Children can handle viral infections much better than adults through the antibody exposure, says Balram Bhargava, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director General. It has been seen that young children have lower numbers of ACE2 receptors in their lung cells. Bhargava said the antibody exposure seen in this sero survey among children is very similar to adults.
“Some countries, especially Scandinavian countries, did not shut down primary schools at all. So once India starts considering, it is wise to open primary schools first and then secondary, and that too when all staff including teachers, drivers etc. are fully vaccinated,” he explained.
According to the findings of the fourth national sero survey, over half the kids of 6-17 years show presence of antibodies. The sero-positivity was 57.2% in the 6-9 years age group, whereas 61.6% in the 10-17 years age groups showed presence of antibodies. On the other hand, overall prevalence of 67.6% with 66.7% showing presence of antibodies in the age group of 18-44 years and over 75% in the higher age brackets.
Officials said the decision to start schools need reopen schools need to be taken at the district level depending on their positivity rate, vaccination status and public health situation. Dr Chandrakant Lahariya, Epidemiologist and Public Health Specialist, says it’s imperative that Indian states give urgent attention and priority to formulating detailed plans and operational strategies to reopen schools. “The broad principles of a school reopening strategy should be drafted by the Union Government with complete freedom to the states for modification and implementation,” he said. “The strategy should use global evidence, be guided by domain experts, informed by local epidemiology and flexible to be modified as the situation evolves.”
Meanwhile, the Punjab state government has taken note of the decline in COVID-19 positivity to 0.3%, with reproduction number (Rt) at 0.75 for Punjab (lower than the national average). Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said schools would be allowed to open for Classes 10 to 12, but only those teachers and staff who are fully vaccinated shall be allowed to be physically present.
“Physical presence of the students shall be purely at the consent of the parents and the option of virtual classes shall be continued. An undertaking to this effect shall be submitted to the deputy commissioners concerned,” the Punjab CM directed.
Singh said if the situation remains under control, the remaining classes shall similarly be allowed to open from August 2, 2021. He added that the Cambridge University has predicted that the cases shall further decline in the coming weeks.