Health Minister Chris Fearne has come out against calls to close schools, arguing that the government would rather impose other measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 before taking such a drastic decision.
Fearne said that safeguarding education is the government’s second priority after safeguarding public health during a Newsbook interview today.
“It’s hard for children to make up for the education they’ve lost in their early years,” he said. “Losing two weeks isn’t much but we already lost a lost of time last scholastic year and we shouldn’t lose more this year too.”
“If the evidence tells us we need to introduce more measures, it won’t be schools that close but other things that are lower down the priority list.”
“Commerce, the economy, social life, feasts and culture are all important but I’d rather keep schools open than, for example, go to a bar. If we need to introduce measures next week, it won’t be to close schools but other things.”
“If we do end up closing schools, it will only be after realising the situation has remained bad despite the introduction of measures that we’d have introduced. Closing schools for a few days doesn’t make any sense.”
He said the health authorities are analysing whether the recent spike in COVID-19 cases was due to more people congregating with each other over the Christmas and New Year period. If that’s the case, Fearne said, then the numbers will soon drop by themselves without the government having to introduce new measures.
Yesterday evening, the Malta Union of Teachers announced a two-day teacher strike after Prime Minister Robert Abela refused to move schools online. MUT President Marco Bonnici said the health authorities have advised the education authorities not to reopen schools, but Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci distanced herself from this suggestion.
MCAST, all Church schools and a number of independent schools have gone online until the end of the week.
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