Updated Analysis for Covid-19 Decision-making

An updated assessment of the impacts of the virus in February and March 2021 in the context of the decision to re-open schools as the first loosening of the lockdown restrictions

A report for the Centre for UK Prosperity programme by Dr Stephen Brien

Published 29 Mar 2021

Reviewing the accuracy of the assumptions used to model scenarios around school opening

The human consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic on individuals, families, and communities right across the UK has been clear to see. The virus has fundamentally affected all of us; through our health, our relationships, and our livelihoods. Significant long-term health impacts have been predicted and the impact of lost schooling has impacted livelihoods, productivity, and life chances well into the future.

Our earlier report in February considered these impacts in the context of the then upcoming decision whether to reopen schools on 8th March, as the first step of loosening restrictions of the third national lockdown. As a baseline, the report used the framework for understanding the range of costs associated with the pandemic and Government responses that was developed in December 2020.

Our analysis at the time suggested 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 potential 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, it is possible to review 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. Such a retrospective analysis will help refine forward-looking assumptions that underpin decisions about future phases of opening up.

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. 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.

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Updated Analysis for Covid-19 Decision-making:

Reviewing the accuracy of the assumptions used to model scenarios around school opening

By Dr Stephen Brien

Mar 2021

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