The debate on whether or whether not to open schools for children given the decline in the pandemic in the country is a raging one, but the central Government has decided to steer clear of it. There have been no deliberations on the opening up of schools. “No conversation on this” a source within the health ministry has said.
Highly placed sources in the Union Health Ministry have said that a conscious decision has been taken to leave this entirely on states. The reason behind this is that the government is unsure of how the imminent third wave would be in terms of severity. The last thing we want is schools to be the reason behind a spurt. “It is a case of once bitten twice shy” the source added.
The government has also said that it is unlikely that children would be severely affected even if cases surge, but the concern is that they could be extremely effective transmitters.
On Tuesday, India Today asked Dr VK Paul, Member Niti Aayog on whether there are specific instructions to states on vaccinating staff working at schools to facilitate opening. “Schools have been closed for a long time and society is concerned about learning loss. It is a tight-rope walk,” he told India Today at a press briefing.
Government sources say that many teachers are in the age group of 18-44, and it is totally up to the states to accelerate vaccinations and treat them as a priority group, so that states can take a call on this themselves.
The overall approach of the Central Government on this matter is that the health ministry would not want to take responsibility in case the opening up of schools backfire. The concern is that a significant proportion of the population is uncovered when it comes to the vaccination drive and this is not a risk that the Union Government is willing to take.
Vaccination in India
India has fully vaccinated 9.54 crore of its 94.5 crore adult population so far, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, which means that 10% of India’s adults are fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, the Education Ministry calls for a report on vaccination percentage/ status of school teachers from CBSE, UGP and other education bodies.