Updated: Nov 19, 2020
According to the most recent reports, children are now more likely to bring Covid-19 into the home than adults and the number of school-age children with coronavirus has risen considerably in the second wave compared with the first.
Although Government advisors still maintain that children are not badly affected, their role in transmission is undeniable. Those individuals and families who were shielding in the first lockdown are now being told that their children should go to school, leaving many feeling confused and frightened. The suggestions made by the SAGE scientists to lock down in September, and by the opposition for a circuit breaker to coincide with half-term were deemed unnecessary. The decisions by the Government to keep schools and universities open during the current lockdown favour the economy over the health needs of the country.
The decisions by the Government to keep schools and universities open during the current lockdown favour the economy over the health needs of the country.
So what are other countries doing?
The Greek government introduced a lockdown on November 7th, but this has been toughened on November 12th in light of the worst performance since the start of the pandemic. As a result, Greece has decided to shut down elementary schools, kindergartens and daycare centres for two weeks. Children will be homeschooled, as is already happening with high school and university students.
Germany has not yet closed schools, choosing a combination of face masks and strict ventilation instead. Schools have been provided with strict instructions to air classrooms every 20 minutes for 5 minutes with windows wide open to replace the air with fresh air three times every hour. The practice of opening windows for fresh air for several minutes, known as Lüftung in German, is an important tradition in the country. It is also a key factor in the Government’s plan for tackling the coronavirus and has become commonplace in schools during the pandemic, helping them remain open for students.
Asian countries are largely in a different position to their European counterparts, as their responses to the pandemic were driven by previous experiences of pandemics. As a result, their numbers are low to non-existent. In Japan, as with many other Asian countries, masks are not a new feature. People already wear them frequently to prevent flu and colds, and now every child wears a mask to school. In many schools, the child now sits behind a personal vinyl shield in order to ensure protection from others.
In Hong Kong, the planning for reopening schools was taken very seriously. With a phased return to school on a half-day basis, schools were advised to immediately suspend face-to-face teaching for one to two days in the event any staff or students preliminarily test positive for Covid-19 and then for 14 days if the positive test is confirmed.
Decisions like these are not easy, and every country must take into account their own individual circumstances. For those countries in Asia, whose response to the pandemic was to act early and hard, decisions about schooling are still bound by stringent guidelines to prevent a resurgence of the virus. European countries, who are enduring a second wave of the pandemic, are having to make decisions that must take into account the economy as well as the needs of the children.
However, it is clear that children do catch this virus, they can become ill with Long Covid, organ damage, blood clots and PIMS; and they are also an important vector in the transmission of the virus.
It might be advisable for us to look to other countries to see what works if we want to reduce the rates of mortality and morbidity.
Frances Simpson is a lecturer in psychology and counselling at Coventry University (SC.) She is also a sufferer of long covid and a founder member of the campaign and support group LongCovidKids & campaign group LongCovidSOS
LongCovidKids.org is a parent and patient-led campaign & support group for parents of children with Long Covid. Our story started with a short film on long-lasting symptoms of Covid in children & are working on The Long Covid Kids Study with PeopleWith