TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
Paediatric Association of Nigeria (PAN) has condemned Federal Government’s decision to reopen schools in September, 2020, in the face of rising cases of COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
PAN’s position was contained in a statement made available to Daily Sun in Port Harcourt Rivers State, issued by its President, Professor Edward Alikor and Secretary, Dr. Petronila Tabansi.
The paediatricians said it is obvious that the Nigerian healthcare system is grossly ill-equipped to absorb sudden surges in cases of COVID-19 in schools in the country.
The group said Federal Government, through the Ministry of Education, should study and learn the situation in other countries that reopened schools before taking it decision on resumption.
It stated: “Paediatric Association of Nigeria (PAN) has followed with concern the current debate in the public space on the advisability or otherwise of reopening schools in Nigeria at this time of COVID-19 pandemic, especially the Basic and Secondary schools.
“As a professional association whose fundamental objective is to “actively seek the well-being of children and ensure that their right to quality health care is protected”, Paediatric Association of Nigeria views it as a professional responsibility to publicly express its opinion in the ongoing national discourse.
“The opinion of PAN as expressed here is based on the following factors, among others: currently available consistent scientific facts about COVID-19 published and accepted by the scientific community; the fact that these scientific facts are rapidly evolving and changing and the trend in the incidence of COVID-19 infection in Nigeria.
PAN also took into consideration the recognition that children need structured school environment for optimal learning and realization of their full potentials; the capacity of the Nigerian health system to quickly respond to unexpected increase in the incidence of COVID-19 and the experiences of other countries where reopening of schools have recently been tried.
It noted: “Figures from Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), show exponential rise in COVID-19 incidence and deaths. It would appear that Nigeria has, at this time, not reached its peak incidence of the pandemic.
“We are still learning about the effect of COVID-19 in the human body including the long-term effect of the virus in various organs, even in asymptomatic carriers including children.
“Ghana, which reopened its schools three weeks ago has reported 55 new COVID-19 cases in students of Accra Girls Senior High School alone within two weeks of reopening.
“Consequently, PAN supports the continued closure of Nigerian schools and urges that the schools should remain closed until conditions are safe.
“The minimum criterion for considering the reopening of schools in Nigeria should be a steady and consistent decline in the spread of COVID-19 in most parts of the country.
“It is then and only then, we believe, that the other criteria as laid down by the Guidelines for Schools and Learning Facilities Reopening after COVID-19 Pandemic Closures can now be considered.
“PAN observes, with surprise, the absence of public health physicians, infectious disease experts and other child and adolescent healthcare specialists among the stakeholders listed as having been consulted in arriving at the decision to possibly reopen schools in September, 2020”, the paediatricians noted.