Coronavirus: Should I keep my children home from school today?

Coronavirus: Should I keep my children home from school today?
Some schools may have individual recommendations in place. Photo: Alexander Olivera/TT
Schoolchildren in several Swedish regions, including Stockholm, are set to return to school today after the February break – a week many families go on skiing holidays, and may have been in countries affected.
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So if you have been skiing in, for example, northern Italy, should you stay at home?

First of all, remember that even in Italy where more than 1,000 people have been infected, the spread of the virus is still worse in some areas than others. Being in Italy does not equal catching the coronavirus.

Secondly, it is worth keeping in mind that large parts of Sweden including the populous southern region have already returned to school without there being any indications of the virus spreading as a result.

A total of 14 people have so far been diagnosed with the coronavirus in Sweden, all adults.

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In fact, Sweden's Public Health Agency advises that “suspending health schoolchildren is not an effective measure. It is unlikely that healthy children would cause the spread of infection. None of the outbreaks of the coronavirus that we have seen so far has been linked to schools or children”.

If you or your children show symptoms of the coronavirus after having been to one of the regions affected, on the other hand, you are advised to stay at home and call Sweden's national healthline 1177 for further information on what to do.

But if you remain healthy, the advice in Sweden is to keep living your life as normal, taking the precautions you would during normal flu season: Wash your hands and cover your mouth when you sneeze.

Individual schools and municipalities may independently have decided to urge children to stay at home for 14 days after vacationing in affected regions, so you may also have to check with your local authority.

For example, a school in Stockholm's Hammarby sjöstad has decided that pupils who have been to areas affected by an outbreak should stay at home on Monday, reports the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

Swedish public broadcaster SVT reports that a senior high school in Lidingö has closed for the first week back and is instead offering distance learning, while the municipality is urging children returning from a high-risk area to stay at home for 14 days.

And in Staffanstorp in southern Sweden, council staff (which includes teachers at council-run schools) are being told to stay at home regardless of whether they are experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus or not.

But Karin Tegmark Wisell, a microbiologist at Sweden's Public Health Agency, told the TT newswire that decisions recommending symptom-free children to remain at home were “not rational”.

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If a child stays at home without being sick, without having been instructed by a doctor to remain at home, or without the school telling them to stay at home, their absence from school is not permitted by Swedish law.

If you have questions about the coronavirus, you can call Swedish information number 113 13.

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