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Back to school COVID-19 tips

BY: Rebecca Kwei
Schoolchildren should observe the COVID-19 safety protocols

There is a surge in COVID-19 cases in the country.


This week, we continue with the tips on healthy behaviours for children to stay safe and reduce the risk of infection of the virus.

A Paediatric Pulmonologist of the Department of Child Health of the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Dr Sandra Kwarteng Owusu, provided the following tips.

• Do not hug your grandparents especially when you return from school.

• If very necessary take your bath first.

• Give them the elbow shake.

•  Inform your parents, guardians or teachers when you do not feel well or have any of the symptoms described above for the necessary action to be taken.

•  If you are sick you may need to stay away from school until you are well.

• Keep your classroom windows open always.

• Be one another’s keeper always.

• Let’s stand for one  another.

Younger children (Less than six years old)

Little children can be taught very basic infection prevention measures although it may take some time.

They can learn basic hand washing skills through singing and playing and also how to wear a mask.

Children younger than six years may not understand all the information about keeping the face mask on.

However, the best solution is for them to be supported to stay within their group in the classroom (or preferably outdoors in a safe area, transmission is limited in well ventilated areas).

This will ensure that even in the unlikely event that a child is infected, it would be contained within that class and other children will not be affected.

It is important to note that very young children should not wear face mask because it may be harmful to them in terms of breathing. To be continued

Parents

• Parents should continue to interact with children and offer information on how to stay safe in school.

Every morning, parents should engage their children on basic health tips.

• Children who have fever, cough or have been sneezing should not be allowed to go to school but taken to a health facility.

• For parents and caregivers who can afford basic thermometers it will be a useful tool to monitor the temperature of everyone at home.

•  Parents must ensure every child has two face masks and sanitiser for the school day.

• Help your children to wear their face mask and encourage them to keep it on.

• Give each child their own hand sanitiser

• Children should sanitise their hands before they enter the school compound.

• Parents must encourage children to keep their face masks on except the very young ones. In addition, encourage the children to wash or sanitise their hands as much as practicable.

• School uniforms should be washed or dried in the sun after school each day. For us in the tropics, if you expose anything directly under the sun for up to three hours, it is good enough to kill the virus.

If you can’t afford to wash school uniforms daily, at least change the school uniforms.

• Shoes, school bags, lunch bags or anything taken to school can be placed on a table outside in the sun if possible,  on a daily basis before taking it indoors.

• Alternatively, sanitise or wash them often.

• Children should be supervised to take a bath as soon as they return from school if it is possible.

•  Provide continuous education on the virus and encourage children to report any symptoms as described above.

• It is important to note that when a child starts coughing or sneezing, it does not immediately doesn’t mean the child has COVID-19. It could be a common cold that can be caused by other viruses.

- When in doubt, seek advice from a health professional.

Schools/teachers

• Provide information and communicate effectively on COVID-19 to the children frequently.

• Provide enough water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities in schools.

• Teachers and school health coordinators must ensure they follow the safety protocols.

• Teachers should encourage children to wear their face mask.

• Before the start of the school day, teachers should help children to correctly sanitise or wash their hands.

• As often as practicable, teachers should encourage children to wash their hands during the school day.

• Teachers can help to teach all children not to stigmatise a child who is coughing or sneezing or any other suspected to have COVID-19.

The fact that the child has these symptoms does not mean the child has COVID-19.

• School health protocols must be followed.

• Schools must have a holding area (basic sick bay) for children who are not well. When a child is suspected to have COVID-19, he or she can wait in the holding area for help to come.

• If possible, encourage the children to maintain one meter distance.

• Teachers should practice what they preach to the children.