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ARGENTINA | 14-03-2020 08:35

It would be ‘counterproductive’ to close schools, says health minister

Health Minister Ginés González García and Education Minister Nicolás Trotta confirms schools will remain open – for now.

Schools in Argentina will remain open for now, officials said yesterday, dismissing rumours that classrooms were on the verge of being shuttered.

Health Minister Ginés González García, speaking at a press conference in the capital, said that taking students out of school would not be helpful, despite a number of countries across the world shuttering classrooms.

“It would be counterproductive to close schools,” he declared, adding that the decision “not to close educational establishments” had been reached “by consensus.”

“It not only has a considerable social impact but it does not have any potential from the point of view of taking care of health,” González García.

“Children are not a vulnerable group and, when they do not go to school, they have to stay out of school, which increases the risk for adults who must take care of them,” he told reporters.

Angela Gentile, head of epidemiology at the Ricardo Gutiérrez children’s hospital in Palermo, said that the coronavirus wasn’t circulating freely among Argentines and that no child mortality had been registered.

“Schools are very important in generating prevention” against the coronavirus, she added.

Earlier in the day, Education Minister Nicolás Trotta had confirmed that schools in Argentina would remain open “for the moment.”

Trotta, 44, said it is not necessary to suspend classes to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, despite some provinces in the north shuttering classrooms.

The virus has infected more than 30 people in Argentina so far and forced President Alberto Fernández to declare a public health emergency yesterday for one year. At least two people have died after contracting Covid-19.

“We are coordinating minute-by-minute with the committee of specialists and they establish that, to this day, at this time, suspension of classes is not necessary,” Trotta said.

“This may change in the next few hours, days or weeks, but all the reports from the specialists indicate that suspending classes today will not have a positive impact,” the minister added in an interview with the TN news channel.

DISSENT

Meanwhile, PRO national deputy Martín Medina presented a project for the authorities of the Executive branch to order a “cessation of activities in educational establishments for a minimum of 15 days “ at all educational levels.

“In turn, it is provided that educational establishments, through the use of technological channels, dictate classes or send assignments to guarantee compliance with academic objectives to,” read the text of the project, which the Noticias Argentinas news agency had access.

The legislator in charge of the initiative indicated that he accompanied the presentation of the project by sending emails to Trotta and Health Minister Ginés González García, requesting they order the immediate halt of classes in both primary and secondary schools, as well as at tertiary and university institutions.

“Although they are not age groups that are at risk of death from coronavirus, they can begin to reproduce the contagion much more massively. There are already provinces that have begun to take these measures, such as Jujuy and Salta, and it would be important for there to be a cessation of most places, to have a control of the virus and so that the government has more tools,” he said.

Regarding the decision to suspend classes in the Jujuy and Misiones provinces, the head of the national educational portfolio sought to clarify the situation.

“The fact that classes have to be suspended in any particular province does not mean that it should happen in the rest of the country. And here it is necessary to clarify that Jujuy suspends due to the prevention of the coronavirus and Misiones for a different problem, in this case due to dengue,” the official explained.

Trotta commented that they are working on alternatives in the event that classes should be suspended later, such as virtual classroom environments and different types of remote communications.

Many nations across Europe have shut down schools to contain the spread of coronavirus, while in the United States, at least six states have ordered schools to close.

Bolivia has also shut down its schools.

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