Doctors favour continued functioning of educational institutions

Updated 27 Sep 2020


Students wash their hands before entering as schools reopen in Peshawar on Sept 15. — Photo by Sirajuddin/File
Students wash their hands before entering as schools reopen in Peshawar on Sept 15. — Photo by Sirajuddin/File

PESHAWAR: Medical experts have favoured the continued functioning of schools claiming the current trend of coronavirus incidence in educational institutions has nothing to worry about.

They asked the confirmed patients to stay away from the elderly people both at home and in community.

“The current Covid-19 positivity percentage of 1.24 among students and staff members of schools is medically acceptable. After 3-4 weeks, we can expect a sudden increase in confirmed cases, which, too, won’t be a cause of worry,” Health Net Hospital CEO Prof Mohammad Amjad Taqweem told Dawn.

The health department has collected 12,526 samples from students and staff members of schools in 14 districts since Sept 15 for Covid-19 screening and found 102 of them to be positive for virus.

However, doctors believe that there’s nothing to be afraid of in light of the screening results.

They said the reopening of schools was a ‘calculated risk’.

Insist Covid-19 cases in schools have nothing to worry about

“I don’t agree with the policy of closing schools after the appearance of two cases as this will happen soon and then the musical chair of schools opening and schools closure will start,” Prof Amjad replied to a question about the government’s decision of closing campuses for five days after the emergence of two virus cases.

He said the government should allow schools to stay open and take risk as in his opinion, most of the people were infected with the virus and the remaining few would be down with it anyway.

The expert said ideally speaking, the government should close schools until the vaccine against coronavirus was available to all but that was not feasible.

He said the schools couldn’t remain closed indefinitely as the damage if any had already been done.

Prof Amjad said educational institutions should stay open until the virus got out of control like the days when hospitals were swarmed by patients.

A former physician at the Lady Reading Hospital, he said the current Covid-19 case trend would continue.

“It is simple science and logic. When the government opened schools, what they expected. But once open, now almost all who were getting infected, got infected and took infection to their homes and everywhere so what the advantage of closing schools will be now,” he said.

The expert said the damage if any had been done, so everyone should accept it and move forward.

Prof Khalid Mahmood of the LRH agreed with Prof Amjad’s opinion.

“The prevalence of positive and possibly infectious cases is 1.5-2 percent population of these educational institutions, which is a very small figure,” he said.

The expert, however, said it was prudent to observe the infection prevention and control measures in the form of the frequent washing of hands with soap or use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers, wearing of face masks, and maintaining of good ventilation in classrooms.

He said any sick child or student should not be allowed to enter the educational institutions.

“It’s time to assign one medical officer to a cluster of schools in a locality to take care of the students. I believe that the worst is over for our country as far as Covid-19 pandemic is concerned,” he said.

Prof Khalid said schools should operate if the current trend continued.

“If shrines, bazaars, big gatherings and mosque congregations are allowed with no proper SOPs in place, why that is not happening for educational institutions,” he said.

Prof Khalid said it was advisable to keep children away from the elderly and sick people at home during the pandemic.

He said if infection rate increased to four to five per cent in schools, then the virus would re-surge in the community and besides schools, other places would also be closed yet again.

A report of the World Health Organisation’s KP official said KP had recorded 1,258 Covid-19 deaths and 37,525 cases since the onset of the pandemic in March.

It said 95 per cent (35,859) patients had recovered from the virus, while the hospital currently had 30 patients, including three critical.

The report said the number of Covid-19 cases reported daily in the province had been less than 50 since Sept 6 and that only three patients had died since then.

It said the virus had killed 939 men (75 per cent) and 319 women (25 per cent) and among the confirmed cases, 26,871 (72 per cent) were men and 10,654 (28 per cent) women.

The report said 20 health workers had died of coronavirus and 2,464 got infected, including 1,806 men (73 per cent) and 658 women (27 per cent).

Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2020