COVID19: More schools to reopen, but not much else

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Scientists advising the government on handling COVID-19 propose that gymnasium students and Limassol primary schools can return to class from Friday while warning against wider lockdown relaxations.

Maintaining their stance that exiting lockdown should not be rushed, scientists put their proposals before Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou after a Sunday night meeting.

The government will discuss lifting more measures on Wednesday when current deadlines expire.

Dr Maria Koliou, a government advisor, told CyBC radio on Monday that gymnasium pupils could return to school on condition that systematic rapid antigen tests continue.

She said that scientists had given the green light for elementary schools in the Limassol district to reopen after being closed earlier this month, following a series of COVID-19 clusters found in schools.

With April 1 being a school holiday, students are likely to return on Friday 2 April or Monday 5 April, for the first time this year, after being sent home for Christmas.

Gymnasium (middle school) students are the last of the students to return to school.

Authorities have been under pressure from parent associations arguing that gymnasium and Limassol elementary schools were unfairly discriminated against.

Psychologists also believe that children are negatively affected by being confined to their homes.

Media reports also have scientists contemplating whether people could be allowed to leave their homes more than twice a day, adding another SMS, or lifting restrictions on movement entirely.

An 11 pm curfew is expected to remain in place.

“With the Easter holidays drawing nearer, the epidemiological picture should not change.

“Improvement in trends recorded this week throughout Cyprus and in Limassol are fragile, and the reduction of cases is not yet stable,” said Koliou.

Cyprus will be celebrating the Orthodox Easter on May 2.

She said that no change should be expected regarding restrictions on restaurants, cafes, and bars, which are currently restricted to their outdoor facilities and deliveries.

Meanwhile, the government is under pressure from hoteliers and travel agents to allow hotels to reopen for foreign and local tourists after being closed since Christmas.

Authorities have already announced a set of incentive schemes for local tourists.

Reportedly, scientists suggest the number of house visitors can increase slightly from four to six, while gyms could also be allowed to facilitate a few more athletes at a time.

Gyms and dance schools are allowed to facilitate two people if their facilities are 80 square metres, from 80-200 sqm three people are allowed over 200 sqm a maximum of five.

The trainer or teacher is included in the number of people allowed.

Music schools and private tutoring are allowed two people physically present (one tutor and one student); they could be allowed to accommodate more students at a time.