Just a few days before the start of the new school term, the president of the Madrid regional government, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, has stated on prime-time radio that "during the course of the school year it is likely that virtually all children, by one means or another" will be infected with coronavirus. Despite this, she defends the need to reopen schools, and to continue with normal life, and calls for confidence in schools and the authorities. The Partido Popular leader paints a picture of a school year in which Covid-19 outbreaks, student quarantines and PCR tests will be regular, on-going features - "but what we can't do is all stay home again, because that would be lethal!"
“During the school year it is likely that virtually all children, by one means or another will be infected with it. But it could very likely be because they have caught it during the weekend in a family gathering or at the park after school or from a friend, we don’t know because the virus might be anywhere," said Díaz Ayuso in an interview with esRadio.
Despite this, the regional president has defended that "everyone must return to normality" and she wanted to send a "message of confidence to parents" - clearly, she does not mean confidence that children won't get the virus, but rather that there is a system in place to cope with it: "The idea is, that everyone goes to school and when there is someone infected they are put in quarantine," she said, adding that during this period of isolation, the Madrid government will promote online streaming of classes "so that the child can follow the classes, and also with reinforcement from their tutor, from home".
"As @IdiazAyuso has reiterated so well, schools are going to be very safe places."— PP Comunidad de Madrid
“After the quarantine, there is a (PCR) test and they go back to school,” she added, predicting that “we’re going to be like this for the whole year, with outbreaks: there will be an outbreak, then it’s solved, an outbreak, then solved... but life goes on", she said. “Children have to continue in their school with their hours, learning; we can’t have a generation that stays home, we must never have that story ever again,” she declared. The new term in Madrid begins this Friday for the youngest children, with the rest returning early next week.
The coronavirus pandemic in Spain is in the midst of a major resurgence, with 99,621 new cases diagnosed in the last 14 days across the whole Spanish state. Of those, 31,087 cases - or about 30% of the total - are in the Madrid region. That is 211 new cases per 100,000 people in Spain in these last two weeks and in Madrid, 467 new cases per 100,000 people, the country's highest rate. These rates of new confirmed cases are as high as Spain registered at the first peak of the pandemic in March, but the severity of those cases is, for the moment at least, much lower: the death rates this time around are only a fraction as high, with around 20 to 30 coronavirus deaths per day currently being recorded in Spain.
Ayuso's vision of the year ahead
Below, a full transcription of the Madrid president's words in the video above, as she tells radio listeners what to expect for their families in the new school year:
"The idea right now, as with businesses , is try and get everyone to return to normality, and for that reason we need to send a message of confidence to parents, because when a child enters a classroom, at least in the community of Madrid with all the measures we have put in place, they are safe. And if that child gets infected and gets sick they are going to be isolated and looked after by a person responsible for Covid, it’s all thought through... " [comments by others, Ayuso answers:] ..."They are all PCR tested and only those infected stay home in quarantine."
"During the course of the school year it is likely that virtually all children, by one means or another will be infected with it. But it could likely be because they have caught it during the weekend in a family gathering or at the park after school or from a friend, we don’t know because the virus can be anywhere, all we can do is look after ourselves with a lot of individual responsibility. But we can’t all stay home again - that is lethal!"
"So the idea is, everyone goes to school, and when someone gets infected, they go into a quarantine. During that period they will do classes streamed on line. After the quarantine, they have a (PCR) test and go back to school, and we’re going to be like that for the whole year! An outbreak, then it’s solved, another outbreak, then it’s solved. But life goes on."
"The children have to continue in their school with their hours, learning, we can’t have a generation that stays home, we must never have this story ever again, and the parents as well, something that happens a lot in Madrid where they don’t have grandparents they can leave them with (by the way, we can’t bring kids and grandparents together in homes right now, that’s very tough but it’s a reality, so sorry)."
"The parents have to go out and earn a living, there’s a very difficult economic situation in Spain right now, specifically in Madrid as well, people need to know they can go out and do things, they can organize themselves. And for that, we need to be able to have confidence."
"So there will be outbreaks, there will be exhaustive disinfection in the classroom, in the school, children go home, quarantine, they come back, meanwhile we set up the system with their tutor, with their teachers so they don’t miss the classes, but life goes on, because we can’t close down the country and, even less, its capital."