HEALTH and education authorities are emphasising that the severity of COVID-19 cases among students is in keeping with global trends and that while some schools have opted to return to remote learning for some students, cases generally are not resulting in hospitalisation and death.
Education Minister Fayval Williams advised on Wednesday that for the first week in May, there were 22 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among students, while seven teachers tested positive, and one independent school reported a positive case. In the week of May 9, there were reports of 617 suspected cases among students and teachers, with 446 of suspected cases among students, who turned up 136 positive tests for COVID-19, while 105 out of 160 suspected cases among teachers, tested positive. Independent schools reported four positives out of 11 suspected cases.
Williams said some schools have returned to remote learning for some students due to COVID cases among students, and teachers. These include Wolmers’ Boys’, Calabar, Westwood, and Manchester High schools, and Kingston College. “We are working to ensure that exam students who test positive are still able to do their test and we will give our schools guidance as quickly as we can on that matter,” she advised.Five thousand COVID test kits were issued to the island’s close to 1,000 schools for the resumption of face-to-face classes. Williams advised that additional kits are to be distributed. The WHO Technical Advisory Group on safe schooling during the novel coronavirus pandemic recommended at its eighth meeting in January that systematic serial testing of children and staff for the early detection of pre-asymptomatic cases may be considered when there are clusters of pupils with confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The ministry also noted that included in the upwardly creeping COVID-19 hospitalisations are children.
Director of health services planning at the health ministry, Dr Naydene Williams, highlighted a slight uptick in those numbers between April 25 and May 15, with nine children in hospital.Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton also stressed the importance of students returning to physical classes, despite the associated risks. He said face-to-face classes “represent a vulnerable space” as the country undergoes a fifth wave of COVID-19 infection.“To keep our children out of school beyond the two years that they were out has had a debilitating effect that is far more intense than them being out of school environment even at the risk of contracting COVID. While we are having cases in the schools, we are not seeing cases that are severe to the point of hospitalisation or death, and that is the normal trend globally,” he stated.In the meantime, Chief Medical Officer Dr Jaquiline Bisasor McKenzie said the Government is still trying to procure vaccines formulated for children aged five to 11, and so far has positive indications from the United Kingdom and Spain. “We don’t have a specific time on when these would arrive in country so we are not able to update the country yet as to when we would start that vaccination, however we are in negotiations concerning these vaccines,” she said.