Are you one of the many parents torn between sending your child back to school as they reopen, or keeping them presumably safer at home with you or a family member? Are you worried that they’ll get infected with COVID-19 and pass it on to yourself and others in your immediate circle?
You’re certainly not alone – and one of South Africa’s top paediatricians has some advice for you: rather send them back to school!
Less likely to be infected or to pass it on
“Children seem to be affected less and transmit less than what adults do,” said Professor Mignon McCulloch, chairperson of the South African Paediatric Association and head of paediatrics at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Cape Town.
“Looking at all the available evidence at the moment, we feel that there are huge advantages in getting children back to school. This virus could be with us for a very long time and so we want to get our children educated and get them back to school,” she said.
“We know from a child’s point of view, not only is an education important; many children require face-to-face education.”
Anxiety is normal, but take heart
McCulloch was speaking during an online conference on Thursday, 11 June to discuss the reopening of schools in the Western Cape. The event was hosted by Western Cape Premier Alan Winde. Provincial Minister of Education, Debbie Schäfer, also participated.
McCulloch said she understood the anxiety felt by many parents, but they could take heart as children seemed to be less affected.
Children are feeling depressed because they are not seeing their friends, noted McCulloch. But, in addition, schools also provided safety and food security to many learners.
“I think the children are going to get off more lightly than adults,” said McCulloch. She believed that school was the best place to be for children at the moment, providing the basic precautions of masks, hand sanitising and social distancing were maintained.
Only 6% of infections are kids or young adults
According to the Western Cape Department of Health, as of 5 June 2020, there had been a total of 1 787 recorded infections in people under the age of 20. This represents roughly 6% of all cases at the time.
Of the 1 787 cases: 20% were aged under 5; 18% were aged 5-9; 23% were 10-14; and 38% were 15-19.