Schools are to close at the end of this week for Easter as part of the Government’s response to the growing covid-19 outbreak.
Deputy Medical Officer of Health, Dr Ivan Muscat, confirmed that schools will close from Monday as part of a media briefing giving the scientific advice behind public health attempts to slow the spread of the virus.
Dr Muscat said that schools will be closing on 23 March – extending the Easter break by two weeks – to reduce the spread of the infection.
It follows a second Emergency Council meeting yesterday.
Pictured: There was a second Emergency Council meeting yesterday.
The senior health official today said: “We are bringing forward the closure of schools in relation to the Easter break.”
Dr Muscat said that timing the closure with the “natural break” in the school year will make the measure “easier to implement”.
He confirmed that “the initial period of closure will be to the end of the Easter break,” – which normally sees students return to school on 20 April – but that during the closure, they will be “reassess[ing] where we are in relation to what’s going on in Jersey… [and] in the mainland and the UK.”
Dr Muscat added that any “travel restrictions” that have potentially been put in place will also factor into “whether it would be safe to reopen” schools. The Medical Officer for Health also promised that parents would be advised in good time about whether the Government intends to extend the closure beyond the normal break.
Elaborating on the rationale for closing schools, Dr Muscat said that "children are super-spreaders of all respiratory infections" including covid-19.
The conference focused on the statistical modelling the Government is using to inform its advice regarding the virus. This is a way of looking at data which gives an indication of how different measures – closing schools, home isolation, quarantine and social distancing – will impact the “worst case scenario."
It’s suggested that, if no preventative measures were taken, 50% of islanders would be infected by the virus and 4% of them would require hospital treatment.
Comparing these figures to the capacity of Jersey’s hospital, Dr Muscat said that it’s “abundantly clear that during the peak as described by the worst-case scenario… the demand will be way over capacity, so we need to do something about that.”
Pictured: Dr Muscat explained that without any preventative measures, Jersey's hospital would struggle to cope with the numbers of patients.
Dr Muscat then explained how the different preventative measures will change the infection rate.
He said that “the most effective single measure is social distancing”, but he highlighted the fact that a combination of measures will bring the infection rate down more significantly than just one measure on its own.
Commenting on the move to close schools, Minister for Education, Senator Tracey Vallois, said: “The decision to close schools has not been taken lightly. This will clearly have consequences for students, their families and the wider community hence our considerations around targeted support and advice. This is a proactive health protection measure, taken in the best interest of the public and wider island community to assist in the effort to contain the threat of Covid-19.
“I appreciate this is an extremely challenging time for everyone. However, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of reinforcing the messaging around health advice from the Government of Jersey, including regular hand washing, and to read the new advice for parents and carers, when available. Abiding by these measures will save lives.”
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