Fewer quarantines to reduce pressure on schools

2 min
A group of students at a school in Barcelona.

People are suffering pandemic exhaustion and want to believe that the end of the nightmare is in sight, but the reality is that everyone knows someone who is infected with covid and the list of cases is growing and even endangering the proper functioning of companies and essential services. The peak of this sixth wave marked by the Omicron variant could arrive next week, but it is only the experts' guess, who are also waiting to see to what extent it is really milder or whether it will eventually take, like the other variants, many people to intensive or leave them marked with the dreaded long covid. It is not even a month since we heard about it and now it is already dominant not only among us but also in many other countries around the world. It is too little time to know how this variant will evolve in various contexts, which some have wanted to see as a lesser evil that could signal the end of the pandemic and the beginning of a flu-like phase, with outbreaks still taking place but causing far less harm than up until now. Most experts affirm that this will eventually happen, but they believe that moment not now, and won't even be in 2022, but rather in 2023.

Be that as it may, what is clear is that we must continue to live with the virus without letting it affecting all aspects of our lives, especially because a large part of the population is already vaccinated and the campaign is also progressing among young people and children. The decision taken by the Ministry of Health and regional governments to relax school quarantines must be read in this context, as was the reduction in length of quarantines for those who tested positive and the change in the protocol so that close contacts of vaccinated people are forced isolate. It is a matter of letting the world continue to function by combining the protection of the sick with everyday life. From now on, in kindergarten and primary school, pupils will only have to isolate when five or more children in their class have tested positive. If the number is lower, it will be considered an isolated outbreak that does not prevent the normal functioning of class.

Despite the reticence that the decision has provoked –some unions consider it hasty and the Generalitat has warned that it will continue to test close contacts despite the state recommendation not to do so–, it is an option that takes into account not only children's right to education –who are mostly asymptomatic– but also takes care of their mental health, which has suffered greatly during these last two years in a way that is gradually beginning to become more visible. Children have to go to school and it is the role of the administrations, which have now had a lot of time to prepare, to provide the extra means so that they can do so as normally as possible. Both by having lists of substitutes ready if there are many absences among teachers and by providing the necessary tools so that the school environment is really safe and fair.