Earlier in May, the education department announced that all contact sports in schools to be suspended with immediate effect. Only non-contact sports which could be performed with social distancing and other safety measures in place are permitted. Nick Hudson of PANDA (Pandemics – data and analysis) has been critical of policy-makers’ reactions to Covid-19, lockdowns, and other approaches to containing the virus. In this latest article, he describes why banning contact sports in schools “joins a long list of policy absurdities”. – Claire Badenhorst
By Nick Hudson and Peter Castleden
The banning of contact sport at schools joins a long list of policy absurdities that have arisen during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Minister of Education, Angie Motshega, ‘explains’ that “following the school sports activities-related Covid-19 outbreaks in Gauteng and [the] general rise of cases in communities across the country, the Outbreak Response Team said that the risk was high when engaged in close-contact sports”.
It appears that the Minister has not based this decision on any science, so we’ll do the analysis for her.
Here are some facts with which her statement must contend:
- Outdoor transmission of SARS-CoV-2 has been shown to be vanishingly rare.
- Asymptomatic transmission has been shown not to be a driver of disease.
- Children are not significant spreaders of COVID-19.
- Normal, healthy children face virtually zero risk from COVID-19.
- The vast majority of super-spreader events take place in hospitals and nursing homes.
- In-person grade school teachers in Sweden, with no mitigation measures in place in schools, have been shown to be at lower risk of contracting COVID-19 than other non-healthcare occupations.
- A 21 May 2021 US study (https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.05.19.21257467v1) of the effect of in-person student density showed that higher density was consistently associated with lower case rates among students, an effect that was more pronounced during ‘waves’. (Florida proceeded with its full high school sports programs from August 2020 with no reported negative impact on COVID-19 transmission.)
PANDA suspects that, if anything, the move will have a worsening effect. Children not playing sport are likely to spend more time indoors, which is where almost all transmission happens. Furthermore, the very idea that children should be specially prevented from contracting COVID-19 is flawed. This entails forcing disease burden onto the vulnerable, with deadly effects.
What evidence would the Minister need to produce to back up her reasoning? She’d need to show that whatever test results she received were not false positives, which are extremely likely to occur in asymptomatic PCR testing. Indeed, it is long past due that all asymptomatic testing be stopped. She would also need to establish that the transmission had occurred during contact sports. We do not see how this would be achieved.
Since the total re-opening of Florida and Texas failed to elicit the calamity predicted by supporters of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), their promoters have been on the back foot. There is virtually no high-quality evidence supporting any of them apart from steps to improve ventilation in high-density indoor settings.
PANDA has spent a lot of time developing an approach to dealing with children under COVID-19. All of it is based on sound science. We appeal to everyone who cares for kids to oppose this childish virtue-signalling and to sign our Declaration for the Protection of Children and Young People. (https://www.pandata.org/children-and-young-people-declaration/)
The cavalier, capricious approach to COVID-19 regulations based on these truly broken theories is testament to a state of cognitive derangement. As has been the case throughout this saga, there is no sign of any cost-benefit analysis having been performed. The ban is clearly not benign, affecting the psychological and physical well-being of our kids. It is time for the adults to stop wetting their beds and grow up. We should get our kids out of masks, and onto the fields, and end these Covid theatricals.