Local paediatricians reassure nervous parents: It’s safe to go back to school

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"Children’s risk for serious disease from Covid-19 is extremely low." (Aja Koska/Getty Images)
"Children’s risk for serious disease from Covid-19 is extremely low." (Aja Koska/Getty Images)

Local medical societies the Paediatrician Management Group (PMG) and the South African Paediatric Association (SAPA) are highlighting local and global research on just how safe children are in schools. 

With lower susceptibility to coronavirus, children in SA are far better off in school than at home says Dr Fiona Kritzinger, spokesperson for the paediatric bodies. 

A paediatric pulmonologist at the Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital, Dr Kritzinger says "there are no reported large outbreaks in schools in any country," and here she presents several "reassuring" studies to ease nervous parents about sending their children back to school. 

'Lower odds of being an infected contact'

Referencing South African data on Covid-19 case distribution by age, Dr Kritzinger says that children have a much lower incidence of reported cases and have "56% lower odds of being an infected contact" compared to adults.

Covid-19 case distribution by age:

  • 5 to 9 years old have an incidence of 15 cases per 100 000 population
  • 10- to 14-year-olds have an incidence of 22 per 100 000 population
  • 15 to 19-year-olds have an incidence of 38 per 100 000 population
  • 20- to 60-year-old groups varies between 94 and 228 per 100 000 population

Adults are more likely to transmit Covid-19 in the home than children 

Dr Kritzinger says that child to adult transmissions are rare and that studies conducted so far have shown "children seldom cause outbreaks" within in the home. 

Highlighting data from a study on Italian families, Dr Kritzinger says "67% (113/168) of children had at least one parent who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection and in 78% of cases the symptoms in relatives preceded the symptoms in the child, confirming that children are rarely the index case in a household."

'SARS-CoV-2 has caused less childhood deaths compared to influenza'

Looking at global studies from countries hit hardest by Covid-19, Dr Kritzinger says statistics on critically ill children and deaths in children have been consistently low.

Even with a positive result, children experience much milder symptoms than adults and deaths are extremely rare. 

Locally, data shows children remain at greater risk of death due to unintentional injuries and influenza than Covid-19, Dr Kritzinger says. 

Similar findings have been noted internationally. 

"SARS-CoV-2 has caused less childhood deaths compared to influenza since the onset of the pandemic. Research from seven high-income countries on 42,846 confirmed paediatric Covid-19 cases showed 44 Covid-19 deaths versus 107 influenza paediatric deaths during the current pandemic."

Back to school

With schools now set to reopen 24 August, Dr Kritzinger says the national paediatric bodies are confident schools will be able to resume without any significant outbreaks at a population level.

"Allowing communities to monitor and manage their risks based on local transmission would enable more schools to continue with their activities and limit interruptions over the next 12 months."

Will you be sending your child back to school? 

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Compiled for Parent24 by Lesley-Anne Johannes. 

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