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Parents criticise insistence on back to school lab antigen tests

Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education (File photograph)

Parents yesterday appealed to Government to trust them to carry out at home antigen tests on children instead of a lab test before they returned to school.

A spokeswoman for pressure group Us For Them Bermuda, a group of parents opposed to many of the Covid-19 regulations for schools, said the certified test requirement caused an “unnecessary delay as well as a logistical burden on the parents”.

She added: ‘"When at home tests are readily available, it would be nice if parents were given the option to test this way and record the result with the ministry or relevant school.“

The spokeswoman said that an insistence on a certified test suggested that “officials do not trust the parents to act responsibly”.

She added: "Us For Them Bermuda also believes all testing should be voluntary and guided by the principle of informed consent, rather than coercion."

She was speaking after Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, told parents that the Emergency Measures Committee had decided pupils will would need a certified clear antigen test to return to the classroom after the half-term break.

Ms Richards wrote in a letter to parents: “The Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory has provided a testing schedule which can accommodate all students – however this means there will be a staggered return to in-person learning for some schools.”

She added that preschools and primary schools, as well as the Success Academy in Pembroke, were scheduled to test at Bermuda College on February 18, 19 or 20 for a return to classroom teaching on February 21.

Middle schools and the Dame Marjorie Bean Hope Academy in Pembroke will test on February 21. Remote learning will be carried out that day with a return to the classroom the next day.

Senior schools will have remote learning on February 21 and tests on February 22, with a February 23 return of children to their classrooms.

Ms Richards said schoolchildren would have to stick to a set test schedule and that no bookings would be available.

But one mother of two public schools children, who asked not to be named, said she there should be no asymptomatic testing for pupils.

She added: “I’m frustrated with what has been going on with the education for these kids.

“I don’t feel like they need to be tested at all if they are asymptomatic – it makes them feel unclean and that they need to prove they are clean in order to get an education, which is a fundamental human right.

"We have seen from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention that the tests are not 100 per cent reliable.“

The mother asked: “If the children are not coughing and sneezing, how are they spreading a virus that is spread through droplets in the air?

“We have been told we have a two-hour window in the middle of the day on a Sunday so we can get a test done in front of someone, a test that we could do at home in 15 minutes.

“We are getting ten-minute slots – you turn up within that 10 minutes but you are still in a line for 30 minutes.”

She said: “Many of us that use public schools, it is because of necessity and they are holding us hostage – it is coercion at its worst. I reached out the principal of the school, the Minister of Education and the Minister of Health and have received nothing in response.”

Another mother, who also asked not to be identified, said the schedule was a problem, especially as she had no transport.

She added: "I'm a parent of two and the testing schedule provided is never accommodating. I have to arrange two separate days to take them.

“It's out of the way as I do not have transportation. Relying on public transportation is a mess. It's at cost to me if I use a taxi.“

The mother asked: “Why can't we just use the antigen test provided? Why must we be tested at a facility with other schools and possibly come into contact with people?”

The Ministry of Education did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

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Published February 11, 2022 at 7:58 am (Updated February 11, 2022 at 7:38 am)

Parents criticise insistence on back to school lab antigen tests

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