Go to school! - Education minister adamant all students must turn out despite dengue threat
As the new school term begins today amid a dengue fever outbreak, the mayor of Portmore in St Catherine, Leon Thomas, is calling for the postponement of the opening of schools in the Sunshine City for another three days to accommodate vector-control activities. He said failure to do so by the relevant authorities would be tantamount to putting the lives of students in jeopardy.
However, Education Minister Ruel Reid has dismissed the plea.
Reid told The Gleaner yesterday, "We are in touch with the health ministry, and they have not advised us of such a requirement. Dengue fever is a localised thing. It is the breeding of mosquitoes in people's homes and vases and so on. I hear the concern, but the experts have not advised us to take that course of action."
According to Mayor Thomas, based on information he has received from various communities, not enough attention was given to the over 70 basic, primary and high schools in Portmore, which should have been properly fumigated over the Christmas holidays.
"Currently, there are a lot of suspected dengue cases in Portmore. When those numbers are released, there is going to be a high number of dengue [cases] in Portmore. To prevent a spiral, we need to attack the school grounds. Playing fields must be properly cut and mosquito-breeding sites taken care of. The Spanish Town Public Health Department could not get into the schools over the holidays," Thomas told The Gleaner yesterday.
'TAKE THREE DAYS TO CORRECT THE PROBLEM'
The mayor recommended that all principals open up schools this morning for the sole purpose of allowing the health department to fumigate classrooms and compounds.
"All we need to do is inform the principals to turn up around 8 o'clock to allow the Public Health Department inside school compounds to assess the situation and fumigate classrooms. I appeal to the minister of education, as well as the health minister, to look into the matter and take three days to correct the problem," he urged.
"Based on the public-health report, where we have reported cases and there is a high index, those schools should be put out and fumigated. I am not calling for islandwide closure. It takes three days to fumigate and air out, taking into consideration students with asthma and so on. I know that the teachers have gone to schools and have made preparations by cleaning up the classrooms and getting them ready, but mosquitoes are still there."
Minister Reid was, however, adamant that all schools will be opened today and he called on students islandwide to report to classes, as scheduled.
Last week Thursday, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton announced that there were 123 reported cases of dengue - which includes suspected, presumed, and confirmed cases - in December 2018. The number exceeds the outbreak threshold of 96 cases.
Tufton also said that seven suspected dengue-related deaths have been reported since the start of the dengue season, with two of those cases confirmed.