At least 27 students of classes 9 and 10 in two schools have tested positive for coronavirus in Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh.
While the schools were to reopen only on November 2, the students were reportedly attending classes informally with parents' consent. The guidelines issued by the central government last week for the fifth phase of unlocking India's economy allow states and Union Territories to reopen schools from October 15.
State education department officials have said that it is possible the children contracted the virus elsewhere. However, district collector M Hari Jawaharlal has now instructed the schools to not reopen on Monday without permission.
The students were all said to be asymptomatic and come from different villages. The administration has now intensified health check-ups in the area.
G Vijaya Lakshmi, a local Education Officer, said 108 people, including students and teachers, were tested for the virus form one village alone. "Of them, 18 students, including nine boys and nine girls, tested positive. We have been following all precautions," Ms Lakshmi said.
Nine students tested positive in another school, of which six have been provided institutional care.
NDTV had last week reported about 14 children who had attended a common tutorial class in Guntur district testing positive for the disease.
This also comes in the wake of a major epidemiological study that showed children aged below 14 being frequent "silent spreaders" of the virus.
Andhra Pradesh health minister Alla Kali Krishna Srinivas has said the parents of the Vizianagaram students, too, would be tested, besides other primary and secondary contacts. Medical kits would be provided to students in home isolation and efforts would be intensified to create awareness about using masks and sanitisers, he said.
The district has recorded close to 36,000 cases, of which over 33,000 have recovered till now. Around 220 COVID-19 deaths, too, have been reported from Vizianagaram.
In all, Andhra Pradesh has recorded over 5,900 deaths and nearly 7.2 lakh cases till now.