Things have started looking bleak for Maharashtra as the COVID-19 cases of the new Omicron variant are on the rise, particularly in Mumbai. Only last month, did colleges and schools across the state open their gates to students, after a span of almost 2 years. However, with a surge in cases and a new variant on the rise, students and parents have started asking a pertinent question – will schools close again in Maharashtra? As of now, there is no straightforward answer to this question as it is too soon to tell.
Only yesterday, December 30, 2021, Mumbai reported more than 3000 cases of COVID-19. However, the death toll has remained low with no deaths being reported yesterday. However, given the exponential rise in the number of cases, the state is likely to close schools in the city, if not in the entire state.
Speaking about the closure of schools in Maharashtra, the state health minister Rajesh Tope reassured that schools will continue to remain open for now. Moreover, students between the ages of 15-18 years must be taken to vaccination centers in clusters or batches. So that the vaccination rate in the state increases.
As the country began witnessing a surge in COVID-19 cases, a positive development took place in the aspect of vaccination. After a long wait, the central government gave clearance to all states for vaccinating individuals who are between 15-18 years old. Soon after, the Maharashtra government decided on vaccinating this age group, starting January 01, 2022.
Maharashtra State Minister Aditya Thackeray had a slightly different opinion from the health minister. According to him, the situation is being closely monitored. A concrete decision regarding the closing of schools will be taken after 15 days. Although in-person classes may be discontinued, online education will continue as it was during the lockdown period.
Thackeray further stated that people should mask up and follow all COVID-19 protocols. Currently, a holiday season is going on in schools and colleges. Hence, there is no point in shutting them as many students have not been to their schools for a long time.
Earlier, Varsha Gaikwad, the Maharashtra education minister had reiterated that the health of all students is the topmost priority. If the cases of Omicron variant increase, there would be no choice but to shut down physical classes. The minister herself was infected with COVID recently. Therefore, she remains deeply concerned about this matter.
All in all, as per the statements made by several state ministers, it can be concluded that the chances for the school to reopen hang at a 50-50 possibility. The state’s medical machinery is closely monitoring and working to contain the further spread of the infection and on the other hand, asking the citizens to observe all the necessary COVID protocols. It is certain that even if the government considers the re-opening of the schools, it wouldn’t be immediate or in a matter of a few months. It will first try to contain the virus and avoid community spread at all costs. Furthermore, the general trend on various social media and microblogging sites like Twitter, is that the students, as well as parents, are not considering the reopening of the schools immediately owing to the threat posed by the new variant. Students are happy with the online mode even though it has put the academic framework of the state under pressure.
In simple terms, it is still too early to predict whether the state government would close schools again in Maharashtra. However, there are high chances of schools closing in Mumbai, owing to an exponential rise in COVID-19 cases. The severity of the omicron variant, death toll, number of hospitalizations will all be factored in while making a decision.