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HSE team thinks ahead to reopening of churches, schools

Everyone has to take precautions against COVID-19. This vigilance does not end when restrictions are lifted. The Health Safety and Environment (HSE) Team of the Archdiocese is mulling preventive measures when RC schools and churches are reopened.

The HSE has issued four bulletins: ‘SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19’ March 31; ‘Social Support Measures: Social Assistance from the Government during COVID-19 Crisis’ April 3; ‘Guidelines for residential religious communities & faith-based independent living facilities in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Port of Spain in response to COVID-19 ’ April 14; ‘Recommendations for Receiving and Delivering Food and Other Aid’ April 24. The documents can be viewed at

The HSE Team is doing research in anticipation of the reopening of schools, churches, and Archbishop’s House. Nestor Lambert, HSE coordinator said, “We are working on things right now in advance of the release of guidelines by the Health Ministry.”

The team is looking at what is being done internationally and in relation to schools when the Education Ministry provides its guidelines, “anything else that should be added to those from the Ministry”.

E-learning from home has increased during the COVID-19 lockdown, but when schools are accessible, the number of children on compounds will likely be decreased with the continuing of physical distancing. Many public RC schools have a class size with a minimum of approximately 30 pupils. “Different scenarios” will be used to guide the development of the guidelines.

The HSE team will work with the Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM) because there are “a lot of logistics to address,” Lambert said.

Many schools do not have space to expand classrooms. The CEBM is responsible for 118 primary schools. “That in itself says we have to start in advance, we have to be very proactive and think ahead what may be necessary,” Lambert added.

He said the HSE team members do extensive research before their bulletins are publicised. Depending on the topic, the “most appropriate person” on the team leads the research and the others have input.  Bulletins are sent to parish priests, heads of commissions, heads of religious communities and others.

The HSE team comprises Nestor Lambert, Shirley Tappin, Fr Brent Alexis O Carm, Susan Gopaul, Chukwuma Emesiani, Marcia Faustin-Walker, Glenda Medford, Peter Timothy, Renee Smith, Dr Michele Monteil, and Dr Reatha-Leigh Padmore.