Gujarat has registered its first case of the Omicron variant and parents of school-going children are worried about the safety of their wards even as experts urge caution. Schools in Gujarat started functioning offline from November 22 for classes I-V. The higher grades were functioning from a few weeks earlier.
Omicron is the seventh variant of Covid-19, and like its other mutant Delta, has caused widespread fear and panic around the world given its higher virility and the lack of tangible data regarding its threat. Currently, there are 326 active cases of coronavirus infections in Gujarat.
Although schools are functioning in hybrid mode – online and offline – and parents can choose between the mediums, the discovery of Omicron in Gujarat has led to panic.
Aarti Iyer, a mother of two children – one in grade II and the other in grade IV – both students of Nirman School and Mount Carmel School says she prefers online classes. “I was planning to send my children to school before the news of the new variant in Gujarat, but now, the children will be safer at home.”
Most of the parents shared the same sentiment and to practice precaution, they say they will opt for virtual classes.
Sheetal Solanki, whose daughter studies at Amrita Vidyalaya said, “I will not be sending my daughter to school as they are unvaccinated and considering the very little knowledge about Omicron.”
Rati Lal, mother of two – one in grade II and grade XII, said, “My daughter studying in Class XII is going to school on account of her exams. I was planning to send my younger daughter to school after a week. Since Omicron has come to Gujarat with the children being unvaccinated, I will prefer them studying online.”
“Until now, Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) remain the same and we will be cautiously moving with the precautions, the government guidelines will be strictly followed,” said Father Xavier Amalraj SJ, Principal, St Xavier’s High School Loyola Hall.
“We already take utmost precaution and follow all the Covid-19 guidelines strictly,” said Vishnu Patel, Principal, Nishan School. “In case the variant is found in Ahmedabad, schools should not completely shut down. Precautionarily, students should be called at least once a week, so the education and their experience does not suffer,” he added.
The rumours about the new variant have created fear among many individuals with whispers of another lockdown in the offing making the rounds.
Dr Nischal Bhatt, Pediatrician, Member, Covid-19 Immunization Task Force, Gujarat, said, “Omicron variant is highly transmissible but is not very virulent compared to the Delta variant.”
“In the first and second wave, 95 per cent of children affected by the virus were treated and cured at home by simple methods. Only 0.2 per cent death rate was noticed in children,” informed Dr Bhatt.
“We should continue schooling with extra precautions – alternate day attendance, proper sanitization, masking and social distancing,” he added.
“We need to wait and watch and understand the effect of vaccination on Omicron. As far as my understanding, children have really suffered as their mental, physical and physiological development has been affected, so closing down should be the last resort,” said Dr Bhatt.