The number of positive corona tests in the Netherlands has been increasing for months. Primary and secondary schools remain open, while they had to remain closed for several months during the first wave. In addition, all students now receive lessons on location five days a week. Five questions about the role of education in the number of corona infections.
How many infections are there in education?
Between 19 and 25 October, 2,566 people working in education (including childcare) tested positive for the corona virus, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) reported last week. That was 14 percent of the total number of positive tests that week.
Of all the listed possible places where people contracted the corona virus, 3 to 4 percent could be traced back to a school or daycare center. That is, for example, slightly higher than the approximately 2.5 percent of the total number of reported infections that can be linked to nursing homes. However, the vast majority of infections take place at home (almost 60 percent).
The actual percentages probably differ, because not everyone who tests positive knows or indicates where he or she has become infected.
Who infects whom at school?
According to the RIVM, children still play a limited role in the spread of the corona virus. Adults infect other adults and children, but transmission of the virus among children or from children to adults is less common, the institute said.
However, the RIVM does say that in general, the younger the child, the smaller the role in the spread of the virus. The contagiousness of children increases with age.
Based on reports from the GGDs last summer, it appeared that over 7 percent of all reported corona patients were children, while they represent almost 21 percent of the population.
British research (pdf), like other research, showed that relatively few children tested positive for the coronavirus between January and May and that children rarely died from the consequences of a coronavirus infection.
What measures did schools take?
Pupils and teachers in secondary education have been wearing mouth masks for several weeks on the urgent advice of the cabinet. They do not need to wear a mouth mask in class, but they do need to wear a mask in the corridors and the auditorium, because it is more difficult to guarantee a distance of 1.5 meters there.
Children in primary education do not have to wear a mouth mask and do not have to keep a distance of 1.5 meters. As mentioned, young children in particular play a limited role in the transmission of the virus. Teachers, masters and other teaching staff must keep a distance of 1.5 meters from each other.
In addition, all schools must have proper ventilation. Ventilation and airing help to limit the number of infections, according to the RIVM.
Opening a window is an easy way to provide ventilation in the classroom. (Photo: ANP)
Yet there are also concerns. Where do they come from?
A poll by the Teachers In Action (LIA) union among its approximately two thousand members showed that more than 80 percent of teachers are seriously concerned about their work situation. Due to the full classes, keeping a distance of 1.5 meters would not always be possible. Three quarters of respondents wanted mandatory precautions in the classroom. For example by working with half groups.
The General Education Union (Aob) is concerned about, among other things, the cancellation of lessons, because teachers who are waiting for the results of their corona test cannot be replaced due to the teacher shortage.
Minister of Education Arie Slob said two weeks ago that he does not see much in the idea of working with smaller classes. He also did not think it necessary to take extra corona measures in schools. Teachers responded varyingly to the introduction of extra corona rules on the NUjij reaction platform.
Is it a serious option for the cabinet to close schools?
Until now, the cabinet has opted to keep the schools open during the second corona wave. Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Minister Hugo de Jonge (Public Health) will give another press conference on Tuesday evening. NOS and RTL News reported on Monday, based on The Hague Sources, that the cabinet is tending to reduce the group size and close theaters, museums and cinemas. Education is not mentioned.
Jaap van Dissel, head of infectious disease control at RIVM, told the Lower House last week what the influence of closing schools could be on the development of the corona epidemic. As a yardstick he used the reproduction number (R-value), the number of people to whom an infected person passes on the corona virus.
The R-value, for example, fell from 1.25 to 0.88 in September and October as a result of the government measures taken, including the closure of the catering industry. Only a scenario with a lockdown like in March, where schools close, can push this R value down to 0.74. A lower reproduction number is virtually impossible with the corona virus, according to Van Dissel.