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Threshold of 80 per cent clear tests set for schools to return

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Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education (File photograph)

At least 80 per cent of pupils at every public school must consent to coronavirus saliva tests before classrooms can reopen, the Minister of Education announced yesterday.

Diallo Rabain added a minimum of 80 per cent of a school’s population had to have presented negative coronavirus tests before the school will be allowed to return to normal.

He said some schools had already passed the saliva screening test consent threshold and others were close.

Mr Rabain added that pre-return tests would start on Monday and it was hoped phased reopening of schools would start from October 11 at the latest.

Mr Rabain added: “Our plan to reopen has to consider the safety of all and is phased to consider schools that have reached important benchmarks first while we continue to work with the rest of our schools.

“We previously announced that the level of saliva screening consent is a critical factor at a school.

“It has been identified as a critical factor to ensure safety and health of students and staff.

Mr Rabain said the 80 per cent figure was picked because it was “considered as an effective layer of protection for students and staff”.

Mr Rabain appealed to parents who had not given consent for the children to sign up.

He said: “While we understand there is hesitancy around positive tests and quarantine measures, our human responsibility is not to put others at risk.”

He said: “Our intention is to begin with our most vulnerable students at Dame Marjorie Bean Hope Academy, our alternative programmes and other special schools and then move on to our preschools and so forth.”

Mr Rabain said that misinformation had spread about the saliva screening programme, which had contributed to reluctance to consent.

He told the public: “For those parents, guardians, and staff members who have not consented, we urge you to do so because, first and foremost, we must all be reminded that protecting our staff and students and community at large is all of our responsibility.

“The ongoing saliva screening process is critical because it enables us to identify asymptomatic individuals.

“It is universally acknowledged that identifying individuals at this stage is much more beneficial than identifying an individual after they become symptomatic.

Mr Rabain said several methods would be used to administer the PCR tests.

He added a mouth swab test was typically used for younger pupils and those with special needs.

Mr Rabain said the saliva collection method, where the subject spits into a tube, was “the least invasive method and can be used by most students and staff members”.

He added nasal swabs could be used “on any student or staff member, however to date we have not received any requests for students or staff to receive a nasal swab and therefore will be offering saliva collection unless someone specifically requests a nasal swab”.

Mr Rabain said the government had worked hard to find ways to get pupils back in their classrooms.

He appealed to employers to be supportive of staff who had school-aged children.

Mr Rabain asked: “Suppose your staff members are parents or guardians and are required to quarantine.

“In that case, we urge you to support them through this process so that they are not forced to decide between refusing to have their children tested and potentially having them infect others, and financially sustaining their household.”

All staff and pupils in the public schools system will have to have a clear test before they return.

Children who do not test will get work packets and continue to work from home until they provide a clear test.

Mr Rabain said that the use of antigen lateral tests was also being considered.

He asked parents to give consent for their children to be screened.

Mr Rabain said: “Empathy and human decency is required now, more than ever.”

He told parents: “While your child may be asymptomatic, and in your mind if they are not sick they do not need to be tested, I strongly urge you to recognise that asymptomatic positives are still a threat to others.

“You do not know who your child is interacting with in school that may become sick, or may also become asymptomatic and go home to infect a loved one who is immuno-compromised, struggling with medical conditions, unable to be vaccinated, and in turn your child is the root of negative, and even deadly, consequences for them.

To register for tests, parents and guardians should click the “saliva screening consent form” link at the top of the www.gov.bm webpage.

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Published October 02, 2021 at 7:49 am (Updated October 02, 2021 at 7:49 am)

Threshold of 80 per cent clear tests set for schools to return

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