In the majority of cases the return to school in Monaco has gone as planned. The necessary defenses against the virus are being observed which include smaller classes to accommodate social distancing and wearing masks. Importantly the kids are getting to see their teachers in the classroom. There is no substitute for some direct live teaching; on-line education is playing a bigger role nowadays but the kids need time in class too. It’s all coming together.
There was one hiccup at Prince Albert I school. Testing the 62 teachers for any exposure to the virus is a necessary part of the new wave of safety measures. On the one hand, that was successful too because it did reveal that one of the teachers, a math teacher had been exposed – and her test being positive she was immediately isolated after teaching two classes one of 14 students, another of 9 students.
With the benefit of hindsight, it could be said it would have been better if testing the teachers for exposure to the virus had been completed early enough so that the results were known before classes started. And this is one of the points some understandably concerned parents have raised. And, of course, once the situation had happened, then it was necessary to notify the parents and invite all the kids in the class themselves to be tested. All 23 were invited to take a PCR test. In any situation where health is a factor, and especially where children are concerned, sensitive and rapid communication with the parents is vital to maintain confidence and relieve their concerns. Contact tracing is also one of the safety measures and it is reported that the math teacher concerned had no contact with other teachers. And social distancing protocols between her and the students had been observed.
Assuming that the health risk was negligible, what the situation teaches is the need for very sensitive and rapid communication and a very rapid and efficient process for testing in the rare situations there are events like this.
Of course as testing for the virus becomes a repetitive and regular part of life for all the teachers there will be the rare positive result followed by isolation, vigilant contact tracing and rapid checking that no students are affected.
If the social distancing protocols are observed the students are well protected even in these rare situations.
Testing the Entire Population of Monaco
Reports are out on the first waves of testing which is being done in alphabetical order of families. Of approximately 40.000 residents, about 1500 with family names beginning with A and B were tested in one day with the serological test (TROD).
The A’s went to the Grimaldi site and the B’s to Espace Leo Ferré. Strict health precautions are in place, masks worn, temperature testing and hydroalcoholic gel always available for cleansing hands. Red Cross volunteers help out. The results of the finger-prick test arrive rapidly in a space of ten to fifteen minutes. And, of course, one hopes for a negative result.
When there is a positive result there is a medical team with a doctor on hand from the Department of Health and Social Action (DASS) to counsel on precautions to be taken to limit contact with other people while further more elaborate blood testing is organised with specialized laboratories. So a positive result would typically initially entail two days away from work, filling in a medical questionnaire and prudent limitation of contacts while the further blood test is done and those results are in. Obviously if the person is considered contagious then a longer period of isolation and/or medical treatment will ensue.
Reportedly out of a sample of the first 200 people tested only four cases were referred to the doctor for further testing.
The entire results from the testing are stored in a data-base for epidemiological analysis.