NEWS

Schools to open in phases, with alternating classes, distancing

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As the authorities scramble to hammer out the details of a gradual easing of restrictions introduced last month to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Education Minister Niki Kerameus on Wednesday unveiled a model for the operation of schools that foresees alternating classes and social distancing.

In a joint press conference with Health Ministry spokesman Sotiris Tsiodras, Kerameus confirmed the schedule for the staggered resumption of classes, as announced by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Tuesday, namely that senior high pupils will return to school on May 11 followed a week later by secondary and primary school pupils. 

Kerameus said classes will be divided into two (with a maximum of 15 pupils in each group) and will alternate with one group attending classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and the other group attending lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays with the groups switching schedules the following week. 

There will be a home study program for the days that pupils are not at school. Meanwhile, pupils who live with people belonging to high-risk groups will be able to do their classes from home. 

In class, pupils will have to sit 1.5 meter apart from each other while the use of masks in the classroom will be optional, Kerameus said. Canteens will not operate to avert crowding. 

University entrance exams will begin on June 15, Kerameus said, adding that end-of-year school exams will be canceled. 

Kerameus, who is also minister for religious affairs, added that churches will open for personal prayer on May 4 while religious services and sacraments will resume from May 17, though restrictions will be imposed on the number of people in churches at any one time. 

Referring to the use of masks, Tsiodras said that conditions have changed and that health authorities are now advising their use in areas where many people gather.

He added that medical-grade masks are not necessary and paper or cloth masks will do, and that instructions on their proper use will be provided by health authorities. Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said their use will be mandatory on public transport and in stores, clinics and taxis.

Meanwhile, Tsiodras announced 10 new cases of coronavirus infections in the country, bringing the total nationwide to 2,576.