New Delhi: Over 55 people, including doctors, academicians and other professionals have written an open letter to all state Chief Ministers, Union Education Minister, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and the National Disaster Management Authority demanding the reopening of schools as soon as possible across the country.
The petitioners have demanded that opening primary schools must be given higher priority.
The letter says, "There is global evidence to support reopening of schools and the governments should urgently consider opening schools and resuming physical classes."
Underlining the study that points out that schools do not contribute significantly to Covid-19 spread, the letter says, "Adults and children are free to go anywhere except schools and aggressive testing in non-school settings may also reveal positive results similar to schools."
Data from the US indicates that those under 25 years are at one-tenth the mortality risk from Covid-19 as compared to traffic accidents. Children are more likely to develop severe diseases from infections such as dengue. However, schools are not closed due to the risk of traffic accidents or dengue, it said.
The letter also says that there is global evidence to support the reopening of schools and the governments should urgently consider opening schools and resuming physical classes.
"India is only among the four to five countries across the world where schools have been closed for such a long time (1.5 years). There is an urgent need to bring children back to school. Since younger children are the least at risk, we urge you to permit primary schools to open first in line with Indian Council Of Medical Research (ICMR) recommendations, and then higher classes. We look forward to leaders across parties coming together for the sake of our children", says the letter
The letter also claimed that the vaccination of children is not a prerequisite to open schools as nowhere in the world are children younger than 12 years being vaccinated, but the schools remain open. Further, 60-80 per cent of Indian children have had natural infections as per serosurveys, it said.
Citing the UNICEF's statement that schools should be the last to close and first to open during a pandemic, the letter has underlined that opening schools should be a very dynamic process and must be done in a planned manner, starting with regions where the positivity is low.
Open schools now with proper planning and if there is a steep rise in cases, shutting them again can be considered as the last resort, it added.