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Minister laments number of families agreeing to testing

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The Ministry of Health had found cases of exposure to the coronavirus at a string of the island’s schools.

Diallo Rabain, the education minister, said exposures had been found at the Bermuda Institute, Saltus Grammar School, Warwick Academy, Mount Saint Agnes Academy, Bermuda High School, as well as Somersfield Academy.

Also affected were Dalton E. Tucker Primary, Dellwood Middle School, Francis Patton Primary, Purvis Primary, and Port Royal and Prospect Preschool.

Mr Rabain said people testing positive had isolated, and the epidemiology and surveillance unit contacted close contacts.

Contacts were advised to quarantine and given dates to get tested for Covid-19 again “on or after Day 10 or 14, depending on their vaccination status”.

Appointments are to be confirmed through the Ministry of Health's school surveillance team.

The tests must be nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal.

The announcement came as Mr Rabain warned that the number of families consenting to saliva testing of school pupils for the coronavirus had to be increased.

Mr Rabain said 65 per cent had agreed so far.

“We need this percentage to drastically increase so that we can identify early risks in schools, quickly isolate them, and minimise outbreaks,” he said.

“The saliva screening programme is an additional safety measure to keep our schools open while ensuring our staff and students’ safety.”

Mr Rabain thanked those who had consented as remote learning remains in place.

He said parents and guardians would be able to sign up online here.

Mr Rabain said returning to classrooms was best for children, but could only be done once it was safe.

He added: “Each school will be assessed individually, and the data that we are looking at includes the percentage of students consenting for the saliva screening programme, coronavirus testing results, and staffing availability.”

Four primary schools have exceeded 80 per cent of students consenting to regular testing.

Mr Rabain said they would be “the first primary schools scheduled for testing to enable the return to in-person learning”.

“Our last update advised that Covid-19 testing was arranged for staff and students of all government preschools, Dame Marjorie Bean Hope Academy, and Success Academy Robert's Avenue.

“The results of those tests have been received from the Molecular Diagnostics Lab and analysed.

“While the results were negative for all those who tested, unfortunately, only 33 per cent of students and 69 per cent of staff from these schools participated in the testing that was offered.

“The low level of participation, especially among students, requires us to have further discussions to determine the safest possible way to return these schools to in-person learning.”

Mr Rabain warned that without high enough testing levels, it would be difficult to gauge the safety of going back into schools.

The Department of Education and MDL are to arrange a testing schedule for other public schools, which will contact staff and parents with details.

“Until testing has been scheduled, we encourage staff, parents, guardians, and students to wait rather than visiting a public testing site.”

Updates can be found by following the ministry on Instagram and Twitter on @moed.bda, Facebook and YouTube under The Ministry of Education Bermuda.

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Published September 20, 2021 at 9:08 am (Updated September 20, 2021 at 9:08 am)

Minister laments number of families agreeing to testing

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