As soon as it was made public that asymptomatic patients or those with mild symptoms of covid-19 can return to the community after ten quarantine days, under certain conditions, and without a new test at the end of that period, that the phones of the National Association of Group Directors and Public Schools (ANDAEP) started playing. On the other side, parents were concerned with the new reality. “Parents say that if so, the child who has covid-19 does not go to school at the end of that period. They are afraid of stigma ”, says the association’s president, Filinto Lima, demanding more explanations about the measure.
Filinto Lima is not against the update of the rule 004/2020 of the Directorate-General for Health (DGS), last Wednesday, but regrets that there was no further explanation for this change in the rules. “I fear that this may cause some uproar in schools, when some child who has had the disease returns and the other parents realize that it was not tested before returning. We know that these are scientifically based rules and that the situation evolves, but it is a substantial change in procedures, and there should be a full explanation of the guardianship. If this is not explained, it will be left to us. Parents want to be tested, even if it is more of a psychological factor, ”he says.
Manuel Pereira, president of the National Association of School Leaders (ANDE), says he has not received any contact related to this topic, but agrees that a change of rules should be accompanied by better information and realizes that some additional concern may be generated in a period already atypical for teaching activity. “In the case of schools, I think that all cases [de doença] they should only return with a negative test, I think that would make sense ”, he says.
No sign of complaints on this matter is also Jorge Ascenção, president of the executive board of the National Confederation of Parents’ Associations (Confap), although he too realizes that the change may cause some added concern. “Faced with a situation in which there is a certain generalized alarm, obviously the more relaxed the security measures are, but the parents are suspicious and a little expectant. But I believe that we have to trust the experts and we had already heard about reducing the quarantine period in other countries before being applied here. I believe that the update is being made based on what is known about the disease, and we know that the knowledge is evolving and the measures are being adequate ”, he said.
And that is exactly what the general director of Health, Graça Freitas, explained at the press conference this Friday about the situation of the pandemic. Asked if the update of the DGS standard overlapped the reference for schools, which required the existence of a negative test before returning to school, Graça Freitas was not exhaustive, but hinted that it will be so. “Science, and what has been learned, already allows us to know that the person [com covid-19] it is infectious 48 hours before showing symptoms. And we know that, in mild patients, the ability to infect will decrease with time, and that if you have no fever or symptoms, by the end of the tenth day you will practically not infect anyone. Hence being discharged, being able to go out to the community and not needing a test. We are learning, ”he said.
The ten-day quarantine period, without the need for a new test at the end, applies only to mild or asymptomatic cases of covid-19 and when patients are at least three days before the end of that period without fever (nor take medication that can mask this fever) and with consistent improvement of symptoms. The prophylactic isolation of people who have had contact with a positive patient continues for a period of 14 days, precisely because the incubation period of covid-19 can be from two to 14 days, which means that these people remain isolated longer, in order to prevent any contagion, in case they develop the disease.
Schools without major changes
The past few weeks have revealed an increase in positive cases in Portugal – this Friday, DGS reported 2608 new infections and 21 deaths in the last 24 hours -, but the representatives of the school community are unanimous in saying that, in schools, the situation is “under control” and the academic year has run smoothly.
Filinto Lima and Manuel Pereira say they are not aware of major changes to the operating rules imposed by schools at the beginning of this academic year, although they recognize that there may be some adjustments, resulting from the specific situation of schools. As happened this Thursday at the Rainha Dona Leonor School Group, in Lisbon, with the introduction of a rule that prevents students from leaving school facilities during breaks, with the exception of lunchtime. The students were also informed “that they cannot remain on the sidewalk” when they leave school, because of the ban on gatherings of more than five people, in force with the current situation of calamity, decreed this week for the whole country.
“Things are going well, above expectations. At the beginning of September, everything was criticizing, saying that the classes shouldn’t be in person, but it’s going well ”, guarantees Filinto Lima. Manuel Pereira has a similar opinion, although he admits that there are communication problems, particularly between the local health authorities and schools, which had to be overcome. “It is going very well and there is essentially no indication for us to act differently. Schools are doing everything they can and, despite the increase in cases of contagion, it is not in schools that they are happening ”, he says.
Jorge Ascenção has the same opinion and the parents’ representative even admits that he would like to start looking more closely at other aspects of the academic year. “Schools were not the primary factor for the boom of cases that we are experiencing and I realize that we are all still very much focused on security measures and ensuring that information circulates. But we are all very focused on the pandemic issue and what we still don’t know is how the learning process is going, namely the recoveries of last year, which was a lost year ”, he says.