Eastern Cape Education MEC Fundile Gade has learnt with shock that 98 pupils of Ethembeni High School in Burgersdorp have tested positive for Covid 19, says a government statement.
Pupils from both Burgersdorp and Middelburg have been affected.
According to the statement, the Eastern Cape government has moved swiftly to contain the outbreak. All contacts of the 98 positive pupils are being tracked and traced urgently to curb the spread of the virus.
“The government approach is meant to also avoid any loss of life especially to those parents and families who may have comorbidities. We urge the communities to work with us to ensure we stop the spread of this outbreak. There are also isolation sites in Steynsburg, which have been identified for Grade 12 learners.”
The statement further says a multi-departmental team consisting of the local municipality and the departments of health, public works and education have been established to manage the spread of the outbreak and advise on measures suitable for the pupils, especially those sitting for their trial examination.
“The team has advised the department to allow pupils to write [their exams], as there are no reasons to stop the learners since they are medically fit. Invigilators have been advised to put on personal protective equipment and scripts will also be monitored for a specified period before being marked.”
Additionally, says the statement, a request has been made to sister departments to offer counselling services to all pupils. The team will also outline a roadmap to ensure pupils do not infect others at home.
“The multi-departmental team dispatched is also working with families of the affected pupils, testing and providing them with their results so that they can adopt regulated coping mechanisms should they test positive.”
Meanwhile, Gade says the teams on the ground will asses the situation daily and advise should the outbreak require the activation of a multi-departmental disaster management team. “A report submitted by the department of health has just indicated that 552 pupils will also be quarantined. The report further confirmed that contact tracing has started,” says Gade.
Of the 685 tested pupils and teachers, 98 learners have tested positive, he added.
“Our team is giving hourly updates to help establish the number of matrics from this group who tested positive for isolation. The department of public works has indicated that these pupils will be isolated in Aliwal North. In this centre, pupils will be allowed to continue writing their trial exams.”
Ward-based rapid response teams are working collaboratively to respond to the outbreak. The DPW will advise on the availability of sites during the process. There are also isolation sites in Steynsburg, which have been identified for grade 12 pupils should the need to quarantine those who tested negative as they could be in the incubation phase, the statement says.
Picture: SAMORN TARAPAN