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The Department of Basic Education says it is working towards a different approach for schools that may fall in demarcated Covid-19 hotspots in the Western Cape in order to deal with any threats or outbreaks

On Thursday, Minister Angie Motshekga said her department would on Sunday be travelling to the province with President Cyril Ramaphosa to discuss plans in place to deal with the outbreaks.

Motshekga visited three secondary schools in Gauteng on Thursday to assess their state of readiness, ahead of the reopening on 1 June for Grades 7 and 12.

After observing the plans in place at the schools, Motshekga said she was convinced and satisfied that the target of reopening on 1 June could be achieved.

She said schools would, however, have to be very vigilant for any outbreaks in its areas. Safety was the department’s first priority, she added, and that the Western Cape visit was also about ironing out such issues.

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The Western Cape has the most cases in the country, at over 16 000 positive cases, and more than 390 deaths, according to national figures.

Five areas within the Cape Town metro have been identified as hotspots by the Western Cape government, News24 previously reported.

The province had identified clusters of outbreaks as hotspots, and had focused testing, screening, tracing, support, and prioritising treatment.

Dealing with area by area

“We were instructed on three principles, safety first, as the precondition. Secondly, make sure schools do not become centres of infection, and then education. So we will rely on schools and provinces to guide us on threats. There are threats in the West Rand, there are threats also in mines in Limpopo, and there is a big threat in the Western Cape.

“We are travelling to the Western Cape with the president on Sunday to discuss the plans that are in place, now that there are outbreaks,” Motshekga said.

On Thursday, News24 reported that Western Cape Premier Alan Winde had said there was a national backlog of Covid-19 tests.

The premier said there was a change in the provincial testing strategy since last week, from testing the potential contacts of confirmed cases to reserving tests for patients in hospitals.

In order to curb outbreaks, especially inside school premises located in hotspots, Motshekga said her department was proposing that everybody entering the schools be tested “just to be sure”.

“We are going to have a different approach in the Western Cape, in your hotspots, those that have been demarcated. But even in any other area, where there can be a new infection, to say how do we deal with that and how do we manage that.

“So we are going to deal with it area by area and that’s why we are going to the Western Cape on Sunday to discuss with the president on how we can find a differentiated approach to the province.”

Classes to be cleaned after being used by churches

On Tuesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that religious gatherings of up to 50 people will be permitted as the country moves to Level 3 of the lockdown from Monday.

Some schools, especially those in townships, house several churches who rent out classrooms for services.

In order to curb the spread of the virus, Motshekga said classrooms would have to be cleaned immediately after the services in those schools.

“If [a church] was using room 8, we had said our spaces will have to be cleansed daily. I would expect the principal himself, knowing that there would have been people who are not part of the school, who have not tested, that we are not sure about, to make the necessary arrangements to keep the schools clean,” the minister said.