Published in El Pais, 5 December 2020.
Bolivia is debating whether to return to classes in a semi-presential way this February 2021. It would be good to observe the statistics of COVID-19 in Bolivia to support decisions and guide the debate not in fear but by opportunity.
Education in Bolivia counts almost three million students between the ages of 4 and 19. Although the statistics in Bolivia are not so detailed, it is observed that COVID-19 did not have more than 9% of cases and did not even reached 1% of fatal cases. In other countries, in this age group and up to 40 years there have been 0% registered fatalities. On the other hand, in recent weeks, less than 120 daily cases have been observed and since October there have been less than 30 daily deaths.
A third aspect is the social one. It can be seen that, in Bolivia, economic activities are normal. The taxi-trufis (taxis enabled for public transport) are operating during the COVID-19 period normally without any distancing since June. This fact has possibly contributed to the fact that the virus has spread rapidly among citizens and that there have been many deaths (July to September). Transport and normal life must have generated a high level of infections and people recovered without even noticing it. Therefore, since October no alarming increase in cases or deaths has been noted. Even so, the people who respected the confinement are susceptible to contagion and death if they have underlying diseases.
These three aspects promote the continuation of classes, which would have been ideal to start in December as a pilot exercise that demonstrates the need or not to use a mask in children aged 4-12 years. In many countries they do not use it because it prevents good air circulation, and its effectiveness decreases after 1 or 2 hours of use. However, this strategy can be evaluated every 2 weeks.
Although it is true that, in Bolivia, grandparents are very close to children and participate in their education, it would be easier and more efficient for children to limit visits to their grandparents for the first 8 weeks after school starts until the possible spread of the virus at the start of school has reduced and does not pose a danger. Education is a right that we cannot continue to restrict out of fear.