More children than usual were off school sick on Monday, the first day of school after the Christmas holidays.

Education ministry’s secondary education director Elias Markadjis said on Tuesday that “around five or six per cent” of children across Cyprus had taken the previous day off sick, a markedly higher figure than the usual range of one to three per cent.

Markadjis told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) that around 5,850 children of all ages from pre-primary to high school were off sick on Monday.

However, he urged calm and caution in reaction to the figures and appeared unflustered by them.

“The numbers don’t worry us. They do not necessarily mean the absences were all Covid-19-related, and we are monitoring the situation. The schools are working fine,” he said.

He added, “it is not a big number really, because any day you look for it, there will be a percentage of children who are absent. Everything has its logic.”

He pointed out that the ministry had urged parents of children who exhibit symptoms of colds and flu to keep their children off school, and said that given this state of affairs, “it is a small proportion of children who stayed at home.

“The proportion of absences is not high enough to cause us concern,” he added.

“There is not a single day on which you go to school and not one child is absent. If you take into account the fact that it is January, we have outbreaks of infections, it is not right to conclude that all these children have Covid-19. It would be a big mistake,” he said.