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Greece: Possible reopening of schools with stricter protocols

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

Kathimerini Greece Newsroom

With Covid-19 infections going through the roof, Greece's 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.

“It is better for children to come to school and have checks done within the school environment than the opposite,”

Speaking on Monday to Kathimerini, Education Minister Niki Kerameus stressed that reopening schools will also make 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 students are not at school.

Kerameus said, for example, that pupils wear their masks inside the classroom, as opposed to outside when they are out playing or having fun with friends. Moreover, with schools open, students will be consistently tested, while strict protocols will be 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 the operation of schools, in 80% of cases where an infection was found, 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 during the weekend. It was also deemed financially unwise.

At the same time, the decision to shut down a school after the current threshold of 50%+1 of its students being infected will be re-examined.  According to information, the number will most likely be reduced to a 30% threshold.

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.

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