Health and Fitness

Omicron fear: Decision on reopening primary schools next week, says Ajit Pawar

A decision on reopening primary schools will be taken next week, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said in Pune on Friday. The government had earlier announced its decision to reopen primary schools from December 1, but later postponed it till December 15, after some cases of Omicron variant of Covid-19 infection were reported in the state.

Pawar said a decision in the best interest of children will be taken by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, School Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad and senior bureaucrats.

“As there was tremendous concern on the global level about the new variant, the government went on the back foot about school reopening earlier (from December 1). Next week, we will hold a cabinet meeting and take an appropriate decision after taking into considering the entire situation as this matter pertains to the future of our children,” he said.

Pawar, the district guardian minister, said both the state and the Pune district administration are closely watching vaccination patterns in all areas of the district and “strict measures” may be taken in areas which are lagging behind in vaccination targets.

“At present, the district sees nearly 60,000-70,000 vaccinations per day. This is a satisfactory rate. However, in a few talukas such as Baramati, Indapur and Daund, the rate is slower. We have given the administration the responsibility of speeding up the vaccination campaign in these areas. We will observe them and if the speed does not pick up, we will take stringent steps to increase the vaccination rate,” said Pawar, without specifying what those measures would be.

Medical experts who are part of the state’s Covid task force are of the opinion that increasing the vaccination cover will safeguard the population from Omicron as well as other variants, and hence it’s important that the drive is hastened, said the minister.

Speaking on the state government’s strategy on administering booster dose of vaccine, Pawar said that at present the state government was focussing on vaccinating all beneficiaries with two doses. He, however, added that in several foreign countries, it has been observed that areas where a booster dose was given, infection from Omicron variant has been extremely mild, thus proving the importance of administering a third booster dose. “Serum Institute has enough vaccines to go ahead with the booster dose. However, the decision will have to be taken at the central government level,” said Pawar.

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