Superintendent of Public Health Prof. Charmaine Gauci has confirmed that the health authorities aren’t automatically quarantining entire classrooms whenever a COVID-19 case is found but are conducting a risk assessment based on numerous factors.
Prof. Gauci told Lovin Malta that this risk assessment takes into consideration whether the positive case is an adult or a child, with studies so far showing children are less likely to transmit the virus.
The risk assessment also takes into account the age of the children in the classroom, whether they were wearing masks or not, whether the positive person had symptoms, and the duration and proximity of contact between children during their time in classroom, break and elsewhere.
Schools have reopened this month despite a rise in COVID-19 cases, with the government warning it cannot afford to delay the educational progress of children any longer.
Education Minister Owen Bonnici confirmed on Net Live today that 26 state school educators and two children have tested positive for the coronavirus over the past week.
The Union of Professional Educators has lambasted the quarantine measures as being “ridiculously inefficient” and has called for schools to return to a fully online learning system.
“Quarantine measures in schools are no more than a ridiculous mimicry of what should be done,” UPE executive head Graham Sansone said.
“If a child tests positive, only those children sitting in close proximity to the child are put in quarantine.”
“It seems that schools now have the ability to switch off the virus during breaks, where mixing and mingling within bubbles, while children are not wearing masks, cannot ensure that they are having a socially distanced chat with the same children they were forced to sit next to in class.”
“And what to say about the current inefficiency of contact tracing itself. Week-long waits until a swab is done and results are issued at a much slower rate than usual. This inevitably means that out there people have unknowingly contracted the virus and, possibly being asymptomatic, are spreading the virus like wild fire.”
Meanwhile, the Malta Union of Teachers said it has requested an urgent meeting with the Education Ministry and the health authorities to discuss the contact tracing procedures being implemented in schools.