No need for school closures, minister reiterates

Owen Bonnici

There is no need to close any schools due to the coronavirus outbreak so far, Education Minister Owen Bonnici reiterated this afternoon.

Concerns over the outbreak persist as authorities confirmed the sixth case of Covid-19 earlier today, and the Malta Union of Teachers has sought an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Robert Abela to discuss the possibility of school closures.

During question time in Parliament, Opposition Leader Adrian Delia asked Bonnici whether there were any plans to close schools. He noted that the World Health Organisation had indicated that young children could be asymptomatic.

But Bonnici, whilst noting that this was a “very important and delicate subject,” and that he understood parents’ concerns, said that the situation did not yet warrant such a measure.

All cases recorded in Malta, he noted, are imported: there are no instances of the disease being transmitted in Malta. Additionally, he said, all the people involved had followed instructions and self-quarantined accordingly.

Though the situation could change quickly, the minister acknowledged, an escalation could be avoided as long as everyone followed instructions, including washing one’s hands regularly, and going on self-quarantine for 14 days on return from affected countries.

Delia also asked Bonnici whether there were any plans to teach students online. The minister said that he was open to the possibility, but emphasised that the blessing of teachers’ unions would be required.

“But I must repeat, so as not to send the wrong message. At this stage, there is no reason for schools to be closed,” the minister concluded.