As India crawls back towards normalcy after the debilitating second wave of COVID-19, some experts say it would be wise to open primary schools first as younger children are better equipped to fight the virus. This comes amid several reports suggesting that a possible third wave could hit anytime and hit children harder than adults.
"Once India starts reopening schools, it will be wise to begin with the primary section as children have a lower number of ace receptors to which virus attaches, making them much better at handling viral infections than adults, said ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava on Tuesday, reports PTI.
But, such a move comes with pre-conditions that it must be ensured that all school teachers and other support staff members are vaccinated.
The comment comes at the time when states are still unsure about opening educational institutions. Barring a few states -- Punjab, Haryana among them -- most others are taking their time in figuring out when children should return to school. Just yesterday, AIIMS director Dr. Randeep Guleria backed the staggered reopening of schools.
Most of the schools in the country have been shut since March 2020 when the first lockdown was announced. As the first wave ebbed in August-September, many schools opened tentatively, offering hybrid classes. But then the second wave struck and schools were forced to switch classes to the online mode.
Though the second wave of COVID has receded and the number of daily cases have come down, states are yet to take a call as the possibility of a third wave looms large.
The latest ICMR national serosurvey has found that the seroprevalence among those aged six to nine was 57.2 per cent which is very similar to adults. Bhargava said children can handle viral infection much better than adults and it has also been established that they have a lower number of ace receptors to which virus attaches.
"In some countries, particularly the Scandinavian ones, they (authorities) did not shut down their primary schools during the first, second or third wave... whatever (Covid) waves they had, their primary schools were always open.