Is reopening schools in India risky now? What experts, government said

Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Odisha, Rajasthan have announced reopening schools between July last week to August first week.
ICMR chief Dr Balram Bhargava had advised reopening primary sections first as children are better at handling viral infection. (PTI)
ICMR chief Dr Balram Bhargava had advised reopening primary sections first as children are better at handling viral infection. (PTI)
Published on Jul 23, 2021 07:33 PM IST
Copy Link | Written by Poulomi Ghosh

Several states have declared dates to reopen schools in July-August after over one year of online classes. This reopening is for the second time after the pandemic struck in March 2020. Educational institutes which were reopened after the first wave shut physical classes with the advent of the second wave which, according to health ministry data, is now on the wane.

But is it wise to reopen schools now amid the apprehension of a possible third wave?

Many health experts have expressed their views regarding this issue and said schools can be reopened judiciously in places where the Covid positivity rate is low. Physical classes are important and hence schools should reopen, AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria has said, but there has to be a balance, he said.

"I think we have to balance things out. There is a number of children who have missed out on schools for a very long time as they do not have the excess to computer and therefore they are not able to get the quality of education. Therefore, having physical classes is important also schools are not only important from an education point of view, but for building a child's character for social interaction, for interaction with peers, the physical school has a much bigger role to play than what can be done through virtual classes," Dr Guleria said to ANI.

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"We can do it in an alternate manner so that the crowd is less. We can do surveillance; children can be monitored. If they have any symptoms they can stay at home. If the positivity rate continues to be low schools can continue, if it rises then the school can be shut down," the AIIMS chief said.

What did the government say?

In June, the government had said that schools should reopen when the majority of the staff are vaccinated. Dr Balram Bhargava, the director-general of the Indian Council of Medical Research recently said that schools can reopen starting with the primary sections. All support staff, including bus drivers, will have to be vaccinated first.

But why primary schools? Dr Bhargava explained that children can handle viral infections better than adults and seropositivity reports have shown that children have equally been exposed to the infection like adults.

Since children are better at handling viral infection, some Scandinavian countries did not even suspend physical classes, Dr Bhargava said.

Are states following this advice?

States which have already announced the reopening of schools have done it for senior students keeping their board exams in mind. Most of the states are reopening schools for classes 9,10,11,12 -- and not for primary sections.

What about the third wave?

It is apprehended that the possible third wave of the pandemic may affect children more as this age group was not infected much in the earlier two waves. Experts have confirmed that this speculation does not have any scientific backing.

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