Tuesday 22 September 2020

Secondary school pupils need to keep their distance too, expert says

Photo: Depositphotos.com

Children in secondary schools should be made to keep one metre distance from each other because it is now clear that teenagers and adolescents play a role in the spread of coronavirus, government advisor and pediatrician Károly Illy has stated.

Earlier schools were told pupils would only have to keep 1.5 metre’s away from their teachers. The measure has not yet been discussed in the Outbreak Management Team and is not thought to be part of the package expected to be announced at Tuesday’s press conference.

‘International studies have shown children of secondary school age can spread the virus. We did not have that knowledge in June when the OMT advised opening schools at the start of the new school year,’ Illy told NOS radio.

Illy said the measure is necessary to prevent pupils from infecting parents and grandparents, causing social pressure to close the schools again. ‘We need timely measures to prevent teens from being blamed for renewed outbreaks. (..) They have been sitting at home for nearly six months, it’s a terrible situation. Medically they are not affected much but the social consequences are devastating for them.’

A designated buddy for each pupil who would not have to keep their distance will help contain the spread, as will face masks in corridors and school canteens where proximity is unavoidable, he told the Parool.

Ventilation

Children in the northern regions of the country have gone back to school even though poor ventilation in many schools is still an issue. Many teachers believe that aerosols – minute drops containing virus particles – will stay around for longer in a closed classroom and so cause more infections.

The exact role of ventilation in helping prevent spread is not yet clear but opening windows and doors is recommended by the education ministry. In winter this will be a less likely scenario, although some schools have said they will continue to do so even if it means children and teachers will have to wear their coats in class.

Education minister Arie Slob has tasked a designated coordination team with helping schools check their ventilation system to see if it complies with existing legal requirements. He has said this should be sufficient to prevent the spread of virus particles.

Meanwhile at the Herman Wesselink College school in Amstelveen classes have already been suspended until Wednesday at the earliest because ventilation in the classrooms was found to be inadequate

The education ministry aims to have all schools checked by October 1 and says local heath boards will be advised if systems are found to be inadequate.

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