Paediatricians urge Belgium to fully reopen schools from September

Paediatricians urge Belgium to fully reopen schools from September
© Belga/Dirk Waem

All students in Belgium must be allowed to return to school from the start of the new school year, several paediatricians said in an open letter on Wednesday.

Ahead of a government decision on whether schools will be able to reopen from September, members of the Covid-19 paediatric task force said a normal return to school should be government's "number one priority."

"Distance learning is not enough. Schools must be given the necessary resources, both logistical and human, to allow for a total reopening and to provide full-time education to all children," the doctors wrote.

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"In Belgium, there are more than 2.3 million children and young people under 18 years old. They are our future and, as a society, we seriously risk their future if we do not act urgently and resolutely."

The group of paediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists and nurses said that the acquiring of new skills and knowledge was only part of what young people gain from attending school.

"School fulfils other functions that are just as important: providing structure and content to a day, [providing a space for] social contacts, playing, etc.," they said, Bruzz reports.

In late June, education authorities in Belgium said that on-site teaching would resume for all pupils from September following a colour-coded risk system.

But as the coronavirus pandemic began showing signs of flaring-up again, leading to the reintroduction of social-distancing measures and a late-night curfew in the province of Antwerp, officials with the government's coronavirus task force warned that if figures kept rising, schools may not be able to reopen completely.

The task force encouraged officials to roll-out targeted measures for schools instead of transposing measures meant for the general population in generic public spaces, which they said should be applied alongside the basic hygiene measures such as frequent hand-washing and appropriate room ventilation.

Schools should not be required to impose the 1.5 metres of social distancing between students, the group said, but rather impose it between students and adults and between adults themselves.

In the letter, the doctors also advocate for a "rational use of mouth face masks" by groups of children older than 12, saying they should wear a face mask when moving outside their classroom or social bubble.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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