COVID19: No more face masks or back-to-school tests

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Students and teachers will return to their classrooms in early September without having to wear face masks or take a COVID-19 test, the cabinet decided Wednesday.

Encouraged by the improved epidemiological data, the cabinet reversed a previous decision that teachers and students wear masks in class.

“After three years, we are in a position to move with significant relaxations of the current measures, as the epidemiological data show substantial improvement in our country,” said Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela.

Children and educators will not have to take a rapid test before returning to school.

Announcing the latest relaxations, authorities still recommend that students and teachers take self-tests.

A free pack of five self-tests will be distributed to all primary and pre-school children upon their return to school on 12 September.

After the cabinet meeting, the minister said a mask mandate for public indoor places was also dropped from Wednesday.

Excluded are places considered high risks, such as hospitals, nursing homes, or facilities providing health care, pharmacies and public transport.

Face masks are still recommended in crowded places for people who belong to vulnerable groups or those who come in contact with them.

As of Wednesday, restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, and shopping malls can use 100% of their capacity again.

The same applies to churches, conference halls, football fields and casinos.

Hadjipantela urged people to keep abiding by self-protection measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

He warned that these ‘encouraging developments’ should not lead to complacency and non-compliance with the personal protection measures.

Hadjipantela said that authorities recommend a weekly self-test or rapid test for everyone, regardless of their vaccination status.

He added that authorities had prepared a roadmap “to protect public health while keeping society and economy open and resilient”.

“We will continue to raise awareness of the need to observe protection measures and the benefits of vaccination against Covid-19, among other things”.

A face mask mandate was one of the last COVID-19 measures to be lifted on 1 June, only for authorities to make the U-turn a month later, following a new wave of COVID infections.

Scientists are confident that the sixth wave of infections powered by Omicron subvariants has dissipated.

COVID cases reported last week remained at the same level, increasing to 2,154 from 2,130.

COVID-19 fatalities have reached 1,168 since the pandemic started in March 2020.

Coronavirus infections since the pandemic rose to 576,278– over half the population.