Schools and educational institutes have been forced shut since the middle of March this year due to Covid19. Ever since, almost in a manner of overnight transformation, the education department of the country made use of digital mediums to ensure a continuity of classes, some even attempted at conducting examinations online. Almost six months later, some public health experts have recommended that schools should now attempt reopening and resuming their normal classes in a graded manner. They have also added in their recommendations that the lockdown should be ended as a strategical means of controlling the spread of the virus.
These were presented or revealed in a compiled report from experts from Indian Public Health Association (IPHA), Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine (IAPSM) and the Indian Association of Epidemiologists (IAE). They have also added that it was now time for the country to slowly shift back towards normalcy.
“There should be a pragmatic approach, especially in areas where sufficient population is already infected with SARS CoV-2 (As assessed by expert committee). Even in low infection areas, schools may be opened with due safety measures (social distancing, alternate work days, etc.), and with adequate surveillance for any outbreak’s acceleration due to schools,” they said.
The experts highlighted that the forced closure of schools has had negative impacts on students, especially the mental health of students of 5 to 18 years of age. “The impact has been disproportionately higher on the children of lower socio-economic strata who do not have social capital for alternatives like digital platforms. Sufficient evidence is available that infected, young children are at extremely low risk of developing morbidity,” they said.
Children pose an imminent risk of spreading the infection their elders and adults but even adults carrying out activities outside the safety of their homes pose the same risk. When talking about the utility of the lockdown in present times, the report pointed out that the aim of this was to slow down the pandemic and help the nation and its people prepare for the ultimate battle. These aims have been achieved, the report said.
“Geographically limited restrictions for short periods may be imposed in epidemiologically defined clusters. Cluster restrictions should be considered only in areas with no community transmission,” they said while pointing out that there is no evidence that lockdown on the weekends, nighttime, banning domestic flights, aggressive testing, etc are actually helping.
Among things that desperately need to be resumed in areas showing high immunity are primary, secondary and tertiary health care services and “the present policies, where houses of all persons who test positive are stamped, isolated by barricades…should be abandoned immediately.” Public health care needs to be strengthened and the overall expenditure of the public should be at least 5 per cent of the GDP.