Education department spells out Covid-19 protocol as two more KZN schools temporarily close

10 June 2020 - 13:21 By Zimasa Matiwane
Basic education minister Angie Motshekga. Her department has issued an update on the protocol concerning the temporary closure of schools in cases of Covid-19 infections.
Basic education minister Angie Motshekga. Her department has issued an update on the protocol concerning the temporary closure of schools in cases of Covid-19 infections.
Image: GCIS/Kopano Tlape

Schools are not required to close, institute restrictions or send home pupils and staff who have been in contact with a suspected Covid-19 case until it is confirmed positive.

This is according to guidelines provided by the department of basic education.

It is only when pupils have been exposed to a confirmed case of Covid-19 that they may not attend school, while fellow pupils who are not contacts of a confirmed case should continue attending school. 

“Pupils who have interacted with a healthy contact of a confirmed case, specifically, should not be excluded from school, as a person who comes into contact with the healthy contact of a confirmed case is unlikely to result in transmission.

“The relevant public health officials will discuss the case, identify people who have been in contact with the patient, and advise on any action or precautions that should be taken,” said the document.

However, when a pupil shows symptoms, immediate isolation is mandatory, guardians should be notified and medical help sought. 

For teachers who work closely with an infected employee, they are required to self-quarantine for 14 days and schools must report cases of Covid-19 and states of health of those who are in quarantine to the department of public service & administration.

“Infected staff are required to take leave and thorough cleaning and disinfection of their workspace must be conducted. They are allowed back to school only on the condition that they have undergone a medical evaluation confirming that they  have tested negative for Covid-19,” the guidelines state. 

As schools opened on Monday, Covid-19 positive cases reached 50,879, while more than 1,160 people have now died from Covid-19 related illness in SA.

A notice to parents of Savannah Park Secondary school pupils on Tuesday informing them that the school had temporarily suspended lessons after a teacher tested positive for Covid-19.
A notice to parents of Savannah Park Secondary school pupils on Tuesday informing them that the school had temporarily suspended lessons after a teacher tested positive for Covid-19.
Image: Supplied

On Tuesday two Durban high schools were forced to close after a teacher at each school tested positive for Covid-19. On Wednesday,  Deccan Road Primary School in Pietermaritzburg and Savannah Park Secondary in Chatsworth both suspended lessons after a teacher tested positive at each school.

While the department conceded that temporarily closing a school is a possible strategy to prevent or slow the continued spread of the virus, schools closure guidelines indicate that closure should be considered only after recommendations from the accountable public health official.

“School administrators are not expected to make decisions about dismissals or closure of schools and must follow the departmental procedures, guidance from local health officials to determine if, when, and for how long to take these steps. 

‘During school dismissals, schools may stay open for staff members (unless they are ill) while pupils stay home.”

According to the department, keeping facilities open will allow teachers to develop and deliver lessons and have access to teaching resources and materials remotely, thus maintaining continuity of teaching and learning.

KwaZulu-Natal department of education spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa said: “We confirm that some schools have had to close temporarily due to medical emergency relating to Covid-19 and will follow protocol as outlined by the department of health.

“Cases relating to Covid-19 are dealt with at the level of health workers. They are qualified to lead us in that regard. We are guided by their regulations and we have full confidence in the work that they are doing as far as mitigating circumstances are concerned.”


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