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Covid-19: Pupils and staff at four schools quarantined

Kim Wilson, the health minister, who issued a statement tonight after it emerged that three schools and a pre-school will have partial quarantines after a coronavirus risk was identified (File photograph)

Children and staff at a total of three schools and a nursery have been told to quarantine out of an “abundance of caution” over the coronavirus, the Government said last night.

Primary two pupils and some teachers at St George’s Preparatory School were affected as well as the Creative Touch nursery in Pembroke.

Children in autism spectrum disorder classes and specialist teachers at Paget Primary were also ordered to quarantine.

The latest instructions for schools came after Saltus Grammar School Year 1 children were asked to stay at home for 14 days from last Friday.

Families of the pupils were also affected by the quarantine requirements.

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said that “two potential Covid-19 outbreaks concerning work places are actively being assessed and managed based on established protocols”.

She added: “Contact tracing is under way and public health guidance has been provided."

Ms Wilson said: “A lot of misinformation has been occupying social media all weekend concerning our school systems and recent cases.

“Two of the recent cases have close contacts with children in our school system.

“Principals and staff of the schools have been informed and instructions provided consistent with public health guidelines.”

The minister said that testing was to be arranged for people connected to the schools – as it was for Saltus.

She added: “Some 240 persons were tested over the weekend including students, parents, teachers.

“Students in the said classes, as well as their teachers are required to quarantine for 14 days.

“Siblings of these children who are unable to live separately from their sibling being quarantined are also asked to quarantine.

“This is only if they are unable to quarantine, albeit living in the same household.”

Ms Wilson said: “We are acting out of an abundance of caution.

“Please note that just because persons have been quarantined – this doesn't mean they are carrying the virus.

“The person may have had a potential exposure to someone currently being assessed. This is a very important distinction.

“We are actively assessing the close contacts for symptoms and awaiting test results.”

Ms Wilson said: “I have full confidence in our epidemiology and testing teams to evaluate the extent of any outbreak and ensure that it is contained.

“We are in control of the situation and are following a well laid out plan to combat any possible outbreak.”

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, added: “The Department of Health has contacted parents and advised that if the siblings of students in the classes … at St George’s Prep, Paget Primary or Creative Touch nursery cannot be kept separate from each other, then they too must quarantine.

“Each household situation is different – some siblings may need to quarantine, some may not need to quarantine and can attend school as normal.”

He said staff and parents at the affected schools were being kept informed by telephone calls, letters and Zoom meetings.

Mr Rabain added that specialist staff and students were asked to be tested for the coronavirus.

Classrooms will be deep-cleaned and inspected, while substitute staff will be hired to provide cover.

Mr Rabain highlighted that public schools will be open tomorrow when health and safety protocols will continue.

Gail Smith, the principal at St George’s Preparatory School, emphasised in a letter that there were no confirmed cases of Covid-19 at the school.

She told parents: “We have just received word from the office of the Chief Medical Officer that a student in P2 has been in close contact with someone with Covid-19.

“As an abundance of caution, the P2 class been quarantined … ”

Ms Smith said that six staff members were included in quarantine order.

She said: “The Department of Health has focused on the P2 class, as this class is most at risk.

“They have decided not to quarantine the wider school body, as we do not have a confirmed case of Covid-19 at our school.

“We will work closely with DoH as the testing results unfold.

“Parents who are concerned and would prefer to keep their children at home are, of course, entitled to do so.”

Josette Brimmer, who runs Creative Touch, said that it was closed for the next two weeks.

The Government confirmed two new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday – both residents with no history of travel.

Saltus Grammar lower primary pupils were told to quarantine last Friday after it was found that a Year 1 child was in contact with someone who had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Jeanne Bean, the director of primary education, yesterday clarified advice from the Department of Health in an e-mail.

She wrote: “Only if the Year One student and a primary caregiver can quarantine separately from other family members, then the other members of the household, including siblings, can attend work or school.

“If this is not the case, the quarantine applies to the entire household.”

It is understood a number of pop-up sites were offered for testing to take place.

But Ms Bean wrote: “Today's test results will be available tomorrow and please note that a negative result does not mean a return to school until the Department of Health has advised you may return.”

A Covid-19 Cabinet sub-committee meeting is expected to take place today to discuss next steps.

*To read the ministers’ statements in full, click on the links under “Related Media”.

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Published November 23, 2020 at 8:59 am (Updated November 23, 2020 at 10:32 am)

Covid-19: Pupils and staff at four schools quarantined

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