Next Monday (31) marks the beginning of the school year for municipal and state schools, which are required to return to face-to-face classes. Amid record rates of infection by the Ômicron variant, many doubts persist regarding the risks of contamination of children and adolescents at a time when vaccination for people between 5 and 11 years old is still in its infancy.
For Carla Kobayashi, an infectious disease specialist at Hospital Sírio-Libanês, face-to-face classes in schools that adopt the recommended health protocols are safe. The measures are nothing new: use of a mask, social distance to avoid agglomeration, hygiene of hands and environments, ventilation and especially monitoring the emergence of symptoms.
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“Schools that comply with the protocols have proved to be safe, yes, in face-to-face classes. Although Ômicron has an extremely high rate of transmission, there are measures to complement the reduction of the risk of transmission within the school. The use of a mask is recommended from the age of two and mandatory from the age of five”, explains Kobayashi.
Parents also play an important role in returning to school activities. It is up to them to be alert to the appearance of symptoms and, in this case, not to send their children to school. At the sign of any symptom, even without proof of being Covid-19, the recommendation is to keep the child at home, in isolation.
“Parents can and should monitor students’ symptoms or if they have had contact with an infected person. It is important not to send children with symptoms to school to avoid further contagion”, explains the doctor.
Although the Ministry of Health has recommended a period of seven days of isolation for asymptomatic cases of Covid-19 and ten days after the end of symptoms, the period of isolation for children is different. For Kobayashi, the isolation of children is discussed individually.
“Children’s isolation time is discussed on a case-by-case basis and depends on a few factors: vaccination, positive or negative test, if they have symptoms, if symptoms improve after the seventh day. There is no specific isolation number, but an individualized assessment”, he emphasizes.
Students who belong to Covid risk groups, who are pregnant or postpartum women, as long as they have a medical prescription, are allowed to carry out school activities remotely. In this case, schools must have a pedagogical plan for these people.
Schools must also require proof of vaccinations for those over five years old, but states and municipalities have not yet regulated the requirement of the document by schools.
It is worth mentioning that vaccinating children as soon as possible is essential for the safety of the child itself and the fight against Covid-19: the less it circulates, the less chance the virus has of undergoing a new genetic mutation and triggering a new wave of contagion.
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