The World Health Organisation’s regional European office launched a call on Friday for schools to be kept open, amid a fresh wave of new Covid-19 infections in Europe.
WHO-Europe stressed that schools should be the last places to close their doors and the first to reopen them, while taking appropriate measures to prevent infection.
The call came amid a surge in Covid-19 cases in Europe, which accounted for 57% of new infections worldwide in the third week of October, according to the WHO.
“More than half of the WHO European Region’s 53 countries reported a marked increase in COVID-19 infection rates across all age groups,” WHO-Europe stated. “While new cases increased by 18% in the Region, WHO’s five other regions reported a decline.”
As a result, “forty-five countries and territories recommended that schools remain open for in-person learning with infection prevention and control; 7 countries opted for full or partial school closures, either at a national or subnational level; and 2 countries recommended distance learning,” WHO reported, adding that “interrupting children’s education should be a last resort.”
WHO’s regional director for Europe, Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, said “last year’s widespread school closures, disrupting the education of millions of children and adolescents, did more harm than good, especially to children’s mental and social well-being.”
“We can’t repeat the same mistakes,” he stressed.
Instead of closing educational institutions, WHO recommends a whole-of-society approach to reducing transmission through a wide range of measures, depending upon the level of transmission, in places where it occurs.
“This includes schooling environments, where physical distancing, cleaning hands frequently, wearing masks, ensuring adequate ventilation in classrooms and increasing access to testing are important, particularly in high-prevalence settings,” the Organisation added.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 76 million Covid-19 cases in Europe. A total of 1.4 million persons have died, according to WHO-Europe.