Fear, anxiety resurface among parents as Covid hits schools

By Dang Khoa   February 24, 2022 | 05:36 pm PT
Fear, anxiety resurface among parents as Covid hits schools
A mother drops her daughter off at a primary school in Hanoi's Thanh Tri District, February 10, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Chieu
With the incidence of Covid-19 soaring in schools, people are becoming anxious about their children's safety and unsure about what to do next to protect them.

Thu Nhi of HCMC's District 3 has decided to keep her five-year-old son at home after giving it much thought.

On the second day back in school, a student in his class tested positive for Covid. A couple of days later two others also tested positive. The number of people deemed to have been in close contact with the infected children rose to eight, including her son, who sits in front of one of those infected.

"I will not send him back to school after his five-day home quarantine," she says.

She plans to wait it out and hope for the best since sending her son back to school at the moment is like "putting him at real risk every day.

"Parents of 20 of the 30 students in my son’s class have told me they will also keep their children at home as a precaution."

Nhi and many other parents are trying to adjust to what is shaping up to be another school term headlined by the pandemic.

Many are anxious about the safety of their children but also the academic loss.

Though the Ministry of Health has not announced the exact number of infected school students across the country, it did say that many have contracted Covid-19 after returning to school.

As of February 23, at many Hanoi schools 40-50 percent of teachers and students were either infected or had been in close contact with patients. Over 800 students at Yen Hoa High School for instance are infected or had been in close contact with patients.

Dr Tang Chi Thuong, director of the HCMC Department of Health, said there were more than 7,500 Covid cases in schools last week, including nearly 6,800 students. The total number had been 600 the previous week.

Across the country, many other localities such as Vinh Phuc Province in the center and Hai Phong City in the north have seen an increase in the number of infections at schools.

As the count among students keeps climbing and uncertainty about safety in classrooms grows, many parents want schools to return to online classes.

Nguyen Trung Quan is one of them. The father of a 17-year-old at a high school in Hanoi’s Long Bien District would rather that his son remains at home and learns remotely, he also noted.

"This will give me peace of mind," he says, claiming that 30 of 52 students have been taking lessons online via Zoom due to Covid fears.

After Phan Vu My Linh’s daughters, aged 13 and 15, tested positive for Covid, their mother says "something broke inside me."

Despite her best efforts to keep them safe and constantly reminding them to comply with preventive measures, she could not protect them from getting infected.

"I just felt so defeated and utterly helpless," she says.

The woman in Hanoi’s Cau Giay District now fears her daughters will suffer from fatigue, sleep disorder, memory loss, and other post-Covid symptoms.

Meanwhile, parents of children aged under 12 are concerned, fearful of sending their children back to school because this age group is still not eligible for vaccines.

First graders wash hands at a school in HCMCs Go Vap District, February 14, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Manh Tung

First graders wash hands at a school in HCMC's Go Vap District, February 14, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Manh Tung

Making the best choices

While adults are divided about whether they should send their children to school amid the spike in the number of new infections, authorities in many places are considering whether to shut schools again amid the resurgence.

Hanoi, the country’s current Covid hotspot, has deferred reopening of grades one to six in central districts as the number of infections keeps rising. The city has recorded over 227,000 cases since the fourth wave began last April.

In HCMC over 200 schools reported infections last week. City officials have said they will consider school closure if more than 100 children contract Covid-19 in a day and have severe symptoms.

The education ministry has said around three million of the country's 17 million students remain at home, including 1.4 million kindergartners.

But experts say parents and children need to adapt to the new situation.

Tran Dac Phu, former director of the Ministry of Health’s department of preventive medicine, was quoted as saying by Tuoi Tre newspaper that if people want to send children to school based on the pandemic situation, it would be a long time before students return to school.

"Now since the number of cases in the community is very high, children are at risk even if they stay at home. If schools adopt strict prevention measures, I think they may have a lower risk than houses.

"When adapting and living with the pandemic, we should accept that there will also be infections in schools".

But many parents are not convinced by this argument and insist on keeping their children at home.

"I will send my son back to school when he is vaccinated. Keeping my son safe and healthy is now my top priority," Nhi says.

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