The Financial Express

Reopening school in Bangladesh: Experts see greater Covid risk

| Updated: September 16, 2021 09:09:58

File photo used for representation purpose (Collected) File photo used for representation purpose (Collected)

As millions of children returned to classrooms amid the growing concern of the possible third wave of Covid-19, experts fear that any laxity in maintaining health protocols and guardian’s lack of awareness can put the kids at risk of infections.

They said children in the areas where the virus infection rate is still over 15 per cent are highly vulnerable to the deadly virus, reports UNB.

The experts ring the alarm bell as the extremely transmissible Delta variant has been taking its toll on children in different countries, including the USA, where children went back to schools in person.

They said though the performances of most of the school authorities still look good when it comes to maintaining health safety rules, the guardians seem unaware of the looming danger of pandemic since they are seen crowding outside of different schools, even many of them without masks, risking their own health and that of their children.

The analysts said the authorities have to ensure that health guidelines are consistently followed without any laxity.

Besides, they said, the school authorities should motivate the guardians to maintain social distancing and health safety rules when they gather outside of the gates.

More than 5.0 million of children have tested positive for Covid-19 in the USA since the start of the pandemic. Of them, 750,000 confirmed pediatric cases were detected  last month while 52,000 in the first week of this month alone following the reopening of schools, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association.

An outbreak of the Delta variant of Covid-19 that is thought to have begun in a primary school at Putian in China’s southeast continues to grow, prompting authorities to impose measures, including travel restrictions and school closures, Al Jazeera reports on Tuesday.

The suspected source of the outbreak is the parent of a child at the Putou Primary School, who returned to China from Singapore.

Ensuring strict monitoring

Renowned scientist and Gono Bishwabidyala’s microbiology department Dr Bijon Kumar Sil said the infection among kids increased in some countries initially after the reopening of the educational institutions.

He said Bangladesh also can face a similar problem if health safety rules are not properly maintained as long as the virus does not come under control.

Dr Bijon thinks most adult and older populations in the country gained antibodies by encountering the virus or receiving vaccines. “But our children had been in their houses for a long time and no study has so far been conducted to see whether the antibody has developed among the kids. So, we must remain careful about their health safety.”

He said the teachers and school authorities should strictly monitor whether any student is taking part in classes with Covid symptoms. “If the teachers find any child feeling unwell, he/she should be sent back home immediately. “If possible, temperature screening of students should be conducted every day by the school authorities.”

Dr Bijon said an infected student can be the source of an outbreak of the virus in any educational institution. “So, if any student is found positive for the virus or with the virus symptoms, then the entire school should be closed for a week.”

The expert said the coronavirus is not going away from the world any time soon as it will remain like flu. “Vaccines are the only means to lessen the severity of its infection or gain herd immunity.  “As long as our children are not given vaccines, they’ll remain at risk of the virus.”

Cent per cent masking matters

In absence of vaccines for kids, Dr Bijon said mask is the main protective gear for them. “So, no one, including the children and teachers, should be allowed to enter the educational institutions without masks.”

Public health expert MH Chowdhury (Lenin), chairman of the medicine department at the Health and Hope Hospital, said the USA has been experiencing an "exponential" rise in infections among children following the reopening of the schools.

“The infection rate among kids is very high in the US states where people have apathy to masking up while it is low where people wear masks properly and follow the health safety rules. So, masking up is the effective defence against Covid and our all schools should remain strict to masking,” he said.

Lenin said no one should think the coronavirus has become weak as the infection rate has dropped significantly. “The coronavirus can spread fast again causing the third wave in the case of any negligence in maintaining health protocols.”

Guardians’ careful role  

Lenin said the guardians need to play a very responsible role in saving themselves from virus and their children as well.

He said parents must ensure that their children are going to schools by wearing masks. “They also should sanitise the hands of children before going to school and after returning from it.”

The expert also said the guardians should not send their kids to schools if they have any Covid symptoms. “Children should be given balanced food, sufficient vegetables and seasonal fresh fruits for boosting their immunity.”

Besides, he said, the guardians should strictly follow the health safety rules and maintain social distancing when they remain outside homes, including in front of the school gates.

Lenin said the government can conduct mobile courts to punish the guardians who gather in front of different schools violating health protocols. “If some guardians are fined or kept in custody for several hours, others will be careful.”

Virus prevention guidelines

Infectious disease expert Dr Be-Nazir Ahmed, a former director (Disease Control) at the DGHS, said kids are at greater risk in the areas where infection of Delta variant is still more than 15 per cent.

“Our children are to be vaccinated. But, guardians are crowding in front of the gates of schools violating the health safety and social distancing rules,” he said.

Dr Be-Nazir said the school authorities still look sincere about maintaining the health safety rules, but the challenge is to maintain its consistency. “So, we need to prepare a national infection prevention, control and practice guidelines for saving children from the virus infection and keep the educational institution open for a long time.”

Besides, he said, every educational institution should have a committee to implement this guideline properly and strictly.

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