Free State school closed after 32 pupils contract Covid-19

Big surge in cases in province

The Free State reported 415 new cases of Covid-19 on Saturday. On Friday, the province had had 4,269 active cases, a sharp increase from 2,995 cases on April 26.
The Free State reported 415 new cases of Covid-19 on Saturday. On Friday, the province had had 4,269 active cases, a sharp increase from 2,995 cases on April 26.
Image: 123RF/perig76

A Free State high school has had to shut its doors after 32 of its pupils tested positive for Covid-19.

Pupils at Reutlwahetse High School in Excelsior were sent home just days after returning to school after the Easter vacation, Netwerk24 reported on Sunday.

A number of pupils returned to school with flu-like symptoms after which they were tested for Covid-19, Free State education department spokesperson Howard Ndaba reportedly said.

After the students and one teacher tested positive, the education department ordered the school to shut its doors on Wednesday.

The school would remain shut while other teachers and pupils undergo testing.

In Gauteng, about 260 grade 11 and 12 pupils from St John’s College in Johannesburg were last week asked to quarantine at home for the next 10 days after five youngsters tested positive for Covid-19.

The school asked parents of grade 11 and 12 pupils to fetch them from school at about midday on Thursday after it decided to send them into quarantine.

Stuart West, the executive headmaster of St John’s College, confirmed that five pupils from those grades had tested positive.

“The boys affected happened to be in the first, second and third rugby teams, but it is not clear whether these infections can be traced to sporting activity. We have strict Covid-19 protocols in place and as such we have sent them into quarantine until May 17.”

In March, 100 pupils at a Pretoria school also had to self-isolate after a schoolmate failed to declare he had tested positive for Covid-19.

The Gauteng education department confirmed that it was monitoring the situation after the pupils came in close contact with the fellow pupil.

Meanwhile, the Free State closure comes at a time when the province is battling a surge in Covid-19 infections.

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said this week that the department had noted a worrying trend of increasing cases, especially in the Free State, Gauteng, the Northern Cape and North West .

The department said the rising cases were of “particular concern” in four of the province’s districts — Mangaung Metro, Fezile Dabi, Xhariep and Lejweleputswa — which have seen an average rise of 20% or more in the past 14 days.

Though some of these districts may have relatively low case incidences, the significant rise in percentage changes should be taken as a serious warning,” the minister said.

The significant rise in percentage changes should be taken as a serious warning
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize

On Saturday there were 4,269 active cases in the province, a sharp increase from 2,995 cases on April 26.

Some 415 new cases were reported on Saturday, EWN reported.

Around 12% of the Free State’s new cases were in people younger than 20, reports said.

The Free State has reported a total of 91,181 cases since the pandemic began, with a recovery rate of 83,375 or 91%. There have been 3,911 Covid-19 related deaths in the province in total.

The national department of health also confirmed on Saturday that 11 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the UK, and four cases of the B.1.617.2 variant which was first detected in India had been confirmed in SA.

Two of the four cases of the B.1.617.2 variant were detected in Gauteng and two in KwaZulu-Natal. All had recently travelled from India.

Of the 11 cases of B.1.1.7, eight were detected in the Western Cape, two in Gauteng and one in KwaZulu-Natal. “The B.1.1.7 has been detected in community samples and this therefore suggests that community transmission of B.1.1.7 has already set in,” the department said.

The emergence of new variants was inevitable, Mkhize said last week, adding that there was no need to panic as the fundamental of SA’s public health response remained in place.

Genomic surveillance was key to detecting the variants and understanding their behaviour so that vaccines could be refined so that they were effective, he said.

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