Schools Across Europe and Central Asia Must Stay Open, UNICEF and WHO Say

The World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef on Monday have demanded in a press release that schools across Europe and Central Asia must remain open and be made safer.

“The pandemic has caused the most catastrophic disruption to education in history. It is therefore vital that classroom-based learning continues uninterrupted across the WHO European Region,” said Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

Kluge added that while the pandemic persists, “educating children safely in a physical school setting” was of “paramount importance for their education, mental health, and social skills,” and must still remain a “primary objective” for governments.

Forty-four out of 53 countries in the WHO’s Europe region alone closed their schools nationwide during the pandemic’s first wave in April 2020. Some have tried to reopen during September but the surge of new infection rates and more resilient variants of the virus have forced more closures and restrictions in dozens of countries.

Kluge recommended scaling up vaccination to get protection from the Delta variant and making schools safer by improving classroom ventilation, maintaining physical distancing rules, reducing class sizes, and regularly testing both pupils and staff.

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