See beyond the lockdown

See beyond the lockdown

The closure of schools is not helping but harming our children in difficult time

Many of us are familiar with the fact that the current variant of Covid-19 has a faster transmission rate than earlier variants of this deadly virus. Like other countries of the world, India too has been exposed to this variant and in a very brief time the country has seen a major spike in the number of cases. Unlike the other variants, this one hasn’t resulted in an upsurge of hospitalisation and deaths, though. Learning from the past, the world is much better prepared to fight it. But ever since the introduction of this new variant it has become the center of debate over the way it is being tackled and managed, especially in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The decision of weekend lockdown has been severely criticised and it is argued that this is the simplest way to tell the people that managers are doing something to contain the virus, but at the same time one should understand that lockdowns are effective only as temporary measures and they come with huge costs and are not sustainable over the long term.
While resorting to lockdown the policy makers should keep the reports of internationally recognised organisations like Oxfam in mind, which suggest that It may take more than a decade for the lower class to recover from even the first lockdown. Any step taken without looking into the consequences of lockdown may result in further economic loss and reduce the chances of recovery. It has been more than two and a half years since children have been losing out on precious years of learning. Surveys say nearly half of them are now unable to even read and write due to closure of educational institutions for such a long period. Many of them are now turning to work, losing interest in studies, and have forgotten basic numeracy. It is yet not clear how many of them will return to school after the reopening, as we have seen that during the Ebola crisis in Africa, Over 7℅ children in Guinea and Liberia never returned to schools.
When asked that why there is so much delay in taking the decision to reopen the schools, the policymakers give an unscientific, unreasonable and unjustifiable argument. They are reluctant to open the schools because most of the children are unvaccinated. Before considering this argument we should highlight some of the important points based on scientific evidence. Recently a serology survey conducted by ICMR and independent experts found that more than 70℅ of the children had developed Covid-19 antibodies. Everyone of us must be aware of the fact that Sweden has never closed its schools for kids under 16. The experience of other countries like the UK and the US suggests that reopening of schools hardly impacted the transmission trends.
Since the Omicron variant of Covid 19 was first detected in South Africa, the country has been able to tackle and manage it effectively. There was lockdown, closure of educational institutes, impact on routine life, but it went on not for months but for a few weeks, and in a very short time everything was restored to normal there. There are some important lessons from South Africa that we must incorporate in order to return to normal, as South Africa resembles India in many ways, including national income, demographic dividend, etc. Positivity rate alone shouldn’t be the parameter for decision making. The government should ensure enough hospital beds and fair treatment to all. It should prioritise vaccine coverage, insist on masks, undertake periodic testing, and monitor hospitalisation trends, while fully reopening the educational institutions.

—The writer is a student of BA (Hons) Political Science at AMU


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