South Africa: Figuring Out What the Who Is Really Saying About Schools and the Pandemic

Following the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa regarding a break in the school calendar, this is a summary breakdown of the four-week break.

A careful reading of the World Health Organisation's policy documents shows that it does not stipulate when schools should reopen.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has played a vital role in evaluating evidence on Covid-19 and coordinating global efforts to limit the harm of the pandemic.

Unfortunately, statements by the WHO's Michael Ryan seem to have created the incorrect impression that the WHO is advising countries not to reopen schools while cases and deaths are on the rise. Ryan's statements should be viewed in the context of the press briefing and the WHO's official documents.

The WHO has emphasised continually that while it is firm on key principles, countries themselves need to carefully assess their local contexts when making decisions.

Nowhere in its official documents does it state at what point in a country's Covid-19 trajectory specific decisions in relation to schools must be taken.

The WHO endorses the medical evidence that transmission of the virus by children is low and explains that this fact must influence decisions around schools.

An advisory released in May 2020 concludes that infections among learners and teachers would be due largely to transmissions occurring outside the school and classroom.

Moreover, the WHO has endorsed...

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