COVID19: Students return to school with Safe Pass

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Over 40,000 secondary education students return to school on Tuesday under strict COVID-19 protocols, with the need for a Safe Pass to attend for teachers as well.

A Safe Pass is acquired through vaccination, illness or a negative coronavirus test no older than 72 hours.

The Health Ministry said on Monday it will send mobile COVID-19 testing units to schools to facilitate children aged 12 to 17 to acquire a Safe Pass for access to classrooms.

It said the mobile units would also to contribute to finding confirmed cases in the student community in time, safeguarding school operations.

“The Health Ministry in coordination with the Education Ministry has set up a schedule which they have made known to the schools according to which the mobile units will visit every 72 hours.”

The Director of Secondary Education Kyprianos Louis said 113 secondary education schools will be welcoming students back, of which 63 are Gymnasiums, 38 Lyceums and eight schools will be incorporating both a Gymnasium and a Lyceum.

Students who refuse or fail to present a Safe Pass will be marked as absent without justification.

Mobile units visiting schools will exclusively serve students 12-17 years of age who must have written consent from their parents.

Along with coronavirus testing sites, walk-in vaccination centres will also be set up in and around schools while the Education Ministry will be carrying out information campaigns on the benefits of vaccination.

Students aged 12 and above will be obligated to wear a face mask.

Unvaccinated teaching staff, wanting to get tested for the purpose of issuing a Safe Pass, will have to take a test at a private lab or pharmacy.

Students return to school follows a summer surge in COVID-19 cases powered by the more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Cases in July rocketed to 1,152 cases, with August going down as the deadliest month on record with 82 deaths attributed directly to COVID, crashing the previous record of 76 deaths in December last year and January.

Meanwhile, health authorities are pushing on with their vaccination rollout for underaged teenagers.

So far, 18.2% of children aged 12 to 15 have received the first jab of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 5.2% have completed their vaccination scheme.

The percentage is higher among 16- and 17-year-olds, as 36.4% have received at least one dose, and 29% have completed their vaccination.

Another 12,000 pre-school kids will be entering formal education along with 49,819 primary school children.