Schools reopen in Bangladesh after 18-month Covid-19 closure

Dhaka, Sep 12 (EFE).- Schools and colleges in Bangladesh reopened on Sunday after remaining closed for some 18 months due to Covid-19, as public health experts expressed a cautious optimism concerning the development.

The Education Ministry has issued heath guidelines for educational institutions, such as using a pyrometer at the school gate, use of masks by everyone on the premises, maintaining appropriate physical distance in classrooms, and having an isolation room, among others.

“All educational schools have been asked to follow these guidelines strictly,” Education Ministry spokesperson MA Khair told EFE.

The decision has been met with much enthusiasm from students whose academic and social lives were hampered by the pandemic-enforced closure.

“I felt really good when I saw my friends after many days. Though I was not allowed to play with them, I could at least talk to them. We had only three classes today,” said Zaarsah Bintey Zahid, a grade-3 student at Schoolers School and College in Dhaka.

Public health experts too welcomed the decision to reopen schools, but cautioned the authorities about the possibility or resurgence of coronavirus cases if they were not careful.

“In many villages, there was no infection at all, so school should be reopened there. (But) some places are at risk. We need to ensure infection prevention and control practice there,” Professor Be-Nazir Ahmed, National Consultant at Directorate General of Health Services, told EFE.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Dipu Moni, interacting with reporters during a visit to school in Dhaka on the first day of school reopening, warned of “stern action” if the ministry’s health guidelines are not followed.

Imtiaz Zia, a teacher Maple Leaf International School in Dhaka, told EFE they followed every instruction from the authorities before resuming classes, including physical distancing, washing hands and bringing down the number of students in a classroom.

“We have over 1,000 students on this campus. Each day around 110 to 120 students will attend class. Today on the first day, 55 students attended,” he said.

However Professor Ahmed felt that the not enough preparations have been made for the resumption of schools as the pandemic is not over yet.

“Due to lack of preparation, if there is a fresh surge (in cases), we would fumble and we may have to close the schools again,” he said.

Most educational institutions have remained closed in Bangladesh since March, 17, 2020, making it the second-longest school closure in the world due to the pandemic, affecting over 40 million students, according to UNICEF.

On Saturday, Bangladesh reported 1,327 fresh coronavirus cases and 48 deaths in 24 hours, with the positivity rate dropping to 7.03 per cent from over 30 in mid-August.

So far, the country has recorded over 1.5 million cases and nearly 27,000 deaths since March 2020, according to data from the Directorate General of Health Services. EFE

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