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Minister: new lockdown 'extremely unlikely' but not out of the question

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Covid-19 spike: nine new cases of coronavirus were reported today, bringing the number of active cases to 37.
Diallo Rabain Minister of Education gives an update on schools affected by Covid 19 (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Kim Wilson Minister of Health gives an update on schools affected by Covid 19 (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Parents and pupils at an East End middle school were sent home yesterday hours after the Ministry of Education reopened the building.

The move came after the ministry announced late on Sunday that a non-teaching staff member at Clearwater Middle School in St David’s had tested positive for the coronavirus – but asked pupils and staff to attend as normal yesterday.

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said: “The school did open and there were 23 students and 15 staff present.

“After students and staff had been on site for over two hours, the Department of Health gave instructions for staff and students to exit the premises so that deep cleaning could take place.”

Mr Rabain added: “It’s unfortunate that there were some staff that did not report to work and it’s unfortunate that parents did not send their children.

“They have their particular reasons for doing such, but it was safe for them to return.”

Mr Rabain said the decision to shut the school was made after an assessment by the Department of Health.

He added the school will be closed until Wednesday at least and that the Department of Health would decide then if any further action is needed.

Mr Rabain said staff and students at Dellwood Middle School in Pembroke had been asked to quarantine and that pupils and staff would move to remote learning tomorrow.

He added pupils who did not have mobile devices would be sent non-digital learning packets and that the process for collection of the materials would be passed on to parents by the school’s principal.

Mr Rabain announced that pupils and teachers at St George’s Preparatory, West End Primary, as well as Paget Primary’s ASD class, returned to school yesterday.

He admitted there were “mixed emotions” among teachers and pupils about the Paget Primary decision.

Mr Rabain said: “The mixed emotions would be some anxiousness about returning to school.

“I know we had a couple of teachers who said ’wait a minute, we were asked to quarantine. Aren’t we supposed to be out for 14 days?’

“As we explained, that guidance comes from the Department of Health and once they do their assessments of the schools they are able to make their decisions.”

Mr Rabain appealed to pupils to stay home if they, or any other member of the household, had travelled until a clear day eight test was received.

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said procedures were in place where there was a potential coronavirus case linked to a school, but the individual circumstances of each case would be considered.

Ms Wilson said: “Contact tracing is like peeling back the layers of an onion – how deep we have to go depends on what we find as we peel back each layer.

“The Department of Health continues to follow a thorough, comprehensive, data-driven and scientific approach for contact tracing and making decisions around who is required to quarantine and who is not.”

Ms Wilson said measures would be implemented to curb the spread of the coronavirus on the island after a recent increase in cases.

But she added a new shelter in place order was “extremely unlikely”.

Ms Wilson said: “It would certainly be a last resort. In March and April when we instituted the shelter in place, we didn’t know as much as we know now.”

But she added that a shelter in place order was not out of the question if the public ignored the requirement to wear masks and keep a safe distance from others.

A total of nine new coronavirus cases were confirmed last weekend after 2,419 tests were carried out across the island, including 527 at Dellwood.

The increase in test numbers came after people flooded pop-up test sites over the weekend in the wake of a spike of on-island transmissions.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health said two of the nine cases came in from overseas.

Both were residents who returned to the island from New York on Saturday and tested positive on arrival.

Another five cases were classified as on-island transmissions from known sources – four from household contacts and one from workplace contact.

The remaining two cases are still under investigation as the patients had not travelled recently and had not had confirmed contact with identified cases or clusters.

A Covid-19 patient was in hospital yesterday and the other 36 cases were being monitored by public health officials.

The Ministry spokeswoman said: “The seven-day average of our real time reproduction number is greater than 1 – 1.38 – and Bermuda’s current country status is ’clusters of cases’.”

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Published December 01, 2020 at 9:14 am (Updated December 01, 2020 at 9:13 am)

Minister: new lockdown 'extremely unlikely' but not out of the question

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