KZN school closes in face of coronavirus fears

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“Every child who needs to go to school must go” - Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi
“Every child who needs to go to school must go” - Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi

The first positive case of Covid-19 was reported on 5 March in Kwa-Zulu Natal and within hours Cowan House Prep School, in Hilton, KZN, announced that they will be closing for the day on 6 March.

The school has been in constant communication with the experts at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), Headmaster Derek Braans and Chairperson of the Board Andrew Barnes revealed in a statement, adding that their advice has been that it is unnecessary to close the school.

The statement explains that at this stage there is limited information available to the school to inform the decision of whether to close the school or not.

Nonetheless, the conservative decision was made to close Cowan House, and to cancel all extra-curricular weekend activities and sport due to the lack of clarity and uncertainty at this point.

Cowan House, which describes itself as a small village school, is taking this time to obtain additional advice and guidance, and insists they do not wish to create alarm or unnecessary concern, but feel a conservative action is appropriate under these circumstances.

Also read: Why are kids not contracting the coronavirus in a big way?

More school closures are a possibility

SA's Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize says South Africa is not at a stage where there is a need to close down schools.

He explained that the countries that have closed down schools did so after a significant number of confirmed cases.

It is therefore possible that if the virus were to cause an outbreak in South Africa, more school closures are a possibility, but Mkhize reassured South Africans that precautions are being taken to handle the virus. 

Also read: Coronavirus: Will South African schools be closing, and what will that mean to parents?

Precedent set

Japan, Hong Kong, mainland China, Italy, Iran and Vietnam have closed schools indefinitely, and some US schools have shut for a few days. 

This approach to limiting the spread of disease is known as social distancing, when interventions prevent large groups of people from coming together.

This can include cancelling large events and closing schools, and has proved effective in limiting the spread of flu-like viruses in the past.

In some cases, schools only partly close, or manage start and end times to minimise contact between classes and grades.

Elijah Mhlanga, media liaison for the Department of Basic Education, said the Department of Health is the lead department in this regard.

"We will be informed accordingly by the relevant departments regarding the steps to be take," he told Parent24 this week.

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