“This was the measure we had hoped for and it is the most appropriate,” said Jorge Ascensão to Lusa, referring to the announcement made on Thursday by the Prime Minister to have all schools closed from Monday due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The measure will affect more than two million students: approximately 240 thousand children are enrolled in pre-school education, almost 1.4 million in basic and secondary education and close to 373 thousand students in higher education institutions. To these are added the children of the daycare centers.
Since cases of students and teachers sick with the new coronavirus began to be known, school principals and parents began to advocate the anticipation of Easter holidays by two weeks, as a way of trying to contain the spread of the virus.
“Our priority has always been the health of children and of all those who work in schools,” said Jorge Ascensão, stressing that parents have always respected the decisions of health authorities, but “are more at ease” with the closure of schools.
António Costa’s speech brought another good news for parents: those who have children up to the age of 12 will not be harmed financially.
The Prime Minister promised to create a mechanism to ensure “partial remuneration” for parents who stay at home, a support that extends to those who work with green receipts.
Jorge Ascensão explained that this was another concern of parents who feared they would be harmed by having to stay at home with the children.
Despite the “good news”, the president of the Confederation says that there are other topics that continue to deserve attention, such as the impact on students of almost a month without classes.
António Costa said on Thursday that students can continue to take distance classes, but Jorge Ascensão pointed out the inequalities between families: “Some have chalets and others have huts”.
“Not all schools, not all families, will have distance learning,” he said, stressing, however, that the most important thing at the moment is to move forward with measures to try to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.
Jorge Ascensão declared that even in school years without disturbances it is difficult to give all the material, in this case the situation may be even more complicated: “It will not be easy, but it will not be impossible”.
The parents’ representative told Lusa that a meeting with officials from the Ministry of Education had been scheduled for some time and that this will be one of the issues to be addressed.
Jorge Ascensão left a call for everyone to comply with the recommendations of the Directorate-General for Health and the Prime Minister to stay at home and avoid public spaces, because only in this way “the measure to close schools will be effective”.
According to the latest figures from the Directorate-General for Health, there are 78 patients with Covid-19 in Portugal, admitting that the peak of the outbreak has not yet reached.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the disease a pandemic on Wednesday, given the “alarming levels of spread and inaction”: “We can expect the number of cases, deaths and affected countries to increase,” said the director. WHO General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Since December, more than 130,000 people have been infected in more than a hundred countries, but most have managed to recover from the disease caused by the new coronavirus, which can cause respiratory infections such as pneumonia and which has caused nearly 5,000 deaths.