THE EDITOR: It is very unfortunate that the pupils of the SEA class of the Maraval RC Primary school – followed by pupils of other schools – have been placed under quarantine at home and therefore will miss the opportunity to take the most important exam of their young lives simultaneously with their cohort.
Each (pupil) will experience some psychological and social setback, some more damaging than others, depending on the individual circumstance. Even though the die appears to be cast the damage can still be minimised. The children affected should resume the special prep classes ASAP and maybe take the exam a few days later.
I reference my article last month in which I anticipated and tried to head off precisely what is befalling this SEA class. The article outlines the context of and likely consequences: that children are most vulnerable to the worst consequences of covid19 including death; and that they are likely to be super-spreaders. Ongoing research is showing that such prognostications lack validity. The foregoing notwithstanding, here is an excerpt from that article:
“Widespread testing, contact tracing and population screening in South Korea and Iceland soon found that no children under the age of ten were testing positive for covid19 compared to 0.8 per cent of the general population.
“Data from Verona, Italy, where 86 per cent of the population was screened following the first death in late February, corroborated this initial finding despite the fact that a number of these children were living with adults who tested positive for the virus.
“Data from contact tracing in Japan and Guangzhou province in China served to further cement the validity of this finding.
“Another key question was the ability of infected children to spread the virus. A collection of international family clusters found that children were unlikely to be the index case in households.
“In fact quite the opposite pertained: that covid19 is mainly spread between adults, and from adult family members to children. Bottom line: the risk of young children getting and spreading the virus is low.
“Iceland and Sweden never closed their primary schools and now with schools reopened in Denmark and Finland, there is no evidence to support the view that opening schools will cause viral spread.
“The foregoing notwithstanding, what has emerged as crucial issues in the pandemic are the educational and psychological impacts school closures have had on children and adolescent health; and the fact that the worst consequences of the temporary shutdowns are experienced by the most vulnerable children. Schools are not only places of learning, they provide social protection, nutrition, health and emotional support for the most vulnerable.”
The likely scenario in the Maraval RC Primary situation: one of the parents (the index case) infected the children (local spread) including the SEA pupil; the likelihood of the latter infecting her schoolmates is extremely low.
Classes for SEA students at the school should be resumed with minimal delay. Doing so will minimise but not totally eliminate the psychosocial damage that is ongoing.
In my career as an international health consultant I have worked for PAHO/WHO, IDB and the World Bank and have done countless consultations for our own Ministry of Health. Those who know me will understand why I do not have the luxury of looking the other way in the unfortunate train of events that is being played out at the Maraval RC Primary school.