PUBLIC HEALTH

Experts cautious over reopening of schools

experts-cautious-over-reopening-of-schools

A Crete Medical School expert and the head of the Athens Medical Association both expressed reservations on Tuesday about Education Ministry plans to start reopening schools as of next week.

“Schools have been proven to contribute to the pandemic,” Nikolaos Tzanakis, an expert in respiratory disease and vice president of the Hellenic Thoracic Society, warned in comments to Skai TV on Tuesday morning.

“The structure of schools in Greece does not allow spacing out classes more and we do not have the best building facilities for airing classrooms, so I would recommend a ‘hybrid’ operation of schools in areas with a low viral load, meaning alternately holding some classes remotely and others in schools, and holding off a bit in red zones,” he said, referring to areas like the Greek capital that have been designated high-risk.

Tzanakis also estimated on the basis of his team’s latest studies of the situation in the Greek capital that the coronavirus transmission rate will start showing more distinct signs of improvement around mid-April.

“The good news is that the curve is flattening. This was demonstrated by our analysis for Attica, which is a driver of the pandemic and which appears, with a few exceptions in the units of West Attica and the northern suburbs, to be in a phase of recession and de-escalation,” he said. 

“Attica sets the tone of the pandemic and if Attica starts de-escalating, we will see a de-escalation of new diagnoses very soon,” he added.

Tzanakis was also cautious about tentative government plans to reopen retail stores starting next week, saying that relaunching retail when new cases are at a rate of around 2,000 to 2,500 a day “has risks.” 

“We must open with caution,” he said, adding that the reopening of stores would best be carried out in stages, starting with less affected areas, rather than across-the-board.

Giorgos Patoulis, the regional governor of Attica and president of the Athens Medical Association, also appeared opposed to the immediate reopening of schools. 

“Opening schools right now would result in specific processes increasing cases and further pressure on the national health system,” he told Skai.

On the reopening of stores, Patoulis said that the introduction of self-testing kits and more rapid tests will help, “but it all requires very careful steps.”

“People are very tired. The retail sector is exhausted and businesspeople are at an impasse. Vaccination is our only ally,” Patoulis added.