Ministry of Education command centre fully operational |16 June 2021
The Ministry of Education on Monday held a press conference in which it detailed the roles and functions of the command centre established at the ministry’s headquarters, to handle issues and take action to mitigate the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic in schools.
The centre, which was established in April, is operational daily, and responds and reacts to calls from educational institutions ranging from day-care centres up to tertiary level, both public and private, when positive cases are confirmed or the institution is faced with suspected cases of Covid-19 infection.
According to the director for Health and Safety, Regina Prosper, when a call is placed to the command centre, the centre liaises with the Ministry of Health, gets the school to fill out all relevant documentation essential to the contact-tracing and decision-making process, and a decision taken and communicated to all parties involved, including students, parents and the school. A weekly round-up of the data is conducted and communicated to the Ministry of Health, for further contact-tracing and public health follow-ups.
“From May 31 when the term started up until June 11, last Friday, we have recorded 42 staff in quarantine, and as for students in quarantine, we have 272. This encapsulates day-cares up to tertiary and both private and public. Some schools have more cases, and we have observed that at primary level, it is mostly between crèche up to P3. For the moment, at secondary and post-secondary institutions, we have cases, but it remains lower than primary level. Last term it was mostly among adult students,” Ms Prosper noted.
With regard to why only certain classes are closed in schools with positive cases, Ms Prosper stated that the ministry if striving to keep schools open and functional as many families are affected by school closures, coupled with the fact that students are losing out on too much while at home. In making the decision, the ministry along with the Ministry of Health factor in the risk-level, public health protocols, among other considerations.
“To date, we have closed some schools as you are aware, and decisions made not only in consideration of the number of cases among students, but we also need to consider whether there is adequate staff, how many are in quarantine either because they are a contact or have tested positive. We need to consider the management of the school, and whether there are enough people to run the school,” Ms Prosper added.
Although there are protocols and guidelines to which all schools are adhering, there are variations for Praslin and La Digue where schools remain closed on account of the high number of cases on both islands. The ministry also reviewed screening protocols recently, and are urging schools to be more vigilant, and not only enforce screening at entry point, but to also observe and be on the lookout for symptoms.
Health promotion coordinator Brigitte Labonte noted that the cases detected recently within schools have shown visible symptoms including runny nose and cough, and urges parents to keep sick children at home, to notify the school if persons in the student’s immediate household test positive, and to also keep children at home pending Covid-19 test results. As the ministry is encouraging parents to conduct home screening, flyers and a checklist are to be disseminated as of this week, Mrs Labonte added.
Mrs Labonte also encourages parents to get in touch with their child’s respective schools for guidance with regard to quarantine procedures and the student’s return to school in the event that a pupil has been in isolation or quarantined.
In line with public health measures, students testing positive or who are close contacts of persons who have tested positive, are required to remain under quarantine for either 10 days if they are not displaying any symptoms, and at least 14 days if they have symptoms.
Dr Pugazhendi remarked that most children can return to school after 14 days, as children usually recover faster from Covid-19 than adults and are not generally infectious after 14 days.
“For schools, we are discussing a system whereby some schools will operate at full capacity while others will have to operate with half capacity, meaning half the kids attend school one week and the other half the following week. And then we have schools that will have to close, based on the number of cases. We are still finalising the criteria but it will be based on how much transmission is in that community, the number of cases in schools. Based on this, different schools will operate differently,” Dr Pugazhendhi noted.
Additionally, Dr Pugazhendhi stated that the ministry and schools are working together to facilitate testing for groups of students or staff, at the Music Stadium facility in Victoria.
Through schools and the ministry, students and parents can also benefit from psychological support offered through school counsellors and agencies including the National Council for Children (NCC), among others.
Presently, the Grand Anse Mahé primary school, Plaisance primary and the Les Mamelles creche remain closed, while the Perseverance primary school was also closed for a few days over last week.
Members of the public are advised to contact the command centre on 2811159 for further information and guidance.
The centre is also welcoming donations of personal protective equipment and hygiene products for dissemination to schools.