[WATCH] COVID-19: Students must continue to wear face masks even if vaccinated

Education Minister Justyne Caruana announces COVID-19 protocols for the upcoming scholastic year

Schools are set to open on 29 September after the summer break
Schools are set to open on 29 September after the summer break

Students must continue to wear face masks in class, whether they are vaccinated or not, Education Minister Justyne Caruana said on Tuesday while announcing new COVID-19 protocols for the upcoming academic year. 

She said that the decision to retain the measure was so as not to discriminate against those who cannot get vaccinated.

Schools are set to open on 29 September after the summer break.

Caruana said that schools managed to remain open during the pandemic because the island introduced 50 measures in schools.

The education minister added that Malta has one of the highest rates of vaccinated educators and students in Europe.

Caruana said that 85% of students aged 16 and over had received the COVID-19 vaccine. 73% of 12-15-year-olds have also received the COVID-19 vaccine.

She said that the protocols reflected that the best education is had in the classroom. "This does not exclude education virtually where necessary."

New COVID-19 protocols in schools:

  • Social distancing will be one and a half meters between the students’ desks for year eight and under. For year nine and up, the distance will be one meter between desks. 
  • Social bubbles will be kept in place. 
  • School assemblies can now be held, but social distancing and the principle of bubbles must be respected.
  • Fieldwork, physical education activities, special activities such as a student birthday celebration will now be able to go ahead. 
  • Canteens may be opened, but food must be packaged.
  • Parents are still not allowed to enter School, but that may change in the future.
  • Kindergarten teachers and LSEs are recommended to wear both a mask and a visor.
  • Embellishments in classrooms such as posters and other learning aids are now allowed. 
  • Vulnerable students and workers can return to school due to the success of the vaccination programme, with protocols in place. 

Disability services to resume

When asked by MaltaToday about the services for disabled students, Caruana confirmed that all the services will be resumed, including the addition of new services that will guarantee inclusion in schools.

Education permanent secretary Frank Fabri also gave an update on the new laptops that have been promised to educators. He said that the tender for 7,000 laptops had been issued, but the delay was due to an international problem with procuring certain materials used in the production of laptops.

MUT statement 

The Malta Union of Educators has welcomed the protocols, however, criticised that they were released five days later than last year's protocols that were announced on 2 September.

The MUT said it would be analysing the protocols and changes over the previous year and speaking with stakeholders, including state, church and independent schools.

PN welcomes ‘late’ announcement of protocols

The Nationalist Party remarked that such minor amendments to the basic protocols for school reopening could have arrive sooner, in order to minimise the uncertainty amongst students and parents, and allow enough time for educators to prepare themselves.

It stated that with 80% of the population vaccinated against COVID-19, and with herd immunity reached weeks ago, it had excepted an earlier confirmation on whether the students could attend a more holistic education experience.

PN added that until this morning, various educators were lamenting about the tardiness of these announcements, which left them in limbo about this month’s scholastic year commencement.

The Opposition appealed to the authorities to provide all the necessary help and attention to the vulnerable students, and all those that couldn’t attend school last year.