Greek schools reopen amid new protocols, but concerns remain as Omicron rages
Evangelo Sipsas in Athens

Students in Greece returned to their classrooms on Monday with their required masks, sanitizers and tests, but as schools reopened many were wondering how long this new dawn will last as the country posts record daily COVID-19 infections.

Education Minister Niki Kerameus was positive, saying updated protocols will ensure better protection and containment.

"We have listened to our health specialists and decided to change the measures, due to the Omicron variant. We have decided to put in place more measures and more testing at schools to ensure a smooth transition for students and teachers."



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The new health measures mean vaccinated students and teachers must now do two self-tests each week instead of one and if one person tests positive, the entire classroom will need to be tested.

Unvaccinated students and teachers will have to do a test every day of the school week - two rapid and three self-tests.

Masks will remain mandatory in and out of classrooms and all school trips are still suspended.

However, teaching unions argue more could be done.

"The first thing the authorities need to do is to figure out which schools are overcrowded. Classes with more than 20 pupils should be split in half. Then, the government should ensure there are more cleaning staff. This should have been done at the start of the pandemic. Every time a class goes on a break, the whole room could be sanitized," said Manos Androulakis, press officer for the Greek Primary Teachers Federation.


Under the new protocols, students must take more COVID-19 tests. /AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani

Under the new protocols, students must take more COVID-19 tests. /AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani


Within hours of the first school bell of the year, the government confirmed more than 14,000 students and teachers across the country tested positive for COVID-19 and had not come to school. 

Now, some concerned parents are keeping their children at home as they struggle to be convinced that government measures will keep them safe.

"We are really concerned that the minister of health doesn't want to sit down with us and listen to our proposals," said Stella Valavani, head of Pan-Hellenic Parent and Student Union. 

"We represent all teachers and students of this country. We see the government spending money on defense systems, but for the most precious commodity – our children's health and education – they don't spend a single euro. That's why we will gather later this week and protest with teachers and parents in front of the ministry so we can be heard." 

Whatever the arguments over which measures are right, schools are now back open. And with the Omicron coronavirus variant still raging, teachers, parents, pupils and the government are all waiting nervously, to see how well these measures work.

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