Medics in the UAE affirmed that it is safe for children to go back to schools, though they should maintain utmost safety precautions, amid mounting fears about the new Covid-19 strain.
Doctors reiterate that parents should remain calm and ensure that they do not send their children to schools in case they are unwell.
Dr Prabhakar Patil, Specialist – Paediatrics & Neonatolog, Medcare Women & Children Hospital, said: "Children will not get the Covid-19 vaccine in the initial phase and to add to the complexity the new variant of virus in the UK is seen to spread more easily in children as compared to the previous variant. But the good part is it doesn't seem to cause severe infection among children. But only further studies will reveal the rate of transmission and severity of infection. Even though the new virus variant is not that common in the UAE yet, we need to keep monitoring the evolving situation and modify the recommendation accordingly."
Doctors further averred that if children do not have any co-morbidities, like cardiac problems, and are not immunocompetent, then sending children to school is definitely good for their mental wellbeing.
Dr Patil added: "To choose to send your child back to school or not can be a difficult decision. But the decision should be based on the risk and benefit ratio. Even after the best of measures, it may not completely eliminate the risk of transmission but can be reduced considerably."
Dr Tanmay Radhakrishnan Amladi, specialist paediatrician, Prime Medical Centre, Motor City, pointed out: "The local health and school authorities are ensuring that there is 100 per cent adoption of all safety measures. However, parents also have a responsibility of not sending the child to school if he/she is sick and getting the child checked by a paediatrician."
Doctors emphasised that parent-teacher meetings have a strong role to play in generating greater awareness among the student community.
Dr Amladi said: "The new UK variant is said to spread more rapidly. It is safe to assume that our local health authorities and school authorities are well aware and prepared for this. The PTAs have a strong role to play in this regard - they need to coordinate with the nodal persons in the local health authorities and school authorities to ensure that the Covid-19 viral infection, including the new variant, does not spread.
Vaccination will take a long time to get approval for children, hence use of masks, frequent hand sanitisers and social distancing will remain the three pillars of protecting children."
Many doctors explained that if a child gets infected and does not show any symptoms, then there are chances that the kid can spread it to the adults at home.
Dr Franson Jose, Specialist Pediatrician, Aster Clinic - Discovery Gardens, explained: "Opening schools while maintaining strict hygiene protocol can keep the little ones safe. Moreover, kids have been confined to the four walls for almost one year now and opening schools will be a breather for them. As far as vaccines for kids are concerned, studies are underway regarding the vaccine safety in children. As the virus is less severe in the case of children, priority was given to adults and hence the delay."
Dr Jamuna Raghuraman, Specialist Paediatrician, Medeor Hospital, Dubai, opined: "The knowledge, attitude, and practices to prevent the spread of Covid-19 are in place in the UAE. Vaccination of adults creates an immune community. Even though children cannot take the vaccine yet, they are going back to a community with higher immunity."