Government rejects request to shut schools amid virus scareAuthorities argue there is no immediate threat of a coronavirus outbreak.
The government has rejected requests to shut schools and colleges until the risk of the Covid-19 subsides, saying there was no immediate threat of an outbreak in the country.
At a meeting held at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, school administrators and parents had asked the minister to consider postponing the annual exams and closing schools in view of the Covid-19 outbreak. However, the ministry rejected the request saying it wasn’t necessary.
“As Covid-19 transmission is rapid, it is always better to ensure prevention,” said Ritu Raj Sapkota, chairperson of the National Private and Boarding Schools’ Association Nepal.
Around seven million students in 36,000 schools across the country await their final annual exams tests. The ministry has already asked all schools to complete their exams by March 18. The Lalitpur and Kathmandu metropolises have scheduled their grade eight examinations from March 8 and 9 respectively and will conclude them before the government deadline. The Secondary Education Examinations (SEE) is to begin on March 19.
The new academic year begins on the second day of the Nepali New Year (mid-April).
Yadav Sharma, chairman of the National Guardians’ Association, said the safety of students was more important than the exams. “The ministry should be ready to postpone the examinations immediately if needed,” he said.
Sapkota said that the risk of an outbreak in Nepal has increased as coronavirus infections have been reported in North India. “Closing the schools wouldn’t do any harm.”
Education Minister Giriraj Mani Pokharel said he will relay the concerns to a meeting of the government-formed High-Level Coordination Committee to Control and Prevent Novel Coronavirus.
A recent meeting of committee concluded that there was no immediate threat of an outbreak; therefore, it wasn’t necessary to close the schools immediately. “The meeting concluded that we can still run schools and complete the examinations as soon as possible,” Minister Pokharel told the Post. “We can always change our decision depending on the situation.” Pokharel said closing the schools after the annual exams are over would be better as it won’t affect the new academic calendar.
Pokharel said the education ministry has asked the National Examination Board to adopt precautions during examinations. “We will have health desks at all the exam centres,” he said. The board will arrange isolated rooms for students suspected to have contracted the disease, he said.
Meanwhile, the guardians’ association has asked the government and schools to take precautions to ensure that children are protected from the disease.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of September 22, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. Covid-19 has spread to 213 countries and territories around the world and infected more than 31,405,983 people with 967,505 deaths and 22,990,260 recoveries. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 5,557,573 with 88,943 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 306,304 confirmed cases with 6,420 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 65,276 cases with 427 deaths.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.