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Ministry of Health, Teachers’ Union say don’t hide COVID and revise learning plans

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Posted: Sunday, May 22, 2022. 8:34 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Belize is in the grips of another wave of COVID-19, mostly the Omicron BA.2 variant and some schools have seen clusters of infection.

With schools winding down the current year and looking ahead to the next and the return of full face-to-face learning, Director of Public Health and Wellness Dr Melissa Diaz-Musa has advised that schools must keep practicing the standard public health measures and review their learning plans if cases get out of hand.

From the teachers’ end, president of the Belize National Teachers’ Union Elena Smith emphasized the need for schools to not hide their cases. This comes after the allegation that a Belize City primary school had not informed parents of students and teachers that were reportedly infected.

“…we have students at our schools who are positive, we have teachers who have tested positive and nothing is being said at the schools. It’s like everything is a secret and we have to understand that it is important that the people you work with are aware so they can take the necessary precautions and so if I have a colleague who tested positive, I need to know because maybe we were having lunch together, maybe that person was in my class and we were doing work together, I have to know these things. Not because I need to know your business, but it’s important as a staff we are also aware we have teachers out because they get sick, they are positive, we want to be careful and test, things like that. If a teacher has students in her class who tested positive, they have to know because our students are back and even though they are wearing masks, they are still working in groups, they are now having lunch, they are out during break time, so things can happen,” Smith told reporters on during a briefing on Thursday.

She continued, “So, I am hoping and I am pleading to our schools if you have kids at your school, please don’t hide it, especially from the teachers, let them know. So with this new revelation that we have now detected this new variant and we see the cases spreading, we don’t know how quickly it will spread and hopefully we will be able to make it to the end of the school year before things get worse but if it is that cases start going up again, then we would have to do our part as a union and discuss with the ministry the best way forward because we have to protect our children and our teachers.”

Dr Diaz-Musa pointed out that 70 percent of the targeted population has already been vaccinated and that, since this is the fourth wave, there is a lot of natural immunity. Vaccination figures will get a further boost starting on Monday as children 5-11 years old are now eligible for the vaccine, which will be provided at schools on scheduled days as well as at the Western Regional Hospital, Belmopan.

For adults, though, the Pfizer vaccine currently in stock will expire at the end of May, but the single-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine will still be available, so it is recommended by the Ministry of Health for those taking their first shot.

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