Relax quarantine rules for school pupils, health services say
The Public Health Directors of the GGD health services want the quarantine policy for school pupils to be relaxed. According to the directors, quarantine for pupils has overshot its target, and the damage to health is increasing instead of decreasing. The Outbreak Management Team (OMT) will meet on Friday to discuss the quarantine policy for education.
This call from the health service directors is noteworthy. Until now, they have fully supported the quarantine policy, they said. The 25 directors of the regional GGDs, and Andre Rouvoet, the chairman of umbrella organization GGD GHOR Nederland, all signed the call. The position of Public Health Director was introduced by law in 2012 to better prepare the Netherlands for large-scale outbreaks of infectious diseases and to be able to respond effectively to social developments.
If the rule that an entire class must quarantine if there are three or more Covid-19 infections is relaxed, fewer classes will have to be sent home, the directors say. "Schools are then better able to provide education in a normal way, and young people are allowed to develop healthily and safely." The number of school classes sent home under the current quarantine rules is increasing rapidly. "Across the Netherlands, a quarter of primary school pupils are currently in quarantine. Based on the growth in the number of coronavirus infections, this number will grow significantly in the coming weeks," the directors said.
Currently, every four infected people infect five new people with the coronavirus, the directors said. But the Omicron variant that is now dominant seems to lead to less severe symptoms and fewer hospital admissions. "If the trend of infections continues, society could be disrupted, as large numbers of people would have to go into isolation or quarantine after contact with a person who tested positive."
The quarantine rules have a lot of negative effects, especially for young people, said the directors. Because many children and young people are not vaccinated and cannot receive a booster shot until the age of 18, they must immediately be quarantined after contact with an infected person. "The consequences for pupils are great. Despite all the efforts of schools, digital education at home leads to learning disadvantages. Not everyone has the opportunity to study well at home. There is no space. There is no quiet environment. Parents who also have to work at home cannot support children in the learning process. In short, there are many factors that lead to lagging learning performance."
The directors also pointed out the social isolation pupils can end up in since pupils who have to quarantine are not allowed to have physical contact with classmates or boyfriends and girlfriends. "More than before, young people struggle with loneliness or depressed feelings. Some feel that they have ended up in a hopeless situation."
Reporting by ANP