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Covid-19 surge: Health experts weigh in on keeping schools opened

They also call for vaccination of younger children

SAMAA | - Posted: Jan 4, 2022 | Last Updated: 2 weeks ago
Posted: Jan 4, 2022 | Last Updated: 2 weeks ago

Artwork: SAMAA Digital/ Syed Saad Ali

Health experts have weighed in on the question of keeping schools opened or closing them down as cases of coronavirus rise, especially in Karachi, driven by the Omicron outbreak.

Karachi on Tuesday reported a massive surge in cases and the Sindh government hinted at closing schools.

Speaking to SAMAA Digital, health experts have blamed people’s lax attitude towards Covid-19 related precautions for the rise in cases.

They deplored the violation of covid-19 related SOPs and warned that the situation could aggravate as in the past when the government had to impose lockdowns to contain rising cases.

The health experts have urged people to get vaccinated, and if they have completed both doses, get jabbed with the booster shot.

Dr Faisal Mehmood, an infectious disease specialist at the Aga Khan University Hospital Karachi, told SAMAA Digital that Covid-19 cases were rising because people had adopted a lax attitude.

“In markets, bazaars, offices, public transport, restaurants, and public places wherever we look, people show a carefree behaviour. SOPs are not being implemented anywhere while the most important thing at the moment [to contain a resurge] is how closely we follow the SOPs.”

Dr Faisal said it was difficult to weigh between opening or closing schools at the moment.

“We need to see where our focus is. First people who have not been vaccinated and have not got a booster shot, should complete their vaccination and get the booster shot”

The decision on schools should be linked to ventilation available at school buildings.

Dr Rana Jawad Asghar

“The doses for children are smaller, so their vaccines are different. Children should also be vaccinated, but first, adults should complete their vaccine doses,” he said.

The doctor lamented that people had stopped wearing face masks, and following other SOPs. “They have this misleading belief that coronavirus has ended. But the virus is around us. They have stopped getting tested,” he said.

“There are patients with coronavirus and they have no idea. I am seeing the same conditions as we have seen before.”

Dr Faisal urged people to follow the same precautions they had been taking in the past to avoid contracting Covid-19. “We need to wear masks, stop being at crowded places, and sanitize our hands repeatedly.”

Dr Rana Jawad Asghar, an epidemiologist, told SAMAA Digital the decision on schools should to linked to ventilation available at school buildings.

“We cannot afford to shut down schools. But we also have to see if the buildings have proper ventilation.”

He said ventilation should be ensured at schools and the government should provide open spaces to schools that operated in small buildings.

Dr Jawad said Covid-19 cases had increased in Europe after schools were reopened and one of the probable reasons for the surge was the fact that adults had been vaccinated while the teenagers and children were not vaccinated effectively.

“That’s why, I believe that we should start vaccinating children younger than 12 years of age, and the vaccination for older children and adults should be completed.”

He said the United States was vaccinating children as young as five years old.

Meanwhile, All Sindh Private Schools Association Chairman Syed Sajjad Haider has said that the education sector had done a good job of implementing SOPs in the past and it should be allowed to operate.

“We have already caused a big harm to education.”

He said schools have vaccinated their teachers and administrative staff and will make them get booster shots as well.

“So, I think there is no need to worry and educational institutes should remain open,” he said.

He said if markets were allowed to remain open, educational institutes should not be closed.

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