Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness has stated that the government is targeting a return to face-to-face classes in September.
Schools have been disrupted since the first cases of COVID-19 in March last year, with limited face-to-face classes for select students since then.
Prime Minister Holness has indicated that all teachers will be required to turn up for classes regardless if they are vaccinated when face-to-face classes resume.
Mr. Holness, who was speaking at a townhall meeting on Friday, June 11, that was aimed at encouraging teachers to take the jab, said he would like to see at least 80 per cent of all teachers vaccinated.
“In August we should have some supplies of vaccines that would allow for more persons to get access to vaccines… So, we’re preparing for that, the Ministry of Education is ready for that. We want our teachers to be ready for that,” he suggested.
During the townhall meeting, he was asked whether teachers would be sanctioned if they refuse to attend in person.
“When the decision is made to go back to face to face, that means the Cabinet with the Ministry of Education would have decided that the country is at a state where we can go back to face to face, then all teachers will be expected to return to the classrooms. So if there is a decision to return to the classroom, all teachers will be required to do so. Of course, if there is a medical exemption, that will be treated in the normal course,” he said.
Dr. Melody Ennis, Director of Family Health Services in the Health Ministry, said only about 7,000 teachers have so far taken the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We know that that’s just about 40 per cent, maybe a little less than 40 per cent of the population of teachers, but we continue to encourage all of them, especially those having students with exit exams, to make their appointment because they can get their first dose at this time,” she said.
Mr. Holness stated that while the government is eyeing a return to physical classes, the plan could change if there is a third wave of COVID-19 cases.