TTUTA Tobago: Health Division's covid19 plan 'just a show'

TTUTA Tobago officer Bradon Roberts. File photo/David Reid
TTUTA Tobago officer Bradon Roberts. File photo/David Reid

TTUTA Tobago officer Bradon Roberts has described as “a show” the THA Division of Health, Wellness and Social Protection’s infectious disease covid19 management plan for schools.

The division released the plan on Tuesday after concerns about the rising number of covid19 cases among students and teachers. Copies of the plan were sent to schools across the island.

In it, the division said students who have flu-like symptoms must be isolated immediately and its health unit and their parent/guardian must be contacted.

It said students who are primary contacts of a household must inform the principal, to ensure self-quarantine directions are given.

The division said an isolation room must be identified, and sanitised after each sick person leaves. It added there must be safe distancing inside at all times.

A list of students with special needs or serious underlying conditions must be developed.

On entering school premises, the division said there must be at least two handwashing stations per school. Where there are multiple sinks in one ares, they must be six feet apart, it said.

Thermal scanning must be done before entry, and relevant records taken.

On Friday, Roberts said while the plan offers “proper literature” for managing the virus in schools, the measures outlined are not consistently followed in all schools.

“And if they are not being practised they are just really guidelines on a piece of paper,” he said.

“It is good that individuals will get policy direction, but if they are not being followed, what good are they?”

For example, Roberts said some schools do not have an isolation room or sick bay.

He said although health officials do not believe the country is out of the pandemic, “all systems appear to have been relaxed.

“So for the division to come out with this document now, it may be a good policy position, but none of what they have highlighted there is being practised.

“Doing this (policy) now is more of a show that there are things in place.

"But we don’t have things in place. There are no systems in place to really upkeep those things right now.”

Further guidelines:

In its management plan, the division said appropriate signage must be conspicuously displayed to indicate "No Mask, No Entry," "Wash Hands Before Entry" and "Thermal Scanning Before Entry."

It also recommended putting distance markers on the floors in common areas such as the canteen and library.

School assemblies should be held over the public address system, with students in classrooms, supervised by a form/class teacher.

It added students must maintain physical distancing at the end of classes. Protocols for this must be developed by the principals.

No promised updates on Tobago school covid19 numbers

Last week, the Division of Education, Research and Technology released a graph which showed 19 students and three teachers had contracted covid19 since the full reopening of schools on April 20.

Education house officer Dr Dane Joseph told Newsday the division had planned to issue daily updates, beginning from Monday. These have not materialised.

Contacted on Friday, Joseph said the system to provide the updates is not yet ready.

Last week, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said 288 covid19 cases were recorded among students and teaching staff across the country’s 243 schools between April 25 and 29.

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