MUMBAI: The Maharashtra COVID-19 task force on children on Tuesday stressed undertaking vaccination of teachers and non-teaching staff on priority before taking any decision on reopening schools for physical classes.
The paediatrician task force was formed by the state government in May to prevent children from contracting COVID-19 amid fears of a possible third wave of the pandemic.
On apprehensions that a new wave would disproportionately affect children, a task force member sought to alleviate such fears, saying there is no particular variant of COVID-19 that would specifically target minors.
Schools in most of the urban areas in the state are not holding in-person classes in view of detection of coronavirus infections.
In this backdrop, the task force on children has come up with a set of guidelines, but stressed on getting teachers and non-teaching staff in schools vaccinated against COVID-19 before resuming in-person classes to minimise chances of infections among pupils.
Dr Bakul Parekh, a senior Mumbai paediatrician and a member of the task force, said, “Primarily, teachers and non-teaching staff in schools should get the vaccine first. This would enhance their immunity and make schools safer for children.”
The task force has also recommended that only one student should to allowed to sit on a bench and classes should be planned accordingly.
“If possible, schools with online teaching infrastructure can simultaneously hold physical as well as online classes. Students can attend (in-person) classes by rotation,” he said.
Vehicles ferrying school children should not have closed windows and they should have sufficient ventilation, Parekh said.
“The task force has suggested the school administration to hold parent-teacher meetings before re-opening schools. At these meetings, parents should be apprised about precautions schools will be taking for safety of students,” Parekh said.
Commenting on physical activities and games, he said, ”Schools should conduct games where students do not physically come in contact with each other. Only such games should be allowed at the beginning.”
Asked about fears of a third COVID-19 wave affecting children more, Parekh said, ”We must understand that it is adults who would infect children. It is not that a particular variant of COVID-19 would specifically target children. If all precautions are taken, the reopening of schools will not trigger the further spread of COVID-19.”