The ‘test to stay’ scheme introduced in schools on Monday with several caveats is expected to be introduced in hospitals, the police force and fire service. The proposal is set to be approved by the council of ministers on Wednesday but whether it will be accepted by the workers of these services remains to be seen.
The scheme may have been brought in at schools so students who were close contacts do not unnecessarily miss classes but it does not seem to have been very successful. Health minister Michalis Hadjipantelas, however was pleased with the results. On Tuesday 378 students, out of 1,500 that were close contacts, underwent the ‘test to stay’ with just three positives found. Only 25 per cent took the test, the remaining 75 per cent choosing to self-isolate for 10 days; or perhaps they could do the test today or tomorrow.
This is what happens when the government makes the test voluntary, with the teaching unions raising a fuss and threatening strikes on the grounds that the ‘test to stay’ would make schools unsafe. The negativity of the self-serving teaching unions was bound to influence the way parents viewed the scheme and apply pressure on the education ministry to modify it in such a way that it defeated its purpose, which was to allow as many children that were close contacts to attend classes. One in four taking up the option to do so is rather disappointing.
There is another irrationality to the measure, which in a way supports the argument of the teachers about safety. Students who ‘test to stay’ would still have to isolate as soon as they leave school and are banned from using the school bus or participating in an any afternoon activities, the government said. But if they are safe to attend classes, by what logic are they considered a risk when they get on the bus or engage in outdoor activities? Either the ‘test to stay’ is reliable or it is not. It cannot be one thing in the morning and another in the afternoon.
It is laughable that the government is now under the illusion that it can use the scheme at public hospitals, the police and fire service. Which public employee would choose to have a test every morning for six days to go to work when the alternative is staying at home, watching television on full pay? Unless the test to stay is made compulsory for them none of them would take it. And if hospital workers, policemen and firemen that were close contacts are obliged to do the test, so should teachers. That would be consistent but we doubt the health ministry would dare to do this because of the strike threat.
‘Test to stay’ may have seemed a good idea on paper, but it is proving a spectacular failure in practice because, like most Covid measures, it was not thought through.