Mumbai: Following queries raised by teachers on the subject of expenditure on Covid-19 RT-PCR testing, the Maharashtra school education department on Tuesday informed all municipal corporations and Zilla Parishad (ZP) authorities to conduct free testing for all school teaching and non-teaching staff of Classes 9 to 12 from November 17 to 22. The authorities have also been informed to provide basic facilities such as sanitisers, thermal guns and pulse oximeters to schools for maintenance of Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) and precautionary measures.
The state school education department sent a letter dated November 17, 2020, to all municipal corporations and ZP authorities saying, "Free Covid-19 RT-PCR testing should be conducted for all school teaching and non-teaching staff of Classes 9 to 12, possibly in government hospitals, from November 17 to 22. Local authorities should provide basic facilities such as sanitisers, thermal gun and pulse oximeter for maintenance of SOPs against Covid-19."
This direction was given following the decision of the state to reopen physical schools for Classes 9 to 12 from November 23, 2020. Varsha Gaikwad, the state school education minister, had earlier said, "A mass drive of RT-PCR testing of teachers will be conducted by local administrations between November 17 and 22. Following which, only those teachers whose reports are negative will be allowed to conduct classes."
The education department of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will conduct free Covid-19 RT-PCR testing of over 1,449 staff, of which 1,403 are teaching and 46 are non-teaching staff of civic schools, till November 22. BMC Education Officer Mahesh Palkar said, "We will conduct free Covid-19 RT-PCR tests for our teaching and non-teaching staff in government, municipal hospitals and dispensaries. Teachers can opt for accessible centres in their vicinity, as we have identified facilities and made available free testing in every ward of Mumbai."
The announcement of the free testing has come as a relief. Teacher Nivedita Pandit said, "I was worried about travelling for the Covid-19 RT-PCR testing because I have not stepped out for the last six months. But if the BMC has identified centres in our vicinity, it should not be a hassle." Non-teaching staffer Vinay Rathod said, "I am relieved that the test is free because I have been facing a financial crisis during lockdown."