Daycares to reopen, primary schools and sports clubs partially, according to outbreak team's advice

Empty classroom
Empty classroomNL TimesNL Times

Childcare institutions and special education primary schools can reopen without restrictions after the May holidays, according to leaked advice from the government's Outbreak Management Team that NOS has in its possession. Primary schools can partially reopen, and the same goes for some sports clubs, according to the advice. Prime Minister Mark Rutte will announce the government's decision on what to do about the current coronavirus measures in place on Tuesday evening. 

Primary schools can prepare for "partial school occupancy per day" after the May holidays, the advice states. This could involve half classes, or having children go to school alternately. While this is happening, the government must continue to keep a close eye on developments in Scandinavia, where schools are already partly open, the OMT advised. The team of experts noted that there is a difference of opinion among experts on whether primary schools can open completely or not, so it is safer to stick to partial opening. 

According to the OMT, the most important consideration here is whether the risk to public health is "manageable". Teaching staff will have easier access to coronavirus tests. If there was no major outbreak one month after primary schools reopened, secondary education can start preparing for  "physical education" in the classroom. As long as social distancing of 1.5 meters is maintained. 

Secondary vocational education, higher vocational education, and universities will have to stick to distance learning for the time being, though possible exceptions could be made for internships and practical education, for example. The OMT first wants to know exactly how many pupils and students are involved before giving definite advice on this front.

For other forms of physical education, relaxing measures too widely or too rapidly involve too great a risk of a new major outbreak, according to the OMT. The effects of the above mentioned relaxed measures should first be monitored for a few weeks.

When it comes to sports, the OMT thinks it is safe to relax some measures for kids, teenagers, and individual top athletes. Kids up to 12 can be allowed to play team sports outside, without staying 1.5 meters apart. Teenagers between 12 and 18 can also play team sports, as long as they keep 1.5 meters apart. The risks involved in top athletes in individual sports being allowed to train are "manageable" the OMT said. The team advised the government to let umbrella organizations come up with restrictions and preventative measures per sport. Restarting team sports for adults is not a good idea, according to the OMT. 

The OMT also advised against relaxing the ban on visitors at nursing- or care homes. Letting family or friends visit increases the risk of the coronavirus being introduced to a nursing or care home, and the consequences can be dire among the elderly or frail residents. Before visiting arrangements can be relaxed, "further insight into the situation in care homes is necessary," the OMT said.

The team of experts could not reach a consensus on whether to allow "contact professions" to restart. With professions where protective gear is already used, like with dentists, the OMT considers the risks manageable. But it is not yet responsible to lift the ban on other contact businesses, like hair salons and massage parlors. "The bottleneck here is the lack of clarity about the role of pre-symptomatic infection in this setting, and in connection with the necessity of the use of personal protective equipment outside the care." In other words, it is not yet certain whether the precious supply of masks, gloves and other gear should be allowed to be used outside healthcare. 

The OMT is the government's main advisory body on how to deal with the coronavirus crisis, but its advice is not binding. The government will decide which advice to adopt and which not. The OMT advice is based largely on medical grounds. The government will also take other things into consideration, such as children falling behind in school work, and the social consequences of isolation.