The adage “cleanliness is next to godliness” was used by Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh during a meeting with pupils of the St Ann’s RC School, St Ann’s March 12 to explain the challenge of COVID-19 and emphasise prevention.
Deyalsingh and Education Minister Anthony Garcia visited the school as part of heightened awareness targeting school children. Minister in the Ministry of Education Dr Lovell Francis was also in attendance. Principal Jennifer Rebeiro-Gowrie welcomed the ministers.
The Health Minister used the opportunity to test the children’s knowledge about coronavirus. They did not know about the origin of the word ‘corona’, but several were eager to answer about the prevention measures. Deyalsingh said if they were sick, they should stay at home.
Garcia said just as the pupils were being prepared by their teachers with their lessons, they had to be prepared for COVID-19 and when and if it arrived there would be “minimal effects”.
Based on advice from the Health Minister, three weeks ago the Chief Education Officer issued a circular to principals asking schools to have adequate supplies of liquid soap for pupils to wash their hands properly.
“We are asking also our teachers to keep talking to your students and asking our principals to hold daily assemblies every morning…at these assemblies explain to them the importance of adhering to these demands,” Garcia said during the Q and A with media.
Other directives are for schools to be properly sanitised and cleaned during the day and not just at the end of the day. The ministry advised that any child who falls ill should be kept home by their parents.
Responding to concerns about examinations and Secondary Entrance Examination (SEA), Garcia said the ministry did not want to create panic, “up to this point there is no need to change anything with respect to the writing of the SEA”.
Deyalsingh told the media that T&T was monitoring countries, airlines and cruise ships as much as “humanly possible”.
The first COVID-19 case was confirmed March 12. At the time of printing (last Wednesday), the number had risen to seven, all imported.
On March 13, the Government took the decision to close all schools for a week. Last Monday, the closure was extended to 3–4 weeks.