By Sharon Atieno

In order to curb the spread of COVID-19, World Health Organization (WHO) has urged schools to conduct a risk assessment before reopening schools.

Part of the assessment will include the school’s capability to put public health measures in place, such as physical distancing and keeping people at least one metre apart, making sure that there’s hand hygiene stations for example, alcohol-based rub stations in the classrooms or school for children to clean their hands, explained Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s Technical Lead for COVID-19, during an interview with Science in 5.

It will also entail making sure that there are provisions and plans in place if there is a case.

“If you have a suspect case, what is the plan? How do we quickly detect that case? And what do we do in terms of ensuring that that individual is tested and has the right type of contact tracing and the right type of care,” she said.

She adds that a good communication plan should be put in place, to communicate with the students, adults, parents and people who work at the school.

Also, Dr. Van Kerkhove notes that the right types of environmental controls should be available in the schools: such as disinfection, making sure you have good ventilation and other types of provisions.

“What is really important for all students, no matter what age, is to practice the physical distancing, to clean their hands regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based rub, to make sure that they get good information and that they can ask a trusted adult any questions that they have about this virus and really follow the instructions that are put in place at the school,” she said.

Though transmissions among children occur less often than in adults, Dr. Van Kerkhove observed, evidence shows that there is differences in transmissions among them. Transmission among the youngest children is less, compared to teenage children, which appear to transmit at the same rate that adults do.