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With high vaccination rate, it’s time to safely open schools: Education minister


A 9th grade class in Hà Nội. — VNA/VnExpress News Photo

HÀ NỘI — Education minister Nguyễn Kim Sơn said yesterday that thanks to high COVID-19 vaccination rates in the country it’s time to adjust policies for the safe reopening of schools.

He was speaking during a conference on COVID-19 safe learning activities at educational institutions, jointly held by the Ministry of Education and Training and the Ministry of Health, along with all 63 localities in the country.

Nguyễn Thanh Đề, head of the Physical Education Department under the education ministry, said as of January 15, 2022, 90.1 per cent of 12-17 years old students in Việt Nam have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccines, with 72 per cent fully vaccinated.

82 per cent of teachers and educational officials have been fully vaccinated with 28 per cent have received booster shots.

Since the fourth wave of infections hit Việt Nam in late April, 130,014 teachers, educational officials, and students in total have contracted COVID-19.

Currently, about 4,800 in total are being treated, Đề said.

In HCM City, the largest city in Việt Nam and the former epicentre of the outbreak, after a pilot period of in-person learning since its reopening efforts, 130 cases of coronavirus were found in schools, accounting for 0.02 per cent of the city’s caseload in the same period. In the northern province of Bắc Giang, for example, 0.009 per cent of teachers, students actually contracted the disease.

The education ministry’s official said this figure is too low to be keeping schools mostly closed like they are now.

As of January 18, 14 provinces and cities have allowed all students of all grades (from kindergarten to high schools) to return to schools, accounting for 22.22 per cent of all localities in the country. 30 provinces and cities offered hybrid instructions, which is alternating between in-person learning and virtual learning/TV programmes.

19 localities in the country are in virtual learning format only.

Towards February 7, after the Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday, eight more provinces and cities are planning to allow students back in class.

Đề said localities should be bold and reopen schools in the new normal, but urged local education authorities to work with the health authorities to meticulously devise scenarios to welcome back students, as well as to conduct awareness and information campaigns targeting parents and the community.

Representatives at the conference said the COVID-19 has had a huge impact on students, as other than learning, students need interactions with friends and classmates, and called for a roadmap to put students back to schools, as well as hybrid lessons when needed.

The education minister said the time children have been away from schools has been too long, and education quality and children’s mental-physiology are suffering, not to mention impacts of this issue to several other socio-economic activities, for example, parents will have to stay home with their young children to assist with virtual lessons.

With high vaccination rate, more availability of COVID-19 drugs and medicines, enhanced people’s awareness in flexible adaptation to the pandemic, the rich experience localities have gained in COVID-19 fight, and based on recommendations from international organisations and lessons from other countries, Minister Sơn said it’s time to adjust the school reopening policies, to truly be in line with Government’s Resolution No.128/NQ-CP.

He asked local education departments to prepare to bring students back to schools, stressing that after Tết resumption is a “requirement” not only for high-school and secondary high school students but also for the unvaccinated children at the kindergarten and primary school levels.

“No solution is perfect all-around, we need to choose the optimal one and right now it’s to bring students back to schools as the long-term risks of long home-bound periods are much higher,” Sơn stressed, urging localities to avoid both being overly hesitant in their decisions and being reckless.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Government Office has released the Prime Minister’s order for localities to soon complete the timeline and roadmap for the resumption of schools, especially in places with high vaccination of children aged 12-17 years. — VnExpress News


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