With various schools in the Langeberg temporarily closed after Covid-19 was identified, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has released some statistics on the situation in the Western Cape.
Gazette reported that many schools in the area have closed after learners or staff had contracted the coronavirus. In all, 557 teaching staff and administrative personnel at schools in the Western Cape had tested positive for Covid-19, as had 134 learners.
learnt of a few cases at local schools, such as a learner testing positive at a school in Robertson.
Gazette contacted the school for comment, but at time of going to print no enquiries were answered.
Enquiries were also sent to the WCED, which confirmed the identity of the school and privacy of the learner should be protected, so it couldn’t confirm any specific cases.
Some parents chose rather to keep their children from going to school, for parents have the option to do so, to safeguard their families from the pandemic.
Kerry Mauchline, MEC for Education Debbie Schäfer’s spokesperson, told Gazette a case reported by a school does not necessarily mean the infection was acquired at a school.
“As community levels of infection rise, we must expect cases reported in schools to rise,” she said. “Whenever a confirmed case of Covid-19 is reported at a school, a detailed protocol must be followed. A confirmed case does not necessarily require a school to be closed. In each case a number of factors will be considered in making the decision.”
Firstly, the areas where the staff member or learner has physically been present need to be disinfected. For example, if a staff member has only been in one or two rooms, it is possible for schooling to continue by cordoning off and sanitising those rooms.
On the other hand, if the staff member has been all over the school, more areas will need to be sanitised, which may require a temporary closure.
Secondly, the date that the staff member or learner was last present at the school is important. The Department of Health points out that the virus does not survive on surfaces for more than 72 hours. If a staff member was last present at a school more than a week before, sanitising a surface is not required.
Finally, the number of direct contacts must also be considered. A clear distinction must clearly be made between direct (close) contact and casual contact. Direct contact involves being very close to someone physically, or giving a hug or a handshake.
It is important that people keep direct contact to a minimum, as required by physical distancing protocols. Only the direct contacts of a confirmed case need to isolate for up to 14 days from the date of their last contact.
Just being in the same room as a confirmed case, when maintaining the 1,5 m physical distancing requirement, is considered casual contact. Casual contacts do not need to isolate, but should be monitored for any symptoms of Covid-19.
If only a handful of staff members at a school need to isolate, it would not be necessary to close a school. If a large number of staff members are required to isolate this may impact on the ability of a school to continue teaching and supervision.
If this happens, permission must be granted by the head of department to close the school.
So the circumstances of each positive case will determine whether the school needs to close. It is not an automatic decision; it also requires permission from the head of department.
“We have asked principals to ensure that they communicate clearly to their staff and parents of learners if there is a case in the school, the procedures going forward and what has been done to ensure safety.
Where there are multiple cases at schools, the Department closely monitors the situation to see if the health protocols are being correctly implemented,” she added.
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