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Our children are being punished by these restrictions

Dear Sir,

Our children are our future and we must ensure they are getting a proper education, which is best done in school. We need our children to be in-person learning without the fear of a blanket 14-day quarantine.

Today I am writing to seek clarification on the definition of “close contact” — specifically as it relates to schoolchildren and why they are treated differently than adults in the workspace. I have sent my question to the Ministry of Health and have yet to receive an answer.

While indoors, children are required to wear masks all day. They are seated about six feet apart from their peers, sometimes with Plexiglas between their desks, and are required to use handwashing and sanitising stations multiple times a day. Their temperatures are checked upon arrival and they are isolated from peers outside their classroom.

Awaiting a response: Kim Wilson, the health minister (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

As a parent, I need to understand from the Ministry of Health why our children are considered close contacts outside the government definition outlined here: https://www.gov.bm/sites/default/files/11758_Close_Contact_Infographic_27_01_21.pdf

By the Government’s definition, close contact is:

• Direct physical contact with an infected person (hugged or kissed)

• More than 15 minutes of face-to-face contact within six feet

• Living in the same house or shared accommodation

• Sitting within two seats of an infected person on an aircraft

I believe we can agree that it is highly unlikely that our schoolchildren are hugging or kissing while at school, per the strict guidelines in place. Furthermore, they have masks on all day and are socially distanced from teachers and staff, which limits any face-to-face contact. Excluding siblings, they do not live in the same households or share accommodations. And, last I checked, field trips have been cancelled and do not usually involve travel by aircraft.

Yet, for schools, a “casual contact” equates to 14 days of quarantine where children are pulled from their classrooms, parents cannot go to work, siblings cannot go to school, and one cannot test out until 14 days after the quarantine begins.

On the contrary, in a workplace setting, if an employee tests positive, the employee contacts their close contacts and notifies their employer. As I understand it, businesses handle the situation as they deem necessary, specifically with “casual contacts” of the infected employee. When an individual tests positive, the Ministry of Health is not contacting and subjecting an entire floor or wing to a 14-day quarantine; only those deemed “close contacts” are then required to quarantine.

Why are our schools not handled the same way?

Why are schools not given the same respect?

Why are children being held to a different standard?

Why is their in-person education not prioritised?

Schools are operating within the limits set by the Department of Health, which are at a clear disadvantage to those being applied to business, companies, civil services, and just recently cruise ships.

Revisions must be made to the application of the “close contact” label regarding schoolchildren to keep our kids in school. After three school years of constant disruption, our children are suffering from being pulled out of school unnecessarily. The ages of which the fundamentals of teaching for reading and maths are taught are crucial; therefore, it is imperative that our children, in both private and public school, have in-person education.

As a parent and member of this community, I plead for clarity around the definition of “casual contact” for our children and ask that quarantine policies change. The mental, social and physical health of our children and their futures are riding on it. The existing policies do not work for children.

The children are our future. We need to put them first and redefine the quarantine guidelines to keep schools open!

KOURTNEY FASSLER

Hamilton Parish

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Published October 06, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated October 05, 2021 at 3:35 pm)

Our children are being punished by these restrictions

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