The Dominica government has ordered the closure of a secondary school, the mandatory wearing of masks and the banning of mass events, as the island recorded eight new cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on Friday, pushing its total to date to 50.
Education Minister Octavia Alfred said that the decision to temporary shutdown the Isiah Thomas Secondary School (ITSS) in St, Joseph became necessary after a teacher at the institution tested positive for the virus.
“It has been confirmed that a staff member…has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. The teacher is presently admitted at the COVID isolation facility. Ministry of Health officials have been at the school carrying out testing on staff members and students.
“The Ministry of Education is offering support to the entire staff and student body as we continue to follow directives from the Ministry of Health,” she said, adding that all relevant stakeholders, including the Dominica Association of Teachers have been made aware of the situation.
‘As part of our precautionary measures, ITSS will be closed until November 6. We are hopeful that school will resume by November 9, 2020,” she added.
Earlier, Health Minister Dr. irving McIntyre in a national broadcast said that while the island had recorded the eight new cases on Friday, it is not yet classified as community spread, but rather cluster situations.
“We have seen an increase in the number of cases and over the past few days the Ministry of Health has been actively engaged in contact tracing and community testing with particular focus on contacts associated with one index case.
“Our results now show a cluster of positive cases in Mahuat, Jimmit and Belfast all associated with this index case,” Dr. McIntyre said, adding that due to the associative nature of the infections associated with this particular case “we have not escalated to the category of community spread.
“Though these are from one locality and are linked to one known index case it still remains a concern for the Ministry of Health and by extension the country as a whole,’ he said, reminding the population of the possibility of increases cases of the virus here since the island reopened its borders in August.
“This is not unique to Dominica as similar trends have been observed within the region and internationally as well. As we all know the reopening of borders will always increase cases. In our circumstance, illegal entry to our shores present a significant risk since we are positioned between two high-risk territories (namely Martinique and Guadeloupe) “
But Dr. McIntyre said he had noted with dismay the “letting down of our guards” regarding public health and social measures, now regarded as a major contributing factor to the spread of the virus here.
Dominica is celebrating its 42 anniversary of political independence from Britain and Dr. McIntyre urged event organisers not to host mass gatherings until November 4.
“Further to the advice given by the Health Technical Committee, the government wishes to strongly discourage the hosting of all mass festive activities during the independence season from today…until the fourth of November.
“In an effort to continue to help society protect itself from COVID-19, the Cabinet on the advice of the Ministry of Health Technical Team has taken the decision to make the wearing of face masks or face-covering in a public place in Dominica mandatory”.
The Health Minister said the necessary legislation to provide statutory authority for this requirement will be made in the coming week.