At least 15,547 positive self-tests for Covid were recorded on Monday among pupils and teaching staff as schools reopened in Greece after the Christmas and New Year’s holiday.
Authorities defied calls by some experts to delay the return to class amid a sharp rise in Covid infections driven by the Omicron variant, with government spokesman Ioannis Oikonomou telling Mega TV on Sunday that “children are more protected inside the school environment than outside it.”
Students of all levels, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, as well as vaccinated teachers, have been provided with five (5) free self-tests from pharmacies, to be used from Wednesday, January 5 until Saturday, January 8.
New health measures include:
- an extra self-test for the first week of classes (Jan. 10-15), or three self-tests for the week instead of two, provided by pharmacies without charge;
- Vaccinated students and teachers must also do two self-tests that week, instead of one, because of the high infection rates to those fully vaccinated as well; and
- in cases of an infection, the entire classroom will need to be tested, not just those sitting near the infected person. In the last case, unvaccinated students will be obliged to test every day of the week (five days), with 2 rapid tests and 3 self-tests, the latter provided free by pharmacies. The same holds true for unvaccinated teachers, who must also undergo two rapid tests and three self-tests, the latter free of charge.
Opposition blasts decision to open schools in Greece
Main opposition SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance harshly criticized the government and the Prime Minister for the way Greek schools opened on Monday, accusing it of “opening the schools exactly as they closed.”
“Today, (Prime Minister Kyriakos) Mitsotakis confirmed one thing: that after two years of tragic management and utter failure, with the country breaking every negative European record in cases and deaths, it chooses herd immunity,” it said.
In particular, SYRIZA noted that “two years after the outbreak of the pandemic, with the ‘Omicron’ variant sweeping and the daily admissions of Covid cases in hospitals having skyrocketed from 340 to 632 in ten days, the government today opened schools just like they closed.”
It went on to say that “schools across Europe are opening with special protocols, and in most countries, classes will stop for a few days in case of one or two cases while students will be provided with free PCR tests in order to break the chain of transmissibility.”
It added that the Greek government is ignoring the grim reality and the anxiety and fears of the parents.
Greece adds another 300 Covid beds to the Health Service
Meanwhile, Greece announced on Sunday that another 300 Covid beds provided by large private sector clinics have been included in the operational plan for the Attica region.
Thus, the Operations Center in Athens will be able to send patients with Covid to the private hospitals that have offered these 300 beds, the Secretary-General of Health Services of the health ministry, Ioannis Kotsiopoulos, stated in an interview with “Open TV.”
He also added that the small, private clinics with which the Ministry collaborates will offer additional beds, the number of which will be announced within the week. He noted that the national health system is under a lot of pressure in Attica, Thessaloniki and Crete, due to the large increase in hospital admissions and it will need additional hospital beds.
Fortunately, he added, we have not seen a big increase in patients needing intensive care units, “but we are on alert if we need to intervene.”