After consulting with the Ministry of Health and other key stakeholders for some time, the Honorable Minister of Education Diallo Rabain, JP, MP announced changes to the quarantine policy for schools today (March 1), which are to come into effect immediately.
Vaccinated staff and/or students who test positive for the Coronavirus must now quarantine for seven days and administer a lateral flow test daily.
This contrasts with unvaccinated persons, who must quarantine for ten days should they test positive.
Close contacts of vaccinated cases do not need to quarantine but should monitor any symptoms and test daily for seven days by using lateral flow tests and upload their results to a form that can be easily accessible to system leaders.
Close contacts who had contracted the Coronavirus within the last three months do not need to quarantine unless a new variant of the virus is suspected.
Close contacts of unvaccinated cases who participate in the weekly saliva screening program must take a PCR test, but can return to class if the results are negative. They must also test daily with LFTs for seven days. Any close contacts of unvaccinated cases who are not participating in the weekly saliva screening program must simply quarantine for ten days.
Casual contacts of positive cases, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, do not need to restrict their movements, but should follow health guidelines outlined at gov.bm/coronavirus and should call their doctor and self-isolate should they develop any symptoms of the virus.
“ I thank all of the principals and key stakeholders [within Bermuda’s public schools] for their submissions and ideas, as they were all very useful,” Minister Rabain said. “ Again, I would like to thank everyone for their patience as we [at the Ministry] work to strike the right balance between living with the pandemic and keeping our schools safe.”
A spokesperson for the “Us for Them” social media group issued a response to the new policies and began by calling it “ overly complex, discriminatory and coercive.”
“ Rather than a pragmatic policy on how to live with an endemic and prioritize children being in classrooms, this policy seems aimed at meeting other goals, for example, to manipulate more parents into agreeing to ongoing, twice weekly testing of their children,” the statement read. “ We strongly believe that all testing [within Bermuda’s public school system] should be voluntary.”
According to the statement, if neither a vaccinated nor unvaccinated student has tested positive for the virus, there is no legitimate medical reason to treat them differently. Despite this, the Ministry still plans to automatically place unvaccinated students who do not participate in on-site testing twice a week, into quarantine.
“ A test to stay policy is welcome to avoid full class quarantines, which UFTB believes the government has overly relied on to date, but test to stay should not discriminate in this way,” the statement read. “ All children who test negative should be allowed to return to class. Having regularly taken other tests up to this point in time, does not make that child more or less of a risk to others.”
The organization also questions why students who had previously contracted COVID-19 can avoid quarantine only if they had contracted it within a three-month time frame. However, this policy does not apply to vaccinated students.
“ As we learn to live with the virus in Bermuda, Us for Them Bermuda would ultimately like to see a move away from the continuous testing of asymptomatic children,” the statement concluded.
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