With only three weeks to go before the new school year kicks off, the time to prepare for what is coming is increasingly short. This summer the authorities were supposed to ready all the infrastructure and protocols for the autumn, but we got no respite and the coronavirus has continued to hit certain parts of Catalonia hard, especially the more densely populated areas. As a result, once again there are growing doubts as to whether students will be going back to school in September and people’s working lives will return to some sort of normal. While the Catalan authorities claim everything will be ready for schools to open their doors, there is still a great deal of uncertainty.
That is why ARA has interviewed a number of experts to find out what is still left on the to-do list and also to take a look at what other countries are doing to keep fresh outbreaks in check. On Saturday we learnt that some forty schools in Berlin have recorded new cases of Covid-19, only a few weeks after lessons started up. In Israel some schools have also had to make a U-turn. The possibility that some schools in Catalonia will need to close down shortly after the start of the school year is a sword of Damocles that hangs over the heads of families and schoolchildren, as it could have a serious impact on the academic performance of a generation.
As the experts point out, there are still many unknowns about how to handle the return to school and how parents who must quarantine their children (or whose schools have shut down) will cope. Plans should be drawn for such contingencies, as many parents won’t be able to look after their children if they have a job to go to and they cannot leave them with their grandparents. Likewise, many people will not stop going to work voluntarily for fear of losing their job.
Our goal must be to avoid a full lockdown at all costs because it would be lethal for the economy but, in order to achieve that, it is not enough for the public to heed the advice they are given. As the examples we have studied show, the administration must do their bit, too. For instance, Italy did a good job of conducting checks at airports, New Zealand put large cities on lockdown over a few cases and Uruguay’s borders are still closed off while many tests have been administered. In Norway the authorities have taken a most unusual decision: in order to bring people’s mobility down to a minimum, Norwegians have been told that “the summer holiday is over”.
Needless to say, no two countries are completely alike, but some experiences can be very useful because they have shown to be effective. In the meantime, Catalonia and Spain can’t seem to hit the right key strokes. Experts agree on a number of specific measures. For instance, in autumn the flu vaccine should be administered widely so as not to stress A&E services and contact tracking is in need of much improvement. So far strategies like massive testing, mandatory face masks and shutting down night clubs and other evening entertainment have proven to be effective. But now one of the autumn milestones is only three weeks away and the general public, whose response has been generally satisfactory, expect the administration to rise to the challenge, too.