Bengaluru: Karnataka may become the first state in India to reopen schools that were shut down due to Covid-19 if the state government accepts the recommendations of an expert committee set up by the BS Yediyurappa administration. In all probability it may accept the radical recommendations, though other experts are divided over the issue.
The expert committee headed by cardiac surgeon Dr Devi Shetty has strongly recommended reopening of schools along with health insurance of Rs 2 lakh for each child attending the offline classes. The committee was set up to suggest measures to tackle the anticipated third COVID wave.
The member of the committee was quoted saying: “We have recommended a health cover of Rs 2 lakh to every child going to school to be sponsored by the state government. This is not life insurance cover. The same has been tried in some foreign countries. This way, we can build confidence among parents to send their wards to schools”.
The interim report would be submitted to the CM tomorrow.
The ‘High Level Expert Committee for Prevention and Management of Covid Wave-3’ pointed out that the possibility of schools becoming infection hubs has not been proved anywhere in the world.
“There is an urgent need to offer scientific and definitive guidance for school reopening as any delay in achieving near normalisation of schooling will be more detrimental than Covid-19 itself”, the report stated.
The panel has recommended that all government, aided and unaided schools — in rural areas, smaller towns and bigger towns — be reopened.
The committee has mandated that all those people who interact with children at home or school, must be vaccinated if they are above 18 years. These include parents, relatives, teachers, bus drivers etc.
According to the committee’s projections, 3.4 lakh of Karnataka’s 2.3 crore children in the 0-18 age group (just about 1.5%) may get infected during the third wave. Among those infected, 23,804 children might require hospitalisation, 6,801 ICU and 43,358 would require COVID care centres, while the rest (over 2.6 lakh) can be looked after at home. It estimates that 85% of the infected children will be asymptomatic.
Doctors in the committee were of the opinion that schools can be reopened with adequate precautions once the case positivity rate in most districts during the second wave falls below 5% for two weeks.
The report pointed out that digital learning has created large gaps in learning and educational inequality and wanted an optimisation of learning, physical health, mental health and nutritional aspects of children. “Any further delay in school reopening may push children into malnutrition, child labour, child marriage, child trafficking and begging, worsening their condition”, the report added.
“Awareness drives on physical distancing, mask, sanitization and good ventilation of the premises should be ongoing and effective in all schools. The day-to-day troubleshooting needs to happen locally, taking clues from broader state guidelines”, the report added.
The interim report has said the focus of the government should be on inoculating all eligible people within three to four months. The committee has suggested setting up jumbo vaccination centres in cities and mobile vaccination units in buses. It also advocates setting up session sites in schools, anganwadis and wedding halls. In rural areas, it advocates the use of panchayat offices to administer the vaccine to beneficiaries.
Meanwhile, Karnataka recorded 4867 new Covid-19 cases and 142 deaths. The test positivity rate was 3.25% and case fatality rate 2.91%.