South Africa's basic education minister, Angie Motshekga, on Thursday appealed to communities across the country to remain calm when coronavirus cases were confirmed at schools.
“We appeal to all school communities not to cause unnecessary panic. There’s no need for panic when a positive case is identified and a school is closed. We will endeavour to communicate which of our schools have been affected, but we won’t release personal information that may put positive patients (learners or teachers) at risk,” Motshekga said while addressing a virtual sitting of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).
The NCOP was receiving feedback from the department on progress made in managing the impact and spread of the virus in schools.
Motshekga said that if Covid-19 was confirmed at a school, the facility was temporarily closed for decontamination, after which classes would resume.
“It is not the responsibility of principals to communicate [temporary] school closures to the media. The health department has an existing Covid-19 communication protocol [by] which all of us must abide. I am happy to indicate that all provinces are now finalising management plans for the return of Grades R, 1, 2, 3, 6, 10, and 11 on the 6th of July 2020,” she said.
The education department has taken a phased approach to schools re-opening, with grades 7 and 12 the first to return earlier this month.
“We have been burning the midnight oil with all education MECs. We are satisfied that the system is ready to restart amidst the new Covid-19 induced measures. We appreciate the support, monitoring, and accountability mechanism emanating from the NCOP to keep us focused on our mission. We shall indeed overcome. As a nation, our resilience is legendary.”
On Thursday, the Northern Cape education department confirmed that it had to date closed six schools as a result of the virus.
Earlier this week, the Eastern Cape education department confirmed that at least 204 people at a school in the province tested positive for Covid-19.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the department said 204 pupils and hostel assistants at Makaula Senior Secondary School in KwaBhaca tested positive, and confirmed that doctors and contact tracers had been deployed to the school.