The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned against the reopening of schools while local transmissions of the coronavirus are on the rise.

The call comes at the time when South Africa has introduced a gradual reopening of schools amid a spike in the infection rate.  The United States, Zimbabwe, France and many other countries are also preparing for the reopening of schools.

Schooling has resumed in various parts of the world as countries lift their movement restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus. But some schools were soon shut down after learners and teachers tested positive. In South Africa, the Education Department took the decision to have a phased resumption of the academic year. However, some schools in the townships and rural areas lack even the basics such as running water and suitable ablution facilities.

The country currently has more than 4 000 COVID-19 related deaths.

World Health Organisation’s Health Emergency Programme Executive Director Mike Ryan saying the best time to reopen schools is during low community transmission.

In the video below, Dr Ryan elaborates on his call:

But, South Africa’s Health Minister has defended the country’s decision to reopen schools.

Dr Zweli Mkhize says it wasn’t taken lightly. Mkhize says communities have to learn to co-exist with the virus and scientists, doctors and pediatricians were part of the decision.

“We asked them to give us advice, what do we do with the schools? They’ve said no we can open the schools and of course there are these protocols that were put in place. While we understand what the WHO has said, our approach to the schools is based also on some of the precautionary measures that need to be taken as you go into the schools. It is because we know we are going to be co-existing with the virus for the rest of the year and up until next year, so we need to begin to adjust to that kind of life with the virus.”

WHO’s chief, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, agrees that the challenge of the pandemic is far from over.

More than thirteen million people have been infected with the virus while more than half a million have died globally.