A Message from the Office of Chief Medical Officer, Dr Shawn Charles, on the removal of physical distancing in the classroom.
Given the fact that there is currently no community transmission of Covid-19 in Grenada, there is no justification for not allowing children to return to the classroom as normal. A return to normal distance for school children in this setting will not carry additional risk.
The focus at this time should be on educating everyone, and staff and students, adhering to the recommended hygienic measures, which include mask wearing and sanitisation. Since research has shown that staff will be the most likely source of infection for other staff members, attention should be given to ensuring their compliance with the health protocols.
The justification for the return to normal distancing at schools is outlined below:
The World Health Organisation (WHO) provided a summary of research on Covid-19 in children and in schools as outlined below:
- Infection in children generally causes mild disease. Serious illness due to Covid-19 is seen only infrequently. Young children seem to have lower susceptibility to infection compared to adults, with susceptibility generally increasing with age.
- Current evidence from contact tracing and cluster investigations also suggests that children are less likely than adults to be the main transmitters of infection.
- Studies in educational settings suggest that the introduction of the virus generally started with infected adults. Staff-to-staff transmission was more common than staff-to-student transmission and student-to-student transmission was rare.
- A clear causal role for schools in community resurgence has currently not been demonstrated.
- Overall, most evidence from countries that have reopened schools or never closed them suggests that schools have not been associated with significant increases in community transmission.
- Risk of an outbreak in schools and other settings where young people congregate is determined in large part by the background community transmission and settings-linked risk amplifiers.
As it relates to the State of Grenada:
- Grenada’s current epidemiological status with regards to Covid-19 remains safe, despite there being one or more cases that are imported. There is no evidence of community spread of the disease.
- The Ministry of Health continues to have good control over the introduction of Covid-19 in Grenada through the aggressive implementation of public health control measures. Therefore, in this situation, schools are allowed to open (or re-open) at normal capacity.
- According to UNICEF, the adverse effects of school closures on children’s safety, well-being and learning are well documented. Disruptions to instructional time in the classroom can have a severe impact on a child’s ability to learn.
- Schools are not merely centres for learning. They are also safe havens for many children. Being out of school also increases the risk of teenage pregnancy, sexual exploitation, violence and other threats.
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