WHO Europe warns against school closures as COVID-19 infection figures rise


 The European arm of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday warned governments in the region not to close schools, even as the number of COVID-19 infections rises in many countries.

It noted that as winter approached, more than half of the WHO European region’s 53 countries had reported a marked increase in infection rates across all age groups, with new cases up 18 per cent in the region.

WHO in a statement by Hans Henri Kluge, Regional Director of the WHO Regional Office for Europe, said that interrupting children’s education should be a last resort.

“If and when restrictions are imposed to decrease or control transmission, schools should be the last places to shut their doors,” it stated.

The organisation said schools should be the first to reopen with appropriate infection prevention measures.

It recommended a broader approach to reducing transmission throughout society instead of closing educational institutions.

“This includes schooling environments maintaining physical distancing, cleaning hands frequently, wearing masks and ensuring adequate ventilation in classrooms.

“Also increasing access to testing is important, particularly in high-prevalence settings,” it said.

It noted that last year, the widespread closures of schools disrupted the education of millions of children and young people and did more harm than good, .

“We cannot repeat the same mistakes.” it added. (dpa/NAN)