Be cautious about closing schools again, says MMA

MMA president Dr N Ganabaskaran says schoolchildren will be affected academically and mentally if they cannot attend school.

PETALING JAYA: Health groups have advised Putrajaya against closing schools again after a primary school pupil in Sabah tested positive for Covid-19.

The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) said any decision to close schools would need to be carefully evaluated, taking into consideration its impact on children’s early development.

MMA president Dr N Ganabaskaran said children would be affected academically and mentally if they could not go to school.

Dr N Ganabaskaran

“However, schools should close temporarily if cases in the affected area rise exponentially,” he told FMT.

He said extensive contact tracing, targeted testing and isolation of persons under investigations should be done first if there were only a few cases reported in schools.

He reiterated that strict compliance with SOPs and preventive measures not only in school but also at home and in public places would be key to preventing schools from closing.

Earlier, senior minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said Putrajaya was considering the possibility of shutting schools again after a pupil in Sabah tested positive for Covid-19.

However, according to the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy, some studies overseas had shown that closure of schools might not have a major role in controlling the spread of the virus.

Azrul Mohd Khalib

Galen CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib said schools should adopt strategies such as keeping desks further apart, staggering start and recess time, reducing the number of school days and carrying out frequent hand and surface washing.

Based on existing studies, he said it was very likely that schoolchildren would become infected despite the best efforts, although they are not likely to get sick.

Schools in the country were closed for nearly four months because of the pandemic and have been reopened in stages since June 24. Pupils from Year One to Four returned to school on July 22.