Barely 48 hours before the reopening of schools in Himachal Pradesh, Coronavirus seems to have sent a reminder to the state about the potential threat of a fresh outbreak in the state's second-biggest district Mandi.
As many as 41 school teachers, who had started going to the schools to make preparations for the students’ classes, have tested positive in Himachal Pradesh. Most of these cases were reported in Sarkaghat area of Mandi district in half a dozen schools.
The report has rung alarm bells in the state’s education department, which after a state-wide assessment had earlier observed that Coronavirus infection is on a decline.
As per reports, 14 positive cases have been reported at a single school in Sarkaghat while others have two to seven cases each.
The teachers have been advised to isolate themselves. The Covid-positive teachers will be provided medical care at their homes. There will not be hospitalisation unless required, said a senior medical official at Mandi.
“This is certainly a cause of concern that’s why the government has been insisting that necessary protocols like wearing masks, social distancing and hand hygiene must be strictly followed. The teachers who got infected must have committed lapse”, says education minister Govind Singh Thakur.
Director (Education) Amarjit Sharma has announced that the schools, barring those where the infection has been reported, will open as per schedule. “Attendance is still not mandatory for the students but standard operating procedures (SOP) can’t be compromised”, he said.
"A mandatory thermal checking and masks will be enforced", he added.
The cabinet in its meeting on January 15, had decided to reopen all schools in summer closing zones from February 1 for students of class 5 to class 12and those in the winter closing zones from February 15.
The management of the schools was given strict directions like; use of face masks, social distancing and use of sanitisers in the school premises. Similarly, ITIs and polytechnic and engineering colleges are also reopening on Monday.
Meanwhile, the online system for education under ‘Har Ghar Pathshala’ would continue. A similar system can be adopted by private schools in the state.
On January 30, the number of active cases in the state had dropped to 293 with some districts like Bilaspur, Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti reporting cases in single-digit figures.
But now the active cases have again risen to 383.
"Some spurt is not ruled-out in the next few days", admits state's health minister Dr Rajiv Saizal.
The state has recently witnessed elections to the Panchayats, Block Samitis and Zila Parishads that saw open defiance to SOP like wearing of masks and social distancing. The processions taken out by elected representatives of Panchayati Raj Institutions had massive crowds.
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