The Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) has laid down three criteria to be met at the local level for school reopening amidst the pandemic situation.
The case positivity rate for COVID-19 (the number of RT-PCR positive per hundred tests) should be less than 5% for the preceding two weeks of school reopening or the total number of new cases should have been steadily declining over the preceding two weeks, if the case positivity rate is greater than 5%, according to the first criterion mentioned in the ‘Advisory on School Reopening’ prepared by the IAP’s task force on school reopening 2021.
“The number of new cases per lakh population per day should be less than 20 for the preceding two weeks. Vaccination coverage (as measured by at least one dose of any of the COVID vaccines) of the adult (or the vaccine-eligible) population should be 60% or more,” said Dr. S. S. Kamath, former national president of IAP and member of the task force on school reopening.
The expert committee had published its guidelines and recommendations on ‘School Reopening, Remote Learning, and Curriculum during and after COVID-19 Pandemic’ in October last. The task force reviewed and updated its earlier recommendations in the current context and scientific evidence.
Stating that any decision on school reopening has to be taken at the district-level based on the local pandemic situation, the latest advisory pointed out that all the adult members working in and closely associated with schools, including the teaching, non-teaching staff, support staff, commute drivers, attendants and school visitors should have received at least one dose of any COVID-19 vaccine.
High-risk staff members should have completed two doses of vaccination 15 days before attending the schools. High-risk children (those suffering from chronic diseases like asthma, kidney diseases, disabled children, children on steroids etc.) should consult their pediatricians before joining the schools.
Schools and governments should facilitate the joining of students to school by arranging school transport as before and not impose restrictions by asking for the RT-PCR test results of the students, it said.
Explaining that IAP does not recommend the seropositivity of the population as an epidemiological indicator for school reopening, the advisory said that the current scientific research suggests that seroprevalence is an unreliable indicator with high false positivity and should not direct policy decisions on social restrictions. This unreliability is due to factors like restricted population surveys, non-representative samples, uncertainty around test accuracy, and limited knowledge about the antibodies in the long term, it said.