More than 55 people, including doctors, academicians and other professionals have written an open letter to all state Chief Ministers, Union Education Minister, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and the National Disaster Management Authority demanding the reopening of schools as soon as possible across the country. They also appealed that opening primary schools must be given higher priority.
The letter has been marked to the Prime Minister’s Office as well.
The letter says, “There is global evidence to support reopening of schools and the governments should urgently consider opening schools and resuming physical classes.”
The letter said the aim of vaccination is to prevent severe illness and death, however, children are relatively at low risk of severe or fatal Covid-19 infection.
Data from the US indicates that those under 25 years are at one-tenth the mortality risk from Covid-19 as compared to traffic accidents. Children are more likely to develop severe diseases from infections such as dengue. However, schools are not closed due to the risk of traffic accidents or dengue.
Further, 60-80 per cent of Indian children have had natural infections as per serosurveys. Vaccination of children is not a prerequisite to open schools. Nowhere in the world are children younger than 12 years being vaccinated but the schools remain open.
Underlining the study that points out that schools do not contribute significantly to Covid-19 spread, the letter says, “Adults and children are free to go anywhere except schools and aggressive testing in non-school settings may also reveal positive results similar to schools.”
Citing the UNICEF’s statement that schools should be the last to close and first to open during a pandemic, the letter has underlined that we need to remember that opening schools will be a very dynamic process. Open schools now with proper planning and if there is a steep rise in cases, shutting them again can be considered as the last resort.
“India is only among the four to five countries across the world where schools have been closed for such a long time (1.5 years). There is an urgent need to bring children back to school. Since younger children are the least at risk, we urge you to permit primary schools to open first in line with Indian Council Of Medical Research (ICMR) recommendations, and then higher classes. We look forward to leaders across parties coming together for the sake of our children”, says the letter.