There we have it. Just when we were witnessing Belgium wade into yet another political quagmire on the question of mandatory vaccines, the urgent issue of classes having to close as soon as four pupils tested positive was amended. This will be a game-changer for parents whose children were obliged to stay home despite not testing positive themselves.
The policy change won’t stop children and teachers from catching Covid, but it will dramatically impact how infections are handled in schools and is proof that decisive action can be taken swiftly and without endless prevarication. Put simply, only infected children will have to stay home.
Of course, it is absolutely essential that measures are adhered to in schools to limit the possibility of mass infection outbreaks – particularly now that this “emergency brake” has been removed. Virologist Steven Van Gucht called attention to the fact that the virus is still “raging through schools” and expects we have yet to hit peak infections. To this end, the need for ventilation, class bubbles, and masks remains paramount, as does frequent testing.
There are also concerns that this latest policy change could backfire and serve only to catalyse the coronavirus spread. Some teachers fear that the chances of becoming infected will increase, perhaps leading to more acute staff shortages in a sector already strained by staff absences.
To this end, schools will need to be vigilant in ensuring the other measures in place are adhered to – no small feat in the present environment.
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