Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley confirmed that Form 5 and Form 6 students will return to school on Monday 8 February. Speaking at a press conference today, he said that the move was a ‘managed response of working with the virus’.
Acknowledging that students have been kept away from in-person schooling for almost a year, Rowley said that schools could be reopened because the country was doing well in the fight against Covid-19.
“There is significant risk still,” he said, “ but that risk remains manageable only because as a population, largely, we are doing what had to be done, and it has kept us relatively in a position we can do that.”
He cautioned that low case numbers and fatalities did not mean the government would move faster to lift any other restrictions.
“Some will say, ‘we’re doing well, so we can do more.’ That is not how we respond to this,” he said.
He added: “The reason we are in the position we’re in today to be able to say we’re doing reasonably well is because we have been doing certain things.” He warned that changing course would put the country in the position of countries not faring as well.
The students who will be returning to school will have to wear masks, be spaced out in school and won’t be allowed to congregate. The prime minister also said they should go from home to school and back again.
Speaking at the same press conference, Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said that teachers would be added to the list of essential workers that include the police, fire service and sanitation workers. This means that schoolteachers would also be to the front of the line when vaccinations begin.
Fifty thousand people are expected to receive shots from the first batch of vaccines, which is expected to arrive by the beginning of March.
In the meantime, the country should double-down on the health measures already in place. This according to Dr Christine Carington of the University of the West Indies, who also spoke at the conference.
“So the important thing is we need to keep the virus population down until we get these vaccines in … we need to be vigilant and keep up with all our non-pharmaceutical interventions.”
She said that because the Sars-Cov-2 virus was continuing to mutate, there were likely more variants in the population. The difference between those possible variants and variants discovered in the UK, South Africa and Brazil currently causing concern was that none had yet been shown to be either more transmissible or to suppress the body’s immune response.
The prime minister also used the press conference to address the Tobago House of Assembly election deadlock. He said that draft amendments would soon be introduced to Cabinet to give the authority to someone to call another election in a deadlocked situation and to increase the number of seats in Tobago from 12 to 15 to prevent future deadlocks.
He added that by law until elected assemblymen come to an agreement, the outgoing executive council remains in place.
The Ministry of Health today reported that another person has died of Covid-19. This latest death brings the country’s death toll to 135.
The health ministry also reported that eight people tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of positive cases detected since March 2020 to 7,586.
There are 247 confirmed active cases in T&T. In hospital, there are 30 patients with Covid-19 and one in a step-down facility. Three hundred and seven people are in state quarantine facilities, while 208 are in self-isolation at home.