14 Jun 2020

Most parents worried about children at school after lockdown - survey

4:50 pm on 14 June 2020

Parents of school-aged children were very worried that they could catch Covid-19 if schools were reopened at alert level 3, new research has found.

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A survey of 1191 parents undertaken by the University of Otago, Christchurch shows that 79 percent of respondents thought it "likely" or "very likely" their child would catch Covid-19 from other children if schools were to reopen when there was widespread community transmission of the coronavirus.

In an online survey of parents undertaken just prior to schools reopening at level 2, more than 60 percent of those surveyed said they were either "extremely", "very" or "somewhat" worried about their children catching Covid-19 at school.

Associate Professor Tony Walls, who is a paediatric diseases expert, said the study showed there was a real concern that their children could catch Covid-19 at school.

"There appears to be a perception that children are very likely to transmit COVID-19 if they become infected and that schools are a high risk environment for transmission. The current evidence does not support this view and the risk appears to be very low," Walls said in a statement.

Walls said evidence from New Zealand and overseas shows children generally have milder Covid-19 and a better prognosis than adults.

But the situation developed very rapidly and it was understandable that parents were worried about sending their children back to school after lockdown, he said.

See all RNZ coverage of Covid-19

The survey also asked where parents were getting their information about Covid-19 and whether they would be willing to vaccinate their child against Covid-19 if a vaccination was developed.

The results, which have been passed on to the Ministry of Education, found the most widely trusted source of information for parents was the daily live briefing from Parliament and that 70 percent of parents would get their children vaccinated against Covid-19, if such a vaccine were available.

Under alert level 1 the Ministry of Education advises schools to ensure students continue to adhere to public health advice such as hand-washing, staying at home if sick and sneezing or coughing into your elbow.

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