New Delhi, February 3

Noting a contraction in the third wave of Covid 19 and consistent decline in new cases over 14 days, the government on Thursday said it was up to the states and district administrations to decide on reopening of schools, while following the guidelines issued by the education ministry earlier.

“Overall there is a contraction in the spread of the infection which is heartening. There are 268 districts in India with under 5 per cent positivity. These can now move in the direction of non Covid care, school opening and other activities. Declining trend of pandemic allows us to think of these options,” Member, Health NITI Aayog, VK Paul said.

He said the overall decision on opening schools rests with state governments and further down to district administrations.

“The broad issue is that we would like to ensure the schools are run according to protocols because we are still in the midst of a pandemic. By implementing the SOPs prepared in consultation with the states we can ensure safe conduct of schools. Physical learning is possible and teachers can feel safe but all this while following SOPs,” Paul said.

As of today, schools are fully open in 11 states, partially (higher classes) in 16 and closed in nine states.

States where schools are open are Arunachal Pradesh, MP, Sikkim, Karnataka, Telangana, Tripura, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Manipur and Assam. Schools are closed in Bihar, Punjab, UP, Puducherry, Jharkhand, ladakh, J&K, Odisha and Delhi.

At the national level, around 95 per cent teaching and non teaching staff have been vaccinated with some states achieving 100 pc. Even in central schools, 95.81 pc teachers and 98.41 pc non teaching staff have been jabbed.

The Ministry of Education today said it has modified the school reopening guidelines to say that states and UTs may decide at their level whether their schools are required to take the consent of parents of the students for the latter to attend physical classes. Earlier, it was mandatory to take parental consent. The ministry added that school drivers and conductors on containment zones shall not be allowed to board buses.

The pandemic meanwhile has contracted with new cases falling to half in 14 days from 3.47 lakh on January 21 to 1.72 lakh today, Active cases have fallen from the January peak of 24.49 lakh on January 24 to 15.33 lakh now – a substantial fall of 7.15 lakh cases in the last 12 days.

Only eight states have more than 50,000 active cases, with Kerala and Mizoram the only states to report rising positivity and new cases.

Daily positivity has fallen from 20.75 pc in January 24 to 10.99 pc—almost half – today indicating a major reduction in infection spread.

Health ministry joint secretary Lav Agarwal said 34 states were recording decline in cases and positivity and only two were recording high case and positivity surge—Kerala has seen positivity rise from 13.3 pc one month ago to 47 pc now and Mizoram from 17 pc to 34.1 pc.