COVID-19 will not stop SEA exam
There are no plans to postpone the 2020 Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examination in light of COVID-19 being declared a pandemic.
Trinidad and Tobago has not confirmed any cases of virus and Education Minister Anthony Garcia says there is no justification to shut down schools or take any unreasonable measures at this time.
Garcia was speaking with reporters following a visit to the St Ann's Primary School on Thursday morning.
He said while no decision has been taken to close schools, the Ministry is monitoring the situation and will take appropriate steps as it unfolds.
"At this point in time we have no intention or no plans to delay or postpone the SEA. We will wait to see how the situation develops...we will do nothing unless we get the advice from the experts."
Garcia said closing schools would depend on if the virus reaches T&T and the extent of the spread.
In the meantime, he said principals and teachers have been advised of the seriousness of the virus and have been asked to regularly stress the importance of washing hands to their students.
Additionally, the Ministry is ensuring that schools are equipped with soap and other materials.
Garcia advised parents to keep their children at home if they are showing any flu symptoms and he assured that teachers would help them to catch up with any work they missed.
He said the Education Ministry will continue to liaise with the Ministry of Health for guidance and will take any steps deemed necessary.
"There is no need to panic but if and when it reaches, then we are going to deal with it as it unfolds."
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said the government has to be careful not to implement any drastic measures that could isolate T&T from the rest of the world.
He was responding to questions as to why the United States and the United Kingdom have not been placed on the travel restriction list.
Currently, T&T has restricted visitors from nine countries which have reported cases of COVID-19.
Deyalsingh said restrictions have not been placed on the US, UK, Canada and India because "those public health systems seem to have their issues under control".
He added that economic factors were also at play.
"We have to keep the business of Trinidad and Tobago running whilst at the same time taking all necessary seasonal steps. We have to be reasonable in what steps we place. We cannot totally isolate Trinidad and Tobago.
"If we did that it means drugs can't be flown into the country. It means spare parts for equipment can't come in. Industry will have to shut down. it means the whole country will have to shut down which we don't want. We are monitoring every country as closely as humanly possible. We have 9 countries on the travel advisory list and as things change we will add more if necessary."
Deyalsingh noted that with the virus being confirmed in Jamaica, Guyana and other Caribbean countries, COVID-19 is now "literally on our doorsteps."
He said it is inevitable that cases will be confirmed in T&T.
"We cannot predict when it will get here, someone could have it now, one of you could have it," Deyalsingh told reporters.
However he said the country is in a state of readiness for the "inevitable".
To date, 130,307 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in at least 115 countries, with 4,756 deaths.