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WHO Europe warns against school closures as infection figures rise

The European arm of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned governments in the region on Friday not to close schools, even as the number of Covid-19 infections rises in many countries.

Oslo, 29 October 2021 (dpa/MIA) – The European arm of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned governments in the region on Friday not to close schools, even as the number of Covid-19 infections rises in many countries.

The WHO noted that, as winter approached, more than half of the WHO European region’s 53 countries reported a marked increase in infection rates across all age groups, with new cases up 18 per cent in the region.

“If and when restrictions are imposed to decrease or control transmission, schools should be the last places to shut their doors and the first to reopen with appropriate infection prevention measures,” the WHO said in a statement. “Interrupting children’s education should be a last resort.”

Instead of closing educational institutions, the WHO instead recommended a broader approach to reducing transmission throughout society.

“This includes schooling environments, where physical distancing, cleaning hands frequently, wearing masks, ensuring adequate ventilation in classrooms and increasing access to testing are important, particularly in high-prevalence settings,” the statement read.

Last year, the widespread closures of schools disrupted the education of millions of children and young people and did more harm than good, according to Hans Henri Kluge, regional director of the WHO Regional Office for Europe. “We cannot repeat the same mistakes.”

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