COVID19: Back to school with tests, masks

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Students and teachers must return to class with negative tests and masks, said the Health Ministry on Friday, announcing the government’s draft roadmap to opening schools in September.

Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela said, following a meeting with government advisors on handling the coronavirus outbreak, everyone returning to school will need a 48-hour negative COVID-19 test.

Students over 12 and educators must wear face coverings indoors, including classrooms.

Any further decisions concerning frequent testing at schools will depend on how widespread the virus is amongst the student community before returning to school.

Meanwhile, wearing face masks in public indoor spaces remains a requirement for adults and children aged 12 and older.

Hadjipantela said that scientists argue the masks at present cannot be removed.

“Scientists say we may have a new wave in the winter, and we must be prepared.”

He said scientists had made a draft roadmap to manage the pandemic in the coming months.

Experts discussed at length the issue of long covid and hospitalised coronavirus patients.

Medical services will analyse why some patients are hospitalised; for example, if they were not administered antiviral medications in time.

“In a briefing I had with the Commissioner of the European Commission Stella Kyriakides, she told me that in the next two to three weeks, we will have news regarding the new vaccines that will protect people against the new variants,” said Hadjipantela

Scientist Dr Zoe Dorothea Pana said the roadmap is a framework that will “highlight the existing work and strengthen future work, using what we have in each phase of the pandemic”.

Regarding hospitalisations, Pana said health authorities now have the experience, protocols, and medications to manage patients that develop more severe symptoms.

The roadmap will include increasing the vaccination coverage among the population and reviewing testing policies while stepping up efforts to better prepare state hospitals for a possible new wave of cases in autumn and winter.

Any decisions taken by scientists will be finalised in a scheduled meeting on August 30 and submitted to the cabinet for approval.