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March 11, 2021, marked one year post-COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and it has disrupted all aspects of our lives. One year on, we have seen and experienced the changes that came with the pandemic.
We also know that things will remain changed for some time. We have adjusted the way we live our lives, our routines and our habits. We now know that we shouldn’t leave the house without a mask, because it is one of the best ways to reduce the spread of the virus.
We now know that we have to maintain our distance from friends, family and people we meet in the streets, and that hand sanitisers are the next best thing to soap and water for keeping our hands clean.
We have also developed ways for coping with the barrage of information on COVID-19 and relaying what is important to our children.
Some of us are still working from home and many of us are struggling to juggle both work and home-schooling responsibilities since our children have not resumed full-time face-to-face classes.
The first case of COVID-19 in Jamaica was confirmed on 10th March 2020, since then, the government has taken measures to stop the spread of the virus. One year post-COVID-19, where are we with COVID-19 and our children?
One Year Post COVID-19, Where Are We Now?
As of March 12, 2020, the data from the JAMCOVID website of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, show that 22,265 people have been infected with COVID-19. Of that number, 1,144 are children between the ages 0 to 9 years old and 1,691 are between the ages of 10 to 19.
Whilst the number of confirmed cases passed the 10,000 mark in November 2020, the number of deaths has remained low. Unfortunately, 409 people have lost their lives as a result of the virus, of that number, 1 child died in the 0 to 9 age group and 3 in the 10-19 age group.
Based on these numbers, the COVID-19 infection rate in children is 12.7% while the rate of infection in the general child population is 0.35%.
These numbers in Jamaica are consistent with global data on the infection and transmission of the virus in children which show a lower rate of transmission and spreading of the virus.
According to the Centre for Disease Control in the USA, less than 10% of COVID-19 cases were in children 5-17 years old.
A study in Iceland showed that children were half as likely as adults to spread and transmit the virus and in the United Kingdom, a report shows that younger children were less susceptible to being infected with the virus and less likely to spread it to other children and adults; additionally, if infected, children between ages 1-18 had lower rates of hospitalisation and death than other groups.
One year post-COVID-19, the increased number of positive cases has caused schools to remain closed. After spikes in the population in some schools that were approved for face-to-face reopening, the government decided that the risk was too great and ordered that all schools discontinue face-to-face schooling except for those that cater to children who are sitting exit exams.
This order will be in effect until the 22nd March, 2021. While parents hope for the best, there is no telling if and when children will be able to return to the classroom for this year.
Are Vaccines the Answer?
Whilst the launch of the vaccination programme provides some optimism that schools could return to face-to-face, it is yet to be seen if this will be the case for this year.
Although teachers are on the list of priority groups to receive the vaccine, there is still a worrying rate of vaccine hesitancy among the population.
A PAHO study showed that only 35% of Jamaicans were willing to take the vaccine. If the government does not succeed in convincing the population of the efficacy and safety of the vaccine, then all the efforts to bring the pandemic under control will be in vain and our children will possibly miss another full year of school.