Children are more at risk of long-term harm if they do not attend school than if they return to the classroom despite coronavirus, the UK's chief medical officers have warned.
In a joint statement issued, the advisers said children have an "exceptionally low risk of dying" from Covid-19.
They said "very few, if any" children and teenagers would come to long-term harm from the virus solely by attending school, while there was a "certainty" of harm from not returning.
The chief and deputy chief medical officers said schools were not a "common route of transmission", and that teachers were not at any increased risk of dying compared to the general working-age population.
However, they noted that data from UK and international studies suggested transmission in schools may be largely staff to staff rather than pupils to staff.
"This reinforces the need to maintain social distancing and good infection control inside and outside classroom settings, particularly between staff members and between older children and adults," they said.
The advisers noted that reopening schools has not been usually followed by a surge in Covid-19 transmission but it could push the reproduction rate - the so-called R rate - above one.
If this happened it would require "local action and could mean societal choices" of imposing limitations on different parts of the community, they added.
Signatories to the consensus statement included England's Professor Chris Whitty, Scotland's Dr Gregor Smith, Wales' Dr Frank Atherton and Northern Ireland's Dr Michael McBride.
In other developments, Prof Whitty said it would be "foolish" to plan for winter on the basis of having a coronavirus vaccine, but said there was a "reasonable chance" there could be jabs available before the winter of 2021-2022.
Reporting by PA
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