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PM: Government still looking to reopen schools this month

Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis said yesterday that the government is still aiming to reopen schools this month, despite a recent explosion in COVID-19 cases.

Schools were slated to open for hybrid learning today but Minister of Health and Wellness Dr. Michael Darville announced last month that it will be postponed for at least two weeks.

Yesterday, when asked about the likelihood of schools reopening, amid the rise in cases and hospitalizations related to the virus, Davis said, “We are still aiming to have the schools open within two weeks or as quickly as possible. Now, I’d like to speak to the children of our nation.

“I know that you are anxious to be with your friends, to learn with your friends and to interact with your friends and that’s the means of learning — by being among people that you are comfortable with. I’m promising [you] that we’ll get you back in the classrooms as quickly as possible.”

As of January 9, The Bahamas confirmed 28,968 COVID-19 cases.

More than 3,600 new cases were confirmed in the first nine days of the new year. Health officials believe this increase in cases is linked to the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

During that same period, hospitalizations jumped from 36 to 110.

The recent surge in cases is The Bahamas’ worst so far but not as deadly as the one experienced between August and October 2021.

The prime minister said while Omicron is rampant, it does not have the consequences of previous variants like Delta, which paralyzed The Bahamas’ healthcare system with critical hospitalizations and COVID-related deaths over the summer. 

“We are watching that and we are analyzing it now,” Davis said when asked if it is safe to send children to school for hybrid learning.

“The medical team is analyzing the consequences of it. We do note though that we have yet to have vaccines for children and we are working assiduously to have it in.

“We also note that vaccines are not available for children under five years of age, which will impact our preschools, and we intend to at least try to have very soon vaccines for children in the country.

“The virus is an uncertain beast. Today may be safe. Tomorrow might not be. We may be safe the next day but unsafe the following day. So, we have to watch and continually assess our position on a daily basis. There might be an explosion now. It might plateau. It might drop precipitously but we have to watch it.”

Davis said there are ways of opening the schools safely and wisely.

He said the government is waiting for advice from health officials who are assessing the country’s current health situation.

Despite a recent spike in COVID-19 cases on some Family Islands, the prime minister gave no guarantee that the government will introduce tougher restrictions for inter-island travel to reduce the spread of the virus from island to island.

“Part of our challenge is we’re an archipelago and the virus is appearing in each community at different scales,” Davis said when asked about the matter.

“So, depending on which island you’re coming from and going to will dictate what necessary measures need to be put in place. So, it is very difficult to answer that question with any degree of certainty. All we can say is that measures that were put in place for inter-island travel will depend on the risks involved from one island to the next.”

Both private and public schools country-wide are not permitted to conduct in-person lessons, according to the Ministry of Education.

The policy does not apply to daycare facilities.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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