PNG schools follow no-mask-no-entry rule amid growing covid cases

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Masked PNG schoolchildren
Port Moresby schoolchildren ... turned away from classes if no masks. Image: PNG Post-Courier

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Schools in Papua New Guinea’s National Capital District resumed yesterday, with strict covid-19 protocols in place, and with several turning away those who came without masks.

This came in the wake of a new covid-19 spike with PNG reporting another 52 cases of covid-19 yesterday since Thursday, taking its total to 323.

Head teacher at Bavaroko Primary School, Catherine Moresi, said staff had communicated this message to parents several times and expected them to provide a face mask for their children, reports the PNG Post-Courier.

“As you can see, we have put a note which says ‘entry by masks’, so no masks, don’t come inside, even in the classroom … this morning, some had to turn back because they had no masks on,” she said.

Moresi said that since classrooms were hot and often crowded, they had advised kids to only remove masks once they were outside and away from friends.

“This is so that they can breathe properly because some classrooms have one fan and I don’t know how they are going to cope with the face masks till the end,” she said.

The Department of Education yesterday advised parents and guardians that children below the age of 12 years were not required to wear face masks.

Proper use of PPE
The advice comes amid concerns on the proper use of the PPE by children and the risks associated with prolonged covering of the nose and mouth for those under the age of 12 years.

Moresi said they were not aware of the department’s recent statement and were communicating to parents based on the ongoing advice received earlier from the department and from the Pandemic Controller.

“We are advising all students to wear a face mask, especially for the 12-year-olds and above,” she said.

“They must wear a mask,” NCD School Inspector Elizabeth Kosi said, revealing that during yesterday’s school inspection, most elementary kids turned up with masks.

“We are thanking parents because we know that they are taking that ownership to protect their children.”

Gordons Secondary School principal, George Kenega, said the school promoted the covid-19 protocols and would make sure to send home students who arrived without masks, knowing that enough awareness had been made regarding the importance of face masks.

“We made it clear that if you don’t come with a mask, you won’t be allowed entry into the school,” he said.

All Coronation children sent home
At Coronation primary, all its elementary and upper-primary were sent home yesterday and told to return today with face masks on, while the school took the day off to prepare schedules to minimise social distancing, which is a huge concern facing schools in NCD.

In the neighbouring Indonesian-ruled Papua province, almost 300 children aged below 19 have been infected with covid-19.

The Jakarta Post reports that the data from the Papua Covid-19 prevention task force is a cumulative number from late March to last week.

In French Polynesia, the covid-19 outbreak has prompted a week-long closure of several schools on Tahiti, reports RNZ Pacific.

Two schools have each reported a covid-19 case, including a school run by the Maohi Protestant Church which decided to shut its seven teaching establishments.

They all plan to reopen next week.

The last official tally showed 130 people had tested positive for the coronavirus in the second wave, which arrived after quarantine requirements for international arrivals were lifted last month when borders reopened to boost the tourism sector.

Guam has confirmed 42 new cases of covid-19 today bringing the territory’s total up to 558 with 5 deaths, reports RNZ Pacific.

Just days after the Northern Marianas recorded its 50th case of covid-19, the islands’ total has continued to rise with three more testing positive for the coronavirus on Sunday taking the total to 53.

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