PCR or antigen tests should be administered in some cases in schools to avoid going back to distance learning in the event of a new spike in novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) infections, the World Health Organisation recommended on Friday.
The summer months give governments a golden opportunity to put in place a body of measures that will contribute to reducing infection rates and thus avoid closing schools, the head of WHO-Europe, Hans Kluge, said on Friday.
In a joint statement with UNESCO and UNICEF, Mr. Kluge noted that school closures had an adverse effect on the education of children and young people, as well as their social and mental well-being.
According to new recommendations published on Friday, testing should prioritize children with symptoms who belong to high-risk groups, although tests also need to be envisaged in the event of infection for asymptomatic contact cases. On the other hand, tests are not recommended where no cases have been detected in a school, WHO told French news agency AFP.
The pandemic cannot be allowed to deprive children of their education and development, the WHO-Europe Director stressed.
Mr. Kluge has often called on governments of the 53 countries and territories that make up WHO’s European region to fight against early withdrawals from school by some children and youths as a result of distance learning.
The UN institutions feel school closures should be a last resort, considered only if cases surge or if the spread of the virus in the community cannot be curbed by any other measure.
After dropping for 10 consecutive weeks, COVID-19 cases have begun to increase in Europe as the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus spreads, WHO’s European branch warned on Thursday.
There will be a new wave in the European region “unless we remain disciplined,” Mr. Kluge said. He added that WHO-Europe expected the variant, first detected in India, to become dominant by August.
The Brussels Times