After days of uncertainty, under secretary of state for health António Lacerda Sales has confirmed schools WILL be going back on January 10, in spite of sky-high cases of virus transmission.
Education is a “fundamental measure for the physical, mental, social and psychological health of our children”, he answered questions posed today during a visit to Coimbra University Hospital (see image above).
Any further delay in children’s return to school “is guaranteed” not to be “on the table”, he said.
To be fair, any decision otherwise would be seen by parents as nonsensical – and would almost certainly hamper the drive to persuade them to get their children vaccinated over the four days allocated for mass child vaccinations, between Thursday January 6 and Sunday January 10.
Unfortunately, teachers union Fenprof sees things differently. Because teachers are not within the groups considered priority for 3rd dose boosters, the union wants the return to classes delayed further, until older members have had the chance to get their updated shots.
The fact that it is accepted that Omicron is the dominant strain in Portugal now – and eludes both vaccines and boosters – doesn’t seem to have registered.
Nor, that Omicron generally manifests as a “mild cold”.
Indeed, studies in South Africa have concluded that people infected with Omicron are 80% less likely to be admitted to hospital than if they contract other strains.
Fenprof’s overriding concern is with the fact that more than half its workforce is made up of teachers around the age of 50.
According to SIC, the union is also critical of the government’s “lack of clear strategy” when it comes to the vaccination of children, which, it says, has resulted in a lukewarm response from parents.
Again, this argument is debatable: parents who are reticent may simply have been listening to the many pediatric specialists who have said there is not enough data yet to make the decision to vaccinate healthy developing youngsters (click here).
A ‘final’ categorical decision on the return to classrooms will be announced by the prime minister on Wednesday, following a scheduled meeting with pandemic advisors at medicines authority Infarmed.