Officials from the ministries of health and education are currently in discussions about transforming some schools back into isolation facilities as the island braces for a significant increase in the more transmissible Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus.
Dr Adanna Grandison, Consultant Manager of Home Quarantine and member of the isolation and home quarantine committee, said once that decision was made health officials would make the announcement “when it is necessary”.
“It is an active discussion that we are having at this point and I am very much sure that the Ministry of Health, if we should get to that point where we do have a very significantly increased numbers, will definitely come back and make the public aware of this decision,” said Grandison.
She said that all factors were being considered.
“Certainly, there are implications on both ends – yes, we want to keep the country safe and keep children safe, but we also have to weigh that very carefully and take into consideration the various stakeholders, because children also need to meet their developmental requirements and educational goals. So that is a discussion that is currently being held, and it is something that they are very sensitive and aware about,” she said.
Dr Grandison was responding to questions from the members of the media and the public during a special session on Friday hosted by COVID-19 Public Advisor David Ellis.
At the end of August last year, mere days before the start of the new school term, some schools, including the Darryl Jordan Secondary and the Blackman and Gollop Primary, were pressed into service as isolation centres due to a surge in COVID-19 infections.
Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw said then that more schools may have to be used as isolation facilities, while noting that it was not a first choice, but many of the schools had been upgraded and therefore “lend to” being considered as adequate facilities to host persons who may be sick.
Schools used as isolation facilities were handed back over to the Ministry Education late last year.
With the country now on course to experiencing another wave of the virus, and health officials predicting that the daily rates could reach between 1,200 and 3,500, they have been discussing the possibility of schools being used as isolation facilities.
The return to face-to-face learning, which was scheduled for next Monday, January 10, has been tentatively delayed until January 24, for a phased approach.