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Maharashtra defers schools reopening on COVID-19 task force advice

Govt. had announced that students of certain classes will return to schools on Aug. 17

Days after the Maharashtra government announced it would allow schools to reopen for certain classes, it has decided against it after a meeting of the State COVID-19 Task Force held late on Wednesday.

According to sources, the task force, worried about a possible resurgence, has advised against resumption of offline classes from August 17 without fully vaccinating students.

The meeting on Wednesday was chaired by State Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte and attended by task force doctors, education and health department officials as well as district collectors of some districts.

It was decided that while some schools in rural areas, where there was no threat from coronavirus, would continue to function, all other schools, shut since March 2020, would not restart from August 17 as scheduled earlier.

“The task force members have expressed opposition to reopening schools on the ground that students below the age of 18 have not been vaccinated. They fear that it is too risky at this stage,” said State Health Minister Rajesh Tope.

Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad had announced last week that offline classes would commence for students of Class V to VIII in rural areas and Class VIII to XII in cities, strictly adhering to COVID-19 protocols

On Tuesday, the government had even issued the SOPs, which stated that schools should reopen only in villages and cities where the number of COVID-19 cases had seen a substantial decline over the last month.

The State government’s backtracking on the decision drew flak from the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Pravin Darekar, Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council, chastised the government for dithering and lack of clarity.

“Maharashtra School Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad had said just a few days ago that classes V-VII would begin in rural areas and VIII -XII in urban areas. A directive in this regard was issued on August 10. However, the decision was postponed due to objections from the State COVID-19 Task Force. Why didn’t the government consult the task force before making a decision? Parents and students are distressed by such somersaults… it is high time the MVA government stopped misleading people with its repeated U-turns over policy,” said Mr. Darekar.

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