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Analysis supports the basis for re-opening schools on 8th March, and suggests further relaxations can be made without reversing the decline in the severity of the pandemic

Legatum Institute publishes review of schools re-opening decision

A new report by the Legatum Institute reviews the assumptions associated with the decision to re-open schools in England on 8th March, and finds them to have been reliable.

The report assess the projections used in the Institute’s 18th February report that demonstrated how decision makers can make an evidence-based assessment of the net social impact of opening schools on different dates.

The analysis in February indicated that opening all schools on 8th March would create a net benefit to society unless vaccinations were not as effective as expected in bringing the transmission risk down. It also showed that the choices over reopening schools (and subsequent phased reopening) were heavily dependent on the underlying infection rate in society, as well as the impact reopening schools (and other activities) have on the R-rate.

Three weeks on from the reopening of schools in England, this new report reviews the accuracy of the assumptions used to model the scenarios, both in terms of the underlying patterns of infection, admission and mortality rates; the efficacy of vaccination; and also the impact of opening schools on the transmission of the virus.

This report reviews the patterns of declining infections, hospital admissions, and mortality over February and March. It shows population-level impact of the vaccine roll-out programme as well as indications that the extensive expansion of testing is picking up a greater proportion of mild cases, even among those with positive from PCR tests. The key findings are:

  • The increase in positive tests for school children is overshadowing the underlying rate of decline in infections in the adult population.
  • The reduced rate of decline in PCR positive tests among the adult population in March is likely to be a result of a greater proportion of asymptomatic/mild cases being picked up, as it is not translating into a change in patterns of hospital admissions.
  • The impact of the vaccine programme can now be seen at a population level. For older age groups, the R-rate is lower and a steeper decline in mortality rates is also evident.

Overall, the analysis supports the basis for opening schools on 8th March, and suggests further relaxations can be made without reversing the decline in the severity of the pandemic.

Dr Stephen Brien, Director of Policy at the Legatum Institute, said:

“Our earlier research demonstrated that the difficult subject of how to balance the multiple potential impacts of unwinding lockdown restrictions can be approached in an objective and structured fashion, so that decision makers can fully understand the complex issues at hand and the various costs and benefits of different courses of action.

“It is also vitally important to review the assumptions that underpinned earlier decisions, so as to learn from them and improve the quality of subsequent decisions. This new report sets out how such retrospective review can be undertaken. We hope that the Government and others use this approach to communicate the evidence behind, and build public trust in, the choices being made.”