While the new school term begins with virtual classes on September 6, some students will be able to resume face-to-face classes from October 1. However, according to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, in-person classes will be available only to fully vaccinated children.
“If there is so significant change from that (the epidemiology) we will offer face to face classes to our children in Form 4, Form 5 and Form 6 in all our secondary schools. But that option is going to be offered to vaccinated children only,” he said during a COVID-19 press briefing hosted by the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday.
“Those children who are not vaccinated will get their education at this time by an alternative means which the Ministry of Education will outline shortly.”
Dr Rowley warned that “online lessons do not a substitute for education make” and said the government will be monitoring the situation very closely and “will take appropriate steps as required to ensure that the pandemic does not establish new policies to the detriment of parents and children.”
He reiterated his call for children to be fully vaccinated ahead and pointed out that children returning to the physical classroom needed to receive their second dose by September 14 to ensure full immunity. As of yesterday, only 25 per cent of children eligible for the vaccine had received a dose.
Even as plans continue for the reopening of schools, there was news yesterday of ten children at hospitals with COVID-19, with one in severe condition in an Intensive Care Unit.
The revelation came from Principal Medical Officer of Institutions Dr Maryam Abdool-Richards who said another was warded in a High Dependency Unit while the remaining eight are ward level patients. Due to patient confidentiality, she was unable to divulge further information.
Dr Abdool-Richards confirmed that samples from these young patients were sent to the University of the West Indies for genetic sequencing to determine the presence of the Delta variant.
“All children that are confirmed as positive and are in the hospitals do undergo genomic sequencing and is sent to the UWI lab, which of course, is working in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and the Trinidad Public Health laboratory. That’s a standard procedure,” she said,
The Delta variant has not yet been confirmed as circulating in the population as all the cases detected locally so far were in unvaccinated returning nationals in quarantine. However, health officials acknowledged that there is a possibility the variant is circulating undetected within the community.
On August 14, Dr Abdool-Richards revealed that three children were warded in the ICU with COVID-19. Speaking in the Parliament on Wednesday Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh also revealed there were eight children warded at hospital with COVID-19. It is unclear if these are all separate groups of patients or whether there is overlap.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram said of all the 668 COVID-19 related deaths that occurred since June 8, only three people were fully vaccinated. He said these people had “severe comorbidities” which led to the fatal outcome despite being vaccinated.
This means that 99.45 per cent of the COVID-19 fatalities were unvaccinated people, he said.
The Prime Minister said next on the list to resume operations will be places of worship but they will have to operate within the ambit of certain public health protocols. He said the epidemiology will be monitored and evaluated over the next week and once conditions are favourable church services would resume on September 6. However, he urged religious leaders to use this time to get their congregation vaccinated.
“You are the leader of a group of people somewhere in this country. I’m appealing to you to use that leadership in support of the science that told us and tells us if you are vaccinated you are safer and encourage your congregation, your devotees- to encourage them to get vaccinated as quickly as possible before you take up the opportunity of going back into your normal services,” he said.
There were seven additional COVID related deaths yesterday bringing the total number of deaths to 1274. There are currently 292 patients in the hospital and the Ministry of Health recorded 297 new cases in the last 24 hours. This total number of active cases now stands at 4701.