Children can safely go back to school, say paediatricians
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    Children can safely go back to school, say paediatricians

    Credit: Belga

    Paediatricians have confirmed that it is safe for children to go back to school from 15 May, the Federal Public Health Service said during the coronavirus press briefing on Thursday.

    If Belgium’s next phases in the exit plan go ahead as planned, schools will reopen from Monday 18 May, with certain pilot projects already starting on Friday 15 May.

    Despite the concerns of some people regarding a presumed link between the new coronavirus (Covid-19) and a rare children’s disease, reopening schools is safe, according to the association of Belgian paediatricians.

    “We say with confidence that it is safe for all children, with the exception of some very exceptional cases, to go back to school, respecting some basic hygiene measures adapted to their age,” they said in a press statement on Thursday. “In our opinion, the disadvantages associated with extended quarantine do not outweigh the advantages of restarting school. Education is a basic right of every child and school plays a key role in this,” they added.

    The role of children in the spread of the coronavirus appears to be very different from that of other respiratory viruses such as the flu virus, according to virologist and inter-federal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht.

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    “With the flu, it has long been known that children are the driving force behind the annual epidemic. The virus first begins to spread among children, then to their parents, and then to the grandparents,” he said. “With this coronavirus, we have indications that children only play a limited role in the spread. In contrast to the flu, the spread takes place mainly between adults, who infect each other,” Van Gucht added.

    “Occasionally, the virus also spreads from parents to their children, but we see very few infections that spread from children to adults, or even between children,” said Van Gucht, adding that it is still possible.

    In the Netherlands, a study showed that the infection rate for adults was around 4% in April, while it was 2% for people under 20 years old. “Everything seems to point in the direction that children are not important spreaders of this virus,” Van Gucht said.

    “They can be infected, and they can become mildly ill, but their role is less important than that of adults,” he added.

    Maïthé Chini
    The Brussels Times