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Schools must stay open despite worsening coronavirus situation, say pediatricians

10:19 15/10/2020

French-speaking pediatricians on Belgium’s pediatric task force have stressed that children and adolescents must continue to attend school during the coronavirus pandemic.

Experts quoted in Thursday’s edition of Le Soir said that as these groups are not the main cause of infections and that cases detected in schools are not always linked to intra-school contamination, their place at this time should be in education. In the statement, the experts also cite previous studies that they want to consolidate further “in order to reassure parents and teachers.”

The latest weekly survey of the Office of Birth and Childhood (ONE), published last Friday, shows that the number of secondary cases - that is, from internal transmission to the school - was 256 out of 1,600 positive cases reported in total in schools in the week of 28 September to 4 October.

Less than one in five (16%) is therefore the result of an intra-school infection, a relatively encouraging percentage. This data seems reassuring, but few scientific studies have so far looked at the dynamics of transmission of the virus in classrooms and schools. However, the figures are enough to persuade medical experts of the safety of staying in school.

“Schools should not close a second time,” said Professor Dimitri Van der Linden, spokesman for the pediatric task force. “The consequences would be particularly unfavourable for our young people and our society. Especially since we do not think that this closure would significantly reduce the transmission of coronavirus.”

“The big questions remain though: who plays exactly what role in this transmission?” Professor Van der Linden added. “Is it family and social contacts? The university? Student parties? School? Extra-curricular, social or sports activities?”

Written by Nick Amies