Karachi:Infectious diseases experts said Thursday that coronavirus poses low risk to school-aged children; therefore, Sindh government can open education institutes by adopting preventive measures in all over the province.

These views were shared by President, Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Society of Pakistan (MMIDSP), Prof Dr Bushra Jamil while addressing a press conference at Karachi Press Club today. Dr Summiya Nizamuddin, Dr Azizullah Khan Dhillon and others were also present on this occasion.

Prof Bushra Jamil said like other countries of the world, Pakistan was gradually moving towards restoring normalcy of pre-Covid days. At this juncture, it is important that decisions, especially those pertaining to health and safety of our children, are based on observations and scientific data which is being compiled and reported from all over the world and not on unfounded fear.

She explained that studies specifically looking at children and adolescents younger than 18 years of age, suggested that COVID-19 transmission among children in schools might be low. She said most of children if infected, had milder disease pattern and less severity because of lower susceptibility to SARS-CoV2 infection compared to adults.

She said children account for 1 to 7 % of COVID-19 cases, far less need for hospitalization and have 0.1 percent (0.1% in China, 0.69% in Europe with children between 2-10 years of age at lowest risk) of COVID-19 related deaths.

Dr Azizullah Khan said in-person schooling was in the best interest of students for normal development including physical and mental health. He suggested that for safety of the students, appropriate mitigation measures similar to those implemented at other essential workplaces needed to be implemented.

He said best available evidence from countries that had opened schools indicated that COVID-19 posed low risks to school-aged children, at least in areas with low community transmission, and suggested that children were unlikely to be major drivers of the spread of the virus.

“Ensuring hand hygiene, physical distancing for all and use of masks in children over 12 years of age (as currently recommended by WHO) and for all teachers and staff, good ventilation and early diagnosis of affected staff and students through simple screening measures can help keep our educational institutions open and functional,” he advised.

He said engagement of teachers, parents and health authorities was important in devising innovative ways of ensuring safety of students, staff and their families. Local adaptation and reliable implementation of recommended measures and SOPs should be ensured in the coming months. The preventive measures and strategies will have to reviewed and revised periodically, as new data becomes available, he added.