COVID19: Teachers threaten walkout over ‘test to stay’

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School teachers threaten strike action after the government changed its compulsory quarantine rules for close contacts of covid cases at schools, favouring daily tests for five consecutive days.

From Monday until February 16, a ‘test to stay’ policy will be introduced in primary and secondary schools for close contacts of classmates who contract COVID-19.

The measure provides that close contacts remain in classrooms provided they test negative for five days in a bid to keep schools operational and detect positive Covid-19 cases promptly.

Unions have said that they may even walkout in protest over anticipated negative consequences of “turning schools into infirmaries and teachers into healthcare workers”.

In comments to Phileleftheros daily, secondary teachers union OELMEK boss Costas Hadjisavvas said the Cabinet decision goes against policies for the rest of society.

Hadjisavvas argued that if an unvaccinated person is found to be a close contact, then they should go into self-isolation.

“Students who are found to be close contacts will continue to be in classrooms.

“There is a very serious concern.

“Such a decision could further aggravate the situation in schools. What happens when a case is detected?

“What if a student – close contact is feeling fine in the morning and gets worse at noon? Who will take care of the child?

“What will happen to the teachers? Will they take on the role of a nurse?

“Why is there discrimination in managing close contacts within schools and managing those in the community?”

Primary school teachers union POED general secretary Charis Charalambous asked: “Why has the state not introduced the same measure for the rest of the society since it deems it safe?”

“They bombard us every day with new decisions.

“They neither consult with us nor warn us.

“What is particularly worrying and upsetting among teachers is that students who may have contracted the virus are allowed to attend classes for a few days before they actually test positive.”

On the other hand, parents seem to be on board with the decision.

The Cyprus Confederation of Secondary Education Parents president, Charalambos Dionysiou, said they approve of the new policy despite several questions.

“We agree with the measure as it allows contacts to remain in school, not missing out on their education, provided of course that they test negative.”

Parents are seeking some clarifications from the ministry.

“Will there be testing units available at any given time at schools? If not, who will test the children?

“Overall, the measure will make it easier for working parents, who will not have to stay home to look after their children who are reported to be close contacts”.

However, some parents are expected to oppose the new testing requirements, as they did to the previous testing and mask-wearing mandates.