20/01/2022

Omicron strikes schools

2 min
Childhood immunization

Omicron is making it very difficult for schools, which have once again seen their necessary routine disrupted. The explosion in cases in the educational environment, both children and teachers, has become a real problem that is greatly complicating normal running of schools after the holidays . The latest data are worrying: in just one day, 15,000 students have been infected; in the 10 days since the start of the term there have been 99,459 positive cases among students and teaching staff, more than in the whole of last year, when from September to June there were 85,666 cases. It is clear that the contagiousness of the omicron variant makes it spread much faster than previous variants. The fact that it is less dangerous to health does not avoid the feeling of vulnerability that schools across the country have right now, and above all the concern that it generates in educational terms. The reality is that teachers and management teams are currently more concerned about covid than about their work, which inevitably has repercussions on children's learning and, at the same time, on the relationship with families.

The change in the protocol announced by the Department of Health at the last minute, despite the fact that in practice it will have avoided a huge number of minors isolating in their homes (the Department calculates that if previous measures had been in place, 600,000 students would be forced to stay at home), has given the impression of improvisation. Undoubtedly, it is not easy to adapt measures to the pandemic's unpredictable evolution. In any case, guaranteeing attendance was a wise decision. What has probably not been sufficiently foreseen is the wear and tear this would cause on the teaching teams, which are at the limit of their response capacity: nearly 7% of staff are infected, an avalanche of sick leave that is difficult to manage. And, on the other hand, at a time when the highest incidence is among children and young people, it is precisely children under 12 who have the lowest vaccination rate: only 37.6% of children aged between 5 and 11 are vaccinated, 75,000 in total. On this point, it would be important for families to take the step of vaccinating their young, which would help to normalise life in the classroom

In any case, it is true that the slowness of antigen testing does not help to speed up the process and ends up spreading contagion: perhaps a system of free mass screening would help to curb the virus. But the health system cannot cope. In fact, in order to make a response to the demand for testing from schools possible, the latest modification of the protocol, announced this Wednesday, has been to extend from four to seven days the deadline for antigen testing in pharmacies when there is a case is detected in a class and to only carry out one test on each student, even if there are more positives in their class that week. And so we enter a loop, and Omicron benefits from it.

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