The Test to Stay programme in schools has been a great success, Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas said on Monday speaking to the House education committee.

“Thanks to Test to Stay, over 6,000 students were able to go back to school,” the minister said.

He added that the aim of the programme is to further increase relaxations in the country in the coming weeks.

“The positivity rate among students stands at 1.13 per cent, a much lower rate compared to other environments in Cyprus.

“Furthermore, out of over 6,000 tests carried out within the programme every day, only 60 positive cases emerge on average,” the minister said.

Hadjipantelas urged teaching unions, in particular high school teachers’ union Oelmek, to start engaging in productive dialogue, instead of focusing on potential problems.

Addressing the same committee meeting, Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou echoed Hadjipantelas and said that thanks to the Test to Stay schools are among the safest places in Cyprus at the moment.

“While the majority of teachers have physically returned to schools, some are still at home, either because they are contacts or because they are looking after children,” Prodromou added.

Oelmek’s president Costas Hadjisavvas, however, said that the Test to Stay programme is weighing heavy on the teachers’ shoulders and called for a reduction of teaching hours.

Earlier on Monday, Hadjisavvas added that parents have also become health inspectors since the measure was adopted and that Oelmek had already requested an immediate meeting with officials and epidemiologists who approved the measure.

Speaking to CyBC, he said the situation needs assessing and “possibly suspending” before it causes any greater spread of the virus in schools.

On Saturday the ministry of education called on teachers themselves to use the Test to Stay scheme so less of them will be away from the classroom when they have been exposed to the virus.

The ministry said that around 20 per cent of teachers who were off would be in the classroom if they were tested each morning and went in if they proved negative.

But the health ministry said that since the first day of implementation “the specific measure was embraced by thousands of students and parents”.

It also questioned which data Oelmek was citing when it claimed that more clusters are being detected among students since the implementation of the Test to Stay policy, risking school closures.