Amid calls for school shutdowns, U.K. scientist says student-teacher infections 'incredibly rare'

It's 'extremely difficult' to find examples of pupil-to-teacher infection, epidemiologist says.

Updated: July 22, 2020 - 5:30pm

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Amid calls from U.S. teachers, their unions and others to shut down schools amid the coronavirus, a noted U.K. epidemiologist says it is "incredibly rare" to find any examples of students infecting teachers in classrooms. 

Mark Woolhouse, an epidemiologist at Edinburgh University, says student-to-teacher coronavirus infections are "incredibly rare," and that scientists worldwide have struggled to find even a few such cases after eight months of the pandemic. 

Woolhouse, who was made an officer of the British Empire for his contributions to the study of infectious diseases, this week told The New York Times that schoolchildren "are minimally involved in the epidemiology of this virus."

"There is increasing evidence that they rarely transmit," he also said. "For example, it is extremely difficult to find any instance anywhere in the world a single example of a child transmitting to a teacher in school. There may have been one in Australia but it is incredibly rare." 

Numerous countries including Canada, Denmark, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom  have reopened schools with little evidence that much coronavirus transmission is taking place in there. 

"Most governments in Europe now recognize that stopping children playing outside was not needed," Woolhouse told The Times, "and most governments will probably now say that going to school as normal is safe."

"We can use that information in the future," he argued.

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