Students in St. Vincent and the Grenadines will be expected to wear a mask from the time they leave their homes until they get to school, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says.
However, the students will not be required to wear a mask at school, as their homes and schools will be treated as “bubbles” amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
School were originally scheduled to reopen on Monday, Aug. 31, but that has been postponed until Sept. 7.
“We are asking the parents to make sure that the children have masks that when they are in public transportation, put on the mask. In fact, when they leave your house, put on the mask. Put on your mask inside of the buses. If you’re traveling in a car, keep your mask on, too, because other persons in there. When you come out from the buses, from public transport going to the school, you wear your mask,” the prime minister said on his weekly show on NBC Radio.
“Inside of the school you don’t wear masks. Your home is a bubble. The school itself is a bubble. When you’re going in you have your temperature being checked. You have it checked periodically. You have the sanitising done on an on-going basis,” the prime minister said.
He further stated:
“You’re not going to expect the children to wear the masks all day in school. So you have to treat that there as a bubble. Because if you’re in your home in a bubble, when you come out in the transport you put on your mask, when you come out your yard and when you’re walking on the road and during the lunchtime and all the rest of it when you leave school, that’s not the bubble. The home is the bubble. The school is the bubble. From bubble to bubble, but in between those two bubbles, that’s just the concept — highly recommended that you wear the mask.”
The prime minister said he knows there are some people who say that teachers should not be checking students’ temperature.
President of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union, Oswald Robinson are among those who have expressed concerns about teachers performing this function, saying that teachers are not health care professionals.
“Listen, a thermometer — you don’t have to have any special training. We have been going to events and persons who are not nurses take your temperature. It doesn’t expose you to anything.
“You put on your mask, you take your temperature on you or me or anybody else who’s coming inside of the building. It’s easy.”
Some persons had asked that nurses be assigned to school to check students’ temperatures.
“Those who ask that we must have nurses at the schools, you have 61 primary schools and 27 secondary schools. We have pre-schools. We have different divisions of the Community College. Are we going to hire 100 extra nurses to take temperature when it is a function which can easily be performed by anybody who can just read that number, put it towards your forehead? I’ve had it done to me. So, in all of these things which we do, we have to do what is reasonable in all the circumstances.”
Gonsalves said there are “pages of guidance” put out by the Ministry of Health and which have been circulated to the principals and worked out with the Ministry of Education.
“And I expect that all the documentation, the actual protocols and the guidance notes would have been seen by the teachers. I think they have them up online, too, or they would know the essence of what these protocols are.
“We’re not legislating mandatory that you must wear the mask but it is highly recommended that you wear the mask in public transport. We want minibus operators to help us with that. The children will protect themselves and they will protect others.”
The prime minister congratulated the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Simone Keizer-Beache, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Roger Duncan, and the professionals in the Ministry of Education for the way they have “gone about this with the principals and senior teachers and the like”.
“I want to commend them and I want to congratulate them. So I expect things to be fine there. I know that you’re going to encounter a hiccup here or there. Let us not make perfection the enemy of the good.
“And let’s take whatever little hiccup there may be here and there, let us take it in our stride and solve them practically and don’t make a ceremony out of what would be something which is easily solvable. I’m just urging all of that,” Gonsalves said.