Church schools will not be reopening their gates on Thursday as planned as a result of the sharp spike in new COVID-19 cases. 

Most Church schools were set to reopen for the second term on Thursday, along with all State schools. 

But in a statement on Wednesday, the Secretariat for Catholic Education (SfCE) in consultation with the Church Schools Association (CSA) said the first two days of the new term will be carried out online. 

"This will allow schools to offer an education which safeguards the health and safety of students, staff members and their families. This measure may be extended at least until January 13 if the trend in positive cases remains high.

"Parents will be informed through their respective schools by this Sunday evening," the Secretariat said.

The announcement comes on the day health authorities detected the highest-ever number of new COVID-19 cases in a day - 224. 

The church schools' decision was welcomed by the Union of Professional Educators – Voice of the Workers, which urged the government to follow suit.

Teachers unions had warned earlier this week that any sudden spike in cases could prompt a reevaluation of plans. 

Earlier on Wednesday, the Malta Union of Teachers said it would issue directives if the education authorities did not postpone the reopening of schools, saying advice from the health authorities was being ignored. 

Asked about this at a news conference, both Health Minister Chris Fearne and Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci skirted questions on the matter. They said children's education remained a priority and that additional measures will be in place at school. 

No information on what these new measures would be was given. 

Times of Malta has reached out to the education authorities for information though no details have yet been supplied. 

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