Schoolchildren use hand sanitizer and have their temperatures checked before entering their classrooms in New Delhi on November 1. (Money Sharma/AFP via Getty Images)

A delegation of parents led a petition with more than 1,600 signatures asking the government to open schools in New Delhi, which were closed for more than 600 days during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Schools first closed in the National Capital Territory on March 1, 2020 due to the pandemic. Many were allowed to reopen on November 1, 2021, but were closed again just 16 days later due to high pollution levels.

As schools began to reopen in November and early December, India’s third wave forced them to close again.

On Wednesday, the delegation met Delhi’s deputy chief minister, Manish Sisodia, who then issued a statement calling on the government to allow schools to open.

“We closed schools when it was unsafe for children, but being overly cautious is now hurting our children. A generation of children will be left behind if we don’t open our schools now,” Sisodia said in a tweet on Wednesday.

The deputy chief minister’s office said in the statement that the New Delhi government would recommend the reopening of schools to the New Delhi Disaster Management Authority at a meeting on Thursday.

“Our children have no voice, they have no vote, and unlike spa or restaurant lobbies that have been pushing for reopening, someone has to speak on behalf of our children,” Dharini Mathur, one of the parents demanding the reopening of schools, told CNN.

New Delhi reported 7,498 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, down from more than 20,000 cases reported earlier this month, according to local health reports.

Overall, India has reported more than 286,000 cases in the past day – up from a record high of more than 533,000 cases on January 14 – and 573 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.