Spokesman defends government decision to open schools


A spokesman for Greece’s conservative government has defended its decision to open schools after the winter break Monday despite the leap in coronavirus infections driven by the highly-transmissible Omicron variant, amid data that more than 15,000 children tested positive for Covid-19 the previous day.

During a press briefing Monday, Ioannis Oikonomou emphasized that mass testing – like the screening program for pupils and staff introduced by the government in Greece – was the best intervention strategy for Covid-19 control in the general population regardless of the presentation of symptoms. 

The spokesman said that a total of 15,547 children were found positive after mandatory rapid at-home diagnostic testing conducted Sunday, adding that without the screening tests infected children “would be spreading the virus unknowingly.”

Oikonomou also dismissed speculation that authorities were facing a shortage of rapid tests adding that occasional unavailability was due to problems at distribution chain level.

Stressing that ​​the mental health and social consequences of closing schools should also be taken into consideration, Oikonomou said that the government’s expert committee on Covid-19 will meet Wednesday to review progress and examine potential adjustments to the safety measures in place.