NEWS

Schools to reopen with stricter protocols

As infections pass 36,000 threshold, Education Ministry envisages more inspections and testing

schools-to-reopen-with-stricter-protocols

With Covid-19 infections going through the roof, the Education Ministry plans to tighten testing and restrictions at schools as it is keen to see them reopen on January 10.

Kathimerini understands that among the measures being planned is for pupils to now take three self-tests – every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday – while the protocols that will apply in response to an outbreak will also change.

Speaking Monday to Kathimerini, Education Minister Niki Kerameus stressed that reopening schools also makes it easier to have greater control of the country’s student population given that safety measures are observed more meticulously compared to the period when schools are off.

Kerameus said, for example, that pupils wear their masks in the classroom, as opposed to what happens outside of school, when they are out playing or having fun with friends. Moreover, with schools open, students are consistently tested, while there are also strict protocols that are activated when there is a case in the classroom, she added. 

“It is better for children to come to school and have checks done within the school environment than the opposite,” she stressed, adding that during the first four months of schools’ operation, in 80% of instances of an infection there was never a second case. This, she said, was due to consistent controls.

Apart from the plan for students to take three self-tests a week, rapid tests will also be required of all the classmates of an infected pupil. Until now, only the unvaccinated did rapid tests and the vaccinated did self-tests.

The initial idea for everyone to return to school on Monday after having taken a rapid test and then continuing with self-tests, appears to have been shelved. Government officials deemed it unfeasible given that there are no structures for testing 1.4 million students at the weekend. It was also deemed financially unwise.

At the same time, it will be examined whether the percentage of cases in a department will be reduced, most likely to 30%, before a decision is taken to suspend its operation. Under current rules a department shuts down when 50%+1 of students are infected.

The final decision on schools will also apply to private tutoring schools (frontistiria) and higher education institutes.

In Attica, many tutoring centers operated with distance learning last semester, while provincial ones tended to have in-class lessons.