No social distancing at school – teacher
September 4, 2020

No social distancing at school – teacher

Social distancing is not one of the protocols that will be used to help stop the spread of COVID-19 when students resume face-to-face engagement on September 7, 2020.

This was made clear by a teacher at one of the nation’s leading primary schools on Thursday as she met with parents to discuss the reopening of schools.

“Look at the space in here,” she said while pointing around the classroom, “social distancing is not possible.”

The teacher was at the time updating parents on the protocols put in place by the Ministry of Education for the re-opening of schools.

The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend keeping at least a one-metre distance from others as a general measure that everyone should take even if they are well with no known exposure to COVID-19.

The nation’s classrooms, which sometimes hold as many as 30 students, do not provide enough space for physical or social distancing to take place. The fact that some schools have upwards of 800 students makes enforcement of such a protocol particularly problematic.

Other protocols put in place by the Ministry of Health may also be problematic, one parent pointed out.

Students are being asked to carry two masks, one of which is expected to be worn from home to school and the second to be worn from school to home. The first mask is expected to be placed in a bag or container when it is removed for classes.

Students will have temperature checks done before going onto the school compound after which they will be asked to wash or sanitize (with approved sanitizer) their hands. Masks will be removed when students settle into their seats for classes.

Also, any student leaving the compound for any reason will be asked to repeat the process before re-entry.

Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Simone Keizer-Beache told SEARCHLIGHT on Thursday that the home and the school compound represent a bubble and protecting the integrity of that bubble is important.

She said that based on where we are now, we can protect that bubble. As at September 2, this country had only four active cases of COVID-19, all of which were imported.

The CMO also stated that if students feel comfortable wearing a mask in the classroom, they may.

One parent said the issue is that while students are being asked to wear a mask when using public transport, this cannot be enforced.

Keizer-Beache is however pleading with persons to follow the mask wearing protocol while in public. She said the authorities are depending on moral suasion and unless the wearing of masks is made law, persons cannot be forced to do so.

“Please wear the mask, this is going to affect everybody if we have any issues,” the CMO stressed.

Students that register high temperatures for whatever reason will be placed in the school’s sickbay. Alternative isolation areas will also be used if the sick bay becomes full. Students will also be tested for COVID-19 where health officials see fit.

One parent who has done a COVID-19 test and describes it as “very uncomfortable” questioned how would health officials go about attempting to swab a kindergarten student or any student for that matter, using the current method.

“I see it problematic the way this test is done. This is going to create some issues,” one parent told another.

The CMO however said that all schools have arrangements with district clinics or health officials and students will only be tested after proper assessment.

She said that nasal swabs are not done for children under the age of five years and once children are to be tested, there are certain ways to restrain that child with consent from a parent.

“It (a COVID-19 test) can be done differently, but then you can get a false negative,” Keizer-Beache noted.

The CMO is also encouraging businesses and individuals who are not adhering to the COVID-19 protocols to get on board.

“It is almost as if success is our greatest enemy,” she said while noting that strict adherence to the protocols despite the absence of community spread is important as a pandemic has a phase two, three and four.

She said that if the protocols are ignored, the risk of transmission is increased when the other phases strike.