Govt ups COVID-19 tests in schools

Minister Cain Mathema


GOVERNMENT says it has intensified measures to contain the recent outbreak of COVID-19 in schools around the country by ensuring daily testing of all learners and teachers.

In a statement yesterday, Primary and Secondary Education minister Cain Mathema said as winter was close by, it was incumbent upon each school head to ensure standard operating procedures against COVID-19 are implemented at school, and all flue-like illnesses are screened.

The statement came soon after reports at the weekend that at least 120 learners at St David’s Bonda High School in Manicaland province had tested positive to the coronavirus, leading to the postponement of the children’s party to celebrate Zimbabwe’s 41st independence aniversary.

“The ministry, hereby requests the enhanced contribution of responsible authorities, teachers, learners, school development committees, parents or guardians, members of communities around schools and all stakeholders towards prevention of the spread of COVID-19,” the statement read.

“As the 2021 winter season is approaching, the success of the preventive measures against the spread of COVID-19 among learners depends heavily on the leadership of each school head as well as the co-operation among teachers, learners, their parents or guardians and communities at large,” Mathema said.

Other schools that registered COVID-19 cases include Embakwe High School in Plumtree in Matabeleland South province, where 91 people including students and teachers tested positive to the virus.

A fortnight ago, two schools in Matabeleland South province also reported 106 cases of COVID-19, reigniting fears that schools were becoming super spreaders of the highly infectious respiratory disease.

Sacred Heart Girls High School in Esigodini was closed last Thursday after 51 pupils tested positive to COVID-19.

The Health ministry also reported that 55 pupils at Umzingwane High School tested positive to the virus on the same day.

According to the situational report released by the ministry, Umzingwane High School cases were part of the 68 new cases recorded countrywide two weeks ago.

Late last month, seven pupils at Prince Edward High School in Harare tested positive to COVID-19 after undergoing PCR tests at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals.

Mathema said government would increase surveillance to ensure adherence to World Health Organisation guidelines at learning facilities.

“Within the context of the national COVID-19 response, the Primary and Secondary Education ministry, in collaboration with the Health and Child Care ministry, have put in place a systematic disease surveillance procedure which requires daily screening of all learners and staff during the school term.

“This surveillance and monitoring system has been a success as many cases of COVID-19, that would otherwise go undetected, have been identified and managed through the school system. Our schools have become a necessary barometer for detection and management of COVID-19 nationwide,” he said.

Mathema said headmasters should guard against complacency at schools and ensure students wear clean masks and exercise regular handwashing and social distancing.

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