Calls to close schools at least a week early have intensified after the number of covid cases in Jersey topped 500 today.
The current total is 516. 96 more people with the virus were identified today, 17 people in hospital are recorded as having the virus, and more than 3,600 people have been deemed 'direct contacts'.
Yesterday, 23 new cases were identified, making the weekend daily average of new cases 60.
The number of active cases in the Island is 516.— Government of Jersey (@GovJersey) December 6, 2020
319 cases are symptomatic and 197 cases are asymptomatic. 17 are in hospital (+1).
The latest figures come after the Contact Tracing Team suffered significant difficulties yesterday, with a technical issue resulting in some tests taking up to 48 hours to process.
The team are also working through a significant backlog due to the rapid rise in cases.
As a result, the Government advised anyone who believes they are a direct contact of someone with covid to expect a wait of 48 hours before hearing from the team, instead of the usual 23 hours.
“Islanders should continue to isolate during that time, and only call the helpline if you have a welfare issue or have symptoms. We will provide a further update when this 48 hour waiting time changes,” officials said.
Later this evening, officials assured that the technical issue had been resolved.
Meanwhile, some schools have had to tell year groups not to come into school due to staff shortages caused by teachers either testing positive for the virus or being deemed direct contacts.
The National Education Union representative Brendan Carolan made a call in Express on Friday for schools to shut early, calling the current situation "totally untenable."
However, the Education Minister issued a statement later that day saying that schools would remain open due to concerns for children’s wellbeing if they were to shut.
But that has done little to calm concerns, with a petition requesting that schools close a week early continuing to gain traction. It currently has more than 3,000 signatures, meaning the Education Minister will have to respond. If it gains 5,000, States Members will be asked to debate the proposal.
One Facebook account representing teachers' concerns throughout the covid crisis pointed out that anyone deemed to be a direct contact in the final week of term will have to isolate on Christmas Day.
Reform Jersey – whose leader is former Children’s Minister Senator Sam Mézec - have thrown their weight behind the idea.
Party members said in a statement this evening that, while they “understand the importance of protecting children’s access to education”, they wanted the Government to consider a “phased early close down in order to protect older students and lessen the pressures on teaching staff.”
“We fully understand the difficulty of closing primary schools, but it must be clearly demonstrated that children and staff in these schools are not at risk as infection rates rise. We note that external exams are scheduled for January. Mismanagement of the current situation could mean young people having to isolate during this exam period. The same students who may have had previous exams disrupted. Assurance that considerations of this situation have been taken is vital,” they wrote.
“Therefore, we urge the Minister and Government to undertake a daily review of the current decision. A situation where parents remove their children from school on an ad hoc basis is not adequate and cannot provide the support for learning required.”
Reform Jersey is also requesting that the minutes of the meeting in which the Government’s scientific advisors discussed potentially closing schools be made public and “confirmation… that schools and colleges are safe to be exempt from 2m distancing regulations.”
With the alarming increase in Covid cases almost every day now, the government must be prepared to take action necessary to protect islanders.— Reform Jersey (@ReformJersey) December 6, 2020
We are asking the government to review their position on schools remaining open.
Full statement - https://t.co/NTNp3FcQVn
Senator Mézec added on Twitter: “We cannot stand still. If further action is needed to prevent the spread of the virus, it must be taken.”
Education Minister Tracey Vallois responded to the comment: “The increase is partly due to the robotics problems identified yesterday but reassured resolved today. We are not standing still.”
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