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Your Covid-19 questions answered

My child has an underlying health condition, should they return to school?

25 January 2022 - 07:00
The World Health Organisation says children with underlying conditions should be cautious when returning to school during the pandemic.
The World Health Organisation says children with underlying conditions should be cautious when returning to school during the pandemic.
Image: Eugene Coetzee

As children across the country head back to the classroom for another school year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says the return of children with underlying conditions should be done cautiously to ensure they are not exposed to environments that could increase the risk of illness. 

It says children with conditions including asthma and diabetes are at a higher risk of getting sick compared with children who don’t have any underlying conditions.

Current evidence suggests people with underlying conditions such as chronic respiratory illness are at higher risk of developing severe disease and death than people without other health conditions.

“This also appears to be the case for children, but more information is still needed,” said the organisation. 

WHO said children seem to be at a lower risk of getting sick, when compared with adults, but suggest parents still exercise caution,

While current evidence suggests the risk of severe disease for children is lower overall than for adults, special precautions can be taken to minimise the risk of infection among children, and the benefits of returning to school should also be considered.”

The UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) suggested 10 key action points to ensure “safe and healthy journeys to school”.

These include engaging the entire school community, ensuring physical distancing during school drop-offs and pickups, prioritising active transport to support physical distancing and treating school buses as extensions of the classroom.

It also called on parents, teachers and community leaders to promote safety and hygiene in public transport, ensure equal access for marginalised populations and commit to sustained changes in the long term.

In a directive to schools across SA, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said it is important to have doors and windows open during the school day to minimise the risk of Covid-19 spreading in classrooms.

“A small concentration of virus particles in poorly ventilated spaces, combined with humidity and high temperature, can result in an infectious dose over time. It is important to have natural ventilation in school buildings by ensuring all windows and doors are left open during the school day.

“Where available, fans can be used in addition to open windows for more air circulation.”


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