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It comes at a time when the resurgence in the spread of Covid-19 has prompted most of Europe to adopt the strictest level of public health measures, with many countries in the region closing schools as part of the move. ” a broader plan to reduce infection rates and ease the strain on already stressed healthcare facilities.
The polarizing question of whether schools should remain open is far from clear, with the World Health Organization urging policymakers to be guided by a risk-based approach in order to maximize benefits for the population.
School closures have a clear negative impact on children’s health, the United Nations health agency warned, citing setbacks in children’s education and development, family income and the economy in general .
At this time, it remains to be seen exactly when schools will need to remain at least partially closed, and when they can reopen fully.
Is Closing Schools Slowing The Spread?
The study, released on Sunday and has yet to be peer reviewed, found that school closures ranked third in reducing mobility nationwide – and therefore the transmission of Covid.
Banning gatherings of more than five people has proven to be the most effective policy tool, reducing mobility by around a quarter, while the closure of non-essential restaurants, bars and stores has caused people to cut back. the total number of trips by 22.3%.
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“Studies from interventions in hundreds of countries around the world have consistently shown that school closures are associated with a reduction in R and openings with an increase,” said Dr Deepti Gurdasani, Clinical Epidemiologist at Queen Mary University, London, by email. .
The so-called “R” rate, or reproduction rate, refers to the average number of infections secondary to Covid produced by a single infected person.
What measures can be put in place to reduce the risks?
Referring to data from the UK’s Office of National Statistics, she added that children aged 2 to 11 were twice as likely as adults to be zero patients in the household, while those aged between 12 to 16 years old were seven times more susceptible to infection in the family home.
“In light of this, it is essential that governments introduce mitigation measures in schools, including smaller class sizes and bubbles, better ventilation and better air filtration with monitoring, use masks, social distancing, hygiene and the use of large empty spaces to reduce risk, ”Gurdasani told me.
“Recognizing the impact of schools on community transmission is essential to ensure that we minimize the risk of transmission within schools, as well as from schools to the community. ”
What is the risk for young people?
The EU agency points out that most children do not develop symptoms when infected with Covid, and if symptoms do develop, they tend to be a very mild form of the disease.
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What does ECDC recommend?
The agency added, “Widespread school closures should be considered a last resort, and should only be considered after other measures have been put in place within the community to contain the spread of the disease. disease. ”
Late last month, an ECDC review found that the return of schoolchildren in mid-August last year did not appear to have been the driving force behind the surge in cases seen in many states across the country. EU in the fall.
Further studies to understand the risk of infection in children and to assess transmission by age group are ongoing.