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Coronavirus: Tardy students mucking up strict ‘test to stay’ regimen, ministry says

school kids
Photo: Christos Theodorides

Students arrive late at the set locations providing free coronavirus tests as part of the ‘test to stay’ policy, resulting in a commotion and loss of “valuable teaching time”, the health ministry said on Thursday.

In an announcement reminding people of the operating hours of the testing sites at schools as well as private labs, the health ministry said “students who are close contacts are not complying” with the set hours.

Sites at schools operate from 7am to 8am, while private labs under the programme also open from 7am, the health ministry reiterated.

When students fail to arrive on time, the ministry said, it results in overcrowding and inconvenience to people “while at the same time valuable teaching time is lost”.

The scheme, which was criticised by parents and teachers as insufficient in preventing the spread of the virus, was recently further condemned as some school testing units failed to operate, and others had limited staff.

To facilitate student’s testing, the health ministry started operating testing sites in virtually all schools and has included private laboratories.

Under the policy, implemented in schools on January 24, students who are close contacts can choose to undergo a rapid test for a period of seven days to attend school. Alternatively, they may self-isolate at home and carry out a rapid or PCR test on the seventh day.

A week later, students who have received both doses of a two-dose vaccine or the single dose Janssen anti-coronavirus jab less than seven months prior, as well as students who have recovered from coronavirus in the last 90 days were excluded from the test to stay policy. In case these are close contacts, they can attend school.

However, they must undergo a PCR or rapid test on the third and fifth day after they came into contact with a confirmed coronavirus case with the ministry recommending they should ill also carry out a PCR or rapid test on the seventh day.

The policy was also extended to health professionals in public and private hospitals, police and the fire department following a cabinet decision but has not yet been implemented.

It was also extended to the national guard and will come into effect on Friday.

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