Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has explained his decision to reopen daycare centres, less than 24 hours after he told the public it was still too risky to do so.
Last Saturday, during a virtual press conference, he said the ministry was concerned about young children and toddlers who are unvaccinated, adding, “The risk is still too high at this point in time, to both the children and their parents.”
But on Sunday, the ministry said in a release that from March 7 daycare centres would be allowed to open. It also said form one-six secondary school and standard five primary school students would return to physical classes.
After considering the implications of the full return to work of the public sector, Deyalsingh told the media during a Ministry of Heath press conference on Wednesday, reopening daycare centres was necessary to assist working parents.
Responding to a question from Newsday on the reason behind his sudden change of heart, he said, "We look at these measures all the time and we had no problem in revisiting the idea, weighing in the risk and benefit of getting people back out to work. That was the reason why we revisited the idea between Saturday and Sunday to accommodate mainly public servants, and also teachers to some extent, and all those who come back out to work.
"It is a risk that we are taking, but we revisited the issue...because we got lots of calls and messages. It was brought to the Cabinet – I don't take decisions without Cabinet approval – and that is how it found itself into the regulations and we were able to make the announcement on Sunday."
"We constantly say you can’t cocoon the population much longer, but in taking this risk, the personal responsibility component of this is going to become crucial.”
Deyalsingh reminded parents there are no vaccines available for children five-11 yet and asked them to be careful.
"Any family that is dropping off their young children, it is incumbent upon that family (for) any persons in that family 12 and over to be vaccinated, so that you give some level of protection to your unvaccinated kids.
"If your child is displaying any flu-like symptoms, do not take that child to a daycare. Keep the child at home. Daycares now have an added responsibility to ensure that they are not accepting children...with any kind of flu-like symptoms or fevers.”
Asked why the same risk was not considered for primary and Early Childhood Care and Education pupils, who are at home, he said decision-making has to change as the pandemic evolves.
“A lot of the responsibility now has been shifted from government, government action, lockdowns to personal responsibility to either get vaccinated or follow the public health regulation.”
In December, the Ministry of Education announced ECCE and standards one-four students will return to the physical classroom in April (term three).