What is the process to follow if a learner or staff member is identified with COVID-19 symptoms, what is the SOP for schools with positive cases?

In January 2020 Chinese scientists confirmed a cluster of pneumonia cases identified in the city of Wuhan, China which were associated with a novel coronavirus. The virus was named SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes has been named coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Health Regulations Emergency Committee subsequently declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) on 30 January 2020 and South Africa activated its Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) on 31 January 2020.

Following this declaration, various organs of state, including the Department of Basic

Education (DBE), instituted drastic measures to curb the spread of the virus. Schools were closed while interventions were implemented in preparation of the safe re-opening. Schools had been identified high-risk areas, in terms of ease of transmission, due to the close contact of large numbers of people.

Due to the fact that schools are high-risk areas, it is crucial for both educators and learners to know and adhere to all safety procedures such as the wearing of masks, maintaining the correct distance at all times, washing hands, sanitising hands and common areas where contact by multiple individuals is frequent, as well as the disinfecting of certain areas where necessary.

It is important to know the processes and protocols to follow in the event that a learner or teacher displays COVID-19 symptoms.

Firstly, it is always the responsibilities of educators to maintain a calm and orderly environment amongst fellow staff and learners . While doing so, they should eradicate all forms of stigma and discrimination because of COVID-19.

Once this has been done the next crucial step is to inform the education authorities immediately if a learner, educator, support staff or parent/caregiver has been in direct contact with an infected person, or if they are diagnosed with COVID-19. The school may need to be closed temporarily to allow disinfecting of the premises, during which period learners and teachers are to be encouraged to test and isolate themselves until they receive the results of their COVID-19 tests.

According to a the DBE’s document detailing the Standard Operating Procedures, there are “Action to be taken when a child or learner appears ill or displays symptoms associated with COVID-19”.

When a child/learner appears to be sick or displays symptoms of COVID-19, such as dry cough, high fever, respiratory distress, or shortness of breath, or report a sore throat, the procedure below must be followed:

  1. Isolate the learner and keep them separate from other learners and staff until they can be assessed by a health professional.
  2. Provide the learner with a face mask if they do not already have one on.
  3. The parents or guardians of the child/learner must be informed immediately.
  4. Call the school nurse or the facility manager of the nearest health facility, the NICD toll-free emergency hotline for COVID-19 (0800 029 999) or the provincial officials whose details are listed in the DBE Circular 1 of 2020.
  5. The school will be advised on any further actions to be taken.

For detailed information please see the link below: http://section27.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/dbe-standard-operating-procedure-for-covid-19.pdf

© 2019 National Education Collaboration Trust