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02 October, 2020
 
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Cabinet in tight spot talks measures

Course of action to be evaluated as government prepares to meet health experts end of week

Newsroom

The President’s Cabinet is discussing the ease of measures ahead of a meeting later this week with health experts, amid reports there could be second thoughts among scientists.

Members of the cabinet are meeting on Wednesday morning to touch base on multiple issues, including the re-opening of schools, ahead of a meeting with health experts on Friday.

According to SigmaLive, there have been “strong reservations” expressed by health experts on the special epidemiological taskforce regarding the government’s plans to re-open all schools on May 21.

On Monday, high school seniors went back to school under special arrangements including a rotational basis and adhering to strict health protocols. The re-opening came after a controversial government decision that would see a gradual re-opening of all grade levels based on the administration’s evaluation of epidemiological data in the coming days and weeks.

But according to local media, a number of health experts on a special epidemiological taskforce advising the government have expressed concern over the school plans, with new, reportedly more specific recommendations in the works.

Some health experts on the taskforce reportedly expressed concern over the school plans, with reports of additional recommendations forthcoming

University of Cyprus professor Maria Koliou, an infectious disease specialist on the government taskforce, told SigmaLive the team was revisiting the re-opening of schools so that it could “make new recommendations in a more targeted manner.”

Koliou said that the Friday meeting would be the first evaluation after almost two weeks of the first relaxation of restriction measures, with the second phase set to be launched on May 21.

On the plan to resume flights in June, Koliou said “we still have another month to figure this out,” adding that she expected by then the epidemiological indicators will have changed in many countries.

“We will also see what other countries are doing and we will follow suit so that there is coordination,” she said.

But the decision to re-open public schools has divided public opinion, with some reports saying parents who had to go back to work were concerned over who will pick up their children, referring to the shorter time schedule for their seniors who now start class early morning and finish before noon.

Other parents and teachers groups, along with unions and political parties, have expressed concern as to whether students were safe to go back to school in the first place, with some describing the move as a “great and unnecessary risk.”

Last week, President Nicos Anastasiades said concerns over re-opening schools were “completely understandable but not justified” while also clarifying that any action steps by the government would be based on existing epidemiological conditions and suggestions by the scientific team.

The government’s plans to push for a gradual re-start of the economy, including reopening of schools and resumption of commercial flights, has also prompted comments from Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides.

The minister, who was waging his own battle with political parties over government funds as guarantees for business loans, said “we are obliged to show the necessary responsibility toward our fellow citizens and to the economy.”

Reports said while the island was inching toward zero cases, there still appeared to be sources of infection at large but the overall outlook remained positive.

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