“Area-wide school closures are no longer an option in the third year of the pandemic,” according to school authorities in Austria. However, temporary closure of individual classes or sites would still be possible – as with other infectious diseases such as measles.
Corona measures in schools: no more large-scale closures
Schools have learned to live with the pandemic in recent years, the paper says, referring to measures such as temporary masking requirements or rapid antigen testing in cases of infection or suspected cases. Corona vaccination is also of crucial importance, it adds. In addition, each school has an individual hygiene and prevention concept with regulations, for example, on ventilation, school events, or temporary distance learning.
This is the way forward for schools in the fall: four variants
The variant management plan now defines the concrete procedure in four different scenarios, with transparent and early communication to the schools being of great importance. In the past, new regulations had often only been announced at concise notice, or specifications had also been changed within a short time.
Scenario 1 (“ideal case”) assumes that the pandemic runs its course: There are many infections but relatively low hospital loads in this case. Scenario 2 (“favorable case”) takes a longer-term weakening of the pandemic, with a seasonal wave of infections in the fall/winter of 2022/23 with magnitude and severity similar to past omicron waves.
For schools, according to the variant management plan, this would mean, in both cases: occasion-based rapid antigen testing, for example, if a child or adolescent falls ill during lessons, and in the event of an occasion, a time-limited mask requirement at the school site.
From scenario 3: Weekly PCR testing at schools.
In Scenario 3 (“Adverse Event”), a new variant of concern brings a large wave of infection, but existing population immunity and updated vaccines continue to protect against the most severe courses. Beginning with the transition from Scenario 2 to Scenario 3, the Variant Management Plan (VMP) calls for all students and faculty, and administrative staff to resume PCR testing once a week. Students were almost PCR-tested once or twice weekly during the previous school year.
In the event of scenario three occurring in total, a general obligation to wear a mask outside the classroom will again apply, and in the middle school/lower secondary school as well as the upper secondary school and the BMHS, on an ad hoc basis and for a limited period, also in the classroom. From this stage, vulnerable children and adolescents can be exempted from the compulsory presence requirement with a specialist certificate. Whether school events such as ski weeks, language trips, or hiking days are held depends on the risk assessment at the location.
“Very unfavorable case”: FFP2 mask obligation comes into force
In scenario 4 (“Very unfavorable case”: intensification of the pandemic with very high numbers of infections and hospitalizations), mouth-nose protection must be worn as standard in the lower grades, and FFP2 masks in the upper grades. School events lasting several days with overnight stays would be suspended in this case.
- sources: vienna.at/APA/picture: pixabay.com
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