New Delhi: Recommending priority vaccination of teachers and school staff, a Covid task force has said that a safe opening for the education sector can be done by July.

The Lancet COVID-19 Commission India Task Force said in a report, “We strongly recommend that teachers and school staff are vaccinated on a priority basis.”

“We recognize that in states with high rates of infections, it will not be possible to open schools immediately, especially in the context of clusters of infections in and around hostels. However, we believe that the next two months can be used to prepare the education sector for a safe opening in July 2021 for the next academic year,” it added.

The Task Force has issued a separate set of recommendations for safe reopening of schools. “We strongly urge governments to consider the significant and potentially catastrophic losses in learning, especially for children from low-income families, that have already occurred due to extensive school closures, and to limit such instances as much as possible”, it added.

On international travel, it recommended a mandatory 7-day institutional quarantine for all visitors arriving from other countries, with an RT-PCR test conducted on day 8, and the option of completing another week in home isolation if the test is negative. Local communities can be mobilized to ensure the effectiveness of home quarantines.

The task force recommends no restrictions on domestic travel, either within or between cities. Advisories should be issued to promote safe behaviours, and testing made available at source and destination sites. Individual states will need to determine their own protocols based on caseloads and local circumstances.

“We recognize that seasonal migration of workers from urban areas to rural areas is about to commence with the start of the harvest season. We recommend that state governments make a special effort to support migrant labours in these journeys, equipping them with masks, options for testing and vaccination where eligible, and by setting up quarantine centres in host districts to manage the spread of the virus from cities to rural areas”, it added.

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