Beefing up of COVID-19 protocols at schools will include the doubling of contact tracers and an end to the abuse of open certificates, the president of the Malta Union of Teachers has confirmed.
When it agreed to end a teachers’ strike last week, the MUT managed to win a number of conditions for its members, which its president Marco Bonnici explained in an interview with Lovin Malta on Monday.
“The number of people who take care of protocols and contact tracing will be doubled, which is essential,” he said. “One of the major problems faced by schools was that while certain COVID-19 cases were found straight away because contact tracing was fast, others weren’t keeping up.”
Bonnici said the government also agreed to update the union every Friday with the latest data on the pandemic situation at schools and to address a problem whereby students with allergies could present the same open certificates all year to explain their symptoms.
“This meant that if, God forbid, a student got sick with COVID-19 or some other illness, they could use the same certificate and attend school. We wanted transparency, with certificates certifying the actual condition. Open certificates were leading to abuse and they have now been addressed.”
Health authorities also assured the MUT that children will no longer be allowed to present medical certificates that are provided to them by health centres in template form but signed by their parents, rather than doctors.
The government also reiterated its promise to vaccinate teachers and school staff against COVID-19 in the third cohort of vaccine recipients. Although this was announced by Health Minister Chris Fearne last December, Bonnici argued that the authorities stopped mentioning this fact since then and the MUT managed to re-prioritise them.
Bonnici said the union will monitor the state of play at schools on a day-by-day basis and pledged not to hold back from ordering more action if that’s what the situation requires.
However, he warned that the MUT won’t accept a situation where all businesses are forced to close down but schools told to remain open.
“I want to see scientific evidence that backs up the statement that schools should be the last to close and the first to reopen. Some countries opened schools on that premise but ended up closing them the next day. I want to see evidence that schools are special, and if we end up in a situation similar to March, neither my members or I will accept a situation where the country is locked down but schools are open.”