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Government told to fund testing of learners

by Staff reporter
13 Apr 2021 at 18:21hrs | Views
THE Women's Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCOZ) has urged the government to fund the testing of students and staff in public, boarding and community schools for Covid-19 to curb the continued spread of the virus.

This comes as school heads have also urged stakeholders to double efforts in ensuring adherence to safety guidelines, after two institutions in Matabeleland South and Prince Edward High School recently reported over 100 combined cases of Covid-19.

WCOZ yesterday raised concern over government's reluctance to prioritise schools in the Covid-19 vaccination programme.

"We commend the actions of the schools to test and trace pupils to support infection control efforts. We decry the lack of testing in public schools and in rural communities. It is grossly inappropriate for the public surveillance system to rely on the pockets of parents who are financially stretched to track and trace Covid-19.

"We call for direct efforts to fund the testing of students and staff in public, boarding and in community schools to stem the potential super spreader potential of infections in schools. We continue to remind the government that vaccination is not a substitute for infection control," WCOZ said.

Following the recently recorded infections in schools, the government had to deploy teams from the Primary and Secondary Education and Health ministries to carry out investigations.

"As the ministry we are doing everything possible to ensure prevention of the spread of Covid-19 in schools. We have been to the schools that recorded Covid-19 cases and managed to test and vaccinated those whose results came out negative. We are not saying we have rolled-out a programme, but this is actually an on-going process and we embrace the calls being made," Education ministry communications and advocacy director Taungana Ndoro said.

However, WCOZ said it hoped the surveillance systems would be as robust as the one employed in Matabeleland South.

"We note that this province (Matabeleland South) similarly traced outbreaks to pre-December 2020 with similar vigilance. We urge the other provinces to exercise the highest levels of vigilance and protect learners and learning institutions from wide- spread outbreaks of Covid-19," the organisation said.

National Association of Secondary School Heads (Nash) president Arthur Maphosa on the other hand, said that while just a handful of schools out of over 8 000 countrywide had recorded cases so far, the education sector still remained at risk.

"Where there has been an outbreak, it is not out of hand yet but it also means that if pupils were infected before we opened, it is now beginning to show and we must be on guard. It would be expected to have one or two schools getting affected during this period of Covid-19, but be that as it may, life is very important and it cannot be substituted.

"What it therefore means is that what we need as schools is to double our efforts in terms of following the guidelines given under the standard operation procedures religiously. That way we can be in a position to combat the virus. As Nash we therefore ask the government to ensure that we test everyone and ensure vaccines get to as many people as possible," Maphosa said.

He said there was need to educate people to understand the importance of the vaccine and improve the supply of adequate personal protective equipment to poor schools.

On the other hand, Bulawayo-based medical expert Solwayo Ngwenya warned that schools could be super spreaders by nature because they bring many people together at one place.

"We have always said that such gatherings in a pandemic period are not good at all.

"That is why this should never be surprising because once you open schools you have opened super-spreading gatherings. School children are not going to be very meticulous in adhering to safety guidelines because once they are together they tend to mix as family yet they came from different directions.

"This means that one student can infect almost the whole school when they meet at lunch or break. I have been called an alarmist but what I say is meant to keep us vigilant and to never drop our guard," Ngwenya told the Daily News.    

Zimbabwe had 37 288 confirmed cases as of April 11, including 34 873 recoveries and 1 538 deaths, while a total 194 594 people have so far been vaccinated.

Source - dailynews

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