Perhaps it was due to the demands by school owners that the federal Education Minister Mr. Shafqat Mahmood announced that schools will be reopened in mid-September, “if health situation improves”.

The question arises, how do you know if the health situation has improved or not when people are reluctant to get themselves tested? Our illiterate masses tend to believe anything they hear, particularly if it is contrary to what the government wants them to do. Despite repeated pleas, our people accumulated in mosques during the holy month of Ramazan, resulting in the spike of cases and deaths we saw recently.

My driver’s wife was recently hospitalized after giving birth to a dead child. When doctors advised that she needed treatment and rest for a couple of days to recover, he raised a ruckus and insisted that she should be released immediately (even though treatment at the government hospital was free). He said everyone knows that patients in hospitals get affected by Covid-19, and in case someone dies, the hospital gets two million rupees from the government. No wonder the masses are scared to go to hospitals when they experience Covid-19 symptoms! We’ve seen how the government has not been able to rid the country of the polio virus, making Pakistan and Afghanistan the only countries where the virus is active (Nigeria appears to have eradicated it, according to recent reports).

The Covid-19 virus is unique in many ways. It can seriously affect some people while others may not even be aware they’ve been victims (until they get tested). It has been known to damage the brain, causing strokes and even leading to suicide (one lady doctor in the U.S. killed herself after catching the virus from patients in hospital). Some victims have been sick for many weeks, the symptoms reappearing after they have tested negative. People with no symptoms (about twenty percent) can infect others.

Since we’re talking about how Covid-19 affects children, parents should be told about Multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) and Kawasaki disease, both of which have appeared in children after infection by the Corona virus.

A distant relative’s son (aged four) has been diagnosed with the rare Kawasaki disease. Some cases have also emerged in Lahore and Islamabad. This has alarmed doctors, as it appears that children with this disease had earlier contracted Covid-19 and had even developed anti-bodies to it, yet they have fallen victims to Kawasaki. Covid-affected children are the most vulnerable, and pose the greatest danger to their parents and elders.

In the coming days, we shall have the festival of Eid-al-Azha and the ten days of mourning in the sacred moth of Muharram. We shall see Muslims in the country coming in close contact with infected persons, resulting in huge numbers of positive cases and even deaths right up to the end of October. Will the government be able to cope with the emergency? Our hospitals are already full, how will new victims be treated?

But what of the plight of school owners? They have demanded that government reopen all schools, otherwise they will go bankrupt. This is inexplicable, considering that they still continue to receive school fees that are twenty percent less than before the lockdown. Isn’t this enough to enable them to run their schools at a huge profit, as they save on utility bills and other expenses. Besides, online teaching is being done by their teachers from their homes. The real reason for their demand, of course, is that once schools are reopened, their incomes will increase exponentially, as a result of commissions from book sellers, school uniform makers, canteen operators and those providing transport services to bring children to schools and taking them back. And of course the millions they will make as a result of functions like sports events, concerts and the like.

Then there is the question of whether parents will be able to convince their children to observe the required SOPs like maintaining social distance and wearing masks. As we have seen, our adult population has not been convinced to take the necessary precautions and most people still believe that this “corona sharona” is a huge conspiracy to enrich pharmaceutical companies and others. Our prime minister has gone on record saying that it is just like the flu and will not affect the majority of our people. Under such circumstances, how do you expect parents to ensure that their children will be careful? What about cleanliness? One parent scornfully said, “Perhaps the elite schools will take measures to sterilize their premises, but what of the schools where children from poor families attend? Do they have the will and the money to keep their school spotlessly clean at all times?”

So it should be evident that reopening of schools in September would be a huge blunder. The government should refrain from even talking about it until it is sure that the virus has been contained and does not pose a danger to the public at large.