Coronavirus and school, because we cannot overlook the risks (but rather we must manage them)

Coronavirus and school, because we cannot overlook the risks (but rather we must manage them)

Coronavirus and school

The problem is complex. The Council of State rejects the government's appeal against two appeals by the School in attendance network, explaining that the scientific documents presented by the government do not support that schools are a serious source of contagion. But an analysis in the Lancet brings evidence that the risk is there and that denying it is equivalent to not investing in mitigation measures

(photo: Cole Stivers via Pixabay) School yes or school no, face to face, at a distance or a little and a little, the discussion on the opening of schools continues with ever more lively tones. In the face of two appeals by the national School in attendance network, the State Council asked the government to review the rules on the closure of schools, also in the red zone, justifying them with reliable data. But an article in the Lancet indicates that saying that schools do not contribute to increasing risks is a hypothesis supported by studies with strong limits and is equivalent to not investing in risk mitigation measures, which in the presence of variants should be even more. As we have understood from the evidence gathered so far, saying that "yes, school is safe" or on the contrary arguing that it is certainly dangerous are two opposite positions that do not do justice to the reality and complexity of the problem and that fuel a polarized, fruitless and often downright harmful.

What the Council of State says

The Council of State has rejected the government's appeal against the requests for precautionary measures in two appeals by committees of the national School in attendance network. "The judge - announced the committees belonging to the network, authors of the first appeal to the TAR - reaffirms the obligation for the Government to review the rules governing the closure of schools, even in the red zone, justifying them with reliable data". The motivation? "The scientific documents presented by the Prime Minister do not support the thesis that schools are a serious source of contagion," explains Scuola in attendance. “The day has not been able to rationally justify the priority assigned to the health precaution in the face of the serious compression of the right to education” “.

The point is not if, but how much

We do not know what these scientific documents are, but it is a fact that the school universe, both including and excluding what happens before and after classroom lessons, represents a moment of aggregation. Therefore, the presence of a risk of contagion cannot be completely denied, which is in any case (perhaps slightly, but we still don't know) greater than the situation in which the student stays at home. And certainly the risk today is higher than even just a few months ago, due to the new variants of the coronavirus, more transmissible, which have become prevalent (the English variant in almost 9 cases out of 10).

Il the point therefore is not whether schools are a source of contagion, but how much they can be. And it is important to ask ourselves - as various research groups have done and are doing - given that asking children and young people to continue teaching at a distance is certainly a significant problem, both for them, in terms of possible reduction of the educational offer. , of less sociality and relationality, both for families who are in smart working and having to manage their young children at the same time.

Do not deny the risks to find new necessary ways

Respond not it is simple, just as the question and the problem posed are not, very complex. Today an English analysis is trying to answer, in which the University of Cambridge took part, along with other universities, just published in The Lancet, first written by Deepti Gurdasani. Research indicates that publications claiming schools do not contribute to coronavirus transmission and the overall risk of Covid-19 have important limitations. Furthermore, an important element highlighted by the article, arguing that the risk is negligible implies that not enough work is done on the risk mitigation measures.

As proof of the argument, the authors cite the agency's data British Government Office for National Statistics indicate that the prevalence of cases in England in children between 2 and 10 years and in boys between 11 and 16 immediately before the Christmas holidays increased and was higher than that in all other age groups. 'age. On the contrary, there is evidence associating the closure of primary and secondary schools with substantial reductions over time in the effective reproduction number (Rt) in many countries, including England.

The debate remains open.

In short, it may not be true, as the article quoted in the Lancet also indicates, to say that there is no evidence of an association between the opening of schools and the second wave of the Covid-19 epidemic in Italy. This is stated instead (already in the title No evidence of association between schools and Sars-CoV-2 second wave in Italy) a study published on 18 December 2020 (in preprint on medRxiv) and recently published (in the peer reviewed version the title is somewhat different) in The Lancet Regional Health, a minor journal of the same group as Lancet, first signed by Sara Gandini of the European Institute of Oncology (Ieo).

This research has received some criticism from others scientists. The objections concern its structuring, given that the authors take into consideration only the cases of Covid among students in face-to-face lessons and there is no comparison with the infections of a sample of children and young people who stayed at home. Other doubts concern the fact that the research is limited to considering the infections from 12 September to 8 November (some schools, however, closed earlier), a very early phase of the second wave in Italy. Without forgetting that today the most transmissible and lethal variants (the English variant) dominate, so the estimates should be redone - Angela Merkel recently spoke of a "new pandemic" in Germany due to the presence of Covid-19 variants.

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