Schools in Delhi had just resumed offline lessons from April 1 after a two-year hiatus for children of all age groups
Schools in Delhi are set to return to online classes, according to a parent section as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Delhi. As schools wait for instructions from the District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) on new instructions, part of the parents have reportedly stopped sending their children to school out of fear that their wards will be infected. “Attendance of my child’s class dropped after news of rising COVID-19 cases in Delhi schools. Very few children are attending the class,” a parent from a reputable school said from Dwarka.
Schools in Delhi had resumed offline lessons for students in grades primary through twelfth after a two-year hiatus on April 1, 2022. This has also resulted in a huge learning gap for children who have been forced to attend online courses to meet mandatory social distancing standards. However, positive cases of COVID-19, on the other hand, have steadily increased in the capital, with more than 500 cases reported on April 18. Nevertheless, the hospitalization rate has so far been negligible and no deaths have been reported.
Delhi schools must switch to online lessons, some parents say
Although the Delhi government has urged parents not to panic as the situation is well under control, a few parents have expressed concern over media reports of a spike in positive cases in the capital. “Cases have increased in the capital. Little kids don’t know how to maintain social distance. Schools have to offer online lessons because many of us parents are extremely worried,” said a parent from a Delhi school who did not want to be named.
“While the students may not be in much pain, they live with older adults or adults with comorbidities who may be infected,” the relative added. Along the same lines, another parent added: “We believe that we cannot take risks with our children. We don’t know how this virus will behave. Schools should be done online until cases disappear or vaccination is available for young children,” another parent said.
Schools in Delhi must continue to operate offline, closing schools will be a huge setback
Some parents have also made it clear that school closures will be a huge setback for children who are already under immense stress due to online lessons for the past two years. “Our children have already lost too much in the past two years to online education. There is a learning gap that has been created, and offline lessons are extremely crucial at this stage if we are to may our children thrive. Keeping them inside our homes will do more damage at this point. Kids are going out to malls and parks anyway and are already mingling,” one parent said.
Another relative, who also happens to be a health worker, said: “I had been treating patients with COVID-19 for two and a half years. This time most of the children are infected, but the symptoms are extremely mild. They reported a mild cold and nausea instead of having infected lungs. Older children reported headaches. So I think we have to learn to live with the virus because there is no end.
What experts say about the fourth wave
Professor Manindra Agrawal of IIT Kanpur has predicted there may be no or a very short fourth wave. “I don’t believe the next wave, if it comes, will be long lasting,” he said on Twitter while saying it was due to very high levels of natural immunity in the country (90+ %). “A new mutant will have to be highly contagious to create a significant wave, and then its lifespan will be very short. Just like it happened for the third wave,” he added.
The professor, who created the SUTRA mathematical model for pandemics, went on to say, “Omicron was highly infectious, circumvented vaccine immunity, but did not circumvent natural immunity significantly (our estimate for India is 10 to 15%). And given the high natural immunity in India (about 80% at the time), the third wave was strong but short. The same thing happened in South Africa and several other countries with strong natural immunity. Of course, it is possible for a new mutant to significantly circumvent natural immunity. But that would be a whole new pandemic.
The SUTRA model, which is an acronym for Sensitive, Undetected, Tested (Positive) and Suppressed Approach, claims to have several novel features. “First, while previous papers have divided the patient population into asymptomatic and infected, SUTRA explicitly takes into account that there would be a large number of undetected asymptomatic patients. Second, the model explicitly takes into account spatial spread of a pandemic over time, via a parameter called ‘range.’ Third, the model uses numerically stable methods to estimate the values of all parameters using the daily new infection data series,” explains the official website.
That said, the DDMA is holding a meeting today to decide the fate of Delhi schools amid rising number of COVID-19 cases. With experts and doctors advising against school closures, the DDMA is expected to allow schools in Delhi to run classes in hybrid mode.