Greek high schools will reopen on February 1, according to information presented at a live-televised briefing presented by Deputy Minister of Civil Protection and Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias and Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and member of the Committee of Experts, Gikas Majorkinis on Friday.
The only exception to this ruling will be those high schools located in the “red” areas of the nation with the highest coronavirus infection rates, stated Professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and member of the Committee of Experts, Vana Papaevangou.
Niki Kerameus, the Greek Minister of Education, who was also present at the briefing, stated that she believed Greek students could indeed return to schools in a safe manner.
“The pandemic does not stop education”
Following a recommendation issued by the Committee of Infectious Diseases, the Ministry of Education decided to restart the operation of secondary schools on Monday, February 1.
“The pandemic does not stop Education,” Minister Kerameus stated at the briefing. “Today, we move on to the next step, the opening of high schools and lyceums.
“A step that students, teachers, parents, educators expect. Everyone is looking forward to getting back to school and stressing the importance of going back to class. And for the government, the reopening of schools for life has been a priority from the first moment.
“Today we are turning another page together. We return to the desks observing the measures, we learn safely,” the minister stated firmly.
Exceptions to the rule
Greece’s “red” regions, which are currently carrying a higher than average epidemiological burden, all high schools will continue to operate remotely, using distance education only for the present. However, Special Education and Training schools will continue to operate normally in these areas.
All other educational institutions, including universities, “Second Chance Schools,” Vocational Training Institutes, tutoring centers, language centers, and Lifelong Learning Centers, will only be allowed to conduct distance education at present.
Extra preventative measures must be followed
Kerameos noted the extensive amounts of preventive measures, including the obligatory use of a mask indoors and outdoors, staggered breaks for groups of students, and the limitations on the number of students participating in sports and other activities, as part of the reopening.
The use of antiseptics, thorough sanitizing, the regular ventilation of the premises, and other the special measures for adapted operation of cafeterias, computer labs, use of musical instruments, etc., was also mentioned by Kerameus in her speech today.
In addition, she noted, there will also be random checks and tests completed by the EODY inside the schools.
Coronavirus tests for both teachers and students
Kerameus also stated that both teachers and students are encouraged to use the specially-designated platform for coronavirus testing, from which everyone over the age of 16 can now request a free coronavirus test. The Minister stated that this measure is purely of a “preventive nature” allowing officials to gauge the epidemiological picture in schools.
“I would like to warmly thank the primary school teachers who have responded to this opportunity, and we call on secondary school teachers, as well as students over the age of 16, to take advantage of this opportunity for a free examination,” she said.
Epidemic now “stabilized” according to epidemiological panel
Professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases Vana Papaevangelou noted during the briefing that the epidemic has “stabilized” in the country in the last 3-4 weeks.
“If we follow the measures, we will be able to keep the curve low,” she stated. “We all now know what to do, wear a mask and keep our distance. Vaccines are a great weapon against the pandemic; however it should be understood that the contribution will become apparent only after a significant percentage is vaccinated.”
“In the event of an increase in cases, we will need to intervene and propose a suspension of activities. The invisible enemy is waiting and waiting for a wrong move,” she warned.
“In our country we are very lucky, as the duration of winter is short,” she explained on a more hopeful note. “Our initial assumptions are confirmed, that there is a correlation of temperatures with the increase of cases,” said Papaevangelou. “For each degree (increase) of ambient temperature, the spread of new cases is reduced by 3%,” the professor concluded.
“Green light” for families to move
Another positive indication that things are returning to normal is that students who belong to families who must move, in order to release the property that they are currently renting, will now be allowed to do so, according to the new ruling.
The panel stipulated that all the necessary supporting documents surrounding the expiration of the lease must be produced, however.