13/08/2021

For a safe return to school

2 min
Three students wearing masks doing an activity in the classroom this year.

The fifth wave, even if it is slowly going downhill, will have left us with a bittersweet summer and augurs a return to work and to the classroom in September that will once again be marked by health security. With the covid-19 pandemic we have learned that, just when you think you can see the end of the tunnel, there is a new twist and uncertainty returns. The mutations of the virus do not give respite. Now we have the delta variant, but coming from Peru (and expanding to other Latin American countries) the lambda variant is also beginning to appear in the Iberian Peninsula, on which there are still few studies and data. In addition, we have also seen the limits of vaccination, which despite being absolutely necessary and demonstrating its effectiveness, on the one hand it is not infallible - and on the other hand it is hard to reach the entire population: right now it has slowed the good pace of vaccination that had been achieved.

All this leads us to remain cautious for the new academic year. Thinking specifically about school, we will have to maintain maximum vigilance. Because right now, once most of the adult population is immunised, the virus -for the moment in its delta variant, which has already been seen to be more contagious- is looking for children to continue its expansion. Positives among children have risen sharply this summer. If we compare the total figures of the first 50 days of the third wave with the first 50 days of the fifth wave (the comparison is relevant because they are the two waves with more infections), we can see an increase of 55% of cases in children aged 0 to 9 (from 8,283 to 12,839) and almost four times more in the range of 10 to 19: from 15,627 positives to 41,917. Likewise, the number of people admitted to hospital has also increased: from 32 to 88 in the 0 to 9 age group and from 55 to 119 in the 10 to 19 age group. Even so, fortunately, the proportion of children who end up in the ICU continues to be tiny.

In view of this, we must be prepared for an entry of the virus into schools, which, if not acted upon rigorously, can become a factor in the spread of the virus towards homes as well. This summer we have seen that when a child brought the delta virus home, in many cases it infected the whole family. So, to prevent the virus from spreading through schools and families, experts recommend that from the outset the use of masks, ventilation of enclosed spaces and bubbles should be maintained in schools. And that, in addition, periodic tests are made to students and monitoring of positive contacts. In the case of students aged 12 years or older, which can be vaccinated since early August, it is important that they do so to arrive to September immunised and, therefore, much more protected at the beginning of the school year, although it will also be a good idea that for the time being they continue to wear a face mask inside their centre. Similarly, in universities, despite the spread of vaccination, prudence leads us to think that it will also be necessary to maintain the basic anti-viral measures. Educators, families and students need to be aware that the virus is still among us and that, despite being collectively more protected, we cannot lower our guard.

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