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Back to school? Here’s how to keep your kids safe from infection

26 May 2020
3 minute read

school kid wearing mask

As children head back to school after their long stay at home during lockdown, parents are anxious to make sure that they are as safe as possible from infection. We look at what you can expect of your children’s schools, and ways you can help to protect them.

What the government is doing:

  • Public schools will be equipped with two masks per learner and staff member per week.
  • Learners and teachers are instructed to maintain a strict physical distance from each other at all times.
  • In the Western Cape, hygiene packs containing hand sanitiser and liquid soap, cleaning materials and non-contact digital thermometers are being distributed to schools
  • The Gauteng Department of Education has ordered temperature screening of each learner and teacher three times daily.

The Department of Education has sent a screening questionnaire to schools that they can use to determine if a child may have contracted Covid-19. Questions include:

  • Do you have a high temperature?
  • Do you have a cough?
  • Do you have a sore throat?
  • Do you have difficulty breathing?
  • Do you feel weak and tired today?
  • Can you taste food and drinks normally?
  • Can you smell normally?

What schools are doing:

  • Most schools have done a thorough disinfection of all surfaces with bleach, as recommended by both South African and international health authorities.
  • All scholar transport is expected to be sanitized before and after every trip, and all passengers are expected to wear masks.
  • Playing fields (soccer, rugby, hockey and netball courts) will be out of bounds.
  • Access to schools by visitors will be strictly monitored.

What you can do:
Masks: Provide your child with a clean mask daily. Wash masks by gently rubbing in warm water with mild soap, then rinse them and dry them in sunlight.

Choose a colour or pattern: An easily identifiable mask will prevent children from mixing theirs up with other children’s masks.

Hand sanitizer: Pack a hand sanitizer in their school bag and stress the importance of using it often.

Teach hand washing: Show children how to do a good, thorough wash for 20 seconds. They should do this often - including, at each break, before and after they eat, and when they go to the bathroom.

Discourage face touching: Stress the importance of avoiding touching eyes, mouth and nose, which are all routes of viral transmission.

Personal hygiene: Encourage your children to keep their nails and teeth clean.

Teach coughing etiquette: Teach your kids to cough or sneeze into their elbow, or into a tissue, making sure they throw it away after each use.

Encourage distancing: Explain that they shouldn’t touch each other or share food, utensils or toys at school.

Keep shoes clean: Although clothes and shoes are considered low risk for infection, the COVID-19 virus can remain active for up to three days on shoes. Have your child remove his or her shoes and leave them outside the house. Regularly wipe down shoes or put them in the washing machine. Wash hands after handling shoes.

Keep all ‘high-touch’ surfaces extra clean: These include counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables.

Regular temperature check: A normal temperature is between 36degC and 37degC. Keep your children at home if they have a fever or if they’re sick.

Be a good role model: Wash your hands frequently and your children will be more likely to follow your example. You could make hand washing a family activity.

Healthy lunch: Pack a healthy lunch for them daily, remind them to wash hands before they eat, and remember to sanitise the container before and after school.

Good night’s sleep: Make sure your child is tucked in bed by a reasonable hour, as sleep does wonders in maintaining a good immune system.

By sticking to these simple hygiene practices, you will help keep your child healthy and your family’s anxiety levels down as South Africa heads back to school.

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