‘Completely out of control’ – teachers on quarantine rules and contact tracing

Schools and parents are struggling to keep up with new quarantine and contact tracing rules, with teachers saying the situation is ‘completely out of control’.

Since the entry into force of the new rules at the beginning of January, Malta Time received several complaints from parents and teachers who find it difficult to keep up with the changes, especially when there are positive cases in a class.

People who test positive for COVID-19 no longer receive a separate notice regarding their quarantine period, which is now based on the infected person’s vaccination status.

People now have to calculate their own quarantine period, which means they won’t be given a date when they can stop self-isolating by health authorities, as has been the case since the start of the pandemic.

Contacted about the situation, the head of the teachers’ union, Marco Bonnici, confirmed that the education sector was struggling to cope with change and that educators and parents had a “serious problem” on their hands. .

He called the situation “free for all”.

“You have people who should be in quarantine but sending their children to school saying they shouldn’t self-isolate. However, this is not the case.

“Schools act whenever they come across such cases, but they simply don’t have the means to prove a child’s quarantine status,” Bonnici said.

He said schools received different information on a daily basis, depending on who they spoke to when contacting health authorities.

“One day they’re telling us to quarantine a whole class, the next day it’s a few kids…it changes every day,” Bonnici said.

“The situation is completely out of control and it is not only educators who are struggling, but also parents and students,” he added.

The union leader said calls for health authorities to remedy the situation had fallen on deaf ears. There was no clear direction, he said, meaning “things are all over the place”.

The education sector is not the only one to have been negatively affected by the new rules.

This month, the Forum of Unions grouping and the nurses’ union, MUMN, wrote to Health Minister Chris Fearne, asking for clarification on the new COVID quarantine rules, in particular those affecting parents of young unborn children. vaccinated.

Business lobbyists have also stressed that they must have the right to ask workers for vaccination certificates to make the new rules enforceable.

A Department of Health spokesperson said the contact tracing guidelines are “evidence-based and depend on the symptomatology of the positive case, cumulative time spent with the positive case, distance maintained and wearing of the facial mask “.

“Contacts in a classroom are based on distance, mask wearing, exposure time and the number of positive cases in a room,” the ministry spokesperson said.

Vaccinated primary contacts who test negative on day seven can be released from quarantine, the spokesperson said.

“The purpose of mask use is to minimize the risk of transmission, but mask use is also factored into the assessment of close contacts,” she said.

“Schools should all follow the instructions of the COVID-19 response team (contact tracing team).

“School liaisons have been trained to carry out the assessment and who, on the advice of the public health contact tracing team, are communicating with the children’s parents regarding the quarantine.”

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