When should schools reopen in India? Govt answers
As national and state-level board exams are being cancelled amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the Centre on Friday said it will think of reopening schools only when the majority of teachers are vaccinated and more scientific knowledge regarding the impact of the infection among children emerges. "The time should come soon. But we must also consider how schools were reopened in foreign countries and they had to close after the outbreak. We do not want to put our students and teachers in such a situation," Niti Aayog (health) member VK Paul said during the official press meet of the Union health ministry.
"Unless we have the confidence that the pandemic can't harm us, we should not do this. It is a larger discourse," Dr Paul said.
Dr Paul's remarks came in the context of the recent survey of the World Health Organization and AIIMS which revealed that children below the age of 18 years have also developed antibody against Covid-19 and so they may not be impacted by the third wave of the country if any such wave comes.
But that does not mean that schools can open and children do not need to maintain social distancing, Dr Paul said adding that this finding regarding the seropositivity rate of children is just one component of the question — when should schools reopen?
"There are many things which we still do not know. Reopening schools is a different topic altogether as it is not only about the students, but it involves teachers, non-teaching staff etc. Herd immunity is just a conjecture. There are many things to consider like if the virus changes its form, today it is mild among children, but what if it becomes severe tomorrow," Dr Paul said.
According to the WHO-AIIMS survey, Covid-19 seroprevalence in the age group below 18 is 55.7 per cent and above 18 is 63.5 per cent. Based on the finding, it is now being estimated that a considerable percentage of children have already got infected without knowing and some got cured after treatment. It is unlikely that a large number of children will get infected or that they will become severely ill even if they contract the disease.
Some states resumed physical classes after the first wave starting from September 21 last year. But in the wake of the second wave, classes switched to the online mode. Considering the pandemic situation, states have cancelled annual examinations. National- and state-level board exams have also been cancelled in the country.
With declining Covid-19 cases in the country, as the second wave is receding, the government once again reiterated that the pandemic is not over yet. Children may not be at a greater risk of contracting Covid-19, but the preparedness is optimal, the government said.