Coronavirus: Why are schools not closing?

Summary

Good hygiene and quarantine are more useful in stopping the transmission of Covid-19, according to Flanders health agency

Wash your hands

With schools across Italy and Japan closing because of the coronavirus, the Flanders Agency for Care and Health has explained why this is not necessary here. Or at least not yet.

The agency has stated that the situation in Flanders is not comparable to that in countries where all schools have been closed. “Fewer people are infected in Flanders than in Italy or Japan, where hundreds or even thousands have fallen victim to the virus,” it said.

The priority in Flanders is to prevent the disease from spreading, which means that hygiene measures in schools are crucial. Steps are also being taken to ensure that sick children and members of staff stay at home.

The first case of coronavirus in a Flemish school was reported earlier in the week, in Tienen. After an investigation of the pupil’s contacts, it was decided that the school could remain open.

Yesterday, a primary school teacher in Wevelgem also tested positive for the virus, prompting the parents of nearly 40 children to keep them at home.

Closing schools is only an issue if the spread of the virus becomes more extensive and can no longer be stopped

- Flanders Health Agency

“Closing schools has hardly any impact on reducing the transmission of the virus,” the agency explained. “It also has negative consequences for parents and grandparents caring for children, with a potential risk of infection for grandparents, who are a vulnerable target group for the corona virus.”

If kids are sent home then many parents will also have to stop working to look after them, which would have a knock-on effect for businesses and the economy. Last and not least, school closures deny children their right to an education.

For these reasons the focus so far has been on advising schools how to react to possible corona infections. Meanwhile, teachers have received guidance about how to discuss the corona virus situation with their pupils.

“Closing schools is only an issue if the spread of the virus becomes more extensive and can no longer be stopped,” the agency concluded. “At that time, all resources must be used for the care of sick people, and we have certainly not yet reached that point in Flanders.”

School trip to Italy and part of France, however, have been cancelled. As of this morning, there are 108 active cases of the coronavirus in Belgium, 65 of them in Flanders. There are 31 cases in Wallonia and 12 in Brussels.

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