85% shot rate required for schools to open
On-site learning to resume in November
At least 85% of students, teachers and other staff of schools in red and dark-red zones will have to be vaccinated against Covid-19 before their schools will be allowed to reopen for on-site learning, says the Department of Health.
The department's chief, Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai, said at a press briefing yesterday that schools that want to reopen for in-person classes must strictly follow public health instructions to prevent clusters from forming at schools.
"The most important thing is that no less than 85% of staff and students of schools in red and dark-red zones should be vaccinated," he said.
The briefing was organised by the Ministry of Public Health to address parents' concerns about the safety of schools during the pandemic. It followed an announcement by Education Minister Treenuch Thienthong on Monday who said schools will be allowed to resume on-site learning in November -- provided enough vaccines are available to inoculate students next month.
Dr Suwannachai said the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Public Health have agreed on a set of regulations and guidelines to prevent Covid-19 transmission at schools to ensure schools are free from virus contamination, called the "Sandbox Safety Zone in School" rules.
However, he also said that the enforcement of the rules will depend on the severity of the outbreak in a particular area.
In areas where transmission rates and cases are especially high, such as the 29 dark-red provinces including Bangkok, class sizes will be limited to 25 students and staff and students will be subjected to testing using antigen test kits (ATKs).
Across the nation, schools will have to make sure that at least 85% of their students and staff are vaccinated before they will be permitted to reopen.
Ultimately, however, the authority to allow a school to reopen will lie with each province's communicable diseases committee, which will review each school's virus control measures before making a decision, he said.
"We want to see very aggressive action to prevent the transmission of the disease at schools, as we can all agree that it is impossible to stick with online learning forever," he said. "Students need a chance to learn at school to develop their skills. To achieve that, we will need the cooperation of parents and the entire community."
However, he conceded that infections can still happen at schools, so isolation units need to be built at them to prevent further contagion.