All India
Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) director Dr Randeep Guleria said that it
is time to reopen schools in a staggered way. “I am a proponent of opening up
schools in a staggered way for districts that see less virus circulation,” Dr
Guleria told India Today in an interview on Monday.

Schools in India
have been shut since March last year when the country reported its first
COVID-19 outbreak

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AIIMS director Dr
Guleria is a member of the Indian government’s COVID-19 task force. He said
that the districts should explore the option of bringing children back to
school on alternate says and look for ways of a staggered reopening.

If disease
surveillance hints at the spread of COVID-19 cases, schools can be immediately
closed down again Dr Guleria said.

A survey conducted
by AIIMS and WHO had found that the seropositivity rate for SARS-CoV-2 among
children was high and comparable to the adult population.

Hence, it was deemed
unlikely that any future third wave of the prevailing COVID-19 variant would
disproportionately affect children aged two years or older.

On vaccines, Dr
Guleria said that COVID-19 vaccines for children should be available by
September and preliminary data from Covaxin’s clinical trial for children in

Explaining his
position on reopening schools, the top doctor said, “The reason is not just a
normal life for our kids, but also the importance of schooling in the overall
development of a child should be looked at.”

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He further said
that children in India have had good exposure to the coronavirus and many have
developed natural immunity.

Highlighting the
digital divide that deprives many children of online education, Dr Guleria
quoted UNICEF to say, “COVID-19 has reaffirmed the need to bridge gaps in
Internet access. The digital divide exists across borders, fields and generations,
virtually impacting every aspect of life.”