Medical doctors under the auspices of Pediatric Association of Nigeria (PAN) have warned against ongoing moves to reopen schools following the increasing cases of COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
PAN, in a statement by its President, Prof. Edward Alikor and Secretary Dr. Petronila Tabansi, said the current upward trend in COVID-19 infections, the evolving and changing scientific facts about the pandemic do not support the call to reopen schools.
The association named other factors that should discourage the move as the capacity of the health system to quickly respond to unexpected increase in the incidences of COVID-19 and experiences of other countries where reopening of schools had recently been tried.
PAN said: “Figures from Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), show exponential rise in Covid-19 incidence and deaths. It would appear that Nigeria has, at this time, not reached its peak incidence of the pandemic.
“Obviously, Nigerian health care system is grossly ill-equipped to absorb sudden surges in cases of Covid-19 in our schools. We are still learning about the effect of Covid-19 in the human body including the long-term effect of the virus in various organs, even in asymptomatic carriers including children.
“Ghana which reopened its schools three week ago has reported 55 new Covid-19 cases in students of Accra Girls Senior High School alone within two weeks of reopening”.
The association advised the minimum condition to consider before reopening of schools should be steady and consistent decline in the spread of COVID-19 in most parts of the country.
PAN observed that public health physicians, infectious disease experts and other child and adolescent healthcare specialists were not consulted in arriving at the decision to possibly reopen schools in September, 2020.
The association said: “PAN supports the continued closure of Nigerian schools and urges the schools should remain closed until conditions are safe.
“The minimum criterion for considering the reopening of schools in Nigeria should be a steady and consistent decline in the spread of Covid-19 in most parts of the country.
“It is then and only then, we believe, that the other criteria as laid down by the Guidelines for Schools and Learning Facilities reopening after Covid-19 Pandemic Closures can now be considered.
“Many parents now have to undertake the extra duty of controlling, protecting and in some cases supervising the academic work of the children, duties which have traditionally been shared with teachers and school administrators.
“PAN encourages these and would want our parents to regard their sacrifices, not just as a duty to their families but as a national duty at this time of war with coronavirus”.
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