Flu plan for schools unveiled

Education Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos yesterday presented his ministry’s action plan to deal with the spread of swine flu as children prepare to return to school as scheduled after the summer vacation. Among the measures being taken by the ministry is the establishment of a special call center, which can be reached by telephoning the 4-digit number 1550. The hotline will be manned by specialized personnel who will reply to callers’ questions and provide information about the H1N1 virus. Spiliotopoulos said the ministry’s website would also be providing specific information about preventive measures and steps people can take to protect themselves against contracting the bug. A two-week program has been prepared for television, he added, which will simplify the relevant instructions for schoolchildren of all grades as well as their parents. But Spiliotopoulos did not rule out closing schools if the flu begins to spread rapidly. «If the virus starts spreading, a special program has been created for educational television so that children who may have to stay at home do not get behind with their lessons,» the minister said, adding that arrangements had also been made to replace any teachers who contract swine flu. With schools across the country due to re-open tomorrow, Spiliotopoulos said 45,000 vaccinations have been secured for teaching staff while reiterating that the vaccination is not deemed necessary at the present time. The announcement of the measures drew criticism from the main opposition PASOK party, which said that the national plan to tackle the swine flu outbreak – announced by the government in early August – omitted to make any specific reference to schools. «Since July 30 we have proposed a comprehensive action plan. The measures announced by the government today are considered by teachers to be inadequate and impracticable,» said PASOK’s Anna Diamantopoulou and Georgios Floridis, the party’s spokespersons for education and health respectively. The number of recorded cases of swine flu in Greece is approaching the 2,000 mark with 11 serious cases and one fatality linked to the virus. Earlier this week, doctors called for more beds to be made available in the intensive care units of the country’s hospitals to deal with patients afflicted by the bug.