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Ramakanta Biswas

Children are not at all at risk of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19 which is driving an unprecedented surge of infections globally as hitherto there is no instance of any minor getting critical due to the strain, said an health expert.     

Health expert Dr Sunil Agrawal from Odisha said this while taking part in a debate on OTV which was centred on the decision of the State government on reopening of educational institutions in Odisha.

Physical classes for students from Class 8 to 12, along with colleges, universities and other technical institutions will reopen in the State from February 7 while classes for students from KG to Class 7 will reopen from February 14. 

Expressing his views on the possible threat children may face from Omicron while attending schools, Agrawal said, “Omicron itself is a mild disease which has not caused any major damage to those either 60 years or 18 plus age group. Therefore, it is not a threat to children. During this Omicron surge, the deaths are averaging between 15 and 20 per day is Odisha. Those dying either have comorbidities or have not taken vaccine.” 

He also claimed that there is no instance of Omicron transmitting from one kid to another and 80 to 95 per cent of those getting the infection are asymptomatic. 

“The immunity in children is high and more importantly unlike elderly people they less often have any comorbidity. Therefore, guardians and parents should not worry in sending their wards to schools," Agrawal stressed.

The health expert however said that teachers and authorities of educational institutions will have to play a major role to ensure COVID protocols for children are followed effectively in schools. "Hand sanitisation and personal hygiene is anyways very important for children to prevent even normal viral infections, so that should be duly followed," said Agrawal.

Speaking about vaccination of children between 12 and 15 age group, he said, “The inoculation drive for this age group will begin very soon, may be by next month. They will be administered ZyCoV D which is needle-free and painless vaccine. Seven states have received the nod on pilot project and Odisha may get the required approval very soon.” 

Agrawal also informed that there is no necessity for children below the age of five years to wear masks. “As per ICMR guidelines, kids below 5 years do not need masks to cover their face. I appeal do not make them wear mask forcefully. It may cause them breathlessness which will have side effect on their health. Those between 5 to 12 years should wear masks as per guidance of their parents and remove them if one feels uneasy. But, those above 12 years should wear masks properly.”

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