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As schools reopened nationally this week in South Africa, the chairperson of the South African Paediatric Association (SAPA), Professor Mignon McCulloch, said children were at a very low risk of contracting Covid-19 relative to adults

McCulloch is also the president of the African Paediatric Nephrology Association and the International Pediatric Transplantation Association (IPTA), as well as the assistant secretary for the International Pediatric Nephrology Association (IPNA). She is currently working at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Cape Town.

Speaking during a digital conference on Thursday on the reopening of schools, hosted by Western Cape Premier Alan Winde, McCulloch was of the view that it was best for children to go back to school. She said that while most people thought children were susceptible to the coronavirus, this was not the case.

“Children seem to be affected less and transmit less than what adults do. Looking at all the available evidence at the moment, we feel that there are huge advantages in getting children back to school.

“This virus could be with us for a very long time and so we want to get our children educated and get them back to school.

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“We know from a child’s point of view, not only is an education important, many children require face-to-face education,” McCulloch said.

Psychological wellbeing is important

Although the psychological well-being of children also needed to be taken into consideration, there were more factors supporting the need for children to go back to school, she said.

“In a report I read, in the US, up to 20 million children rely on food meals for their nutrition, and I know in SA that is probably more of an issue.

“There would be safety issues as parents return to work and for those reasons we feel children should be going back to school,” she said.

McCulloch said parents whose children suffer from comorbidities should contact their family physicians or paediatricians, but children with comorbidities such as asthma, allergies and immunosuppressants would be okay.

She added that teachers need not fear catching the coronavirus from their pupils.

“Children carry a lower viral load, which means there is not so much virus in their body and so they tend to acquire it far less easily than adults do.

“Children transmit less from child to child. We also know they transmit less to adults.

“We know teachers were anxious about getting the virus from children, but we know this is not the case,” McCulloch said.

Although schools have been allowed to reopen, everyone must still follow the basic golden rules of keeping their hands clean, wearing masks and physical distancing, and when they feel ill they should not go to school but to the doctor instead. This applies to staff and pupils.

Western Cape is the epicentre of the virus in SA

With the Western Cape being the epicentre of the pandemic in the country, McCulloch said as of 9 June, there had been six deaths of children aged 0 to 20, or 0,2% of the death toll. These low numbers were a worldwide phenomenon, she said.

“Only 3% of cases tested at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital tested positive, and of the two deaths, which included a one-year-old and a 15-year-old, both these patients had underlying comorbidities – one had a cardiatric problem and the other a lung defect,” McCulloch said.

She quickly debunked the myth of masks “withholding oxygen”.

“Any concerns about masks blocking oxygen and/or pertaining to carbon dioxide is simply unfounded.

“We found children get used to masks quite faster than adults do.

“As paediatricians, we’re saying children will be okay,” McCulloch said.

When asked why visors weren’t recommended for children, McCulloch said: “The SAPA hosted a webinar on Wednesday regarding masks and visors and we found in the end that masks are the only thing that helps. Visors only protect one against big droplets and therefore a visor on its own is not safe enough.”

During the digital conference, Western Cape Education Department’s Brian Schreuder confirmed that 98 teachers had contracted Covid-19, though not at school but prior to schools reopening.

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.

Author: ANA Newswire