Evidence suggests that children are at a lower risk of contracting COVID-19 than adults. However, children are still susceptible to infection and are potential transmitters of the virus , even when not showing symptoms. Preventing the spread of COVID-19 among children is important to protect both the health of the children and to slow transmission of COVID-19 in communities, particularly among vulnerable groups.
School closures were among the first actions by governments around the world to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Schools should follow national and local guidelines advising when it is safe to re-open. UNESCO, UNICEF, the World Food Program, and the World Bank have published a framework for reopening schools, which provides re-opening guidance and recommendations for national and local stakeholders. Currently, a number of countries have fully or partially re-opened schools or are in the process of doing so and have employed different strategies to control COVID-19 transmission. Ensuring the physical protection of students, teachers, and school staff – including access to a hygienic environment and access to handwashing facilities – is an essential precondition for re-opening.
There are three key goals that need to be achieved for schools to contribute to COVID-19 reduction:
- Reducing person-to-person transmission
- Reducing contact exposure
- Ensuring students and school staff with key COVID-19 symptoms (or those in close contact with symptomatic individuals) stay at home, and supporting national policies on testing, contact tracing and isolating.
We discuss strategies to achieve each of these goals below. Recommendations are based on guidance on the prevention and control of COVID-19 in schools published by UNICEF, WHO and IFRC and by the WHO. The Global Education Cluster’s practitioner’s guide to safely reopening schools provides more detailed guidelines and checklists for reopening,and addresses a range of school-specific issues, including education, nutrition, child protection, mental health, and adapting approaches to camp settings.
Want to know more about COVID-19 control strategies for open schools:
- How can person-to-person transmission be reduced in schools?
- How can we reduce surface related transmission of COVID-19 in schools?
- How can schools ensure students and staff with COVID-19 symptoms stay at home and follow national policies on testing, contact tracing and isolating?
- How can schools share age-appropriate information on COVID-19?
- Are there COVID-19 specific considerations for school feeding programmes?
Written by: Julie Watson
Last updated: 13.07.2020