The World Health Organization (WHO) chief said Tuesday that due to the devastating consequences on children, youth, and societies, closure of schools should be a last resort, temporary and only at a local level in intense transmission areas. 

WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus addressed an online webinar with UNESCO and UNICEF on considerations for school-related public health measures against the pandemic.

“The data we have show that less than 10% of reported cases and less than 0.2% of deaths are in people under the age of 20,” he said.

But more research is needed about the factors that raise the risk of severe COVID-19 disease and death among children and adolescents.

Tedros said that since the beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic, understanding how it affects children had been a priority.

Nine months into the pandemic, questions remain, but the WHO is starting to have a clearer picture.

“We know that this virus can kill children, but that children tend to have a milder infection, and there are very few severe cases and deaths from COVID-19 among children and adolescents,” said Tedros.

And the potential long-term health effects for the infected young people remain unknown.

Although children have largely been spared many of the most severe health effects of the virus, they have suffered in other ways.

In many countries, essential services for nutrition and immunization have been disrupted, with millions of children missing out on months of schooling.  

“We all want to see children back at school, and we all want to make sure schools are the safe and supportive learning environments they should be,” said Tedros.

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