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Coronavirus: Former rector slams UCy SafePass move; students satisfied (Updated)

File photo of the University of Cyprus

Students and research staff on Thursday welcomed the decision of the University of Cyprus to allow class attendance with a SafePass, but a former rector slammed it as unacceptable and unenforceable.

A day after Tepak (University of Technology) said only vaccinated and recovered students will be allowed on campus this semester, the University of Cyprus decided that it would only request a SafePass, that is a negative PCR or rapid test, proof of vaccination or proof of recovery.

University of Cyprus rector Tasos Christofides told CyBC the senate’s decision puts more pressure on students to be vaccinated.

“Students who have not been vaccinated or will not have a negative test will not be able to attend the courses. UCy’s facilities are capable to host students with a physical presence while observing the health protocols,” he said.

He called on students to get vaccinated and said the university would not cover the cost of rapid tests, stressing that “the vaccination ‘weapon’ is still available”.

The first concern of the university is to offer high-quality education, he said. “For us, it’s the right decision. Physical presence teaching definitely has its advantages.”

Commenting on Tepak’s decision, Christofides said, “It is respected. Every university is different and independent,” he added.

“The decision we made motivates students to be vaccinated. With our decision, if a student is not vaccinated and wants to attend the courses will eventually have to undergo a test twice a week. I believe there is both inconvenience and cost for the students. We urge students to receive the jab. We will see how it goes next semester,” he said. He also said that a walk-in vaccination centre will be opened at the beginning of the semester.

But the University’s move was criticised as unacceptable and unenforceable by its former rector Constantinos Christofides.

“Science has been sacrificed for the sake of political interests. This decision was made days ago.  We cannot force teachers to control students. What will teachers with underlying conditions do? Why should they be forced to be in a classroom with unvaccinated people? If an unvaccinated student refuses to leave the classroom, who will force him to do so?” he told the Cyprus Mail.

And he said that using an online platform to record which students are vaccinated and who are not, certainly violates the personal data of students.

And on Twitter, the former rector expressed disappointment, saying science had been sacrificed to partisan petty politics. “Such times require boldness and decisiveness. Pity.”

Tuesday’s decision by Tepak only allow vaccinated and recovered students on campus for the new semester has prompted protests with students urging the health minister to intercede.

But on Wednesday, Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas said that he cannot interfere in Tepak’s decision adding that “If the universities themselves, choose to take stricter measures, it is something over which we cannot intervene.”

Commenting on Tepak’s decision compared to UCy’s, Constantinos Christofides said “It is definitely clearer. In fact, in universities abroad, unvaccinated students were not even allowed to register. We don’t want to get there, but we need to be reasonable. Those who refuse to receive the jab, have to attend lessons from home ”

“Every decision is evaluated by the results. We closed last October with 100 cases a day, I estimate that the spread of the virus on campus will be huge from the very first month,” he concluded.

But for students the university’s move was in the right direction. Theophanis Costas, president of the Student Union of the University of Cyprus (Fepan) told CyBC that the decision is satisfactory, but said the cost of the tests for the unvaccinated students must be covered by the state.

Furthermore, Proodeftiki union issued a statement to explain why they had protested outside the health ministry on Wednesday and clarifying that their position was in favour of vaccinations.

“We call on students to have the jab. However, we are against any kind of coercion, and we disagree with the government’s communication campaign for students regarding vaccinations,” the announcement said.

“Our demand is the return of all students to courses with a physical presence. We say no to financial exclusion. Unvaccinated students do not have to pay for their tests. Tepak’s decision is the wrong solution. The Government bears full responsibility for the situation. They should have already made decisions long before now. ”

The union of adjunct doctoral teaching and research staff (Dede) at the University of Cyprus, also welcomed the decision to reopen the universities with students’ physical presence, but added that they had expected to be asked about such an important issue.

“The decisions taken by the Senate need further clarification to ensure the health of all employees and the academic community “, the announcement added.

The Union also asked for free PCR for the academic community, better information on the new educational procedures, 50 per cent occupancy in the classrooms, information on the implementation of safety measures, and the maintenance of walk-in vaccination centers.

Almost 90 per cent of administrative and academic staff are already vaccinated.

 

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