Schools are now in the front line of services dealing with Covid-19, and your school will have had to adapt to allow for the safe return of your pupils.
There are various measures you can take in line with Government guidelines, such as reducing class sizes, and ensuring that your pupils follow social distancing.
But are there other areas that the guidelines don’t cover, that could be a cause of concern, such as biometrics?
And following that, if you’ve been using finger biometric scanners for essential in-school purchases like school dinners, are they still safe in the age of Covid?
Some would say not;
This is in stark contrast to the fact that other schools are adopting biometric systems in the midst of the pandemic.
So it’s clear that schools need to consider whether it’s in the interest of pupils and parents, and of school staff, to continue to use fingerprint biometrics during the pandemic.
What is the Covid transmission risk in schools?
The evidence that children could catch the virus at school then pass it on to other people is not definitive. However, there is still the risk that this could happen.
How Covid-19 affects different people varies considerably, and the medical profession’s understanding of the virus is constantly growing and changing.
What we do know is that plenty of people are asymptomatic, so they can have the virus without appearing ill. And we also know that Covid-19 is highly infectious, and that more vulnerable members of the population can be at extreme risk from it.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) advises that while it is not yet completely clear what the role of children in transmission of Covid infection is, some data suggests that infection may be higher in teenagers than in younger children.
The incubation period for the disease is the same in children as it is in adults, ranging from one to 14 days.
Taking these things into account, schools must be cautious about pupil contact, and try to reduce the risk of contamination as much as possible.
This obviously has implications for your school’s hygiene and cleaning regimes. This is an important aspect when looking at fingerprint biometrics.
Biometrics and School Catering
Its most popular use is for cashless catering. Students and pupils simply pay for their school meals using fingertip recognition.
There are several benefits to adopting a cashless approach to catering, with or without biometrics:
The efficiencies are especially important, because schools are having to manage overheads and work within tight budgets.
But if making your school Covid-secure requires cleaning of biometric equipment after each and every use, what impact might this have on the smooth-running of your catering system?
Plus, there’s the question of confidence: will parents, and pupils, feel happy using fingerprint biometrics, when all the messaging they see is about minimising contact?
Biometric Concerns During Covid-19
It’s a mark of how much Covid-19 has changed things that the main concern about biometrics in schools is now health, whereas it always used to be about privacy.
You can catch Covid-19 from contaminated surfaces. The virus can survive from hours to days, depending on the type of surface it lands on. Therefore, an uncleaned fingerprint reader could be a source of contamination.
The route the virus takes could be from an infected person’s mouth or nose to their fingertips, then onto the sensor. From here, another person’s finger could then pick it up, transmitting it to them when they touch their own eyes, mouth or nose.
Fingerprint sensors do have a small contact area, but it is a contact area all the same.
In certain limited workplace settings authorised people can access fingerprint biometric sensors. But in a school catering setting, large numbers of pupils are going to be using biometric fingerprint readers. This could potentially increase the risk of transmitting Covid-19.
One answer is to sanitise, but as we’ve already pointed out, cleaning the fingerprint scanner after each go is going to slow down the whole process and potentially increase queues
Of course, you could try and make sure pupils sanitise their hands thoroughly before using the reader, but then you run the risk that this will stop the reader working effectively first time, leading to repeat attempts, and more delay.
The Practical, Efficient Alternative
You can enjoy the same benefits you get with using biometrics for school catering, with a system that uses QR codes, and offers excellent payment flexibility via card and contactless payments.
Till is this solution; Pebble’s point of sale system that streamlines your cashless catering and enables you to monitor free school meal balances and underspend, ensuring no one misses out.
This provides you with an advanced, integrated payment method, with none of the potential Covid-associated risks you get with biometrics.
To find out more about Till and our range of technical solutions for managing your school’s finances, please contact us today.
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