AIIMS Director Suggests Plans to Reopen Schools

Schools should reopen physical classes in areas that have fewer Covid-19 cases, says All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) director Dr Randeep Guleria. Districts should open schools in a staggered manner and bring back children on alternate days, said Dr Guleria adding that if surveillance hints at the spread of Covid-19 cases, schools can be closed immediately.

“I am a proponent of opening up schools in a staggered way for districts that are seeing less virus circulation. It (reopening of schools) can be planned for places having positivity rates below 5 per cent,” Dr Guleria told India Today.

Going to school is important in the overall development of a child, Guleria said. Hence, keeping schools shut down can affect children adversely, he added. Schools have been shut since last year March. Several states had opened schools briefly in the first half of 2021 but had to be closed again following the second wave of the pandemic.

Authorities can ensure Covid-19 guidelines and protocols are followed properly in schools, says the doctor. Wearing masks at all times, social distancing, and proper ventilation for air circulation should be done before reopening schools, he adds.

Many children who do not have access to the internet and have no digital devices are not able to attend online classes. “Covid-19 has reaffirmed the need to bridge the gaps in internet access. The digital divide exists across borders, fields, and generations, impacting virtually every aspect of life,” Dr Guleria told India Today.

Earlier, he had stated that allowing Covid-19 vaccine for children will be a milestone achievement and pave the way for the reopening of schools. “Schools have to be reopened and vaccination can play an important role in that,” he had said.

Some states have decided to reopen schools in a staggered manner such as Odisha, Maharashtra, Bihar, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat. While Karnataka, Telangana, Kerala have decided to continue with online classes.

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