COVID an Opportunity to Scale-up Bio-Security in schools
Its been almost a year since the pandemic struck. Life would never be the same again. The Vaccines are here and talks about a grand fightback over corona is finding its way slowly and steadily.
How many of us could bet his rupee that a day would come when schools would not be open for a year , Hotels and Restaurants would be shut for almost 2/3 continuous seasons now, Work from home or WFH would be the new normal? The railways would not allow citizens to board its trains unless essential.? What do we learn from this? Can we now draw curtains to 10 months of hardships, pain, fear of loosing a dear one and dreading the unknown?
The COVID Pandemic for India although a crisis should not be seen as one but rather an opportunity to realize that we had got it all wrong, we had taken things for granted and hygiene and Biosecurity are process and programs which simply cannot be ignored anymore. Diseases, infections and zoonotic transmissions were always lurking around. As we continue to plunder the environment and try to understand weather the crisis was man made , let us not fail to notice that 75 % of all emerging diseases in the last 40 years have been Zoonotic ie crossover from animals. There are 1.6 million viruses in the wild and only 4000 of them have been identified.
What does it take to control a Epidemic or Pandemic? What are the measures to be applied which allowed countries like China ,Taiwan, Japan, Korea ,Taiwan to control things faster and prevent a prolonged lockdown?? How did the put in practice all the learnings of the past epidemics like SARS, Avian Influenza, H1N1,MERS,Hong Kong flu all occurring in the past 2 decades.
Let us talk about schools, its high time parents asked schools questions about hygiene and sanitation before anything else. Lets remind ourselves not only Covid we would still need to safeguard ourselves from so many other diseases and infections which are in some cases more deadly or equally debilitating. Mumps, Conjunctivitis (sore eyes), Influenza, Norovirus, Streptococcus (sore throat), Adenovirus, Chicken pox, Hepatitis , Meningitis, Herpes are some of the infections and diseases which are primarily known to propagate in schools and it is extremely important that school managements take special care
As per a United Nations report 92 million school children in India do not have recourse to hygiene facilities. The biggest reason for UTI in school children especially Girls is because of the tendency to hold urine due to lack of clean restrooms in schools.
From the School bus , classrooms , restrooms and cafeterias or high activity areas including playing items like toys etc all are areas which need to be monitored and controlled for mitigating risks from infections. Most schools brush of responsibility by handing over or outsourcing cleaning and hygiene programs to Housekeeping companies but seldom audit or supervise adherence to basic objectives. Most out source housekeeping with an intention to manage statutory govt obligations in terms of PF , Contract labor etc.
Other than the Absenteeism and sufferings which is caused by these SAI or School Acquired infections what is overlooked is the spread of these infections to the households and the earning members ,thus impacting household incomes too.
BIO SECURITY in schools needs to be addressed as seriously as the school would on its faculties and other facilities. Infection control Rests on the ability to maintain a multipronged strategy. Unfortunately, there exists no silver bullet or a single solution to address it.
Starting from Identification of Students and Teachers and other users right at the Door prior entering for signs of fever or bronchial distress all through touchless systems to Permanent Antimicrobial coatings on classroom desks and high touch surfaces like door knobs, basin taps etc. Multiple Cleaning and Disinfection cycles per day covering classrooms toilets and high density areas. Constant communication and safety alerts including hand wash protocols etc. All these needs to be put in place along with timely audits.
Schools need to be particularly more carefull as many of the Disinfection solutions which find approval in other establishments cannot be expressly implemented here. Chemical cleaners and disinfectants are particularly found harm full for children. Chemicals leave residue , are toxic and some anti microbials contain cancer causing agents like triclosan etc which are extremely dangerous when not cleaned off properly. Consistent use of Alcohol sanitizers is extremely harmful for the children’s sensitive skin. Many of the Cleaners used in diluted form
cannot meet disinfection objectives as clearly mentioned in the fine print or instruction labels.
Sustainability and greenest approaches in sanitation and hygiene deserve to be treated as a culture and not just a work process. Parents need to also cooperate and work with their children’s institutions and find ways to inculcate good habits like hand washing and covering nose and mouth while coughing sneezing etc. However school managements need to understand children are more prone to non-adherence of self-discipline protocols and hence
solutions proposed need to lay extra emphasis on auto compliance and in situ disinfection technologies like Aqueous ozone etc. nose and mouth while coughing sneezing etc. However school managements need to understand children are more prone to non-adherence of self-discipline protocols and hence solutions proposed need to lay extra emphasis on auto compliance and in situ disinfection technologies like Aqueous ozone etc.
Lets make our schools safe. Let us promote healthy living. Lets say no to another Lockdown.