Amid a rapid surge in COVID-19 cases in Mumbai, including the Omicron variant, the civic body on Monday decided to shut schools of all mediums for classes 1 to 9 and also 11 till January 31, while over 6,100 children were inoculated on first day of vaccination for the 15-18 age group in the metropolis. 

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said students of classes 10 and 12 are excluded from this decision which means they can attend schools in-person. 

However, students of classes 9 and 11 will be allowed to visit schools for receiving vaccine doses as part of the inoculation drive for the 15-18 age group, an official said. 

Classes for students of 1 to 9 and 11 will continue in online mode as directed earlier, it said. Meanwhile, on the first day of vaccination drive for those aged 15 to 18 years, 6,115 children were administered the vaccine against COVID-19 in Mumbai, as per a BMC bulletin. 

Of these, 4,806 teenagers were inoculated at BMC-run centres, 148 at government facilities and 1,161 at private centres, the bulletin said. 

The vaccine option for this age group is only Covaxin, according to guidelines issued by the Union health ministry on December 27. With this, the number of inoculated citizens in Mumbai reached 1,80,72,902, of which 80,97,064 have taken both doses. 

Later in the day, Suresh Kakani, additional municipal commissioner, told the media that students of classes 9 and 11 will be allowed to visit schools for vaccination though schools will be shut for in-person learning. 

Explaining the reasons behind shutting down schools, Kakani said it is necessary to follow COVID-19-appropriate behaviour to contain the spread of the virus, but schoolchildren often tend to ignore norms and gather together in educational premises. He said they have decided to allow 10th and 12th class students to attend physical schools as their practice sessions and preliminary exams are on. 

Kakani said the number of daily cases and positivity rate have been increasing in the city, but the BMC is working on preventive measures and was ready to handle any crisis. “Out of 30,500 hospital beds in Mumbai, only 3,500 beds are currently occupied. Also, adequate oxygen supply, medicines, ventilators, ICU facility, and hospital beds are available,” the civic officer said. 

He said presently 90 per cent of the coronavirus patients are asymptomatic and only 4 to 5 per cent patients are being admitted to hospitals and the number of serious cases is negligible. Kakani said as compared to the previous two waves of COVID-19, there has been no significant surge in the infection among children so far. “Though the numbers are within limit, they have kept hospital beds and other things ready,” he said. 

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