COVD19: ‘Test to stay’ units grounded as staff infected

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The Health Ministry’s ‘test to stay’ school testing policy came under criticism on Monday when a number of testing stations did not operate, as units found themselves understaffed at the last minute due to a large number of team members having been infected with COVID-19.

The ministry came under criticism as it had sent a last-minute memo informing parents that a number of stations would not be able to serve students wanting to get tested in order to be allowed back in school.

A ministry announcement said that the children were redirected to other testing points in a timely manner.

It apologised to students and parents for the inconvenience and said that efforts were underway to provide more Covid-19 testing units throughout the schools’ network.

However, parents reported that chaos ensued at some test-to-stay units as nobody turned up to operate them, while other locations were severely understaffed.

“We were waiting there since 7 o clock, only to be told at 7.40 that the station would not be operating,” one parent told the Financial Mirror, echoing similar complaints posted on social media.

Some parents were reportedly rushing to find other available units, with students turning up late for school or simply going home.

The incident comes as the health ministry is set to discuss and evaluate the programme with parents and teacher unions on Monday afternoon.

The test-to-stay policy, to avoid quarantine, has been introduced at schools to keep students reported as close contacts in their classrooms by testing them daily.

Currently, students reported to be close contacts have to get tested in the morning before class for six days.

This applies to all children reported as close contacts, with unvaccinated children having the option to self-isolate instead of getting tested.

A ministry official was quoted in the media as saying that 5,103 students reported to be close contacts of known cases were tested before going to their classrooms, with authorities identifying 74 new cases.