Students come out of a school in New Delhi, India Image Credit: ANI

The lull is over, but hopefully unlike last year in the same period it will not be a storm. As Covid cases spike in India, as much as 90% in a 24-hour span with the positivity rate jumping three-fold in Delhi, there is an urgency to go back to basics and mask up, although the compulsion of wearing one if it must go south from the nose has no explanation at least through this pandemic.

In the NCR, at least 100 students are reportedly down with Covid in the last few days coinciding with schools reopening for the new academic year. There is now apprehension that in the coming days the children will bring more infections home, irrespective, closing schools should no longer be a knee-jerk reaction to rising cases.

At the most a hybrid model can be reconsidered which allows students to be physically present in school in batches, but administrations and educational institutions must go all out to ensure that from now children are more in school than at home. Dismissed as the least risky demographic, they have been toyed with- whether it is their education or the vaccination.

Connecting the dots

Parents of those children who are in nursery or kindergarten can be given the option of hybrid teaching but by and large children finally deserve a semblance of normality which they can get only by physically attending school. It is for the adults to ensure that all the dots, connect.

To ensure smooth and uninterrupted return to the classrooms, Covid appropriate behaviour will have to be strictly enforced including ensuring that the staff is vaccinated, protocols for immediate isolation of students with symptoms, proper ventilation in classrooms and temperature checks at the gate. Parents who have not yet got the jab also do their children an injustice.

We can only hope that the denial of vaccine to children especially below the age of 12 who unlike their global peers have no access unfathomably even now will not prove costly for the country. Mild or not so mild are all relative and not an excuse to deny younger children a jab.

India is among the countries globally that has been the slowest in re-opening schools and a drive to vaccinate the young should have been accomplished in this period when they were isolated at home.

A study last week says that more than any other variants, Omicron has a higher chance of causing upper airway infection (UAI) among younger children putting them at risk of heart attack and other complications.

Another report by the CDC points out that unvaccinated children from 5 to 11 years old were hospitalised with Covid at twice the rate of vaccinated children during the winter spike in the US.

The UAE example

Countries like the UAE where schools are back to mandatory physical classes pushed not just for timely vaccination of children but also protocols were swiftly put into place with contact tracing and isolation a priority. This has now allowed schools across the country to be part of the national flirtation of living with the pandemic.

Two cases of the highly transmissible XE sub-variant have been reported from Mumbai and Gujarat but in the absence of genome sequencing as a policy, experts say it safe to assume that for now it is an Omicron resurgence.

The numbers coming from Kerala are worrying although the state is engaged in a tussle with the centre, refuting allegations that it is releasing data only after 5 days. The state has reported 914 cases and more than 200 deaths on a single day.

Uttar Pradesh, Gurugram in Haryana have all scrambled to reinforce the mask mandate back. In the last couple of months, malls and markets have been heaving with absolute disregard to social distancing, Indians unfortunately only understand formal orders.

The only barometre

We only have to look globally to get an idea of the trend and keep a step ahead. From Hong Kong to China, countries have had to double down in this game of troughs and peaks. In the absence of systematic testing, this is the only barometre.

As we have seen in the last two years, there is no escaping sport when civil society is hit and IPL which is underway is seeing its first casualties.

Several members of the Delhi Capitals bio bubble have tested positive with Australian all-rounder Mitchell Marsh being hospitalised and the match venue being shifted. The interactions between players after the match has the potential to further snowball.

But that is not unlike what we expect in the coming days across the country, the number of cases are expected to rise but hospitalisation experts say, will not challenge our health care. In other words, we are not at the stage of alarm or panic but it is a timely reminder that Covid has been a sneaky player especially when the guard is down.