As of Monday, authorities will be introducing the “test to stay” policy in primary and secondary schools, in a bid not to shut classrooms where positive cases were found while keeping students safe, the Health Ministry said on Friday.
It effectively ends compulsory quarantine for close contacts of Covid-19 cases at schools, favouring daily tests for six consecutive days instead of sending children home to isolate.
The measure was to come into effect last Monday, but was put on ice after a teachers’ pushback.
Following the backlash, authorities believe they have now found middle ground to avoid strikes by teachers who authorised their unions on Saturday to take action against the measure.
The “test to stay” policy has been tweaked, making it optional for unvaccinated students, with parents to decide between having their children self-isolate for ten days or stay at school and take daily tests for six days.
Students whose parents choose to keep them at home, can only be released after taking a PCR test on the seventh day, or after completing ten days in isolation.
Vaccinated won’t self-isolate
As for vaccinated students, under the current rules they do not need to self-isolate and continue to go to school normally, if they are reported to be a close contact.
However, as of Monday, if a vaccinated student is a close contact, then they will have to undergo daily testing to remain at school.
The authorities noted that this measure concerns only school attendance. When unvaccinated students return home after school, they should isolate. Students ‘testing to stay’ must avoid public transport and should be taken to school with a private vehicle.
The ministry said mobile testing units will be sent to schools where cases are detected and will be testing students between 7.30 to 9 am. No student who is a close contact will be allowed in the classroom without getting tested.
Students will need to get tested six days in a row, excluding weekends.
Students considered as close contacts have to be seated in the classroom at least two metres from a confirmed case.