NEW DELHI: Top government officials on Tuesday suggested that primary schools in India can be opened first in districts reporting less than 5% Covid test positivity rate as kids can handle infection better.
It was, however, also recommended that full vaccination of teachers and all support staff in schools should be ensured before schools can be reopened.
Schools across India have been shut since March 2020 and while physical classes for classes 9 and above had begun last year briefly in a few states when the Covid19 cases started declining, they were again forced shut and shifted to online mode due to the devastating second wave of the pandemic.
“We know clearly that children can handle viral infections much better than adults as they have fewer ACE receptor cells which the virus uses to invade the body,” said ICMR director general Balram Bhargava in a press briefing on Tuesday.
Referring to the findings of the latest round of the national Covid serosurvey which showed that 57.2% kids in the 6–10-year age group and 66.7% of kids in the 10–17-year age group had antibodies against SARS CoV 2, Bhargava also said that antibody exposure in children is not very different from adults.
He also pointed out that some Scandinavian countries didn't shut their primary schools through any of the Covid waves so far.
"Once India starts considering (opening of schools), it'll be wise to open primary schools first before opening secondary schools. All the support staff whether it be school bus drivers, teachers & other staff in the school need to be vaccinated," said.
His remarks come on a day, AIIMS director Randeep Guleria too advocated the staggered reopening of schools.
Meanwhile, speaking to a leading portal, Guleria suggested that schools can be reopened in places where Covid cases are falling and positivity rates are less than 5%. “I am a proponent of opening up schools in a staggered way, for districts that are seeing less virus circulation”
Guleria, who is also a member of the country’s Covid19 task force on Covid said that districts with less positivity rate and cases should explore the option of bringing children back to schools on alternate days and look for other ways of a staggered reopening.
He added that if surveillance hints at the spread of infection, classes can be immediately suspended.
Last month, stressing that there has been a major loss in studies in the last one-and-half years on account of the Covid19 pandemic, Guleria said, “Schools have to be reopened and vaccination can play an important role in that.