Position statement from SAPA: Return of South African Children to School during the ‘Second Wave’ (Feb 2021)

Going back to School in COVID19                                                      22/05/2020

Many parents are concerned about their children going back to school.

While there is no blanket rule that we can use, here are a few points to consider when making this decision.

Initially it was assumed that children were ‘super spreaders’.  This concern was based on previous epidemics – like ‘swine flu’ and even normal ‘seasonal flu’ and was part of the reason that many countries closed schools in the first place.  As time has gone on and more COVID19 specific studies have been done, we now see that this is not true. For example a study in the French Alps looked at a single COVDID19 positive child at a skiing resort and showed that there was not 1 single secondary infection despite over 100 ‘close contacts’ at the resort.   This finding has been replicated by a few other studies as well, including studies done at schools.

Every winter season we face the risk of viral infections such as seasonal influenza, RSV and many other viral infections.  Reading the latest information around COVID19 – it does not seem that this risk will be significantly higher this year. While you may have heard odd case reports of serious cases in children, COVID19 is mild in children and serious cases are the exception.

A family should weigh up the benefits of going back to school against the harm.  Bear in mind, that harms of not going back to school include the educational, social, emotional, psychological and economic risks of staying at home.  Keeping well children in a prolonged lock down is not supported by current science. Where it ia possible and schools have made plans to implement social distancing and hygiene, there is good reason to allow children back to school safely – with constant monitoring and awareness.  Children should not be sent to school if they have symptoms.

Many schools are attempting to combine remote learning with face-to-face learning and offer both options and are going to great lengths to keep onsite learning safe.  Ask your child’s school what their approach is if you haven’t already heard. This will help you to make this decision.

Which children are at higher risk?

  • Serious cardiac disease
  • Serious lung disease
  • Clinically diagnosed immunosuppression
  • Uncontrolled Diabetes (Type 1 &2) and Obesity

Controlled allergies and most controlled asthma should NOT increase the risk of COVID19 illness.

HOWEVER, there are no blanket rules – and if you have concerns about your individual child, or they fall into any of the above categories, set up an appointment to discuss these risks with us.  Do not make a decision based on fear – it must be a rational decision, considering your individual circumstances.

(Credit to Dr. Fiona Kritzinger (paediatric pulmonologist) for her influence in compiling this article). Click here for a link to her YouTube video with more information