THE Government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis has been described as a comedy of errors by the president of the ASTI.
nn Piggott made the Shakespearean reference during a speech in which she called for high risk teachers to be permitted to work from home until vaccinated.
She referred to the Government decision to remove teachers’ prioritisation on the vaccine schedule as a “brutal and sudden kick in the teeth”.
Despite the objective of keeping schools open, she claimed no vaccination of essential school workers is deemed important and called on the Government to reverse its “poor” decision.
Ms Piggott said pregnant staff must be facilitated to work remotely for the remainder of the school year and in the future if they risk being exposed to Covid.
“Total disregard has been shown for the frontline workers in this country who come face to face with hundreds of people in the course of essential work where exposure to illness is unavoidable,” she said.
She said despite previously appearing at level 11 on a 15-point vaccine list, teachers were suddenly “thrust into oblivion”.
Ms Pigott said the last six levels after level nine were removed instantly and unexpectedly a week ago.
“Did NIAC set the original list?” she asked. “Why was it changed? Was it for simplicity or for other concerns?
“Why will someone who is working from home, without meeting anyone be vaccinated ahead of people who are in positions of potential exposure to coronavirus.”
She said the ASTI is not the only union to feel anger at “the abandonment”.
“TUI, INTO, Fórsa, GRA, AGSI, NBRU have all publicly expressed disappointments,” she said.
She said in December Unesco, Unicef and Education International called on governments to prioritise school staff for vaccinations.
Last weekend, she said the United Nations called again for prioritisation of vaccinations for teachers and a few days later, the Government removed key workers from the schedule.
She said the latest promised easing of restrictions will allow only two people who are vaccinated to meet indoors.
However, she said a “parallel universe” continues in undersized classrooms, where 33 can meet without vaccinations.
“Hundreds of people swirl and circle in crammed and overcrowded situations in schools daily,” she said.
She said a parallel system of protecting frontline workers is the obvious solution and this could be done in very little time as over 27,000 vaccines were administered on one day last week.
Due to new variants, she said booster shots may be needed over time.
She said during any booster rollout, teachers and SNAs will again experience the same ‘invisibility status’ as was introduced a week ago.
She warned teachers that depending on their age they may have to wait a long time but claimed having teachers on the list would not deprive vulnerable people from getting vaccines.
Ms Piggott said the risk to people aged 60 to 64 must be very high.
“So why are teachers in this age bracket being instructed to returning to choc – a- block classrooms, along with other people in the high risk category who suffer from cancer, heart failure, chronic kidney disease as examples,” she asked.
“People in the high-risk categories must be facilitated to work from home until they are safely vaccinated.”
She also claimed that students have had to sit at desks in doorways to be one metre away from others due to a lack of space.
“We do not have the luxury of large classrooms the size of convention centres,” she said.
Source: Irish News