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Coronavirus: re-opening of gymnasiums still in limbo, parents to protest

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Gymnasiums could reopen if Covid protocols are implemented but how soon that may be has not yet been decided, an adviser to the government told secondary school union Oelmek, it emerged on Saturday.

The gymnasiums, which include the first three grades of high school, are scheduled to reopen on Friday April 2, according to the health ministry. April 1 is a public holiday effectively meaning the gymnasiums are set to remain closed for another two weeks at least.

Other high-school pupils have already returned to class.  The decision to hold back gymnasium students has been criticised as arbitrary and their parents are expected to protest outside the presidential palace on Monday.

According to Oelmek chief Themis Polyviou, Assistant Professor of Pathology at the European University specialising in Infection Control Constantinos Tsioutis agreed with the union that the gymnasiums should reopen and remain open.

The ministry’s epidemiological team meets every Tuesday. However, Polyviou said there were no assurances that reopening gymnasiums sooner would be part of next week’s discussions and recommendations.

“We will continue distance learning until a decision is taken for the return of the children to school,” Polyviou said.

During his meeting with Tsioutis, Polyviou said the issue of vaccinations was also discussed and that teachers would be among the professions given priority following the completion of vaccinations for vulnerable groups.

Concerning the mandatory weekly rapid tests, the scientist told Polyviou that the epidemiological team would assess the possibility of allowing saliva tests, “and if it can be implemented, they will promote that as well,” Polyviou added. Many parents would prefer their child be allowed to use this less invasive method of testing.

Polyviou also said he had highlighted to the scientist the need for implementation of a clear protocol for contact tracing in schools.

To date, if a student tests positive for coronavirus only the people sitting in front of, next to and behind them are instructed to self-isolate. Teachers are not included as close contacts.

Polyviou said this was “not enough” as children may attend other classes such as physical education where contacts cannot be traced using that same method.

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