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In addition to the call to include all school staff across the country, coronavirus vaccination plans, children 12 and older suffering from underlying health conditions should also be immunized amid rising Delta variants, UN Children’s Fund said UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Milena Maric, a high school teacher in Belgrade, highlighted the rapid introduction of online classes in Serbia when the pandemic started last year, and supported the UN-led call for more protective measures.
“The students lacked continuity, social contacts, collaboration, sharing ideas in real time, communication without technology,” she said. “I know that the only way out of this situation is if we continue to respect the measures to prevent the transmission of the virus and if we vaccinate all educators.”
In all 53 countries that make up the WHO European Region, UN agencies urged better ventilation in the classroom, smaller classrooms where possible, physical distance and regular COVID-19 testing children and staff.
Learning for Mental Health and Protection
“The pandemic has caused the most catastrophic disruption to education in history. It is therefore vital that classroom learning continues uninterrupted throughout the European region,” said Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “This is paramount for children’s education, mental health and social skills, and for schools to equip our children to be happy and productive members of society.”
Implementing such measures is critical to youth mental health and should “remain our primary objective so that we don’t deprive them of the opportunities they so deserve,” added Dr. Get over it.
While a full course of COVID-19 vaccination significantly reduces the risk of serious illness and death, the high incidence of the Delta variant in many countries — including a majority of those in the European Union — puts the risk of transmission within schools “much greater.” “probably,” both UN agencies warned.
To counter this — and another year of disrupted education — more people need to be offered the COVID-19 jab, they said.
“Vaccination is our best line of defense against the virus,” said Dr. kluge. “And to end the pandemic, we must quickly ramp up vaccinations fairly in all countries, including supporting vaccine production and dose sharing, to protect the most vulnerable everywhere. We must also continue to monitor the public health and social measures that we know are working, including testing, sequencing, tracing, isolation and quarantine.”
Pandemic ‘not over’
Echoing that message, UNICEF urged that anyone could help keep schools open by signing up for the vaccine.
“The pandemic is not over yet…Children and young people cannot risk having another year of disrupted learning. Vaccination and protective measures together will help prevent a return to the darkest days of the pandemic, when people had to endure lockdowns and children experienced learning difficulties,” said Philippe Cori, Deputy Regional Director, UNICEF Europe and Central Asia.
Mr Cori described children as “the silent victims of the pandemic”, Mr Cori noted that the most marginalized have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 disruption, as they “were not already going to school or in school, but do not learn at the same level as their classmates”.
Schools are “so much more than a building,” the senior UNICEF official said. “It is a place of learning, safety and play, at the heart of our communities. When closed, children miss learning, being with their friends and can be exposed to domestic violence. The pandemic exacerbated an already unacceptable situation – we need to make sure schools reopen and they stay open safely.”
The eight key recommendations to keep schools open and safe, approved by WHO, UNICEF and UNESCO and developed by the WHO European Technical Advisory Group on Education during COVID-19:
Schools are among the last places to close and the first to reopen.
Set up a test strategy.
Provide effective risk mitigation measures.
Protect the mental and social well-being of children.
Protect the most vulnerable and marginalized children.
Improve the school environment.
Involve children and young people in decision-making.
Implement a vaccination strategy designed to keep children in school.
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