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Schools are controlled environments so are not similar to mass gatherings: Prof Salim Abdool Karim

The school year may again face disruptions due to the second wave of Covid-19 infections.
The school year may again face disruptions due to the second wave of Covid-19 infections.
Image: FILE/ Sandile Ndlovu

Scientist and chairperson of the Covid-19 ministerial advisory committee Prof Salim Abdool Karim on Tuesday expressed his views on whether it was safe to open schools while the country is in the midst of a second wave of infections that is claiming hundreds of lives daily.

He said his biggest concern was the disruptions that would be caused if teachers,  other school staff and pupils contract the coronavirus and force schools to temporarily close for sanitisation.

He conceded, however, that teachers and pupils would not necessarily contract the coronavirus in the school environment but could bring it to school from their communities.

“It may be wise to postpone the opening of schools,” Abdool Karim said, adding that technical groups were considering the different options.

He was speaking on SAfm and was asked whether younger people were contracting the virus.

The professor said the high numbers of infection among youngsters were often the result of their behaviour. He was referring to superspreader events in the country ahead of last year’s festive season when scores of young people contracted the virus.

He stressed it was this mass-mingling that led to the virus spreading among the youth, not their attendance at schools.

He advised those who would be making the decisions around schooling to take into consideration all the lessons they learnt from the first wave and adopt those when tackling the new school year.


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