Briones: Students more likely to contract COVID-19 at home than in school
MANILA, Philippines — Education Secretary Leonor Briones on Wednesday said students were more likely to contract COVID-19 at home than in school, citing a report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).
But is there a connection between in-person schooling and increased COVID-19 transmission rates in the community?
In its review of the current evidence on in-person schooling and COVID-19 transmission published on Dec. 10, Unicef concluded that “in-person schooling does not appear to be the main driver of infection spikes” in communities.
The review also showed that children in schools surveyed “do not appear to be exposed to higher risks of infection compared to when not in school when mitigation measures are in place, and school staff also do not appear to be at a higher relative risk compared to the general population.”
Authors of the review include government agencies, academic researchers, and independent research organizations who studied 20 publications, with the majority of the sources focused on high-income countries.
‘Not a replacement’
Their review of related literature included a global study that tracked school closures and subsequent reopening data in 191 countries, which found “no association between school status and COVID-19 infection rates in the community.”
The group also cited a study of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control on infection levels and school status in 32 European countries, which came up with similar findings.
As the Department of Education prepares for the dry run of in-person classes in low-risk areas in January, Unicef urged the government to adopt a “risk-informed approach” in reopening schools to guarantee the protection of learners and their families.
“Resumption of [in-person] learning requires a number of policy measures and clear guidance at the national level, some of which the government has already outlined,” the organization said in a statement on Thursday.
Among Unicef’s suggestions are implementing a communication plan with schools and community members, with continuous testing and physical distancing, use of masks, hygiene promotion, and access to functioning water, sanitation, and hand-washing facilities.
Also included in the framework are transportation to and from school, disinfection and ventilation of classrooms, safe food preparation, proper waste disposal, and prevention of stigma and discrimination.
Unicef noted that while more than 22 million Filipino learners were able to enroll this school year, “distance learning must be understood as complementary to, and not a replacement for, [in-person] learning.”
“This is especially true for learners who have no access to the internet or technology and whose parents and caregivers are unable to provide active home-based support. The longer children are out of school, the less likely they are to return, which also places them at heightened risks for physical, emotional and sexual violence, exploitation, and abuse,” Unicef said.
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