Teachers are no more likely to die from Covid than other workers, a major study revealed today.
Researchers at the University of Bristol found school staff — including teachers and school assistants — aged under 64-years-old faced no more risk of dying from the virus compared to people in other jobs.
Fatality rates among female teachers was lower than the five-year average in the first nine months of the pandemic, while deaths among male teachers was similar to the expected number, according to the researchers.
However, there were ‘large excesses in deaths’ among over-65s working in schools. But only a third of the extra death certificates listed Covid as the cause, suggesting other factors led to the fatalities, the researchers found.
The study, published in the journal BMJ Open, should be considered by Governments when deciding whether to close schools in future pandemics caused by coronaviruses, the experts said.
‘It will be important to note that staff were not at high risk of death compared with other occupations,’ the team added.
Schools were shut down for months at a time after Covid hit the UK last March, forcing students to learn remotely and their exams to be cancelled.
But the children of key workers — such as frontline health and social care staff — and vulnerable pupils were allowed to attend school as usual.
Even once schools reopened, rules forcing students to isolate if they tested positive or were a contact of an infected person led to more than a million students absent from classrooms over the summer.
Some teachers moaned about being at risk from the virus and wanted schools to close before the Government required them to.
But a series of studies and real-world data have shown teachers are no more likely to test positive, suffer a severe infection or be hospitalised from Covid.
Teachers are no more likely to die from Covid than other workers, a major study revealed today. Pictured: teacher in classroom during the Covid pandemic
The graph shows the rate of Covid deaths per 100,000 men working in schools during the first nine months of the pandemic. Virus mortality rates among female teachers was 10 per 100,000, compared to a range of nine to 50 per 100,000 for other professions
The graph shows the rate of Covid deaths per 100,000 women working in schools during the first nine months of the pandemic. Deaths caused by the coronavirus among male secondary teachers was 39 per 100,000, compared to a range of 10 to 143 per 100,000 for other professions
Social distancing is pointless without a mask, study suggests
The two-metre social distancing rule still followed by four in ten Britons today may be pointless unless you wear a mask, a study suggested.
Cambridge University researchers found that a mask-less person with Covid can still infect others at that distance even when outdoors.
Experts and Government initially said masks could do ‘more harm than good’ before reversing on the policy, making them compulsory on public transport in June and then in shops and public spaces the following month.
The two-metre rule was shortened to one-metre this July as part of the relaxing of pandemic restrictions.
The team said their findings highlight the continued importance of getting Covid jabs, ventilating indoor spaces, and wearing masks as the country heads into the winter months.
The Bristol team analysed death data for working adults aged 20 to 64 — published by the Office for National Statistics — between March 8 and December 28 last year.
They wanted to calculate the risk of dying from Covid among teachers — many of whom continued to work in-person throughout lockdowns — compared to other occupations.
Covid death rates among people working in schools was low compared to ‘many other occupations’, the researchers found.
Mortality rates among the sector ranged from 10 per 100,000 female primary school teachers to 39 per 100,000 male secondary school teachers.
For comparison, rates among other professions — which the team did not name — were between nine and 50 per 100,000 women and 10 and 143 per 100,000 men.
And death rates among female teachers in the first nine months of the pandemic was lower than the five-year average, while deaths among male teachers was similar to the five-year average.
The researchers found there were more deaths among teaching assistants compared to the expected number, but noted there was uncertainty around this data.
However, among school staff aged over 65-years-old ‘there were large excesses in deaths compared with the average for the previous five years’, the team found.
The researchers said only a third of the extra deaths were registered Covid as the cause of death.
The remaining extra deaths may have been due to delayed treatments for other conditions due to the pandemic, the study states.
Death rates may also have been higher among older staff members because they stayed away from the health service during the pandemic over fears of catching the virus or overburdening the NHS, the researchers said.
Professor Sarah Lewis, a molecular epidemiologist the university and lead author on the study, said: ‘Our research found teachers and teaching and lunchtime assistants, aged between 20- to 64-years-old, were not at high risk of death from Covid during the pandemic in 2020 compared to the working age population in England and Wales.
‘There was weak evidence that the risk of death from Covid for secondary school teachers was slightly higher than expected but overall, the mortality risks from Covid for school staff and across all occupations were in proportion to their non-Covid mortality risk.’