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West End added to schools under quarantine

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, talks about school classes under quarantine (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Two more coronavirus cases have been identified and, separately, children from a fourth school were told to quarantine, it emerged yesterday.

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said that the Primary 5 class of West End Primary was asked to stay at home as a precaution from Tuesday.

Pupils and teachers from Saltus Grammar School Year 1, St George’s Prep P2 and an autism spectrum disorder class at Paget Primary were told earlier to quarantine.

Creative Touch nursery, in Pembroke, was also affected by restrictions.

Of the two new cases, one was a visitor who arrived in Bermuda from Atlanta on Monday and tested positive, having presented a negative pre-departure test.

The second case was transmitted on the island through a known contact and was linked to a cluster already identified at a workplace.

Mr Rabain, who focused in his briefing on the affected public schools, said quarantine requirements were made “out of an abundance of caution”.

He added: “Despite these actions, I would like to stress there have not been any students testing positive for Covid-19 to date.”

David Burt, the Premier, said on Tuesday there had been no private-school students infected, either.

All of the affected schools are understood to have a student or staff member who is a close contact of a confirmed positive case.

The education minister said that as a “cautionary step” students and teachers “who spent the most significant time … indoors” with those close contacts had been required by the Ministry of Health to quarantine for 14 days, along with their families.

The Royal Gazette asked the Ministry of Health if the same quarantine requirements were imposed on the colleagues of individuals who were close contacts of confirmed positive cases – and whether colleagues’ families also had to quarantine.

A spokeswoman said: “There is no difference between schools and workplaces.

“There are many factors that go into consideration when determining who should quarantine, but one is if the close contact of the confirmed case is symptomatic or not.

“If the close contact of the confirmed case is symptomatic, then there are additional quarantine/public health measures that must be put in place.”

She added that the action taken by the ministry in response to a positive case also depended on the public health measures which had been taken in a school or workplace.

The two new cases were among 560 test results that came back to the Ministry of Health on Tuesday, taking the total number of active cases to 26 with none in hospital.

Mr Rabain said that, because testing was confidential, he could not say how many children and teachers had been tested.

He added that any school that receives a positive case will be named and that parents, teachers and other schools will be notified before the general public.

Mr Rabain said the establishment of an Education Emergency Measures Committee – proposed during a meeting last month between the education ministry and the Bermuda Union of Teachers – was in its final stages.

He explained: “The purpose of the EEMC would be to provide support and direction to schools for mitigating, preparing for, responding to and recovering from any Covid-19-related emergency in the public-school system."

Mr Rabain said the committee’s set-up would be similar to that of the Emergency Measures Organisation and include representatives from the Ministry of Education, the departments of education, health and communications, as well as unions.

He insisted: “Students, teachers, parents and the broader community must understand that every care is being taken to safeguard our children and community from further Covid infections or community spread.”

Mr Rabain outlined steps being taken in schools including ongoing entry screening and the provision of cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment.

The minister added that “learning packets” would be put together if any classes or year levels in primary schools or middle schools have to move to remote learning.

He said: “The department will within 48 hours provide, based on current resources, laptops for up to four classes to use while students are quarantining.

“The laptops will be delivered to students during the two-day transition from the classroom to remote learning.”

The health ministry said the seven-day average of the island’s real-time reproduction number was estimated at 1.08.

A spokeswoman added: “Bermuda’s country status is ʽclusters of cases’ as there are linked cases – clusters – with no direct link to imported cases or travel.

“Investigations are ongoing.”

She added that by yesterday there were ten cases associated with the known workplace cluster – seven from the workplace, including one under investigation, and three household contacts.

The spokeswoman said that although there was “one clearly defined workplace cluster”, other linked cases involved one that was under investigation and a close contact who was a work colleague.

She explained: “The investigation determined that the nature of the close contact between these cases was social and not in the workplace setting.

“However, as with response protocols, the workplace continues to be assessed with employees quarantined and tested.

“To date, there are no additional cases associated with this cluster.”

Bermuda has had 241 total confirmed coronavirus cases and 206 people have recovered.

Nine people with Covid-19 have died.

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said: "Given the increase in local cases, infection prevention and control is incredibly important.

“No matter where you work or which industry you work in, the risk of spreading infections in the workplace is ever-present.

“It’s important that everyone knows the risks, how to stay safe and keep themselves and everyone around them healthy.

“This is why I am encouraging all employees and management to complete the Ministry of Health's infection control and prevention online training, which covers the fundamentals of infection prevention and control for Covid-19 and similar-type diseases.”

CG Insurance said yesterday that its Reid Street office would be closed until the end of the week after an employee was in contact with a confirmed case.

The company’s Jardine House office was expected to reopen on Monday after the move, which was taken out of “an abundance of caution”.

Staff will help customers with claims, policy renewals and answer any questions by telephone, e-mail and through an online insurance portal.

A Bermuda Hospitals Board spokeswoman confirmed last night that one of the coronavirus cases reported by the Government yesterday was a BHB employee.

The staff member worked in the same “non-clinical department” as six others who tested positive earlier and were announced by the organisation on Tuesday.

The spokeswoman added: “The individual was already on quarantine and takes the total of BHB staff to seven.”

Michael Richmond, the BHB chief executive officer, said: “Our employee health services and infection prevention and control teams are working hard with the Department of Health to ensure we adhere to the proven process of investigation and contact tracing, as our priority remains the safety of staff and patients.

“Patient care services are continuing with the usual Covid-19 precautions at this time.”

Infection control and prevention training can be found atgov.bm/infection-prevention-and-control-training.

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Published November 26, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated November 26, 2020 at 12:01 am)

West End added to schools under quarantine

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