Greek schools to open next week under Covid-19 self-testing regime

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Greece's Education Minister Niki Kerameus and Health Minister Thanos Plevris on Tuesday announced during a briefing that schools across the country will reopen normally on 10 January under a regime of new health measures and tighter checks.

"Nothing can replace the in-person operation of our schools. It is for the emotional and psychological development of our children, therefore it is important that they operate in their natural space, with their classmates and teachers," the Education minister said.

New Health Measures

New health measures include:
a) an extra self test for the first week of classes (Jan. 10-15), or three self tests for the week instead of two, provided by pharmacies without charge,
b) Vaccinated students and teachers must also do two self tests that week, instead of one, because of the high infection rates to those fully vaccinated as well, and
c) in cases of an infection, the entire classroom will need to be tested, not just those sitting near the infected person.

In the last case, unvaccinated students will be obliged to test every day of the week (five days), with 2 rapid tests and 3 self tests, the latter provided free by pharmacies. The same holds true for unvaccinated teachers, who will also do 2 rapid tests and 3 self tests, the latter free of charge.

Kerameus said that a high rate of infections was expected on Jan. 10, based on experience with the first day of school after summer (Sept. 13). She added that schools provide a safe framework and that "children are safer in school than out of it."

The obligatory use of masks in and out of classrooms and the suspension of school trips are still in effect, she said, adding that current measures at universities and vocational schools will remain as is.

Private clinics

Speaking on the coronavirus developments, Health Minister Plevris noted that the coronavirus Omicron variant is now dominant, taking over Delta, and that the government has reached an agreement with Greek private clinics that will offer at least 10%-15% of their plain beds for hospitalization of Covid infections.

In addition, he said a new Ministerial Decision to be published will allow a positive rapid test as adequate proof of infection for leave from work, instead of requiring a follow up with a PCR test.

Greek protocols

The Health Ministry's coronavirus experts committee will be reviewing data continuously, pediatrician Vana Papaevangelou said at the briefing, adding that "everything will be fine, based on what we have seen so far from open schools."

Papaevangelou said that Greece already follows one of the most intensive and successful protocols internationally, as proven by the fact that there was little dispersal of the virus in schools during the fall. She also noted that 84% of infections in school-age children was identified through self tests, which allowed students without symptoms to be isolated from schools quickly.