on the current number of people being tracked down by the test and trace system the study said further relaxing – including reopening schools – is “likely to induce a second wave that would peak in December 2020 if schools open full-time in September.”
The model assumes that around 70% of people would return to workplaces once their children returned to school.
The would mean there could be up to a 90% increase of mixing within the community.
Dr Jasmina Panovska-Griffiths, senior research fellow and lecturer in mathematical modelling, at the Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care, UCL, added: “Our result show that reopening schools fully in September will not lead to a second wave if accompanied by a comprehensive test, trace and isolate strategy.”
Despite the warnings the PM has vowed to get all kids back in school after warnings there could be an entire “lost generation” of students who fall behind because of school closures.
The study warned that although school closures did cut down on community transmission there could be massive harm to kids and parents if they stayed shut.
It said: “These harms include hampering health-care and other key workers’ ability to go to work; reduced economic productivity; and damage to children and young people’s education, development, and physical and mental health arising from social isolation, reduced social support, and possible increased exposure to violence at home.”
A separate study on schools in Australia showed kids were much less likely to get ill with coronavirus or pass it on to teachers.
Data from 15 schools and 10 nurseries showed that although 27 children or teachers went to school or nursery with coronavirus, only an additional 18 people later became infected.
The warnings about getting an effective track & trace system comes after Blackburn with Darwen introduced their own local tracing services because of national failures.
The number of contacts being hunted down by the national tracing services has been falling.
Last week, almost 5,000 close contacts were missed by contact traces – or 25 per cent of people – compared with 22 per cent the week before that.
Warnings about a second wave have also grown stronger as the national case count rose to 938 yesterday – compared with around 600 cases last Monday.
The chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has warned the UK had reached the limits of what can be reopened.
And Boris Johnson pushed back the opening date for businesses – including bowling alleys and ice rinks – due to open on August 1 by two weeks.
But the advice to head to back work if you can formally replaced the work from home guidance to try and help struggling businesses last week.
A Government spokesman said: “Plans have been put in place to ensure schools can re-open safely.
“Local health officials, using the latest data, will able to determine the best action to take to help curb the spread of the virus should there be a rise in cases.”
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