Keep at least 1 meter apart in secondary schools, pediatricians say
Pediatricians are growing increasingly concerned about secondary school pupils returning to classrooms. The government decided in June that high school kids no longer have to social distance at school, but since then there's been more and more evidence that teenagers do spread the coronavirus, according to Karoly Illy, chairman of the Dutch Pediatric Association and member of the Outbreak Management Team (OMT). These pupils should be required to keep at least one meter apart, she said to AD.
According to Illy, it is true that toddlers and kids of primary school age don't play much of a role in spreading the coronavirus. "But for children of high school age it is really different," she said. The association of pediatricians therefore advised making social distancing of 1 meter compulsory in secondary schools. "That distance is practically workable in classes. Especially if pupils get a permanent buddy for who that distance does not apply, just as in the catering industry where you can sit at a table with someone you know." In places where social distancing is impossible, such as in hallways and the canteen, face masks can be a solution, Illy said.
The pediatricians are not afraid that the teens themselves will get ill, but that they will spread the virus to their parents, grandparents and teachers. "Now that the number of infections is increasing again, we must take timely measures to prevent young people from being blamed for new outbreaks. The very last thing we want is for schools to close again under social pressure. High school pupils have been at home for nearly six months. For them this really is a terrible situation. From a medical point of view, they hardly suffer from the virus, but socially they are by far the hardest hit."
The VO-Raad, the umbrella organization for secondary schools in the Netherlands, told AD that it is waiting for instructions from the Outbreak Management Team. The VO-Raad recently also criticized the government for lack of clarity on ventilation and the role of aerosols in the spread of the virus.
This week Minister Arie Slob for Primary and Secondary Education opened a reporting point where schools can find information about ventilation. The hotline will be part of the existing website where schools could ask questions about online education and coronavirus protocols. In a letter to parliament, Slob said that public health institute RIVM cannot yet indicate whether ventilation systems play a role in the spread of the virus. He therefore set up a national coordination team for ventilation in schools LCVS to look into this. The team must also ensure that information on this front is shared properly, and stimulate local cooperation and solutions.