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Epidemiologist calls for more coronavirus measures in schools

Epidemiologist calls for more coronavirus measures in schools

Epidemiologist calls for more coronavirus measures in schools

As the Netherlands continues to attempt to get the spread of coronavirus under control, a paediatrician epidemiologist has called for additional measures to be implemented in secondary schools, to reduce the number of infections among students and teachers. 

The spread of coronavirus in Dutch schools

Prime Minister Mark Rutte has made it clear at numerous press conferences that keeping schools in the Netherlands open was a top priority, and that, even if the coronavirus situation worsens, schools would be the last to close. 

However, schools have recently overtaken nursing homes to become one of the environments where the highest number of coronavirus infections originate, coming in fourth place behind contracting the virus at home, when visiting friends or family, and at work. This month, several schools have made the news after being forced to send classes home due to an isolated coronavirus outbreak. 

More measures for secondary school students

Therefore, speaking on the Dutch news show Nieuwsuur, paediatrician epidemiologist Patricia Bruijning said: “If we want the coronavirus numbers to go down, then I think we should also look at [measures in] schools.” She is researching the spread of the virus in secondary schools, stating that students are contracting the virus more regularly now than they were in the spring or at the start of the second wave. 

Bruijning has given a number of examples of measures she would like to see implemented in secondary schools, saying: “We have to look at the best and most feasible strategies.” She says schools could use rapid tests to test whole classes for the virus, or could take more steps to stagger break and lesson times to ensure pupils come into less contact with one another. 

Teachers are also calling for additional measures

The VO council, the umbrella organisation representing secondary schools in the Netherlands, doesn’t agree with Bruijning’s comments, saying that such statements only serve to make the council’s job harder. They also emphasised that they have been working hard to keep schools open and safe: “As an umbrella organisation, we follow the Outbreak Management Team and the cabinet's advice, that's all we can do. So weigh it up, come up with well-considered advice, and let the cabinet decide."

On the other hand, the trade union Teachers in Action has expressed concern at the VO Council’s response to the advice, stating that a recent poll they carried out among members showed there is “an urgent and compelling recommendation for additional measures.”

Victoria Séveno

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Victoria Séveno

Victoria grew up in Amsterdam, before moving to the UK to study English and Related Literature at the University of York and completing her NCTJ course at the Press Association...

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