Students across the nation are preparing to return to the classroom today when full face-to-face lessons resume.
Since the start of the Covid pandemic, schools have been subject to either forced closures with virtual learning, a combination of in-person classes and online lessons, or shift systems to reduce the number of children gathering at any one time.
Cabinet announced last Thursday that in-person classes would return for all schools on Monday and facemasks would no longer be required.
The latter is in line with this Wednesday’s lifting of mask-wearing restrictions, which will see them become optional for all residents and sectors.
“However, face masks ought to be worn by the security personnel, the administrators and those who will likely have contact with a large number of students and other personnel,” Cabinet notes said.
“These workers are encouraged to wear face masks. Sanitising and temperature checks are continued requirements. Social distancing cannot be achieved with full face-to-face learning,” the notes added.
But education officials are urging children and teachers alike to continue to wear masks, to curtail further spread of the virus.
“I don’t want to accept that no masks will be required,” Director of Education Clare Browne said.
“Cabinet talked about making masks optional but the Ministry of Education is strongly encouraging all students and anyone who operates in schools, particularly indoors, to continue to wear them.”
From March 16, no one will be mandated to wear facemasks in Antigua and Barbuda, although health chiefs are advising those who work indoors, such as in offices, shops, banks, churches, schools, bars and clubs, to wear them as protection. Residents are also urged to wear masks outside in places where there are likely to be crowds.
Yesterday, the twin island nation marked two years since the first case of Covid-19 was recorded in the country. Since then, there have been 7,466 confirmed virus cases in total, and 135 deaths.