Bangladesh COVID expert panel recommends school restart from Feb 22

The National Technical Advisory Committee on COVID-19 made the recommendation in a meeting with Education Minister Dipu Moni on Wednesday night.

Schools will reopen from Feb 22 after the closure ends the day before, said committee member Dr Md Nazrul Islam, citing a fall in coronavirus infection rate.

He said there will be no bar on students aged above 12 years who got both doses of the coronavirus vaccine from going to school.

But those below 12 years old cannot go to school now because they are not vaccinated yet, he added.

Committee Chairman Professor Mohammad Shahidullah said they set two conditions on schools restart: all health rules must be followed properly and only vaccinated students will be allowed to attend in-person classes and exams.

Although children are less likely to develop severe symptoms if they catch COVID-19, the unvaccinated ones carry the risk of spreading infection among others in vulnerable groups, said Prof Shahidullah. “So we will ask them not to go to school.”

The government has not begun administering coronavirus vaccines to younger children aged below 12 years.

The meeting did not take any decision on vaccinating these children, said Prof Shahidullah.

The education ministry said Dipu Moni will speak at a news conference on Thursday morning.

Earlier, she had said the ministry would sit with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on the matter after the meeting with the expert panel.

“We hope to reopen schools very soon. No specific date has been decided yet but we hope to resume classes this month,” the education minister had said, urging authorities to operate educational institutions in compliance with health rules amid the coronavirus pandemic.

After more than a year and a half of closure amid the coronavirus pandemic, Bangladesh reopened schools in September 2021.

Later, universities gradually returned to in-person classes as well.

But with the onset of the highly infectious omicron strain of the coronavirus, cases began trending up since the start of 2022.

In light of the soaring caseload, the government closed educational institutions on Jan 21.

At the time, the education minister said the decision was prompted by an increase in coronavirus infections among children.

Initially, the plan was to keep schools closed until Feb 6, but as the situation had not improved by then, the curbs on in-person learning and public gatherings were extended to Feb 21.