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Three primary schools quarantined in Covid-19 scare

Purvis Primary School (File photograph)

Teachers and pupils at three primary schools were ordered into quarantine at the weekend after potential Covid-19 exposures were identified.

West Pembroke Primary School staff and pupils were told by health officials last night that an exposure had been confirmed.

The pupils and teachers in Primary 6 classes will have to quarantine until April 1.

They must take coronavirus tests and be retested after Day 14.

A spokeswoman for the health ministry said saliva testing would be carried out on all pupils and staff at the school tomorrow.

Parents of children at Purvis Primary in Warwick were told also told last night by the Chief Medical Officer that said “all students, staff and teachers” must stay at home.

A notice sent to parents of pupils at Northlands Primary School in Pembroke last Saturday said pupils should quarantine at once and that classes would continue through Google Classroom.

Diallo Rabain, the health minister, added: “We will update stakeholders and the community once we receive additional information from the Department of Health.”

The letter sent to Purvis parents said: “This means that your child or you as a teacher must stay home and away from other activities from today, March 21 … until and including March 30.

“This also includes not attending birthday parties, extracurricular activities, social engagements, other places of employment, public places, public transport, grocery stores … non-essential visitors must not enter the home.

“For children, the child’s main caregivers and close contact within the home, who cannot separate from the child – separate bedroom and bathroom, no common spaces – must also remain at home.”

Staff and pupils were also told that they must be tested for Covid-19 and retested on or after March 30.

The letter added that a special clinic would be organised at Bull’s Head car park in Hamilton between 1pm and 4pm tomorrow, with Purvis teachers and pupils given priority.

Parents were warned last Friday about a potential Covid-19 exposure at Purvis Primary and drive-through testing was held at the school the next day.

Pupils and staff at Northlands Primary in Pembroke were tested last Friday.

Potential exposures were also earlier reported at Dellwood Middle School in Pembroke, the Whitney Institute Middle School in Smith’s, Paget Primary and Devonshire Preschool.

Testing at the Whitney Institute and Paget Primary last week found no new cases.

The quarantine news came after the education minister signalled at the weekend that public schools could move back to remote learning if coronavirus cases continued to increase.

Diallo Rabain said on Saturday: "The decision to move to remote learning is not to be made lightly as the massive disruption to students' learning, and their parents' livelihood, must be considered.“

But he warned: “Although this decision is not to be made lightly, we are prepared to make the decision if the Department of Health deems it necessary for the safety of our country."

Mr Rabain added it was “essential to provide confidence to the public that the Covid-19 regulations in schools were ”working as designed“.

He highlighted the fast testing of pupils and staffs at the at risk schools.

But he said: "We are pleased to report that Whitney Institute was tested on Thursday and Paget Primary was tested on Friday, with all results returning negative.“

Mr Rabain added that many people had asked about the possibility of a return to home-based virtual education, which was used last December.

He said: “Unfortunately, in December, due to so many schools in quarantine, there was not enough staff to open schools.”

But he added that “refined” Covid-19 procedures and the new saliva test regime, used to check entire schools, had “proven to be very effective and shows that the bubble protocols, when adhered to, are effective”.

Mr Rabain said: “Additionally, we can quickly isolate a class or classes and still have a school operate while those bubbles are quarantined and learning by remote."

The Ministry of Health’s Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (ESU) is aware of Covid-19 exposure at West Pembroke Primary School and the person(s) confirmed with COVID-19 have been isolated.

Based on the risk assessment conducted by the ESU, all students and associated teachers in P6 classes must quarantine until April . They must get Covid-19 tested and re-tested again on or after Day 14.

For those who live in a home with a quarantined individual, and are unable to separate from the individual (separate bedroom and bathroom, no common spaces), they must also quarantine.

Saliva Testing has been arranged for the entire school on Tuesday, March 23 and the Principal has been in contact with all stakeholders with testing instructions.

Mr Rabain added: “The Department of Health is still engaged in assessing this situation.

“We ask everyone who has children, family, or friends associated with the school system to use caution and strictly adhere to the Government’s safety measures to help us contain this latest community outbreak and reduce the transmission of Covid-19. We must all work together – wear your mask correctly; wash your hands regularly, and maintain physical distance.

“Additionally, as directed by the Department of Health, out of an extreme abundance of caution, the students and staff at Purvis Primary and Northlands Primary have been placed on quarantine.”

Mr Rabain said: “We will update stakeholders and the community once we receive additional information from the Department of Health.”

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Published March 22, 2021 at 8:52 am (Updated March 22, 2021 at 8:52 am)

Three primary schools quarantined in Covid-19 scare

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