Civil rights group DearSA has sent a letter to the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, calling on her to reopen schools for all children under the of ten on 1 June 2020.
This follows an earlier announcement by the minister that Grade 7 and 12 learners would be able to return to school on 1 June 2020, on the basis they were on the cusp of completing primary and high school, and required special consideration.
DearSA’s letter points out that the reason cited for the lockdown is the need to slow the spread of the disease and “flatten the curve” of infection so as not to overburden the health care system with Covid-19 cases.
Writing on behalf of DearSA, Daniel Eloff of attorney Hurter Spies, says it supports government’s campaign to curtail the spread of the virus, but has urged it to follow a data-driven approach to decision-making over lockdown regulations. With the passage of time, more data has come to light calling into question the severity of the current Alert Level 4 lockdown, particularly on children of school-going age.
Citing research from the Actuarial Society of SA, DearSA points out that children aged 19 and below have a minuscule chance of contracting the virus. Only 0.4% of all cases showing symptoms that require hospitalisation are drawn from the 0-19 age bracket in SA. For children up to the age of 9, the percentage of symptomatic cases requiring hospitalisation falls to 0.1% of the total.
“Lockdown measures cannot stop the virus from spreading, but they can slow down the speed of infections,” says the DearSA letter to the minister. “Lockdowns will not save the lives of those who contract Covid-19 and do not require hospitalisation. They also do not save the lives of those who contract the virus and would sadly and regrettably succumb to the disease even if they gained access to an ICU bed. They only assist those who contract the virus and would survive if they were hospitalised but are unable to receive such care because the health system has been overrun.”
Multi-country studies further show that children are at extremely low risk of infection relative to adults. Joint research by Chinese medical authorities and the World Health Organisation show negligible instances of child-to-parent transmission.
It is vitally important that children be allowed back to school on 1 June 2020, as various studies have shown the importance of early learning for later life development.
The Lancet Early Childhood Development Series emphasises the importance of the first five years of a child’s life. These are the formative years where “factors such as adequate healthcare, good nutrition, good quality childcare and nurturing, a clean and safe environment, early learning and stimulation will, to a large extent, influence his/her future as an adult.”
The closure of schools has placed strain on families, and by allowing schools to reopen, this would have the added benefit of freeing up essential workers forced to remain home to care for their own children.
Based on the evidence now emerging after several weeks on collating data on Covid-19 cases, DearSA says keeping children under the age of 10 at home serves no purpose in slowing the spread of the virus, and urges the minister to reopen schools for those in this age bracket on 1 June 2020.
Contact Daniël Eloff of Hurter Spies Inc.
082 838 5290