REOPENING OF SCHOOLS WAS NECESSARY, SAYS CMO DR. HAZEL LAWS

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Basseterre, St. Kitts, September 11, 2020 (SKNIS): Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Hazel Laws said on Wednesday (September 09), that reopening school was a necessary step as the right to education, as outlined in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, must be protected.

Friday, September 11, 2020, marks the end of the first week of school in St. Kitts and Nevis as students, faculty, staff and parents continue to adapt to the new rules brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schools were closed in late March, and educational instruction shifted online following the introduction of lockdown measures to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Dr. Laws noted that the prolonged closure of educational facilities negatively impacts children’s and youth’s physical, emotional and mental health and learning.

“It is critical for us to balance the risk of direct infection and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in children, youth, school staff and the community with the harms of school closure,” the Chief Medical Officer stated at this week’s National Emergency Operations Centre COVID-19 Briefing. “Given the significant adverse health and social implications of school closure, school closure should be a last resort intervention going forward. So, in the future, we really should employ all other possible interventions, and school closure should be our last resort.”

Protocols have been instituted to protect the health and safety of students, teachers and school staff. Dr. Laws described their well-being as “top priority.”

These include screening to prevent symptomatic individuals from entering schools; practicing proper hand hygiene, promoting social distancing, wearing non-medical and medical face masks for children; cohorting; and environmental cleaning. Additional measures such as adequate ventilation, mitigation of risk for students at higher risk; special consideration for children and youth with medical, physical, developmental and/or behavioural complexities, and mental health awareness support for all children are also covered in the protocols.

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