© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2020

Schools open today for the first time in four weeks, but is it safe yet?

Tia McDougall
Happy School Children
Happy School Children  Flicr

Experts are confident with a lack of COVID-19 community transmission, fewer other viruses and bacteria than usual, and good systems for detection, it is as safe as ever for kids to be at school.

Professor Philip Hill, University of Otago infectious disease expert, says all studies and results from schools overseas mean New Zealand can be confident schools are safe to open.

“It just doesn’t make sense to say this virus spreads widely in schools when there have been very few children affected in other countries, where schools have been open. When children do get COVID-19 it is usually acquired from an infected adult family member.'’

Schools will open today for the first time in four weeks for children and young people in years 1-10, who are not able to stay at home.

“We now know that the way COVID-19 spreads in populations is very different from influenza. Children are not the main vectors of transmission and it doesn’t seem likely they spread it to each other in schools,” says Hill

The Government's COVID-19 guidelines set for open schools is to keep physical distance with 1m  between children, young people and staff at all times, and a 2m distance when outside. 

An essential working nurse is relieved that she can send her five-year-old son back to St Martins Primary School in Christchurch, however, she still has anxieties about it.

'‘I  know keeping five-year-olds two metres apart will be near impossible… teachers are going to have to constantly remind the kids to wash their hands because they won't remember themselves.”

Professor Hill says the number one rule for all schools is to keep people away if they are sick.

"In any way, even if it's just a runny nose, they stay home… otherwise constantly washing hands.”