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Cape Town school reinstitutes face masks amid rising RSV cases

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By Ragheema Mclean

Last month, the National Department of Health noted that Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) was at peak circulation in the country, while influenza virus infections were starting to increase, and Covid-19 continued to circulate at low levels.

As cases of RVS continue to rise across the country, a letter circulated to parents of learners at Heideveld Primary School last week raised concerns about the spread of RSV and flu viruses and called on parents to ensure children wear face masks at school.

However, the Western Cape Education Department has clarified that the decision to reinstate face masks was made by the school management and not mandated by the department.

“The school has advised that they took the initiative to recommend that children with flu symptoms wear a mask as a precautionary measure because exams are coming up, and they don’t want learners to get sick and miss exams. No learner will be sent home for not wearing a mask,” said the department.

Speaking on VOC Breakfast, Chief Director General in the Western Cape Department of Health, Dr. Saadiq Karriem, said there has been quite an uptick in RSV cases in the province.

“We started picking this up in early February. Since then, we’ve seen a gradual rise. RSV particularly affects children, and children in schools have been presenting with respiratory symptoms.”

“There’s also a lot of flu going around. We do encourage individuals who are ill to wear a mask.”

Dr. Karriem noted some symptoms of RSV include flu-like illness, cough, runny nose, and fast breathing, which could be a sign of pneumonia.

“Having gone through a pandemic, taking precautionary measures is important. We are now in the Covid endemic phase. I don’t think asking learners to wear masks is overkill at all.”

Meanwhile, the public has been advised that City facilities have vaccines available for vulnerable groups, in line with policies governing the public sector. These groups include the elderly and pregnant women.

Mayoral committee member for Community Services and Health, Councillor Patricia Van der Ross said flu vaccines are available free of charge at City clinics.

“The flu has been a hot topic in recent months. While most people can bounce back fairly quickly from a bout of flu, it does hold potentially serious complications for older persons or those with pre-existing conditions. So, if you are in one of the qualifying groups, please present to your nearest clinic as soon as possible to get your vaccination before stocks run out.”

“We do have to remind the public that, just like any other vaccine, the flu vaccine will not prevent you from getting flu but will likely ensure a far milder episode should you contract the virus,” noted Van der Ross.

Vaccinations are currently available for specific groups, including healthcare workers, individuals aged 65 and older, those with cardiovascular disease, individuals with chronic lung disease, people living with HIV/AIDS, and pregnant women.

VOC News

Photo: Pexels

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