Schools Across Europe Must Stay Open, Says WHO

The World Health Organisation and Unicef have said schools in Europe must do everything possible to remain open, in spite of the Delta variant being dominant in the region. The Guardian has more.

“The pandemic has caused the most catastrophic disruption to education in history,” said Hans Kluge, the head of the WHO’s Europe region. “It is vital that classroom-based learning continues uninterrupted.”

Kluge said that while the pandemic continued, “educating children safely in a physical school setting” was of “paramount importance for their education, mental health and social skills”, and must become “a primary objective” for governments.

44 out of 53 countries in the WHO’s Europe region closed their schools nationwide at the height of the pandemic’s first wave in April 2020, and while most reopened that September, surging infection rates sparked new restrictions and more closures in dozens of countries during the autumn and winter.

Mass absences and frequent school closures have continued in several countries through the spring and early summer, with more than one million children, or 14.3% of the age group, out of school for Covid-related reasons – either self-isolating or because their school was closed – in England in late July.

“We encourage all countries to keep schools open, and urge all schools to put in place measures to minimise the risk of COVID-19 and the spread of variants” throughout the new school year, Kluge said in a joint statement with the Deputy Regional Director of the U.N. Children’s Fund for Europe and Central Asia, Philippe Cori.

Worth reading in full.

This is a positive development, save for the fact that Kluge and Cori recommend frequent testing of pupils and staff as a way of keeping schools ‘safe’ without explaining how to avoid pupils who test positive and those in their ‘bubbles’ being sent home for 10 days at a time.