The Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) published last Monday (23) the document “Recommendations for returning to face-to-face school activities in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic”, based on national and international scientific and health evidence and information, about returning to school activities.
The edition brings as new elements issues such as the vaccination of children and adolescents, the airborne transmission of covid-19, the possible risks in closed environments and how to deal with them, among other themes.
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The Fiocruz document points out that vaccinating young people from 12 to 18 years old can mean a faster return to the practice of sports and other activities and a more complete socialization, including the strengthening of intergenerational relationships in the family and in the community.
Implementing adolescent vaccinations can significantly reduce prolonged class closures, schools, and learning disruptions. The document, based on international studies, reminds that the vaccination of adolescents in a situation of clinical vulnerability or special educational need can help ensure safety and the opportunity to access school and education.
“The risk of children under 18 being withdrawn from their normal activities such as school and social events may prove to be a greater risk than Sars-CoV-2 itself for them. There is no reason to believe that vaccines should not be equally protective against Covid-19 in teenagers as they are in adults and, together with measures of detachment and the use of masks, provide an even safer return to school”, comments Patrícia Canto, coordinator of the Fiocruz working group (WG) on the subject.
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GT Fiocruz emphasizes that in a scenario of high community transmission of Sars-CoV-2, with complete vaccination coverage of less than 30% of the population in Brazil, the functioning of schools with face-to-face activities needs to be associated with the maintenance of non-pharmacological measures of transmission control.
The document informs that the protocols for safe return began to consider, especially in school environments, the following priority composition for protective measures: adaptation for ventilation and improvement of the air quality of the environments; use of masks with proven efficacy; definition of a strategy for tracking and monitoring cases and contacts at school and measures to suspend in-person activities; maintenance of physical distance of at least 1.5 meters; and guidance on continuous hand hygiene.
In addition, the publication assesses which schools can close, depending on high transmission or increase in cases, and must comply with all measures indicated by the health authorities to ensure greater safety in face-to-face activities. The decision on the best time for reopening must follow the guidelines of epidemiological indicators, without forgetting the great harm of prolonged absence from face-to-face activities in the health of children, youth and adults, as well as the damage to education and training of a whole generation.
For the greater safety of the entire school community, people with respiratory symptoms should not leave their homes, except to seek health care, should avoid using public transport, and should not attend classes or the workplace.
The Fiocruz group makes it clear, however, that the plan to return to face-to-face teaching activities must be approved after extensive discussion with the school community and continuously updated. And that the involvement of students, children, teenagers or adults, in decision-making is important. The document also provides indications for measures to suspend in-person activities by tracking cases and contacts in schools. And it addresses ventilation and other parameters that influence Covid-19’s airborne infection risk.
The WG also values the expansion of access to vaccination for educators, combined with permanent monitoring and surveillance strategies, for better management of the plan to be established by the school community. According to Patrícia Canto, learning about the pandemic is daily and has been presented at great speed, so the document needs to be understood in context on the date of preparation and will be subject to revisions and updates whenever necessary.
Source: BoF Rio de Janeiro
Edition: Eduardo Miranda