No truth to reports of COVID infections in schools: education minister

Students crowd a food shop outside Agrani School and College in Dhaka’s Azimpur in breach of physical distancing rules amid the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday, Sept 22, 2021. Photo: Asif Mahmud Ove
Education Minister Dipu Moni says the government has not found any truth to social media posts claiming COVID infections among students in schools.

“I am checking social media,” she said at Shilpakala Academy on Saturday, two weeks after schools reopened following a year-and-a-half closure due to the pandemic.

“They regularly send me reports claiming infections at this school or that school. We made immediate inquiries at every school reported. But we have not found any of them to be true as yet,” Dipu Moni said.

On Wednesday, media reports said that a school student in Manikganj had died after contracting the coronavirus. The student had gone to school for the last time on Sept 15. They had no health problems at the time.

Reports have also emerged of students and teachers at various educational institutions across the country contracting the coronavirus.

“We are monitoring the situation,” the education minister said. “So far, we have heard reports of infections at some primary schools. The Ministry of Primary and Mass Education is responsible for those and are taking the necessary steps.”

Of the death of the Manikganj secondary school student, she said: “The student only went to school once – on Sept 15. About seven days later they were diagnosed with coronavirus and died.”

“We spoke to the civil surgeon and they said, as they only went to school once and had no symptoms at the time, it isn’t necessary to test everyone.”

“As soon as we get reports we contact the local government, the civil surgeon’s office and everyone else involved and takes the necessary steps with the support of the Directorate General of Health Services.”

Dipu Moni says she will not hesitate to close schools again if the situation deteriorates.

“As I said before, schools will be closed if necessary if there is concern about a possible outbreak. We will not hesitate. So far, we have not seen such a situation develop anywhere. But we will take steps if it does.”

The minister, who has an educational background in public health, urged everyone to stay alert.

“Though the infection rate has fallen to around 5 percent here, the pandemic is ongoing across the world. So, we must stay alert and vigilant. Anyone can fall sick, at home and outside. They may even cause outbreaks at educational institutions. We must work to ensure it does not.”

The SSC exams will be held in mid-November and the HSC exams in early December, she said.

The government has no immediate plan to send pre-primary children to school.

Asked whether they could be brought in for classes one day a week, Dipu Moni said: “No, absolutely not. Not at the moment. Let them stay at home for now. We will make a decision in the future. Let three weeks pass and we can review the situation.”