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No immediate decision to reopen schools, says COVID-19 task group

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No immediate decision to reopen schools, says COVID-19 task group

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Dr Paul said the government didn't want to put parents, children, and teachers in a scenario where new pandemic outbreaks are witnessed after the reopening of schools.

No immediate decision to reopen schools, says COVID-19 task group

As states are gradually unlocking, businesses have opened up, travel is slowly resuming, employers are calling their staff back to offices and construction activities have also restarted. However, parents remain worried about their children amid warnings about a possible third wave. Are the schools reopening soon?

Multiple factors will be considered before reopening schools in the country, NITI Aayog member Dr VK Paul assured parents during a union health ministry briefing on Friday.

Dr Paul said the government didn't want to put parents, children, and teachers in a scenario where new pandemic outbreaks are witnessed after the reopening of schools.

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Teachers need to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The country is also awaiting guidelines for vaccination of children from 2-17 years, he said. He emphasised the need for every person, including children to change his/her social behavioural habits while maintaining adequate distancing norms amongst others.

The latest national seropositivity (serological) survey conducted jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) said seropositivity in individuals below and above 18 years of age is almost equal.

WHO-AIIMS survey also shows that 59 percent of youngsters in India (urban and rural) below 18 years have been exposed to COVID-19. The seropositivity is as high as 78 percent in youngsters below 18 in urban India. In rural areas, the seropositivity rate is 56 percent in children below 18 years of age, says the WHO-AIIMS seropositivity survey.

The SARS-CoV-2 seropositivity rate in youngsters (2-17 years) is comparable to that of adults, according to the interim findings of serological surveillance (sero survey) under the WHO, conducted by the AIIMS (published on medRxiv, a pre-print server). The seroprevalence was 55.7 percent in the under-18 age group and 63.5 percent in the 18- or above 18 age group.

Seroprevalence in the presence of virus-fighting total serum antibodies against the Sars-CoV-2 virus, which was assessed qualitatively by using a standard ELISA kit in five states with a proposed total sample size of 10,000.

Kids in the age group of 10-17 years have a higher seropositivity rate as compared to those in 2-9 years probably due to relatively greater movement and freedom.

The survey concluded that it is unlikely that any future third wave by prevailing Covid-19 variant would disproportionately affect children two years or older.

Other experts such as Dr Amitav Banerjee (Professor & Head, Community Medicine and Clinical Epidemiologist at Dr D. Y. Patil medical college, Pune) made a case for reopening of schools while pointing out that the proportion of children 0-18 years was between 2-5 percent among the admitted cases in both the first and second waves in India.

In a paper published in the UK journal Public Health, researchers said that direct Covid imposed case fatality rate was 0.1 percent while analysing pooled data from seven countries. Sweden was perhaps the only country to keep schools and pre-schools open during the pandemic.

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