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Moruga RC introduce “sneeze guards” to protect pupils

Staff of the Moruga RC (St Rita’s) Primary School and the Parent Teacher Association took a proactive approach to protecting pupils by constructing “sneeze guards” for desks. These were used during the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) on August 20.

With more COVID-19 cases being detected in the general population, the Catholic News learned that parents were nervous about the exam but felt “at ease” when they saw what was constructed. This initiative came about after the first case of a COVID-19 positive primary school child was confirmed July 24 in a pupil of Maraval RC. Schools had reopened July 20 to get Standard Five pupils ready for the SEA.

A meeting was held with the PTA President Popedeo Sookhai, the principal, a senior teacher and Standard Five teacher. The Standard Five teacher mentioned that she had seen different types of face guards and sneeze guards on the internet. Research was done on what type could be used at Moruga RC and discussed with Sookhai.
Materials—PVC, elbow joints, plastic, screws and glue were bought with unused funds from the PTA.

It took two days to build the sneeze guards with labour provided by the principal, senior teacher and a few parents under supervision by Sookhai to get the units constructed for the 19 pupils. This was done at an empty space on the school compound, located next to the St Vincent Ferrer church.

The units were used from July 30. “We already had protocols with social distancing … they felt comfortable in their own space”, the Catholic News was told by a school official. The children received a lecture on washing their hands regularly and keeping their desks and area clean. It was stressed that “they are responsible”, and “don’t allow anyone in.” On afternoons the cleaners sanitised the desks and sneeze guards. Sookhai said he felt good about helping to do something that could assist in protecting the children. “As President of the PTA, I want all our children, teachers, principal who steps into that facility to be safe,” he said.

Sookhai wanted the Health Ministry to look at the structure and “approve it”. Based on feedback he said improvements could be made. A Public Health Inspector visited the school on August 19 to examine them . They were deemed “acceptable” allowing for good airflow, and giving the child his/her personal space. A photo was taken to get further feedback from the Public Health department.

According to the World Health Organisaiton: “Based on available evidence, COVID-19 is is transmitted between people through close contact and droplets, not by airborne transmission. The people most at risk of infection are those who are in close contact with a COVID-19 patient or who care for COVID-19 patients”. Preventive measures are: performing hand hygiene frequently with an alcohol-based hand rub if your hands are not visibly dirty or with soap and water if hands are dirty; avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth; practising respiratory hygiene by coughing or sneezing into a bent elbow or tissue and then immediately disposing of the tissue; wearing a medical mask if you have respiratory symptoms and performing hand hygiene after disposing of the mask; maintaining social distance (a minimum of 1 m) from individuals with respiratory symptoms.

It recommends the use of physical barriers such as glass or plastic windows to reduce exposure to COVID-19 in healthcare settings, triage areas, registration desk at emergency departments, and pharmacy window where medication is collected.

Physical barriers have been introduced in workplaces and businesses where exposure to the general public is higher.