Ministry of Health issues a method for ordering quarantine at schools in connection to COVID-19

The aim of the methodical instructions is to help the employees of regional public health authorities to make decisions when ordering quarantine at schools and educational facilities, or when closing or restricting the operation of schools and educational facilities within the joint procedure according to the same principles throughout the Czech Republic. The Ministry of Health prepared the material in cooperation with the Ministry of Education. It shall come into effect on Monday, 7 September 2020.

“The situations which schools and public health authorities must cope with in connection to the coronavirus are entirely unprecedented. Therefore, we are defining the rules which public health authorities will be following with respect to schools if contagion should occur at educational facilities. The method will unify the procedure for hygienists and offer school principals a predictable scenario as to what will happen in the given situation,” said Minister for Health Adam Vojtěch.

“School principals and parents must be aware of how hygienists will proceed in the case of quarantine or the occurrence of the COVID-19 disease at schools. Therefore, we believe this material will bring light to the previously rather unclear situation, where the individual regional public health authorities took differing approaches to schools,” said Minister for Education Robert Plaga with respect to the published material, which regulates the procedures of regional public health authorities in schools and educational facilities.

In the case of the laboratory-confirmed incidence of COVID-19 disease among individuals at schools and educational facilities, the imposition of quarantine applies only to those persons who were in high-risk, epidemiologically relevant contact. The regional public health authority with local competence decides about the scope of the persons based on the performed epidemiological investigation. When making its decision, it takes into account the duration and period of contact with the positive case, intensity of contact, mutual distance between persons, specific health issues of the positive person in the school environment, measures implemented at the given facility, use of protective respiratory equipment, disinfection of the hands and surfaces, etc.

Every such case must be reviewed individually. “Individual situations may also differ based on a number of variables, such as the type and size of the school, spatial conditions at the school, the number of pupils in the class, etc. The current local epidemiological situation may also vary. For these reasons, it is impossible to stipulate a universal approach. Nevertheless, it is necessary to create certain common principles for ordering quarantine at these facilities, to be applied in the decisions made by the regional public health authorities. In the case of a confirmed incidence of COVID-19 at the school, quarantine is ordered for the pupil, teacher and other workers based on specific criteria,” explained the coordinator of the method, a member of the epidemiological and clinical group at the Ministry of Health and Czech Vaccinology Association, Mr Roman Chlíbek.

“The basic idea underlying the whole method is for the quarantine to have the lowest possible impact on the school. The school will only be closed after the first larger incidence of the disease. As concerns individuals, quarantine will affect the closest range of people, meaning the class, club, etc. All the regional public health authorities participated in creating the new method, for which they deserve immense thanks,” added Chief Hygienist of the Czech Republic Jarmila Rážová.

If the incidence of COVID-19 is confirmed or quarantine is imposed at the school or educational facility for more than 30% of the teaching staff and children/pupils/students, preceded by a rising trend in the contagion rate, the risk of the presence of many possible sources of contagion and further transmission of the disease is so high that it is recommended to close or restrict the operation of the school or educational facility (individual buildings or workplaces). Hence, it is even possible and justified to only partially restrict the operation of the school or of a specific building if the school or school facility operates in multiple buildings. In the aforementioned situation, the further operation of the entire school or school facility (building or workplace) would pose an excessive epidemiological risk and threat to public health. The decision to close the school or educational facility (building or workplace) is issued by the respective regional public health authority.

In less severe cases or when the operation of the school is impossible due to a lack of staff who are in quarantine, the regional public health authority with local competence will conduct an individual assessment and may recommend a different system for closing the school or educational facility (building or workplace) upon agreement with the school principal – the school proceeds pursuant to Section 24(2) or (3) of the Schools Act, respectively Section 3(2) of Decree No. 14/2005 Coll.