Despite a teachers’ pushback, the “test to stay” policy was introduced in schools on Monday to keep classrooms going safely where positive cases are found.
Students found to be close contacts of known COVID-19 cases have to undergo daily tests for six days if they want to remain in classrooms, effectively ending compulsory quarantine.
Under the “test to stay” policy, unvaccinated students’ parents must decide whether to have their children self-isolate for ten days or stay at school and take daily tests.
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.
The authorities said this measure concerns only school attendance. When unvaccinated students return home after school, they should isolate.
Previously, vaccinated students did not need to self-isolate and continued school normally when reported as a close contact.
However, as of Monday, if a vaccinated student is a close contact, they will have to undergo daily testing to remain at school.
Students ‘testing to stay’ must avoid public transport and should be taken to school with a private vehicle.
The Health Ministry said mobile testing units would be sent to schools where cases are detected and testing students between 7.30 am, and 9 am.
Health authorities are looking into setting up fixed testing stations strategically at half of the primary and secondary education schools, covering neighbouring schools.
No close contact student will be allowed in the classroom without getting tested.
The measure was to be introduced last week and was to make daily testing compulsory for all contacts.
Following opposition from teachers, authorities held back until they found a compromise: to allow parents of unvaccinated students to keep them at home for 10 days instead of undergoing daily tests.
Primary and secondary teachers’ unions POED and OELMEK have authorised strike action against the move.
POED on Monday announced it would be walking out of classrooms for an hour on 7 February.
Also, effective Monday, quarantine for close contacts of known COVID-19 cases is reduced from 14 to 10 days for those not fully vaccinated.
People instructed to go into isolation as close contacts can be released on the seventh day, provided they test negative to a PCR test, carried out at their own expense.
It applies only to the unvaccinated or people who have not completed their initial two-dose vaccination regime and those due for a booster shot and have not done so seven months after their last shot.
People who have contracted the virus more than 90 days earlier will also have to go into isolation if they are a close contact.