The Union of Professional Educators – Voice of the Workers has been following the reports received from various sources of alleged cases, which then at a later stage, once revealed to the public, have been confirmed. The union is far from satisfied with the management of these reported, alleged and confirmed cases, both from the schools and the health authorities.
The fact that there have been attempts at covering up information, which on an island as small as ours is bound to leak, is a practice the UPE finds deplorable. Furthermore, the management of these cases, and the quarantine measures being taken, are ridiculously insufficient.
For one, in one particular school, Handaq Secondary, the Head of school informed the staff that it is only after 2 hours of exposure with an infected colleague that they would qualify for quarantine. This reproachable attitude can, in no way, be acceptable especially when the health authorities themselves stated, time and time again, that 15 to 20 minutes of exposure could be sufficient to transmit the virus. To add insult to injury, they were also told that anyone choosing to be conscientious enough to self-isolate after not having been contacted by Contact Tracing despite prolonged exposure to a COVID-19 positive case, would have leave deducted from their sick leave.
Quarantine measures in schools too are no more than a ridiculous mimicry of what should be done. 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.
In view of all of the above, the Union of Professional Educators can only recommend that our Independent schools, Church schools and State schools, to close their doors to students and go online now, before the odd cases among our educator and student population become clusters, and the clusters begin to yield fatalities. Now is the time to take a stand and stop that which might prove to be irreversible.