Public health directors concerned about effects of quarantine policy on young people

January 21, 2022

The number of school classes being sent home due to the current quarantine rules is increasing rapidly. Entire classes must now be quarantined with 3 or more infections. That’s pretty fast. A quarter of primary school students in the Netherlands are currently in quarantine. Based on the growth in the number of corona infections, this number will grow sharply in the coming week. Every 4 infected people now infect 5 new people with Covid-19. It does seem that the omikron variant leads to less serious symptoms and hospital admissions. Children and young people also have fewer complaints from this corona variant.

Disruption of society threatens
The quarantine policy currently in force has far-reaching effects on society as a whole. If the trend of infections continues, societal disruption threatens, as large numbers of people have to go into isolation or quarantine after contact with a person who tested positive. There are many vulnerable groups in society such as the elderly, young people, the psychologically vulnerable and the socially weak who are hit extra hard by the quarantine rules.

Learning disabilities and social isolation in youth
The quarantine rules have many negative effects, especially for young people. Because many children and young people are not vaccinated and cannot receive a booster shot until the age of 18, they must immediately be quarantined after contact with an infected person. The consequences for students are huge. Despite all the efforts of schools, digital education at home leads to learning disadvantages. Not everyone has the opportunity to study well at home. There is no space, there is no quiet environment, parents also have to work at home, they cannot support children in the learning process. In short, there are many factors that lead to poor academic performance.

The social isolation in which students can end up is also serious. Students who are in quarantine are not allowed to have physical contact with classmates or friends. More than before, young people are struggling with loneliness or feelings of depression. Some feel that they have ended up in a hopeless situation. There is no future perspective, there is no prospect of an improvement in the situation of young people. Due to the corona measures, social contacts have been curtailed for a long period and their relationship and sexual development is hindered. Children’s social-emotional resilience is declining rapidly.

Relaxation of quarantine policy
We as Directors of Public Health have so far fully supported the quarantine policy. But now we see from our responsibility for public health that the means of quarantine for students has overshot its goal and the health damage is actually increasing.

Out of concern for the health of all young residents of our regions, we advocate a relaxation of the quarantine policy currently in force. If we relax the quarantine rule for 3 or more infections, fewer classes have to be sent home. Schools are in turn better able to provide education in a normal way and young people are once again given the opportunity to develop healthily and safely.

The past 2 years have had a huge impact on our young people. We now have the responsibility to give this group the opportunity to develop further.

On behalf of the Board of Directors of Public Health,

Andre Rouvoet, Chairman GGD GHOR Netherlands

Jos Rietveld, Director of Public Health Groningen

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