ICMR bats for reopening of primary schools, Covid tests instead of temperature checks

An article published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research recommended schools nationwide to avoid “routine temperature checks” due to “limited evidence” of their usefulness.

Published by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the Indian Journal of Medical Research is a peer-reviewed open access publication.

One of the most recent articles published in the journal highlights strategies that are going badly or need to be reworked as schools begin to reopen in parts of the country after 18 months of restrictions to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The paper goes on to say that school-based testing strategies could serve as key interventions to check for the potential spread of the virus.

“It must also be recognized that testing strategies for SARS-CoV-2 infection in schools should act as a complement and not a substitute for other organizational and behavioral interventions,” says the study written by the Director General of ICMR, Dr Balram Bhargava, Samiran Panda and Tanu Anand.

TEST VS SYMPTOM CHECK

The article cites the example of an individual stochastic (random variable) model used in Canada.

This model, which assessed the impact of an infected person attending a class with susceptible people, demonstrated that frequent screening of the entire class resulted in a significant reduction in the size of infection clusters.

Students arrive at Varanasi school after it reopens on September 1, 2021 | PTI

Citing the example, the document says that frequent testing of school staff and students for the early detection of Covid-19 cases is a better strategy than checking for temperature or symptoms.

“Routine temperature or symptom checking in schools should be avoided due to the limited evidence of their usefulness. It is also recommended that schools have access to on-site testing facilities in accordance with applicable country-specific guidelines, ”says the article published in the Indian Journal of Medical.

PRIMARY SCHOOLS SHOULD OPEN, WILL NOT CAUSE AN INCREASE IN CASES

While the document explains why schools should reopen, it also highlights the need to get young children back to school.

“The reopening of schools with younger children was unlikely to push the reproduction number (R) above one, while the reopening of secondary schools resulted in more cases as older students have also infected their respective family members, while another school setting in Ireland did not. report any secondary transmission. “

The reproductive number or R0 is a measure of the ability of the virus to spread.

Thoothukudi students disinfect their hands when entering their school on September 1, 2021 | PTI

The document also explains why young children are less susceptible.

“There is ample evidence to suggest that children between the ages of 1 and 17 have a similar susceptibility to a mild form of SARS-CoV-2 infection as in adults. However, the risk of serious illness and death in children compared to adults is much less. “

The reason could be the lower density of angiotensin-2 converting enzyme (ACE-2) receptors lining the airways of children which provide the site for a SARS spike protein binding domain. -CoV-2.

Angiotensin is a protein hormone that causes blood vessels to narrow.

SERO-POSITIVITY

Referring to the second wave of Covid-19 infections that hit India earlier this year, the peer-reviewed article indicates that very few or no cases of serious infection in children have been reported during this period.

The document goes on to say that treatment centers did not report treating children infected with a severe case of Covid-19 with a higher frequency during the second wave in May and June 2021, compared to the last year.

READ: It will take up to 9 months to vaccinate all children, schools cannot be closed until then: Dr Randeep Guleria

At the same time, adults were being treated in hospital facilities in huge numbers across the country, coinciding with the rapid spread of the Delta variant in 2021.

Serological surveys indicate high infection rates even in children who should be asymptomatic, the document points out.

Students in class at a school in Jabalpur on September 22, 2021 | PTI

“The fourth cycle of the national serological survey for COVID-19 held in June 2021 in India found that more than half of children aged 6 to 17 were HIV positive, implying that a considerable proportion of children have been exposed to and infected with SARS. CoV-2 infection and infection have not remained limited to adults only. “

There are a few other considerations that should also be taken into account, including the reduced transmission of SARS-CoV-2 infection from young children compared to older children and adults.

IMPACT OF SCHOOL CLOSURES

The document cites studies by UNESCO and other surveys to show how the Covid-19 pandemic has widened the digital divide and resulted in lost learning for millions of schoolchildren across the country.

According to the UNESCO report, school closures in India for more than 500 days have affected more than 320 million children. Another survey of online and offline school learning was conducted in 15 states across the country, with children from 1,362 households sampled from relatively disadvantaged hamlets and bastis. (slums) in August 2021, found that only 8% of students in rural schools and 24% in urban areas studied regularly, while nearly half of those surveyed were unable to read more than a few words.

“Almost three-quarters of parents reported that their children’s reading skills had declined during the pandemic period and the majority of parents in urban and rural areas spoke out in favor of reopening schools. social interactions, “lacked physical activity” and “felt they were losing ties with friends due to prolonged school closures” during COVID-19 pandemic, teachers believed pandemic had caused irreparable damage “.


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