Flemish Education Minister says that our schools must remain open

The Flemish Education Minister Ben Weyts (nationalist) has told VRT News that he understands the concerns expressed by the education boards and the teaching unions about the new measures to curb the spread of coronavirus that were announced on Sunday. However, Mr Weyts (in the middle of the photo above) says that he is between a rock and a hard place. He told VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’ that “new measures are needed that are workable. We are already asking so much of the school and this comes on top of all that. Fortunately, it will only be for two weeks, until the Easter holidays. What we are implementing now is only for a limited period."

Writing on the social media platform Twitter on Monday morning the education expert Dirk Van Damme asked “How far one can go in taking away everything that makes schools a warm an rich learning environment and makes them become nothing more than a soulless depot”. In a response to this Mr Weyts said: “If we can guarantee that children can continue to go to school, if we have the luxury to be able to make this decision, in contrast to other countries, let's do it”. 

Closing schools is not on the agenda. “The virologists have told us that from a virological point of view this would be pointless”.  Many schools were already applying several of the guidelines prior to Sunday’s announcement. So will the measures suffice? "I have posed this question to the virologists and they answered in the affirmative. This is why were appointed virologists to advise us”, Mr Weyts added. 

The Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke (Flemish socialist) has said previously that as far as he is concerned giving teaching staff priority in the vaccination programme is not a question of principle, but if this were to be done vaccination could only take place once the over 65’s and people with underlying medical conditions had been vaccinated. This wouldn’t be until mid-May with the second dose following in mid-June which begs the question of whether it would be worth it. 

Mr Weyts responds that “It would always be useful” to give teachers priority. He added that he is pleased that there is now “an opening” for this to be done. The Flemish Education Minister was keen to stress that it is not the intention that a 25-year-old teacher be given priority over an 80-year-old. “What we mean is that teachers should be given priority after the elderly and people with underlying complaints”. 

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