Schools’ reopening: Health Minister advises parents of children with underlying conditions to check with doctors

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Minister of Health Dr. Frank Anthony maintains that it is safe for children to return to schools next month but says that parents of children with underlying health conditions should first engage doctors about the safety of attending face-to-face classes full time again.

“What we have seen in kids is even if they get infected, they get a very mild form of the infection and the few that ended up in the hospital, they had comorbidities,” Dr. Anthony said at the sidelines of an event on Tuesday.

Previously, Dr. Anthony acknowledged that some children died after they were infected with the virus. He, however, explained that those children were sick with other underlying diseases (comorbidities) or were experiencing other health complications.

Since the start of the pandemic here, more than 7,800 children have been infected and at least 17 have died. Overall, there have been more than 63,000 cases and a total of 1,224 deaths.

As such, he contended that it is safe, generally, for children to attend face-to-face classes despite the continuing threat of the novel coronavirus.

What is a concern, however, is the safety of children who have underlying health conditions – be it asthma, cancer or other conditions. This concern is exacerbated by the unavailability of vaccines for children younger than 12 years old.

When asked if it is advisable that these children return to face-to-face classes, Dr. Anthony answered: “That would be something that parents would discuss with the child’s doctor and decide on.”

He also emphasised that children with these underlying conditions are a “tiny minority” but assured Guyanese that such cases would be assessed on a “case-by-case” basis.

Currently, Dr. Anthony said that there are no plans for the continuation of online classes until vaccines are procured for these children.

While there has already been a phased return to schools, children younger than 12 have not been attending physical classes fully over concerns that the life-saving COVID-19 jabs are not yet available for their use.

Months ago, the government started seeking the special COVID-19 vaccines for children aged five to 11 years old.

On Tuesday, Dr. Anthony said that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which Guyana is a founding member of, has been engaging manufacturers of the Pfizer vaccine on securing those jabs for the younger children.

Those discussions have not yet yielded much success but Dr. Anthony also highlighted that the government is pursuing “other arrangements”.

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