The highly contagious delta variant requires schools to take measures to prevent chains of infection. In Porvoo, face masks are used more and more extensively than in the Helsinki metropolitan area.
Porvoo the city has decided to follow broader recommendations on the use of masks in schools than, for example, metropolitan cities.
According to Porvoo’s recommendations, all 4th grade and older schoolchildren are instructed to wear face masks indoors and outdoors.
Infectious Diseases Physician of the City of Porvoo Jeff Westerlundin According to the decision, the decision was made last spring on the basis of the guidelines of the Uusimaa Regional Corona Coordination Group. According to the instructions, the mask can also be recommended for those under 12 years of age, if necessary.
“This is one way to secure contact teaching. Personally, I think this should be extended to 1st grade, ”Westerlund says.
Porvoo Hinthaara School, in the middle of a field-like rural landscape, has an almost riotous atmosphere in the first half of the morning.
Hundreds of students scold in the school’s large yard, but masks are only visible to individual students.
Principal Olliseveri Kontisen according to the school decided to interpret the city’s guidelines as keeping masks only indoors.
“We have so much outdoor space here and the opportunity to keep safety distances that we decided that way.”
According to Westerlund, deviations from the instructions can be made if safe distances can be ensured during breaks.
The large yard does not look congested, although students from the adjacent Swedish-speaking Hindhår school also go out in the same yard.
Friends go to the fourth grade Kalla Kankaanpää, Bertta Pylkänen and Aisla Kinnunen will have to wear face masks during school hours for the first time this fall.
“It’s a little weird,” Kinnunen says.
Especially the heat and afternoon fatigue a little annoying the trio. However, the good thing, according to them, is that in outdoor sports, for example, there is no need to wear a mask.
In Helsinki in primary schools, the National Institute for Health and Welfare’s (THL) guidelines for the use of masks are followed. A face mask is recommended for use during school hours for both staff and all students from 6th grade onwards.
The recommendation is the same one that was introduced as early as January this year. There is no basic education director for the City of Helsinki on the use of masks Outi Salon according to little received feedback from schools or parents.
“Guidelines are always evaluated and discussed. At the moment, we do not know that this delimitation is to be re-evaluated, ”says Salo.
Although the special arrangements brought about by the coronavirus in schools are already almost commonplace, this fall and the delta variant once again brought new challenges.
According to Salo, Helsinki’s schools continued with much the same guidelines as in the spring: emphasis is placed on hand hygiene, safety distances are maintained and meals are staggered.
As new the subject is the vaccinations of schoolchildren and the ventilation of classrooms, for which THL has given its own guidelines.
“Vaccine coverage is already pretty good in schools. In the morning, I learned that 61 percent of 12- to 15-year-olds have been vaccinated, ”Salo said on Thursday.
“Of course, everyone hopes that contact teaching will continue.”
In Porvoo has adhered to stricter recommendations as early as last spring, when the use of masks was extended for the first time to include fourth-graders.
Director of Education of the City of Porvoo Jari Kettusen however, it is not a matter of coercion, but the use of the mask can be discussed among individuals.
“There was more feedback last spring. Some guardians believe that a mask is a bad option, there will be headaches and more. However, this is a recommendation, and quite well the children have used the mask at school. ”
According to Kettunen, the extensive use of masks has made it possible to secure the school’s contact teaching.
Existing according to the instructions, the student’s coronary infection will not lead to mass quarantine if all those in the class have had masks in use.
“It is then stated that there has been no exposure and no quarantine. Naturally, the use of the mask is checked, and the contacts in the dining situation are better mapped, ”Kettunen explains.
Westerlund also emphasizes securing the ability to detect infections. Mass exposures in schools always burden the trace of infection.
“We don’t want to end up in the metropolitan area with tracking,” Westerlund commented.
At the same time, Westerlund speculates that infections and exposures will hardly be completely avoided in schools.
“Certainly at least 1st to 3rd graders will be seen in mass quarantines. If there is a situation that there are a lot of infections in these age groups, then you should consider extending the mask recommendation to younger people as well. ”
Hinthaaran at school, a monotonous break clock rings, and the games stay that way.
The children have become accustomed to the new arrangements of the school quickly. In just a few seconds, each class has its own queue formed in front of the doors. Eight students can enter at a time, so congestion in the hallway can be avoided.
Inside the fourth grade classroom, there is a queue again: first wash or disinfect your hands, then apply a new mask.
Blue, surgical masks flash to children’s faces in the blink of an eye, with no problems.
“Kids quickly get used to new things. For them, this is already commonplace, ”comments Rector Kontinen, who follows the organization from the doorway.
Kontinen thinks that using face masks is a good practice, but he would like to stick to mask-free outdoor activities. Children need fresh air.
Something has been done right in the school and homes so far, because according to Kontinen, no coronavirus infection has been detected in the Hinthaara school during the entire epidemic.
Autumn will show how drastic measures should be put in place to protect against delta variant.
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