Photo: Renaud Philippe The Duty
A worker laying of shields to the primary school Saint-Romain, in order to limit the risk of propagation on the return of the students.
The physical return of the children on the benches of school planned for fall poses little or no risk to their physical health and very little to their teachers, according to the studies and experiences carried out to date in several other countries.
This is what think many health experts interviewed Tuesday on the potential impact of the return to full-time children in the classroom. At least for those in the primary and secondary schools, except those of the secondary 4 and 5 who may not have access to the school on a part-time, depending on the establishment.
“The epidemiological studies that we have until now are clear enough : the viral load in children is not more important than in adults and they are not vectors of the virus, as had been assumed at the beginning,” says Dr. Marie-France Raynault, professor emeritus at the School of public health of the University of Montreal and head of the department of public health and preventive medicine at the Centre hospitalier de l’université de Montréal (CHUM).
A threat, the children?
Even more, the children seem to be protected by their immune system, much more able to defend themselves against the SARS-CoV-2, and are much less sick than adults when they contract it. In fact, on the 1975 case of COVID identified in Québec at the age of 20 years in mid-may, only 36 (1.8 %) were hospitalized. Only eleven children from 2 to 19 years were admitted to the intensive care unit since the beginning of the pandemic, and no deaths have been reported in less than 20 years.
In the light of these figures and of the most recent scientific data, the specialists and the doctors interviewed felt that the distance reduced to 1 metre proposed for the under 16’s for the back-to-school increases very little risk of infection.
There are questions however on the particular plan suggested for students of secondary 4 and 5, without a real medical basis. “In all other countries, these students are in the classroom as the other. There is no more risk of infection at 1 meter with 16 or 17 years of age to 15 years. This nuance is questionable, because there is a price to pay for these students in terms of socialization, ” says Dr. Karl Weiss, infectious diseases physician at the McGill university health Centre (MUHC).
Moreover, the experience observed in some countries, where the resumption of classes date already of several weeks, such as France, or even several months (April) such as Denmark and Norway, shows that there has been no resurgence of the case, says Dr. Raynault.
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In theory, all the guides state that a distance of 2 metres or more remains the ideal gap to limit the transmission of 1.3 % in the population, ” she said. But a metre is proposed to the school is already reducing by 80 % the risk of contracting the virus. Less than one metre, the risk climbs, in theory, to almost 13 percent, she says, citing data published in the scientific journal The Lancet.
“What is certain is that despite all the good will of teachers, distance education, night a lot to some students, and that in terms of public health for these young people, it is important to reconnect with the physical presence at the school. If we take zero risk, they must then wait for the arrival of the vaccine. But currently, cases of infection are decreasing and the death also, it is what allows you to go a little further, ” she said.
For what is risk of contamination between students and teachers, this expert considers it to be limited, given what has been observed elsewhere in the world. According to a review of the scientific literature conducted by the national Institute of public health of Quebec (INSPQ), a survey conducted in France on the case of a child with symptomatic is 9 years, having crossed 86 contacts in three different schools, has shown that 55 of these contacts with school were able to be tested and they were all negative. In Australia, only 1.9 % of children in child care and school-age considered as close contacts of cases have been declared positive. Another study from the same country conducted in schools (primary and secondary), showed that out of 863 close contacts generated by the 18 cases of infection, only two students have obtained a positive test.