Malta Teachers End Strike After Winning COVID Vaccine Concession
VALLETTA: Teachers in Malta returned to their classrooms on Monday and ended a two-day strike after the government agreed to give them priority in the COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
Schools on the small Mediterranean island have been open since September, but unions called a strike last week following a spike in coronavirus infections, with a record 245 cases reported last Thursday.
The Malta Union of Teachers said that after talks with the government, it was agreed that teachers would be vaccinated sooner than planned, immediately after medical staff and vulnerable elderly persons.
Malta’s medical authorities have said that to limit the spread of COVID-19, it was better to keep schools open rather than closed.
Charmaine Gauci, the superintendent of public health, said a study of virus cases had shown that children and their families did not have many social events while children were at school, and therefore mixed less.
The issue of whether to keep schools open has been a hot debate in many countries, with various governments opting for different policies.
In Malta’s closest European Union neighbour, Italy, high schools have still not returned to normal after a nationwide shutdown was ordered last March. Face-to-face teaching had been expected to resume on Monday, but the date has been put back to Jan. 18.
In Malta, the authorities have reduced the number of pupils in each classroom and created “bubbles” within which pupils cannot mix with other children. School arrivals and departures have also been staggered.
“The measures have worked, we have not had any infection clusters in schools since September,” Gauci said.
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