The Department of Basic Education and the Department of Health have backtracked on their original statement that students who test positive for COVID-19 will not be allowed to sit their matric examinations in 2020.

In October, the DBE said that students displaying COVID-19 symptoms would not be allowed to sit for their final papers. Instead the would have to write the supplementary exams in 2021.

According to the DBE, they received representations from parents and learners for government to review the protocols. After consulting with the Department of Health, they agreed to allow students with COVID-19 to sit the exams, although a host of health protocols will be in place to protect other students.

“It was agreed that candidates who test positive, and deemed fit to write the examination, will be allowed to write albeit at a different venue and under secure conditions that are in compliance with the examination regulations,” the statement reads. “The Department will work jointly to ensure that candidates who have been confined to be positive are given an opportunity to sit for the exams while ensuring that safety is observed.”

Learners who are screened at the entrance of the examination venue and display a temperature higher than 38°C will be allowed to write the exam in an isolation venue at the school. These learners will be immediately taken to the isolation venue and after the examination they will not be allowed to socialise with other learners, but will be taken to a health centre for further medical attention.

“We welcome the intervention by the Department of Health given that a learner that sets positive becomes the responsibility of the Department of Health and no longer an education issue,” said Minister Angie Motshekga. “The initial protocol of the Department of Basic Education was widely consulted and endorsed by the Department of Health, but this change in the protocol is very helpful because it will give all learners and opportunity to write their examinations.”

However, the Minister cautions that these concessions do not mean that people may now be complacent in terms of the safety measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

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