Teachers and students who are in Malta to learn English have been ordered by their union to wear visors or masks during lessons and not to accept students who refuse to do so.
Graham Sansone, from the Union of Professional Educators – Voice of the Workers, said the directives were issued after three students attending a school which teaches English to foreigners were found to have contracted COVID-19.
While refusing to divulge the name of the school, Sansone said it had taken precautions to ensure the students and its staff were protected by switching the course online.
The three students belong to the cluster of COVID-19 patients linked to the Hotel Takeover party at the Radisson Blu Hotel in St Julian’s.
A spokesman for the Federation of English Language Teaching Organisations of Malta (FELTOM) confirmed that only three of a total of 27 students of the school, who attended the party, had tested positive to the virus. They have been asked to isolate themselves.
“Following the news of a spike in cases at a party at the Radisson hotel, the school took the initiative to find out who among its students had attended the event. According to established protocol, the school asked all the students to get tested and not to return to the school unless given an all-clear by the health authorities,” the spokesman said.
He said the federation was constantly overseeing the situation and encouraging its member schools to follow the health authority’s guidelines, ensuring they have all protocols in place in the eventuality of a case.
“FELTOM issued guidelines to all its schools before the publication of the official guidelines by the health authorities and our position remains that schools should keep following such guidelines even though these are not enforced by the ministry,” he said.
The schools were all collaborating and there had been no spread of infection so far.
The spokesman said the federation had directed all its members to cancel annual parties it usually hosts to avoid mass gatherings for students.
“This decision was taken because together with our member schools, we did not wish to sacrifice the reputation of the country and its salability as a safe and serious destination in the way it is responding to the pandemic,” the spokesman said.
Stop sensationalising the matter - FELTOM tells UPE
In a statement, FELTOM, Malta's federation of English language teaching organisations, called on Sansone to stop taking personal advantage out of the situation through "pathetic sensationalism".
FELTOM’s interest remained that of protecting the EFL industry and its member schools that were constantly abiding by all guidelines and protocols.
Member schools, it said, were advised to follow FELTOM's guidelines with regards to the use of masks and social distancing before the publication of the official protocols by the health authorities.
"Our position remains that schools should keep following such guidelines even though these are not enforced by the ministry.
"UPE’s sensationalism and selfish attitude risk the very industry that employs teachers and administrative staff," it said.
The federation also called for the halting of mass events pointing out that while schools, offices, restaurants, and many others businesses were being allowed to open with huge additional costs due to the required precautionary protocols, large gatherings which led to a spike in COVID-19 cases had no protocols related to mask-wearing or social distancing imposed upon them.
"Unless these mass events are stopped, we will soon have to face a new lock-down which will be devastating, not only for tourism but for all the country and its economy."
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