The Ministry of Education and Sports on Wednesday released the COVID-19 school surveillance report indicating that 45,298 students had shown symptoms while 1,251 learners had been isolated in schools.

775 schools reported suspected cases to the ministries of education and health that promptly sent teams that screened 470,910 individuals.

The report was released nine days after schools across the country opened following almost two years of no physical classes due to the closure of education institutions in June 2020.

The government said the closure was one of the interventions to curb the spread of COVID-19 following the resurgence of the Delta variant.

On January 6, 2022, the Ministry of Health in a letter to the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education halted the requirement for learners to undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing before accessing school premises.

At around the same time, there was a surge in COVID-19 cases registered in the country, prompting school owners to ask parents to ensure that learners appear with negative PCR test results taken at least 72 hours before the reporting day.

Other managers informed parents that the test would be carried out by pre-positioned private laboratories upon arrival, prompting a public outcry.

The demands prompted the director-general of health services Dr Henry Mwebesa to write to the education ministry calling for directives asking schools to halt the requirement of tests, saying this was not part of the national school reopening requirements put in place by the national COVID-19 task force.

“The national COVID-19 task force guidelines for reopening of schools, jointly developed by the Ministry of Education and Sports and the Ministry of Health, provides specific guidance on how learners will safely return to schools. Testing learners on arrival was not one of the recommendations,” Mwebesa noted.

Mwebesa noted that schools were required to put in place a system for strict compliance to COVID-19 standard operating procedures and strengthening surveillance systems.

Ismael Mulindwa, the director of basic education, said any school that will insist on forcing tests on students would be penalised.

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