More Covid measures needed in schools, pediatrician says
To further reduce the number of coronavirus infections in the Netherlands, the government needs to take a different approach in schools, pediatrician epidemiologist Patricia Bruijning said to Nieuwsuur. The share of high school pupils in the total number of infections is increasing, she said, calling that worrying.
"We have already taken a lot of measures outside the schools. If we want the numbers to go down, I think we should also look at the schools," Bruijning said. In the first wave, there were relatively few infections in schools, now the proportion of Covid-19 positive pupils is above average. "We took measures in many places to lower the reproduction number, but did nothing in schools. At some point you see that schools are taking the lead."
The reproduction number is the number of other people each Covid-19 patient infects. To contain the virus, this R number must be below 1.
Some of the coronavirus rules do not apply to schools. Pupils in primary- and secondary schools don't have to social distance from each other, for example. And in primary school, kids don't have to wear masks.
Bruijning agrees that social distancing is not realistic in schools. "I think it will be complicated to introduce that now." But she suggested a number of other measures the government can take to reduce contacts between students. Variable start and end times is an option, as is not letting all students go on break at once.
The pediatrician also suggested asymptomatic testing among school kids, instead of the current policy of only testing people with symptoms. "It is precisely of teenagers that we know they often go through an infection without or with few symptoms. That is why we suspect that a lot is happening under the radar. We do not know to what extent pupils contribute to the spread of the virus."
She thinks the government can use rapid tests to test a class if there was several infections. "You can then briefly isolate infected children and allow education to continue. Another strategy is to test the entire school."