School closings because of the COVID-19 variant Omicron should be the last mitigant measure authorities take, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) chief Henrietta Fore said on Friday.
“Nationwide school closures should be avoided whenever possible,” said the UNICEF executive director in a statement. “When COVID-19 community transmission increases and stringent public health measures become a necessity, schools must be the last places to close and the first to re-open.”
Widespread Closures of Schools Would be Disastrous
“Another wave of widespread school closures would be disastrous for children,” Fore said. “The evidence is clear: Prolonged, nationwide school closures; limited resources for students, teachers and parents; and lack of access to remote learning have wiped out decades of progress in education and rendered childhood unrecognizable.”
She said that beyond lost learning, children also lost school safety, daily in-person interactions with friends, access to healthcare and often their only nutritious meal of the day.
“We know that mitigation measures in schools are effective,” she said. “We must use this knowledge to do everything we can to keep schools open. We must also increase investments in digital connectivity to make sure that no child is left behind.”
Omicrom: More Transmissible But Much Milder
Whilst the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said there is no evidence to suggest that symptoms associated with the Omicrom variant differ greatly from those of other variants, the indications world wide are that the new variant, although more transmissible than say the Delta variant, is much milder in its effects.
In the UK, which is currently testing over 1.488 million people a day, and which has seen positive tests increase by 187,126 in the last seven days, has also continued to see the number of deaths associated with Covid drop every week for the last five weeks, down 6.5% in the last week to 780 deaths.
To date, only one person is believed to have died of the Omicron variant in the UK.
Meanwhile South African doctors (where the Omicron virus was first identified) say the new variant of Covid is much milder than the Delta virus, requiring far less time in hospital for those who do have to be hospitalized.