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Karnataka: Fresh Covid guidelines for schools mulled

Decision taken in view of the looming omicron threat
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K.M. Rakesh   |   Bangalore   |   Published 08.12.21, 02:38 AM

The recent uptick in Covid-19 cases in Karnataka where several educational institutions have become clusters of fresh outbreaks has prompted the state government to plan fresh guidelines for them to maintain caution, especially in the light of the discovery of the highly contagious omicron variants in two persons.

Primary and secondary education minister B.C. Nagesh on Tuesday said residential schools and all hostels would come under new guidelines to be issued in a couple of days. 

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“I wrote to the officials concerned yesterday (Monday) to bring out guidelines for residential schools and all hostels within a couple of days,” he told reporters, citing the precautionary measures being rolled out.

Nagesh clarified there was no plan to shut education institutions. “We are not planning to close schools and colleges. We are fully aware of the impact the long closure has had on children. It took two months to bring them back to class,” the minister said.

The decision to go for a separate set of guidelines for residential schools and hostels follow a spate of Covid outbreaks in the state. More than 100 students and staff tested positive for the coronavirus at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya in Chikmagalur over the weekend, while a nursing college has been sealed in Mangalore after nine students tested positive on Monday.

Another nursing college in Shimoga reported 29 cases among students on Sunday.

All samples have been sent for genomic sequencing to find out if the omicron variant is at play. Late last month, a South African national and a Bangalore-based doctor with no travel history had tested positive for omicron.

Nagesh cited the upcoming festive season of Christmas and New Year for the “extra precautions” being taken. “We are taking extra precautions because of the festive season ahead. Children should not suffer another shutdown,” he said dismissing talks about another round of closure for educational institutions.

He urged all caretakers such as school teaching and non-teaching employees, drivers of vehicles ferrying students and all support staff to be fully vaccinated.
D. Shashi Kumar, general secretary of the Associated Managements of English Medium Schools in Karnataka that represents some 17,000 private schools, slammed the government for focusing only on residential schools and hostels. 

“I don’t understand the purpose of these guidelines when a large number of students attend cramped classes at private tuition centres where no such precautions 
are taken,” Kumar told The Telegraph.

“Instead of limiting these guidelines to only a set of educational institutions and hostels, the government should ensure everyone who handles students follow the same guidelines and the general public who don’t even listen to police or Covid marshals are penalised,” he added.,” he added. 

The police and civic bodies have been patrolling busy streets and markets to ensure people wear masks and follow Covid-appropriate behaviour. But glaring shortcomings of enforcement have marred full implementation of the protocols since many people have been moving around without masks.

Health minister K. Sudhakar has urged the medical colleges to be ready to handle a possible omicron outbreak.

Some 300 students and staff at a medical college in Dharwad had tested positive for Covid after a campus cultural festival last month. More than 30 students at a residential school in Bangalore also tested positive for the virus around the same time, leading to fears of another spike in the state that has been reporting just a few hundred cases each day.



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