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Five categories of people who may want to sit out school reopening

Children have lower risk of catching Covid-19, says expert

28 May 2020 - 15:02 By Iavan Pijoos
A Nomzamo primary school pupil carries a food parcel donated by Gift of the Givers on May 7 2020 during the Covid-19 lockdown.
A Nomzamo primary school pupil carries a food parcel donated by Gift of the Givers on May 7 2020 during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Image: Anthony Molyneaux

With grade 7 and 12 pupils preparing to return to school on June 1, an expert says children have a far lower risk of contracting moderate or severe cases of Covid-19.

“The vast majority of children with Covid-19 have either no symptoms or very mild symptoms.

“Because children are often asymptomatic they are less likely to be tested and therefore account for far fewer cases recorded in the literature,” Dr Moherndran Archary, a paediatric infectious disease specialist, told TimesLIVE on Thursday.

However, Archary said they were still waiting for data from seroprevalence surveys that will give a better understanding of how many children have asymptomatic disease.

Archary was among the panellists at a SA Paediatric Association webinar on Wednesday afternoon. Other panellists included Prof Shabir Madhi, a professor of vaccinology at Wits University and Dr Fiona Kritzinger, a paediatric pulmonologist at Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital in Cape Town. The topic for the webinar was: Children returning to school — what advice for parents and caregivers?

Archary said children can be best protected at school when they make use of face masks, ensure hand hygiene, implement physical distancing and the environment is cleaned regularly.

Archary noted there was no evidence to support the use of spray tunnels or environmental spraying and fogging to combat the spread of Covid-19.

In the school environment, he said, it “is important to ensure that appropriate risk mitigation strategies are effective”.

He said ill children and staff should be prevented from attending school.   

He said schools should offer alternative methods for those with the following underlining diseases:

  • Chronic severe respiratory tract diseases
  • Congenital cardiac disease
  • Severe immunodeficiency
  • Severe neurodevelopmental disability
  • Staff in the third trimester of a pregnancy.

He said paediatricians could help parents assess the risks related to their child and family and advise how best to mitigate those risks. They could also decrease the levels of anxiety and fear, especially in children.