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KwaZulu-Natal has recorded more than 1 100 COVID-19 cases across 350 schools in the past three weeks. According to Premier Sihle Zikalala, these numbers are increasing daily as more learners continue to test positive.
“Sadly, the pandemic has claimed the lives of two 12-year-old schoolchildren, as well as a nine-year-old.” Continuing, Zikalala said, while addressing the media on the Province’s latest developments, the provincial Department of Education is intensifying non-pharmaceutical interventions to reduce the spread of the virus in schools.
“Cluster [outbreaks] have also been observed in other congregant settings, such as boarding schools, mental health facilities, centres for the visually impaired and old age homes.” Adding, the Department of Basic Education is looking at escalating non-pharmaceutical interventions in schools. Therefore, in collaboration with the Departments of Health and Social Development, the Department continues to provide health services to learners in schools through the Integrated School Health Programme (ISHP).
According to the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, for children to receive these services, Government requires permission from parents and guardians in writing. She said, “There is a form (SHS 1a), which has been distributed to schools, which must be completed by parents and guardians to give consent for the services to be rendered to learners. Of course, we are aware of the legal limitations of such consent; but it is critical for parents and guardians of our learners to allow the Sector to provide these health services.”
The health services include checking the child’s health; deworming; routine immunisation against measles, polio, and Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer later in life; as well as checking for common health problems; provide health education; and indeed, mental health and psycho-social support.
On the days when these services are rendered, parents are free to come to school with their children to obtain more information.
The Minister adds, “We wish to stress that there are currently no COVID-19 vaccines that are approved in the country for people under the age of 18. Contrary to the rumours on social media, there is no intention whatsoever to vaccinate children for anything else, other than what is already declared in the form. Those spreading the rumours, we implore you to stop spreading such rumours, because you are causing anxiety and panic among our school communities. The (SHS 1a) form is standard, and there is nothing sinister about it.”
Despite the measures being implemented to safeguard the youth’s health, KwaZulu-Natal remains the hardest-hit Province.
However, it is important to note; Premier Zikalala said, “The upsurge in cases has moved from Uthukela, Amajuba and Umzinyathi. Currently, the districts that are recording a higher number of cases daily are eThekwini, Umgungundlovu, King Cetshwayo, Zululand, Umkhanyakude and Ilembe. These Districts have for the past three weeks had continuously higher numbers, with Ethekwini accounting for more than 40% cases daily.”
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