Virus expert doesn’t want children to be cared for by grandparents

In recent days there have been calls for a so-called “cooling off” week during which primary schools and nursery schools would close a week early before the February half term break. The calls for a cooling off week have come about due to an increase in the number of coronavirus outbreaks in schools during the past week or so. The cooling off week would in effect mean that children would be a home for two weeks rather than one. 

A number of school heads and the socialist teaching union ACOD support the idea of a cooling off week. During the cooling off week children would be taught by distance learning methods.

Although given the increase in the number of infections that are being detected among young children a cooling off week might appear to be a good way of containing the spread of coronavirus, the virologist Steven Van Gucht doesn’t believe that it is a good idea. Professor Van Gucht fears that primary school pupils will end up being cared for by their grandparents if the schools are closed. This cross-generational mixing poses a greater risk than children remaining at school.

“It is a very complex issue, I know. On the one hand you could say ‘yes a cooling off week just to let the figures settle’, but we know that nursery and primary school children often end up with their grandparents and that is something we don’t wish to see. You know that there are a number of infections in primary schools and you would put an end to this.  But there is a big chance that the children would end up with their grandparents and that is an even bigger risk. For children it isn’t usually all that bad, but then there is a chance that the grandparents will get it and they could end up in hospital”, Professor Van Gucht told the VRT’s youth station MNM.

The Head of the Flemish Community Education Board (GO!) Raymonda Verdyck told VRT News that she is in favour of keeping schools open wherever possible.  

“Primary education through distance learning is not easy. If we really have to close, then supervision will have to be provided which means that any benefit from a cooling off period will be severely impaired”.

Meanwhile, it has already been agreed that there will be a cooling off week in secondary education from 8 to 12 February. This is the week before the half term school holidays.

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