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Schools saliva testing to be expanded

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

Routine saliva testing for the coronavirus is to be expanded in the island’s public school system, according to Diallo Rabain, the education minister.

Mr Rabain said last night that a pilot school testing programme had found “two positive cases which may have gone undetected much longer if the testing did not occur".

He said the programme was launched during the week before the Easter break, with the goal of offering “proactive, regular screening testing within our schools, both public and private”.

The Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory reported that the two cases had been found out of 574 students and 142 staff members tested at seven schools.

Mr Rabain said the programme would be boosted to include “weekly, bi-weekly and monthly testing”.

Mr Rabain said that, under advice from the Chief Medical Officer, the students, parents, families, teachers, and staff told to quarantine at a string of schools, and who had completed their Day 14 test with negative results, could be released from quarantine.

The schools affected are Devonshire Preschool, Purvis Primary, Northlands Primary, Paget Primary, Dellwood Middle School, Whitney Institute, West Pembroke Primary and Elliot Primary.

Only those with an official letter from the Department of Health and a letter from the school are to be released from quarantine.

Mr Rabain added there had been a risk assessment for Lagoon Park Preschool, St David’s Preschool, St David’s Primary and Prospect Primary.

He said some linked to the schools had been told to quarantine after a confirmed Covid-19 exposure.

The Ministry of Health's Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (ESU) is also aware of a potential COVID-19 exposure at Francis Patton Primary School. The person confirmed with COVID-19 has been isolated. The ESU is contacting confirmed close contacts. These person(s) are being advised that they must quarantine (stay home from school and other activities) and get tested for COVID-19.

A full assessment will be completed, and additional communication will be provided, outlining further public health guidelines that must be followed, such as quarantine and testing.

Mr Rabain said those affected would get a letter from the health department and the schools.

At the Berkeley Institute, all students, teachers and staff were ordered to get testing – excluding those already in quarantine.

The tests were held at the school on Saturday.

Mr Rabain reminded the public to follow health guidelines and download the WeHealth Bermuda tracking app.

He added: “If you have not already, register to get vaccinated."

The Education Emergency Measures Committee is to meet again this week, and will give an update on the return of in-school learning.

Representatives on the EEMC include the Ministry of Education, the Department of Education, the Bermuda Union of Teachers, the Bermuda Public Services Union, the Bermuda Industrial Union, the Department of Health, the Department of Communications, a private schools representative and Members of the Legislature.

Information and public health guidelines for school are available at this link.

Any questions on Covid‐19 should be e-mailed to schoolsurv@gov.bm

All public health guidelines are listed at this link.